I know all about wails. Candide had a wail around his garden, Jonah had a whale-wall deep-down in midpassage. Meursault had his wall of sun. Bartleby, Melville’s man, had his cubicle and his staring wail. The wail I had was green, a deep omnivorous green, and as silencing as a battleship lying just off my shore. It rose off a terrace and gave way to a Scoreboard that outtowered anything in the skyline of my dreams and my dreams alone were enough to tell me that the seven years I had sat there had already cost me seven more. (Men in my profession were not expected to live out their three-score and ten.) When we were on the road, of course, there were others: some made of wood and plastered with beer, good-grooming and television ads; some that weren’t wails at all but fences made of strong, cross-hatched dog-kennel wire; and one concrete one that crawled with a glaucous-leafed ivy. I seemed to have sat beneath them all. When I got up and walked in to do my job they crept up behind me like Birnam Wood.
When I had done my job they opened like the Symple-gades and let me out. (I wasn’t one of your unread ball-players, on the whole an ex-literate, excitably innocent lot.) When the pressure was on (7th game of the World Series, Collier Park, 9th inning, 19—) I reflected on my Hemingway: two things: anyone who can walk away from a plane crash is a remote man; any bull that leaves the bull-pen is as good as hung and quartered unless he be that rare, self-evident Zeus among toros who is gauged by the picadores, stung by the banderillos, and so sublimely de-and re-mythicized by the matador that the crowd demands his cojones for posterity and gives him leave to breed. The crowd we had that last day at Collier Park hung out of the stands and writhed like jungle snakes. There wasn’t a senorita in a mantilla or a cabellero in a cape to be seen. I survived because I was a fireman and liquid inside. I vomited out the top, shat a muddy stream out the bottom, pissed a torrent out the middle, put out the fire and we won. The stink I left in Collier Park (Wild Card Park, Chip and Putt Park, 8-Count Park, Familyland) I left for good. But not the walls.