Truth is a person, any person, is born in a single place; and if wistfully alone, at the Brooklyn Bridge, for instance, or Central Park, it can conjure the curiosity of mutual strangers, their furrowed brows, and they seem to imply, rather sternly, in a manner perfectly-devised for single, more personal quotation marks, ‘you’re at home, this is where you were born.’ The truth is like gold, of course, valuable, but elusive; like the hometown strangers, who seem to enjoy Saturdays the most, they approach, and depart, once, and again. He scanned a drift of the sunrise; everything at sunrise on Saturday is privately contained, and belongs in a “town,” or “township.” He had exited the cranky pod at Scott Ave., in the geist of Brooklyn, passing 25 and 495 from the zoo at Central Park, to the famous bricked tree; trees, there were, yes, and there were memories. There is a volume gauge for memories; the sounds can soar, and consume you. He saw still-merry the eidolons of his youth; a few were certainly the borough’s founders, Lady Deborah Moody, for one, whom he obviously never knew, he didn’t know many of them personally, and began to muse they may prevail in Coney, or Brighton Beach; they were earnest, the eidolons, steadfast, and truly friendly, not at all threatening, as it were, some a little rotund or scarce or thin, they nodded to him, – yes! they remembered him, ‘he went to the public school!’ – and clouded the older bulwarks of myriad crossroads in New York City; strangers who actually didn’t know him, and some others; – his school mates springing in the air, still and continuously cheering a state championship; diverse white souls in slow motion from the neighborhood whose names he forgot; in the instant of the mind’s eye they call a projection, they grasped to cherish, and most of all keepsake the moments of Brooklyn, just that, breathing the air again. They shared these days unmistakably, as memories, as the old friends, favorite spaces in a fleeting mural of time; and amenably repair, at his pleasure, from these crossings, common and breath-taking. He called the eidolons “neighbors,” for the lack of a better word, as they were born in Brooklyn, and there are always rules unwritten. New York was home, the place they knew.
It had been a cynic’s day, and entertaining, because, a bright Saturday in the LifeRaft®, Aji’s pod, the vaunted machine, was on the fritz. He loved the notion humans won again, momentarily at least, and it refreshed his frame of mind. He could not contain spates of humor, of course, and expecting it Aji refused to speak to him until it was fixed. She poised for a tussle, but, goodness, as it turns out, the Hydra abacus was just playing, inducing Aji to further mechanical training, – showing off, that is, – and she was pretty steamed: The flat screen contained A.I., embedded in the front screen, and comfortably inhabited the bounds of a wall; it was streaming a new video game, alot, a lot like Joe, who loved to search for vintage 45 RPM records; it found the late era game, Pong, and refused to stop cavorting with the simple tennis game. Pong was new to her.
He had returned from bounty air of Pawtuckaway in New Hampshire, just as his real neighbors, Red, and his son Gabriel, were departing for Winnipesaukee. Joe’s back was stiff, as was Milt’s brow, and demeanor. Joe was youngest of the three men, and still required a debate of some kind, to reboot his mental skills. He claimed the ability to drink both of them under the table, and it was one reason Milt refused to allow a table at the camp site. Joe tucked his chin into his neck, at breakfast, in a lounge chair, and proposed, “Alright, who was the best?”
“I was,” Milt responded, to whatever the proposition, happy to recall removing the table, years and years ago, to discourage the consumption of alcohol by the young academics. Whiskey had been out of the closet for more than a decade.
The tone of Joe’s question unsettled the other dowsers, because they knew it would absorb them for the entire, crabby drive to New York. They realized it was probably about soccer, and they assumed correctly. Joe was assistant soccer coach at Marsh. Milt surmised Joe’s coaching career showed he was an “above-average professor”; off were the gloves.
Joe repeated his wringer, and challenged them, although both had the merest passing interest in the game. “The best. Who was the best ever?” A neighbor, a bartender, grinned widely, loving it, and bowed to hear them.
“The best soccer player,” Joe clarified, not too giddy to win the subject category. Joe left the other two men wanting, a salient hint about their generation. Joe pondered for a choice to utterly rile them from New Hampshire to his brownstone door, ultimately offering honor to “probably — George Best.”
“George Best,” the narrator nettled, and repeated it several times with a different inflection. “George Best. George Best. Ge-orge Best.”
