The Glass Stadium
To appease us, they built a glass stadium that towered above our city. It took its lovely shape from maestros, who exhausted their Italian lungs, and was exalted by a bevy of larks, which carried it across the sea. For a sense of rhythm, it swayed on a pair of glass stilts. They were stuffed with waving people who were happy, waiting in line to use the bathroom, surging up and down in glass pipes. Beneath the bright summer sky, they sat on bleachers that were made of glass, and usually they watched glass baseball, shouting with upraised fists. If clouds delivered shades of gloom, a large eraser was hoisted up on a pencil, and with a few quick rubs, it opened up a window of sky. Even in the season of cloudbursts when most citizens were turtled under shells, the stadium directed light. In the winter it was filled with ice so that children might skate upon the sky.
Rumor had it that scamps somehow helped to light up the night. Bullet train pranksters would grind to a halt and shower their chums with sprays of ice-shavings. It would seem that the moonbeams would splice under ice skates and send shards of stars into orbit. Oh, but the children knew better. The people, in general, were blind to soft light. For instead of eyes they had placed in their sockets a myriad of gems and stones. They weren't always this way. It happened one day that no one recalls, a dreamer had an idea. He thought that if he had diamonds for eyes, they would shed more light on his dreams, which were dark. And well, everyone's fearsome of darkness. So they all became dependent upon the opticians. The head coach, a burly man with proud scars, insisted the monocled men roost under the hotdog umbrella before every light session. An optician was installed with the nutrition vendor. A footlong and a gem cleaning, what could be more convenient?
Bursting with vitamin C, the hotdogs kept the city always safe from nightmares. Without having to be told by Coach, young skaters stuffed their mouths with relish and turned in circles at the sound of a bell. They called themselves the Frozen Ding-a-lings. Not just because they channeled light, sometimes stealing the bright auras of their grandparents, which were stored in tall glasses by their beds -- kept in dentures that the Ding-a-lings popped in their mouths, turning them into flashlights -- but because as morning peeked skyward after a night charged with shivers and sparks, they slept upright by the entrance to the stadium, preserved inside blocks of ice. They were that cool! Throughout the cycle of a winter's day, parents wandered in a manifold bedazzlement, drawn to the stadium like moths, pulling youngsters in large baskets tied to skates, cornucopias that the kiddies shared with vegetables. And whenever they passed their winking sons who were stationed in their gleaming cubes, they laughed and called them funny names. Mothers kissed the ice with sparkling eyes and begged their sons to button their coats. But the Ding-a-lings never listened, for they were warmed by the purposes of youth. Each year it was like that.
No, nothing ever changes, thought Lu Ellen, for she had learned this in school and never cheated. The most affectionate of mothers, she wore her frostbitten lips as a bonafide badge of pride. It embarrassed her son Skip so tremendously that on holidays he gave her chapstick, a special brand that suppressed affection. But little did Skip know that Mom wasn't his greatest fan. For she had someone else on her mind when she pressed against his block of ice. And true love cannot be silenced by science. It was the worst grief that he would probably never suffer. For Lu Ellen pined for her cousin Perry, who suffered from "Chronic Pants Washing Disorder." And although Perry wore rubber trousers, which saved her caboodles of time, she never had time for Lu Ellen. So as an excuse to get out each morning, Lu Ellen showered at the women's center where she learned to sing a mean a capella -- renditions of songs from distant lands that hinted at a hope for travel. They were heard throughout the natatorium where the synchronized swimmers shuddered and cooed in the water. Secretly these women gurgled Lu Ellen's songs with nose-plugged fervor whenever they had a pep rally. Although really, all three women adorned with faux tobacco caps and mismatched nicotine patches were something of a joke, and they never competed, for leaving the city was impossible, contrary to the suggestion of songs, as it was forbidden, and especially if you thought you might swim there. And anyway, the women had a hard enough time just staying afloat in the shallow end because they were afraid of sharks. Still and all, they listened to Lu Ellen and kept trying. No one likes a misleading theme song.
