Ian Townsend: Fine Art
Image: Unsplash, downloaded (https://unsplash.com/photos/I9qcFjyuJGw) 27.2.2022.
The answer to all your questions is money
“The answer to all your questions is money” - Tony Kornheiser quoting Don Ohlymer
During the late summer of 2001 Guy Grand was recovering from a heart procedure. In his private room at Mount Sinai Hospital he laid in bed gorging on jellybeans and sour keys while surfing afternoon TV. On one of these repetitive days he landed on the Little League World Series. At first he found the programming loathsome and under produced, but soon he was pulled in by the players' nicknames, their favourite foods, what subjects they liked in school. When the game had ended Guy called in the nurse to watch the victorious Taiwanese team celebrate.
“Those are some real fucking champions”, he said, pulling at the elbow of her smock, “Mark my words, those boys are gonna win it all!”
“Mr. Grand, you need to rest. Please.”
For the remainder of the competition Guy adopted the Taiwanese team as his own. Each day brought a new high as their pitchers firepower increased and their bats boomed like cannons on a South Asian pirate ship. Yu-Ting, an eleven-year-old boy who loved Pikachu and kimchi was Guy’s favourite player. He loved the way in which Yu-Ting would chuck his bat into the air after every hit, whether it was a bloop single or a towering home run.
On August 25th, the last day of Guy’s hospital stay, the Taiwanese Little League Team faced off against Alaska in the finals. The game was moving with a flow—a single here, a double play there, but neither side was able to break the deadlock. In the top half of the sixth and final inning Alaskan slugger Aput Kootoo turned on a hanging curveball. The ball seemed to pause at its apex before falling out of sight beyond the outfield fence.
When the bottom of the sixth came around, the score still 1-0, Guy was sweating in his hospital bed, his newly repaired heart pounding. The first batter took a shaky hack and popped out to the third basemen. The second batter rolled over into an easy out on a breaking ball that died just before it reached the plate. Guy chewed his nails. This was it, the final out, and who was at bat? None other than Yu-Ting!
“Go get ‘em Ting!” Guy screams. “You got this you little bastard! Make Guy proud!”
“Strike one!” A perfect pitch on the outside corner.
“Strike two!” Another pitch in the same location.
Guy watched as Yu-Ting stepped out of the batter's box, tapped his cleats with his bat, touched his helmet, adjusted his batting gloves and stepped back into the box.
“Strike three!” The umpire pulled his right arm across his body and pumped his left fist out in a martial arts pose.
“Nooooooooooooooooo!!!!!” Big, fat crocodile tears streamed down the face of Guy and Yu-Ting. Yu-Ting sulked back to the bench where his team mates consoled him by wrapping their arms around him.
Guy on the other hand fell out of bed screeching like a cat that had been tossed into the sea. He banged his fists on the floor and produced blood curdling wails that would later be described by one hospital attendant as, “The sound a mother makes when she watches her child die.”
What transpired in Guy’s hospital room during the month of August in the year 2001 would be the catalyst for a new art form. A fine art form. An art form for the 21st century.
Like all practitioners of a fine art Guy Grand had to learn to walk before he could run. After the demoralizing defeat of Taiwan at the hands of Alaska, Guy vowed to concentrate 97% of his energy on ensuring that Taiwan would emerge victorious in the 2002 LLWS. The other 3% of his energy was allocated to running his countless enterprises whose collective net worth was over 400 billion dollars.
Guy granted himself a week of mourning after the 2001 finals. He conceived of his plan the following month when his grief had subsided. For starters he bought Global Food Preparedness, the parent company of Red Hot Wieners, who were the largest sponsor of the LLWS.
Next it was time to source the key ingredient to the spicy dish that he was preparing, his ringer. For the months of October and November Guy searched high and low throughout Latin America, watching local baseball and surveying the teams for that one player that could make all the difference.
It wasn’t until late November, on a breezy night in Tegucigalpa, that Guy found the one—Juan Carlos DeFumar. DeFumar was a towering chap at six foot four inches. His beer belly hung out over the plate when he took his batting stance. His greasy facial hair was connected to the hair on his back and his chest hair, a sort of transhuman superhighway of curly black hair. To Guy, he looked like a Honduran sasquatch.
Guy watched in amazement as DeFumar crushed the first pitch he saw that night, sending it out into the street beyond the ballpark where it ricocheted among the street vendors' carts. The crowd of a few dozen friends and family cheered emphatically for the hometown legend.
When DeFumar was gathering up his gear after the game Guy’s translator approached him with a proposition.
“¿cómo le gustaría jugar en la gran liga?”