Joe replied, “Best was the best,” sonorously, waiting for them to detonate.
Milt had never heard of him, or so he claimed. The soccer coach explained George Best was a great soccer star from Northern Ireland, who played in the late nineteen sixties, and seventies, but knew Milt’s reticence was a comment, as well, a response. “Who?” he said, again.
“His very name is evidence enough,” Joe declared, content to allow the subject to simmer. The narrator opted for a passing shot, which was to Joe out-of-bounds: “The best ever was Edson Arantes do Nascimento. You probably don’t even know the name.”
“So common, predictable,” Joe chagrined. “Not Pele,” and then, “No. I don’t think so. George Best.”
Milt said, “My video game knows Pele. I put him in my FIFA line-up. It was one of the only names the game announcer would say. Pele! Pele!”
Perhaps bored, his ‘neighbors,’ the New York eidolons, found Aji, puzzled, and sitting in a car with Nap. He was named for Nap Lajoie, the Philadelphia baseball legend from the dead-ball era, the early twentieth century, and she had commandeered his friendship. He was her contact, a U.S. Navy lieutenant, rather skeptical about her credentials, and status with the American Legion; but even an anomaly would qualify for certain attention. He drove a Hummer, and met her at Kaiser Park, the community tennis courts in Coney Island. Nap hoped to dismiss Aji, after finding GPS data putting the subject of her search, Will Adorjan, at the Kaiser courts. He told Aji that Will Adorjan was that very moment playing mixed doubles at the Park. Aji was honestly surprised; but it was credible. Adorjan was a tennis fanatic in his a youth, and used it as a ruse to meet young women. The lieutenant unwrapped a McMuffin from McDonald’s in the driver’s seat of the Hummer, still troubled by loose ends. “You mentioned Orison, or Orison’s Ladder, in your report,” he asked her. If “ladder” had been omitted, he implied to her, it would have remained sufficiently far-fetched not to invite the rolling eyes of his Navy Base superiors. They were parked in a square patches under the trees at the multi-function Brooklyn facility. “This is New York,” he said, rhetorically. They watched a doubles-match proceed under and beyond a black-and-white vinyl sign attached to the court fence. Nap was unsure if he could park on the street, in front of the brick city building silently governing the parcel, but he had U.S. government plates. He could move the car, if necessary, and he kept the engine running; they were technically “standing,” and not parked. Aji could not evince the identity of doubles’ pair. They did not emerge from the vehicle to watch the game any closer. Her anxiety was peaking in a sullen dread: One of the young men did, in fact, resemble Will Adorjan. She was more nervous than she expected, or would allow Nap to see. The player possessed the same features as Will Adorjan, and a very similar build; his partner was a woman in her late twenties, with sandy-hair, providing her the wrong type of karma; the last time Aji saw Adorjan, a sandy-haired woman was at his arm; the whole situation induced a sinking feeling. She had found Will. The woman wore denim. He was dressed in a blue, wrinkled shirt, with orange, and loud wrinkled gym shorts. “Possible,” she breathed, to Nap. The pair’s opponents were a plainly married couple, she observed; they could have topped a wedding cake; one, blond, the other, the man, brunette, neither dropped a stitch, or loose word, in their game-play. They sported matching, brand-name apparel, and a deprecating manner of nod, and nod. Aji tried to quell her butterflies. “Let’s wait until they come out,” she said, watching intently. Nap shrugged, agreeably, and politely. He finished his McMuffin. They watched as the married man, Will’s opponent, pulled the aluminum latch to a new can of tennis balls; it would be a fair wait. Aji frowned, and stared at the top of a black coffee in the service tray of Nap’s Hummer. Nap had taken liberty, but could get credit for time. He paused a moment, thinking about it, before biting into a second McMuffin, in no special hurry. Nap noticed Aji’s blank stare at steam emanating from atop the coffee. He looked at the steam, and she looked at him, and both looked away, as did a waitress, a neighbor, who was unseen stooping at the Hummer window to hear them, ersatz of the aught nineteens, unable to find a long-defunct train.
“You don’t have coffee on Sombrero Galaxy?” Nap asked, facetiously.
“I was just watching the evaporation,” Aji said.
“Okay,” Nap said.
Aji glanced again at the coffee, and smiled, and then gazed out the window. She cradled her chin in the palm of her hand, her elbow on the open window. “Doesn’t do that.”