The glass stadium was created to relieve our frustrations because we were not allowed to leave our city, pleasing us without exception. But the stacks of gems in Lu Ellen's eyes refracted her daily light, confining it inside her head, and at the expense of anyone else's glimmer, and so there was an exception. Because Perry worked in the stadium, Lu Ellen regarded it as the source of her sorrow. It was why she never had time for Lu Ellen's serenades. Too busy! Busy and drunk on ammonia, as was her job. For Perry had been blessed by the glass committee with the prestigious appointment of cleaner and worked with silk towels all day, wiping away smog and bird poop. And Lu Ellen was just jealous, that was all. Just as jealous as the dickens, which was natural. At night she stared out her window toward the moonlit clouds where her son turned in circles of light for reasons he would not divulge. "The mission of the Ding-a-lings is secret! You would never understand!" Later that winter, Skip and Head Coach were killed by a massive slug employed as a cheap Zamboni. Flattened and slimed like pancakes, which was not very hard to understand. It was simply too sad to care about! Lu Ellen might have blinked at least, but like most people, she did not have eyelids. Moreover, the boy had eaten far too many sandwiches. It had been a pain in the tushie.
So instead of worrying about Skippy, Lu Ellen hugged her glass pillow and imagined Perry in the maze of sleep quarters reserved for the highest executives, sleeping upright in her bucket like a champ, a proud woman in rubber pajamas. She imagined springtime and saw the two of them approaching on the path to the pavilion, glass stilts trembling up into the sky, passing in their rain-glossed shells like strangers in a sea of light, backs hot and twitching. She saw them pausing in belated recognition, then turning to reveal streaming faces. Now they were running toward each other as they cast off shells, daffodils sprouting between them. They were gathering up flowers as they approached with open arms. They would throw them into the air and waltz in tightening circles, singing at the top of their lungs. Flowers would feather down on bright spinning heads as their dance lifted them up like a whirlwind, higher as their voices rose higher, echoing through the canyons of the city. Lu Ellen dreamt this; it was her destiny; their pitch so loud the stadium shook. "No longer will it come between us!" she sang, staying up well past bedtime. Here was a grown woman with her very own son and an apartment, yet it was time to take action. One night she came to a decision. "Nothing can stop our love," she whispered, fussing with the blowing curtains. "Nothing can come between us."
Lu Ellen batted the billowing curtains like a fourth grade girl engaged in a high speed slap match, grimacing face perpendicular with shoulders, frenzied hands almost missing in their madness. Nothing is stronger than true love, not even glass stadiums. Could true love make smithers of a stadium? Night after sleepless night, slouching over mud puddles with hands cupped smartly to her face, Lu Ellen saw in the muck her nightmares, dreams of sweet Perry pursued by French horn musicians. These ancient fellows played chamber music and halftime sonatas for small men with no balls to speak of. And Martin was their conductor, a man with hairy inner thighs and a moustache that he twisted at the thought of spankings. A nice man, truth be told, despite his wicked heart of pure evil. His honking graybeards roused the crablike men that lined the bleachers all day, rooting for the empty field, glass children propped cheering on their knees. Lu Ellen heard them like a pot of boiling water, these bandsters, and it set her chest afire with flaming tendrils. Isn't it odd how one gathers one's energy from mere pining and benign blind jealousy? She saw the withered hornsmen following Perry through her showers and lunch breaks in the shaft of the giant pencil, stepping briskly in their frosted glass boots, which were welded to their feet since birth -- a rare privilege, everyone thought so -- and it made her want to thrash the men's hearts into niblets! Oh for the rubber-laden sake of her lover, that pretty toilet aesthetician, that Perry might swab them away with paper towels. Jesus were they loud and past their prime! A few of them had amplification devices screwed into their grinning skulls, which pigeons helped to hold aloft.
Although Martin was a gerophile with a shriveled black heart and icicles that grew from his pores, he was actually a sweet man with a ponytail, a horsehair extension, and a nose made of peppermint candy. And despite his penchant for spanking old men, he saw himself as something of a dreamer. However, lately it was hard to feel rapture, fluffy clouds be damned, and this depressed him, for when he found himself unable to see life as a reverie of pappies marching in frosted glass moccasins, hustling off a glass escalator to be powdered and spanked as God played along on bugle, Jesus puffing lips on a bassoon, well, he simply began to question everything! And with a lisp for dream's sake! Bloody icicles falling from his forehead, he would muse, "What is my role in this miracle play?" And slouching like a tuba, you could tell that he was not at all happy, you just knew. Coming to work with dried wine on his glasses to complement his bloody suit, for he opened all his bottles with steak knives to prove that he was stronger than cork, he imagined himself bombarded with laughter. Once again the stadium was held responsible. Sitting in his apartment one day, a wrench flew in through the window and landed on a folding chair. He looked at it, for it was made of an unknown substance that hinted at an answer to his problems, and weighing it with his hairy fingers and smiling as he gazed out the window, time passed, and then some more time, pushing past the fruits of spring. "Ah ha!" he finally said, falling into a blossom-scented sleep. In the championship glass baseball game in which he was slated to throw the first pitch, he would attach to that sphere of prisms, a wish.