“Si. Sí por favor. La Gran Liga”
And so the plan was in motion. Guy, his translator, and DeFumar flew that night from Honduras to Taiwan, with a connecting flight in Mexico City.
Needless to say, when they got out of the airplane and entered the terminal, DeFumar was shocked to be in an Asian country and not the United States of America. Guy’s translator had a hell of a time calming him down.
“Sin secuestro. Sin secuestro.” The translator repeated over and over again.
Eventually DeFumar accepted his inability to rectify the misunderstanding and was escorted to a penthouse apartment on the top floor of the Global Food Preparedness building in Taipei, the tallest building in the city.
For Guy, the month of December was spent in secret backroom meetings with corruptible state officials. The conversations were hushed. Money changed hands constantly. The bribes grew exponentially until the documents were in order. When he wasn’t exchanging briefcases of money with officials, Guy was sneaking doctors into the penthouse where they would examine DeFumar and produce pages of medical documentation on his ever growing list of hereditary curiosities.
By 2002 Guy had obtained a Taiwanese birth certificate for DeFumar, who henceforth was to be known as Po-Yu. Po-Yu, a twelve year old Taiwanese native who, according to reputable doctors, was born with a genetic disorder that caused him to experience all of his growth spurts before the age of ten. Some of the side effects of this condition were that he grew hair all over his body and that his stomach bulged like an overpressurized keg.
By the end of January, Guy had forwarded all of the necessary documents to the Little League governing body of Taiwan. They were tentative at first to accept Po-Yu, but they could not argue with the documents that had been notarized by some of the most prestigious officials in all of Taiwan. Also, the kid could hit.
Once Po-Yu was accepted to play, Guy left him and his translator and went back to America. There was more work to be done yet.
With the acquisition of Global Food Preparedness, Guy was given the reins with regard to all things promotional for the 2002 LLWS. He had a series of luxury boxes installed in the LLWS ballparks in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Stencilled in a fiery red on each box was ‘That’ll Make ‘Em Hot!!’.
While the luxury boxes were being erected, Guy put on his managerial cap and assembled a ragtag crew of the most innovative marketing men that America had to offer. He had a simple task for them—Put Po-Yu on every American television set leading up to the LLWS. When the crew saw the pictures and reel footage of Po-Yu, they fell out of their puffy office chairs laughing—sure that Guy was trying to pull one over on them. When their laughs subsided, Guy peered at each individual with a stern look, “I thought you men were professionals. If you can’t handle the job, if it's too hot for you, well I’ll find some real ad men!” Being as all ad men are narcissistic egomaniacs, they climbed back into their chairs, straightened their ties and got down to business.
The months chugged on and before long summer settled over America. Just after the Fourth of July, Guy’s marketing men had achieved their goal. Po-Yu had become a household name in America, and the national anticipation for his arrival was matched only by the nations hunger for Red Hot Wieners.
Leading up to the opening day of the 2002 LLWS everyone in America and abroad had a take on the twelve-year-old enigma. The debut of Po-Yu had been hotly anticipated. Sports talk radio debated the validity of his documents. Daytime TV shows ran pieces on children with physical disorders and the obstacles they faced trying to gain acceptance from their peers. Prominent doctors went on CNN and Fox News to discuss their work on the various genetic traits that made Po-Yu what he was. Hu Jintao called the whole thing a farce, and said it spoke to the character of the Taiwanese nation. By the time the tournament began, it was harder to find an American who did not know the name Po-Yu than it was to find an American who didn’t enjoy a good wiener.
On August 16th, Guy Grand settled into his luxury box with a group of investment bankers, ad men and Hollywood starlets. The catering was supplied by Red Hot Wieners. There were battered wieners, steamed wieners, grilled wieners, boiled wieners, and, by special request, campfire roasted wieners. Coolers overflowed with domestic beer and RC Cola.
When the starting line-up for Taiwan took the field against Australia, Guy leaned over the railing and whistled. He let out a guttural cheer and wagged his finger at the gigantic first base man. He experienced a sense of pride welling up from the pit of his stomach. He had pulled it off. His job was done. Now all he could do was watch and wait.
In the bottom of the 1st inning, Po-Yu stepped into the batter’s box, the info graphic on the TV in the luxury box read as following:
Po-Yu: Taipei, Taiwan
Fav Subject: béisbol
Fav Food: plato típico
Taiwan made easy work out of the Aussies and Po-Yu was replaced in the third inning after two at bats and two home runs. When the game finished, Po-Yu was escorted back to the hotel. He would not be giving interviews throughout the tournament on account of his “crippling anxiety and immense stage fright”, as per the PR representative for the Taiwanese team.