Nap swallowed breakfast sandwich, ready to drink it. “Really.”
She said, “Evaporating liquids don’t rise. They disperse. It stays near the top in a cloud. But – it also doesn’t congeal in the air, in front of you, like in zero gravity. Never mind.”
“Cool,” he said, dismissing it.
Nap finished the McMuffin, cleared the debris, and dusted the seat with his hand, resuming the vigil. Aji said, “Orison’s Mirror, not ladder, is a base in Hydra. It was named for the myth of Orison. Hydra is a place like New York, or Chicago. Actually, more like Chicago. It reminds me of Chicago. They were just texting me about the mission.”
“Uh-uh,” Nap said, again skeptically, and checked the tennis match. “They’re fresh as daisies. It could be a while.”
Nap paused, “Just an expression. What do you do the rest of the time, anyway? Take pictures of black holes, Goldilocks planets?”
“Anomalies,” Aji replied, absently.
“A-nomalies,” Nap repeated, with a cheerful grimace.
“We’re like – archaeologists,” she said, dismissively, gazing at the courts.
Nap acknowledged, “Archaeologists.”
One of the eidolons, a civil engineer, flexed his chest at the word, archaeologists, because archaeology was like his profession. He smiled genially, – perhaps more genially than usual, surely more than when he was a supervisor of a construction crew near Kaiser Park, before deferring to a heart attack after the election of LBJ.
Milt discovered an orange soda in the Coleman, guided by the open hand of an impeccably dressed night hotel manager, who had once delivered a baby in the Hilton lobby. He said, “I like Pele. The video game’s analyst knew Pele right away. That’s everything we need to know. Joe’s not in any video game. Pele’s better.”
The other two glared at Milt, the full professor, for his low buffoonery, which Milt fully-expected, and would have otherwise been disappointed. Joe allowed, tepidly, “Possibly Pele.”
“Possibly,” the narrator agreed. Milt was now an interloper in the flurry, and they saw him close his eyes in a chair, before Milt re-instigated, “So – who’s is this Edson fellow?”
Joe exploded in an unhappy dance. The narrator explained, “Pele! Edson Arantes do Nascimento, was his real name. He was the oldest of two children. He became ‘Pele,’ – I think it was ‘30 for 30,’ or Wikiwand? I don’t know. Pele was named by his parents after Thomas Edison. He would have been known in immortality by the moniker, ‘Ed.’ His parents skipped the ‘i’ on his birth certificate. They wrote ‘Edson.’ He had another nickname, ‘Dico,” after Vasco da Gama.”
Milt said, his eyes still closed, “Excellent.”
Joe interjected, “Not da Gama, the Portuguese explorer! da Gama, the Brazilian soccer team. One game, Dico had trouble pronouncing the name of the da Gama goaltender. The goalie’s name was Bilé, and called him ‘Pill-ay.’ The da Gama players started calling Dico ‘Pillay,’ – or Pele. He said in his autobiography how Bilé is the Hebrew word for ‘miracle.’”
The narrator protest on behalf the exalted status of Coney Island in modern soccer. “Any real soccer fan in New York, Brooklyn, and Coney Island, – which, by the way, the Cosmos, by the way, was Pele’s team, – must concede the ‘greatness’ debate ends right there. It begins, and it ends with one man – Pele! That’s all.”
Joe studied him. He replied, “That’s ridiculous.”
Joe dispatched current players from the All-Time list, because they were still active, and the jury was thus still out. The timeline ended roughly about the year of the George Herbert Walker Bush’s election. The narrator accepted the random date, but asserted, “The New York Cosmos was our deliverance from the Brooklyn Dodgers. You can’t deny that!.”
The debates would usually end when the dismay was distributed equally. The indefatigable choice, George Best, remained palpable, but seemed like a dark horse. “Someone else,” Joe relented, and Milt wailed, without an answer. He said Best was “obscure, secular, arcane, and intentionally argumentative, just like Joe,” and Milt shifted for a nap, concluding smugly, “Best was not best.”
“You don’t know,” Joe said, equivocally. He deferred to peace at the early morning camp fire, as they prepared for the return trip, thought more, and put another name into play. He said, “Pele did have a teammate.” They crossed their eyes, and waited for Joe to say “mentor.” (Mentors were like teachers, therefore automatically not in bounds.) “He was a mentor, actually.”
