It's nine-thirty on a warm July night. You are sitting directly across the batter's box in the last row of the cheap seats in Boston's beleaguered big league ballpark. It's a night game and the mosquitoes are buzzing your head like Kamikazes with a personal grudge, and the stadium lights are shining directly down into your tired eyes, so it doesn't matter that Sam Malone is coming into Fenway Park as closing pitcher, because you can't see the mound anyway. Sam Malone, a minor league legend in a major league game on a marginal Red Sox team. Sam "Mayday" Malone, who's thrown more wild balls than Zsa Zsa Gabor, her mother and all her sisters combined. Mayday Malone has never thrown a sober spitball in his entire career, never tossed a turbulent two finger splitter unless he was tanked and never got hit by a beanball slammed at ninety miles an hour directly at his hungover head. Until tonight, that is. Tonight Mister Sam Malone plays his last inning in - The Twilight Zone.
"Wow, jackpot," he thought as he struggled to raise himself into a sitting position, holding his head and wincing at the sharp pain radiating from the left side of his brow where a tight little knot burned fire into his groggy brain. As he steadied himself on the arm of the couch he reached a trembling arm out to an open case and pulled out a familiar bottle of the hair of the dog that was biting through his wavering memory.
"Musta tied a big one on last night," he smiled to himself as he maneuvered his attention to unscrewing the top of the Canadian Club remedy for what ailed him. He shook wildly at the wrist as he brought the neck of the bottle to his lips and took the first long, harsh, unforgiving swallow of the fiery liquid. Stars exploded behind his closed eyes as he took a deep sucking breath to cool the burning in his mouth. Then helped himself to another long pull just as the office door opened and a tiny, pregnant, Mediterranean woman stormed in, yelling;
"Sammy, where's that case a CC? They're chewin my head off out there. SAMMY! What the hell are you doin?"
The diminutive gargoyle sprang across the office desk, knocking over bric-a-brac, knick knacks and steno pads in her path to snatch the bottle from Sam's hands and smack him soundly across the face, tossing the open bottle over her shoulder in the same motion. Her insane eyes burned into him as she stood in his lap, glaring down from slightly above his hairline.
"Are you nuts? You know you can't drink no more. Yer a friggin alkie, Sammy. You can't fall off the wagon now." Her eyes softened as she drilled deeply into Sam's own tearing oglers. "Man this midget can hit," he realized, trying not to sob out loud. Then she bent into him and kissed him, long and hard.
"Promise you won't tell Nick I kissed you, he'll kill me. Oh, and don't tell Eddie either, he'll kill everybody," she whispered into Sam's parted lips, little lizard tongue darting behind his capped teeth.
"I Promise," he promised. "Who's Nick and Eddie? And who the hell are you?"
"Aw, Sammy. Quit kiddin and bring the booze out to the bar, the natives are gettin restless." The tiny woman bounced out of Sam's lap and hefted two cases of beer onto her thin shoulder and danced out the door, leaving it open as she left. Suddenly she reappeared in the doorway with a dark look on her contorted little face, "And not a word to String Bean. She bugs me one more time tonight and I'm gonna put my fist up her Funk & Wagnell."
When the crazy woman was gone, Sam stood up unsteadily and moved over to the desk, stopping to yank another bottle of CC from its box. He sat in the swivel chair behind the desk and opened the bottle, taking a well deserved gulp of the leavening liquid and looking idly at the clutter not knocked off by the miniscule Munchkin in her mad dash across the room. He noticed a signed baseball, a checkbook and a desk nameplate. The baseball held the signatures of all the men he'd played ball with last night at Fenway. Why the hell would they sign a ball for him? They didn't even like him. He took another swallow and reshuffled the stray ideas in his healing head, finally paying attention to the name on the checkbook and on the nameplate. Both read "Sam Malone, Cheers."