Po-Yu fever spread like chlamydia at a swingers convention. Pilgrims set out for the quaint town of Williamsport. From California to New York and every flyover state in between, people from all walks of life embarked on a life changing experience. They travelled by plane. They travelled by train. They travelled by automobile. All the hotels and campsites were booked in advance so that makeshift villages began popping up in box store parking lots and local parks. All over town banners were hung with the image of Po-Yu superimposed onto the Taiwanese flag. You could not look down the street without being accosted by his dumpy mug.
Taiwan cruised through the round-robin stage, pounding the tar out of Australia, Bangladesh and Japan, before advancing to the Finals where they would meet Alaska for a rematch of the previous years final.
On the day of the finals the ballpark was surrounded by 400,000 hopeful Americans with tens of thousands more streaming into town every hour. They made the journey for one reason. They were dying for the chance to see Po-Yu in person.
One man, when interviewed by a member of the Associated Press had this to say, “My wife didn’t understand. She goes, ‘You wanna pack the kids, the dog and me into our station wagon. Drive us all the way from Iowa to Pennsylvania to see some kid from China play baseball.’ That’s when I planted one on her and ripped outta town with the dog. If a person is too much of a moron to not understand what Po-Yu means to the global psyche, well there ain’t no helping a person like that.”
The crowds had surged to the point that the governor requested that the National Guard be brought in to pacify the rowdy citizens. Before the game started the streets of Williamsport looked like a scene out of a cold war thriller in which they prepared for the Soviet invasion. The streets were swarmed by guardsmen, light armoured vehicles and rowdy citizens all hopped up on baked beans and hope.
That afternoon, Guy and his entourage took their place in the luxury box. A bookie was called, bets were placed and they were ready for some action.
The game played out like a nauseating wave of déjà vu for Guy. Sweat streamed down his beet red face and his heart thudded against his chest.
“Gee Grand, you don’t look so hot” said one of the starlets.
“Put a wiener in it toots!”
But it was true, Guy did look worse for wear.
The game zipped by and at the start of the sixth inning, with the score 0-0, notorious Taiwanese killer, Aput Kootoo, leaned into a hanging slider and sent it into the Woodstockian crowd beyond the center field gates.
The fans were torn between their desire to root for country and the scrappy enigma, who was due up third in the bottom half of the frame.
The horrific replaying of last years final had caused Guy a mild panic attack. His heart banged on his rib cage, begging to be let out. He gripped the railing and twisted. His white knuckles trying their damnedest to break through the constricting skin.
The first batter popped out to the third basemen. The second batter rolled over on a breaking ball to ground into an easy out.
Guy chewed his nails and clenched his jaw. This was it, the final out, and who was at bat? None other than Po-Yu!
“Strike one!” A perfect pitch on the outside corner.
Guy watched as Po-Yu stepped out of the batter's box. He burped, scratched his ass, spat and stepped back into the box.
The next pitch came in high and hot. Po-Yu was slow to react and it beaned him in the forehead. He toppled over like Goliath, blood streaming out of the open wound and flooding home plate. After he hit the ground, Po-Yu grabbed a handful of dirt and rubbed it into the gash, waving the trainer back to the dugout. He stood up, brushed his pants off and took first base.
“Now batting, Yu-Ting” said the stadium speaker.
Guy rambled off the prayers that he could remember from his days at the boarding school and held his breath.
“Come on Ting! Make Guy proud.”
The first pitch was a weak fastball center cut, and Yu-Ting made no mistake. In one swing of the bat he erased his failure from the year before and vaulted himself into Taiwanese baseball history. When the ball finally landed, Yu-Ting was right behind Po-Yu, who was taking his sweet time rounding the bases.
From the luxury box Guy’s barbaric shouts rained down over the patrons. His screams and cries were louder than those of the winning team or the fans in the streets of quaint Williamsport. He grabbed a starlet and planted a big fat one on her face.
“That’ll make ‘em hot!” he said, “That’ll make ‘em hot!”.
The streets of Williamsport exploded with joy and soon thereafter teargas and bean bags. When all the dust had settled the main street of Williamsport was reduced to smouldering bricks. Thousands of citizens had been detained and at least a hundred guardsmen were injured, three dead.
“That’ll make ‘em hot.” Guy said, tears of joy glazing his eyes, “That’ll make ‘em hot!”
About the Author: Ian Townsend lives in Montréal where he works as a carpenter. He is the author of the forthcoming novel Purgatory (tragickal, 2022).