Hence summer, as it was time for that now, and the glass spelling bee, for which Martin's nephew had been practicing for weeks. He knew all the rules too, because his uncle had taught him, drilling him for hours till dawn, which made it special. It was a bewitching exhibition of correction, the annual bee, for which the champion received a gold medal along with a seat at the final glass baseball game. A special throne was designed for two, the champ and the mayor, and buried just beneath the outfield in a tiny glass room. And nobody else was allowed! It was precious, as all the action was just above! To win his place in it, all Kip had to do was smile, which he practiced for days until he fainted, and salute the judge, Mr. Achtung, as he and Martin had rehearsed in the mirror. When Bee Day came and the sun buzzed up from its hive, pollinating the city with light, Kip was ready as ever like a beaver, his tail tucked neatly in his dress. Mother packed him in a basket with a bushel of hotdogs and rolled him straight down to the stadium. And later that afternoon when the tiger roared, she pulled him out and placed him in the spelling cage, assembling his limbs for success. She licked her thumb and wiped the relish from his mouth, and he was better prepared than anyone in the history of spelling, including Larry Latin, who had saluted until he died. Smiling and saluting as the slides began to flash on the monitor, Kip spelled until his tongue gave out, repeating the word verboten, which was German. And before it was over, not only had he not been mauled, but the tiger was asleep at his feet, and everyone knew that he was best, you could tell by their gleaming teeth, and his uncle's marching band charged from the wings.
But beneath this arrangement of letters there were secrets, a wrench to be thrown in the works, as Martin had discovered the sweet spot on the field that would quash the whole stadium to rubble. It was right in front of homeplate, which during games Perry buffed with a rag. The guards never searched the grand spelling champ, so Martin planned to hide the wrench in Kip's knapsack, claiming it was to tune trombones. And Lu Ellen figured into the deception. For while Kip was learning to spell his own name that summer, she had mastered the sacred anthem, so well that she could sing it on her head. And since it, her head, was extra large and round with butterflies orbiting the ears, the brilliant sound waves outsped light, casting shadows on the face of the sun. So the glass committee decided to hire her, making Martin just as happy as an oyster, and causing icicles to melt in his armpits.
How he had discovered Lu Ellen was like this: slumping by the river one day, he had spotted her in a bath of song, the very anthem blazing forth from her lips, its windy light causing waves to dance and the fish to lock fins in a hula. And though her music was certainly radiant, in its power he could see dark purpose. The schnook was a dreamer after all. Great beauty equals darkness, he thought, and if her music can control a river, making it cavort in the wrong direction, then because glass is a liquid too -- well, his fingers became so entangled in his mustache that you could barely see the knuckles! And yet, he didn't know they shared their goals, unknowingly planning havoc in cahoots. "Now if you'll just pipe down for a minute," the glass committee had pleaded with Lu Ellen, scraping their soundblasted bodies off the walls, "the job is yours!"
So it was that Lu Ellen's singing would serve as prep for Martin's pitch, a primer for his portrait of destruction. Could two pathetic scoundrels really trigger such a slaughter? The Frozen Ding-a-lings didn't think so. In the summer they lived in trees and had opinions. Spying through their oculars, they watched the weather and made reports. "Looks like rain!" they might say, cheeks dripping. Or, "Here comes another doozie!" referring to a storm or a hotdog, for they had learned to grow them from the trees in place of leaves. With a jeweler's precision, they watched children spin in loops on swings, keeping tabs on their faith in magic. They attached mirrors to the wings of birds. These they sent at night to spread moonlight and report on the status of dreams, taking notes on scraps of bark or knockwurst, which was how they heard of Martin's plan. A flustered sparrow came back one morning and played a chilling scene on her mirrors. Something about a man in a bloodsuit, a wrench in his pants, with an honest-to-bejesus tragedy on his mind. Yet the Ding-a-lings didn't know who it was. How vexing! Not until they overheard Kip bragging about his uncle, who they knew was going to throw the first pitch. A plan was quickly sketched on a frankfurter.
At the molecular level, glass has all the properties of a liquid. Not the binding arrangement of atoms in crystal, but atoms that are loosely packed. The reason is that the atoms are made from glass. They and their whizzing parts. And so are the atoms inside the atoms, the so-called quarkers. So while solids will stay rigid for eternity, never once blinking, the atoms in glass will start to bleed and slide. And unlike solid atoms that will stick together, the ones in glass will go their separate ways, growing weepy. Basically glass is screwed. Our days of false light were numbered.