He knew what Joe was going to say. ESPN’s “Soccer Stories” were an important part of his rehabilitation.
Joe said, “This guy was a handicapped. He brought Brazil’s national team to the World Cup, and the world championship against the great, powerhouse teams of his day, – nineteen fifty-eight, nineteen sixty-two.”
Milt scowled, “’Great, powerhouse teams.’ I could have beat them.”
Joe ignored him, on a new track: “Mane (‘Men-ay’) Garrincha. Now he definitely was the best.”
Milt summoned his remaining impatience. He reiterated Pele was in a video game. Joe, and Mane deserved the “Golden Boot.”
“Mane,” Joe said, content.
“What do you have against Pele,” he asked.
Joe said, “Nothing. Now – now, listen – both on the same team, both Mane and Pele. Pele was injured, he hurt his knee both of those years. Pele was sidelined by the time Brazil got to the second round. And it didn’t matter. Mane Garrincha was the star for Brazil. Garrincha, not Pele, was voted the MVP of the World Cup. He was the top scorer. Four goals. Mane — Number 7.”
H.L. Tauri, and Mare Ligea were not eidolons, and, in view of a rush hour crowd buying war bonds, felt eerie and stepped away, to another dimension, to New Hampshire, saw another crowd, — tourists gazing at the Old Man in the Mountain, — nixed this, and settled for the route to a more familiar Lazarus Taxa, the hideout of the outlaw Yon Raulyn. Sawbones had just returned to Taxa with a new toy, but the outlaw was incensed, angry at D.W., the dire wolf, and somewhat with Glug, after learning The Stanley Cup, was now missing from The Cache. They had spent time dijecting to improve his collection of sports memorabilia, which was a trove of priceless items, among the world’s great art. The Cup would be sorely missed, if not regained. Their newest object was the soccer trophy of Jules Rimet, – the World Cup, – which Tune, Yon’s second man, polished with the tail of his coat. Sawbones was carefully choosing the right spot for the Rimet.
“He said what?” Yon asked.
The dire wolf answered, “He said he was the Chicoutimi Cucumber.”
“And you let him heist the Stanley Cup?” Yon scolded. “I can’t have people stealing from me.”
D.W. glumly objected, “We’re not security guards.”
It piqued Yon’s anger, and tension grew in the muscles in his face, and neck. “I suppose not,” said Yon Raulyn, before vowing a swift revenge. He whispered to Tune. Tune nodded. His eyes suddenly bulged, and he left the cave landing to The Cache.
D.W. countered, “It was Georges Vezina,” the famous goaltender for the Montreal Canadians. He came out of the woods, demanded the Stanley Cup, and marched away with it.
Sawbones was undaunted. “I was going to make you famous, D.W.! Not now. We were going to establish your reputation. No.”
The story of the Rimet Trophy, the original, was it had gone missing in 1966 on Earth in 1966, and was purportedly discovered by England, and safely awarded to the World Cup champion, England, despite a protest from Germany. Naysayers complained the Rimet trophy awarded had not the original, but a replica, which England eschewed. Authorities reassured the soccer world; a television broadcast showed the incredible discovery of a package found under a tree. They said the original Rimet was found by a dog, a regular canine, much like D.W.. “You could have been that hero hound!” Yon hollered. “Not now.” The Rimet was, in fact, found, in the Beulah Hill District of southeast London in 1966. Of course, the credit did not go to the dire wolf, but a black-and-white collie named ‘Pickles’.” The dire wolf’s expression was notably maudlin.
A policeman, a ‘neighbor,’ in the nineteen-forties, proudly wearing a red-white-and-blue “Roosevelt-Garner for President” button, stood at the driver’s side of Nap’s Hummer, but neither saw him. Aji said, “Orison, the word, can mean ‘prayer.’ Maybe it’s just that. Some people believe it is a place, or heaven. It can mean best, or great. It’s not a place, per se. There’s no scientific basis for it. People probably just need the idea of Orison.”
Nap, watching the tennis match, pressed, disinterestedly, “So science is your religion.”
“I don’t really worship anything,” she said. “I think of worship, and it reminds me of Monty Python. All these monks line up in a row, and smack their head with over-sized Bibles. Orison’s just a fable, It becomes greater, more fanciful with each generation, and somehow – less.”