"Well, cheers to you too, big guy," this time Sam said it aloud, startling himself. "What the hell's going on? What's my name doing in this office? I don't work in an office." His reverie was interrupted by a voice moving closer to the doorway of the office as it asked;
"Sam, darling, what's holding you up? You're taking more time to fetch that whiskey than a chrysalis takes to become a butterfly. One would think you were in here tripping the light fantastic with all nine Muse Sisters -- Terpsichore being my all time favorite, but you knew that didn't you darling?"
In the threshold stood a stunning blonde goddess with all the allure of a rare thesaurus signed by Roget himself. In the split second it took for Sam to absorb all of her musical beauty, she broke the spell by screeching a Banshee wail and storming to the desk where she smacked Sam roundly across his still stinging cheek, knocking the bottle from his fist and dropping to her knees with her hands clasped in supplication;
"Oh Sam, Sam, Sam. It's me isn't it? It was something I've done to drive you back into your Neanderthal ways. Please forgive me. Oh can you ever forgive me?"
"Jeez I thought the short broad could hit, but you got her beat all over. Why the hell is every dame in this joint using my face for a heavy bag? What the hell did I ever do to you people, I don't even know you."
"Oh, Sam darling I don't blame you one iota for disavowing all knowledge of me after what I've driven you to become. I wouldn't admit to knowing me either. But for your own good you must stay away from the temptation of demon alcohol. You owe it to yourself if not to your future bride," she spoke like a new dictionary.
"Look," Sam answered, "I don't know what your game is here, sister, but it ain't gonna work. Future bride my eye. You gone and got yourself knocked up you better go find a guy to pin it on who remembers who the hell you are. I wasn't born yesterday, honey." Although I feel like I was, he thought.
The pointy faced blonde with the sparkling eyes rose proudly from the floor at Sam's feet and bent to kiss him with her sweet, perfectly formed mouth, breathing ambrosia into his soul, then she walked, slowly, ramrod straight, out of the office and, Sam hoped, out of his life. As Sam reached behind him to the box of CC he heard the blonde boobrack whisper, "Fraiser, may I speak with you a moment . . . "
Malone uncapped a third bottle of Canadian Club and hid the neck in his mouth for a full ten seconds, protecting it with his elbows, while he swallowed as much as possible before somebody else came in and kicked it out of his hands with size twelve bowling shoes. What the hell did I do last night after the game, he finally formed in his mind as he came up for air? What the hell's going on here?
"Ahem." It came from just beyond the door.
"Oh, jeez," said Malone, ducking.
"Look Sam, I realize you don't like me sticking my opinions in your problems and you feel that I'm sometimes a little pedantic in my approach, but I somehow feel that intervention from a close friend in a situation like this is definitely called for. Not to be too Skinnerian about the whole idea, I do feel that a touch of behavioral modification is in order in this instance." The noise came from a polished looking, professorial type in a tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows, an appropriately intellectual beard and thinning fair hair. The man was shaped, overall, like a pear on sticks, as Sam got a closer look at him sidling timidly into the office.
"Did your mother breast feed you with an encyclopedia? Nobody talks like that."
"Now, Sam, no need to lash out. I'm only trying to help."
From outside the office door came a thunderous roar, "NORM!"
"What the hell is that?" Sam rose from the swivel chair and brushed past the encyclopedic empathizer and out into a huge, warm, wonderful bar. The sights, the smells, the smoke and perfume and stale beer and old scotch and new gin wafted from every mouth in the place as a short, fat, bustling bear of a man with tight curly hair and a face you could count mountain ranges on hustled over to the end of the long polished bar and plopped heavily onto a stool.
An old paisan, wiping up an invisible spill said, "Norm, what's new?"
The fat guy said, "Not my underwear, that's fer damn sure."
Everybody howled with laughter except the old, white haired, bent-nosed paisan, who said sadly and in a conspiratorial stage whisper, "If you need a coupla bucks I don't mind. Jeez a guy needs new underwear once in a while."