In places that no one was permitted to visit for reasons that no one knew, women marched over streets and fields, turning the earth with their footsteps. They were smart and that was why, and their efforts prevented time from stopping, along with help from several ocean-bound men, fellows swimming east ushering water, making sure it kept pace with the land. The result was a brand new day each morning, and one that wasn't smothered by an ocean. In our own city we did our part, trying not to trip or walk west. Then one day the earth turned and it was time for the big game, the smell of glass baseball in the air.
On tenterhooks for weeks, Martin was the first off his cot, followed shortly by Kip and Lu Ellen, each of them in separate apartments, each flossing each tooth in unison. Meanwhile, the Ding-a-lings climbed from their trees in single file, while at the stadium, the glass baseball players rose to their feet. They stood on the field, which is where they slept, as Perry polished their heads with a towel. All night long the stadium had been packed with fans, and now they had to go to the bathroom. They wobbled in lines and waved hello to each other, Perry scrubbing their toilets as they peed. By the time they had finished, it was time to play ball! The giant pencil was lifted up by baby hawks and used to make announcements on the scoreboard. From his little room on his throne beside the mayor, Kip used a walkie-talkie to make sure that the birds got their spelling right.
As Lu Ellen assumed her place in preparation for the city anthem, Perry's pink toilet brush swabbing on the rim of her mind, Martin squatted on the pitcher's mound, a wrench tucked into his underwear. He was dreaming about a golden paddle with which to punish those laughing hornsmen, those delicious old farts who deserved to be beaten. "Everybody please kneel," the birds wrote on the scoreboard. "It is time for a very special song. Maybe you've heard it." Lu Ellen stood on her head and cleared her throat as the audience held their breath. Just then a single Ding-a-ling marched from thin air. Strapped to his chest was a bullet belt of angry hotdogs, and with shaking, upraised fists, he began to dance in a solo conga. It was an ominous sight, to be sure, this lone booty shaker, and people began praying to Jesus. As they did, more Ding-a-lings began to appear, some of them in cubes of ice. They formed an angry conga line and Martin watched in horror as they crunched across the glass like a serpent on a mission of goodness. What could they possibly be up to? He reached into his underwear and began rooting for the wrench. But all of these gestures were in vain.
The gestures were a mockery of gestures, because as soon as Lu Ellen began to sing, half of the audience was instantly blinded. And like a lighting bolt, Perry felt a tingle between her thighs. She looked up from home plate, the gems growing brighter in her eyes, and it was almost cute. It really was. Except the band members heads had just exploded. Too much amplification! And well, the stadium was trembling like the sun, its loose atoms beginning to slide, provoked by prodigious sound waves. In the little room beneath the outfield, the mayor had begun to cry, asking if Kip was his mother. And even Kip could tell that something was wrong; he was a champion speller after all. The Ding-a-lings were headed for Martin, but their halos had been blown clean off. And the wrench in Martin's hand was useless. Moreover, he was bleeding like a clown, his icicles hiding in his body. And before Lu Ellen could finish another line, the stadium began to chuckle, mostly at Martin. Which is to say, it reached its breaking point, shattering into beads of laughter. Although mostly it just turned into its natural form, a giant liquid orb, and crashed through the forbidden gates. Everyone died of course. Or at least, all those who cared about baseball. And as the liquid globe sped to the horizon, it stole our souls. And rather than keeping them, it ate them as a snack and burped. Then, becoming lighter than air and revealing a huge glass smirk, it turned into a cloud and vanished.
About the author:
Bryson Newhart lives with his parents in Pennsylvania where he is hoping to finish a collection of stories, all the leftovers in the refrigerator, and this bio in the next few minutes. He watches Star Trek every night and likes to throw darts by himself in the basement. He never leaves the house, although sometimes he wants to leave the house. Recently he has helped his mother put mulch around her roses and been published at www.coelacanthmagazine.com, www.reinventingtheworld.com (to which you should submit), eyeshot.net, and forthcoming: www.ravennapress.com/snowmonkey. Anna Kostritzky is a brilliant fantastic girl with all the answers, but unfortunately, at this time, no phone number. She does, however, have a large red star on her shoulder. She is hoping to one day finish her epic novel about a mighty dinner roll that escapes compulsive bakers grandma and grandpa and a slew of forest animals to save a lost little girl.