Nap sipped the coffee. Aji continued, “Anything like it would have to have a different set of physics. I believe in Ultra Terris, U.T. I believe in that.”
“Ultra Terris?” he asked. “U.T.?”
Aji responded, “T2. ‘True time.’”
“How shall I put it? It is the ultimate map of physical space. Ultra Terris. It would be a time zone, and like A.D., Anno Domini, or B.C. ‘True time’ is a median point, like a Rose Line, in the age of the universe, when and where all geography falls into the same time, and place. True time. Zero out all of the time differences, and resulting changes to geography, and there you are: U.T.”
Nap followed, “We get light rays from millions of years ago,”
Aji pointed to the four tennis players packing their equipment. “True time. Choose a midpoint, set everything else equal to it. The results are dramatic. Remember, places like Hydra, The Great Attractor, they’ve had millions and millions of years to change in the time alone it takes us to receive light from them.”
Nap saw the two couples open the gate. He said, “Let’s go.”
They opened the car’s doors, nonchalantly, and exited the vehicle. “Try not to look like feds,” Nap said. “It’s bad enough we have USG plates. It’s better if they don’t notice us at all. Just decide if it’s him.”
To Aji, everything else felt trivial. Will Adorjan disappeared years ago with his crew at Coda, in a mission to research the universe’s edge, a theory. Nap followed Aji to the courts at Kaiser Park. The married couple was the first to leave, and greeted them, “All yours!”
“Did you win?” Aji asked, friendly.
The married man beamed, “Nope,” and passed her, adding nothing more. The second couple appeared; the man was chiding the sandy-haired woman, “Run, run!” He did resemble Will; thirty-ish, athletic, he had the same build, and similar features. Was it? He saw Aji point-blank. “Mornin’,” the man said, politely, and then passed by her on the edge of the sidewalk. Aji frowned helplessly. The lieutenant turned to watch the couple. She swung her racket, and flattened the heel of his sneaker. He checked the sky, the weather, and put out his palm to see if there were any drops of rain. He’s young, too young, Aji thought. But she knew who it was. It was Will. He didn’t know her. She was a complete stranger. Will Adorjan should have known Aji. He would have known her, but he didn’t. She was another tourist.
The state park was busier. They packed the car, occasionally stopping to catch their breath, or possibly get a TKO in the debate. Joe said, “Brazil could watch Pele play soccer, and never stop watching. He astounded them. But they loved Mane. Neither of them were wealthy kids, to say the least. Pele didn’t have equipment. He used a grapefruit for a soccer ball.” He recalled his most memorable goal in an autobiography, Pele: The Autobiography. Pele referred to soccer as jogo bonito, “the beautiful game,” Joe said, a phrase that was coined by a soccer commentator, Stuart Hall, in 1958. His gol de placa, ‘a goal worthy of a plaque,’ eluded a Fluminense goalkeeper, and was called “the most beautiful goal in the history of the Maracanã.”
It was too late for a resolution of this dilemma, the best soccer player of all time; the winner of their contests was always whomever spoke last. He was ready to add people glorify athletes too greatly; they are young, and seldom anything like their public image. His mind streamed pleasant replays of Mane from ESPN. Garrincha died of a liver disease in 1983. He considered Mane alone, practicing soccer in Rio, late in the day; it was almost dark. “Hey!” he might holler to Pele, his teammate, scuttling a grapefruit with the side of his foot. He would pass it to him. They sported grand smiles: anything better was nothing known to them. Mane was fifteen, or perhaps seventeen, or even younger, bowlegged, with a deformity of the spine. “You know,” Joe commented, “Mane was always in pain, his right leg curved, his left leg curved in, shorter than the other leg. They called him ‘the angel with bent legs.’”
He imagined Garrincha, and saw Mane hustling from the field. He was standing on the sideline. He clapped, with his shoulders down, donning a yellow jacket over his legendarily green, Brazil jersey, number 7, – buoyant, rooting and then, looking at him. Mane was cheering for jogo bonito, “the beautiful game.” He could no longer play. ◊
¤ JUKE BOX ¤
Theme: “The Beautiful Game,” RAC, inlink; FIFA, ® Counter Records, Sony/Ninja Tune Ltd. | playlist, “Flea Markets, Nos. 1-50,” a myopic vaile (No. 36).
“The Echo By Seas” is one of three works by Soda Tom.
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