"It's a joke, Coach. There's nothin wrong with my underwear, I'm just kidding."
"Well, maybe you could use the money to buy something nice for Vera," offered the man called Coach.
"You know it's a proven fact that women go through more underwear per capita in North America than anywhere else in the known world." A shifty-eyed round man with a slight moustache wearing a postman's uniform and white sports socks covered the lack of response to his statement by noisily slurping from a mug of beer. "It's the truth, Nahmie, you look it up. Maybe you should buy some new underwear for Vera, like Coach says."
A sultry, dark eyed beauty came up to the bar and asked a goofy looking hayseed kid, "Has Robin called yet? He's supposed to be sending a car for me. We're taking his private jet to Paris for snails and truffles."
"Ain't that pig food Miss Howe?"
"Oh Woody! Let me know when the car's here, I'll be in the office."
Malone looked around him, stunned and amazed at his good luck. How or why or even when he'd ended up in this bar with all these beautiful women and friendly seeming men, he didn't really care. All that mattered was he was going to play it for what it was worth, for as long as it lasted. For all I know, I might have died and gone to heaven, he thought, rubbing the huge bump on his forehead. Sam raised the whiskey bottle to his lips for another gulp when the sultry dark eyed beauty screamed;
"Sam Malone! You put that bottle down this instant." She sprang on him like a she devil slapping him with both hands, once on each cheek, chipping his front teeth on the bottle and sending it sailing out into the crowd, where poor Paul snatched it out of the air before it hit the bar and quietly went back to being by himself as he poured free drinks into his beer mug.
"Aw, qwap. I doan beleeb dith. Why'd oo thmak me?"
"You know you're on the wagon, Sam. You don't need that to keep you warm at night. You don't need anything but what I can give you." She planted a wet, roving kiss on Malone's numb lips, occasionally slipping off target due to the bleeding from his teeth, but the longer she held him the better he began to feel.
"Maybe dith ith heben," he thought.
She climbed up off Malone, adjusting her silk gown and dabbing her full lips, "See you later, baby." And she was gone into the office. The blonde strode purposefully up to Sam and stared him straight in the eyes, "I suppose I deserved that for the shabby way I've treated you, forcing you to take to the bottle like this. But don't let it happen again." She explored his wounded mouth with her healing lips and sweet breath for a moment and went back to doing whatever she did in the bar.
Sam saw the tiny, pregnant tornado's head bopping up here and there in the crowded bar and soon discovered she was making her way toward him. "Oh, great, duth what I need." His face was beginning to regain its feeling.
When she got up to him she didn't say a word, just reached up, way up, and grabbed two fistfuls of his chest hair and pulled him down to her face. Her questing lips and darting tongue did the talking for her.
Man, he thought as she bopped out of sight, this must be heaven.
Sam moved up to the crowded bar to a wave of recognition and a dull roar of simultaneous questions as each man and woman channeled him on a wave of friendship to his place behind the bar with Coach and Woody, the hayseed.
Sam nodded, glassy eyed to the push of humanity all around him as he tried to make sense of what was happening, no longer caring why. For he did have a strong sense that something fateful had happened to him and he'd moved on to another place, a place far away from the baseball field at Fenway and all the away team fields in all the cities of the world. Sam began to believe he'd found heaven.
Smiling to the people around him, nodding at the inanity of Coach's pronouncements, listening to Woody tell him where things were, he reached in the cooler for a bottle of champagne to celebrate with the throng and popped the cork to loud applause, then filled a tower of stacked glasses in a fountain of bubbly, almost as though he'd been doing it for years.
"My God, I am in Heaven."
When everyone else had theirs, he scooped up the last glass from the wet bar and brought it to his lips -
"Wadda you? Nuts?" Coach yelled as he slammed the glass out of Sam's mouth with the practice bat he kept behind the bar. "You're on da wagon. That stuff'll kill ya, Sammy." Coach bent over Sam's prone body to get close enough for a kiss.