“What’s he going to sign? Your arm?” she asks, slipping the straw of her ice water between her thumb and forefinger.
Enzo scans the table, “Aunt Aidy, do you have any paper in your purse?”
I pull out my bag and rifle through it. “Nothing but a stack of business cards, buddy. Sorry.”
“Are they blank on the back?” he asks.
I pull one out and flip it over. “Yep.”
“Can I have a pen, too?” he asks.
“Sure thing.” I hand them over and he slides out of the booth, darting across the busy pub.
My sister keeps a hawk-like eye on her son as he scampers away, and I focus on the deliciousness before me, sucking in sip after sip until I feel my nerves evaporating into thin air by the second.
“Uh oh.” Wren’s face falls, and I recognize her grief-stricken look. Twisting my head and peeking out from our booth, I see the front door slam shut and hear the jingle of the bells on the door, and then my gaze falls to a sobbing, empty-handed Enzo. She wraps her arms around his shoulders and pulls him close. “What happened, buddy?”
“He . . . he said,” Enzo sobs. “He said he doesn’t sign autographs anymore. He said to check eBay. Mom, what’s eBay?”
My jaw hangs as Wren consoles her son, and I waste little time yanking my phone out of my purse.
“Enzo, what’d you say his name was again?” I ask, mind feverish and fingers twitching as I pull up Google.
“Ales . . . Alessio . . .” he heaves, shoulders rising and falling with each strained breath. The kid’s going to hyperventilate if he doesn’t calm down. “Ace . . . Amato.”
I tap his name into the search engine and click on “images.”
There are tons of them, only the man in these photos is clean-shaven. Devilishly attractive. There’s no beard, but there’s no doubt in my mind.
The Lexington Avenue Asshole.
I recognize that piercing stare and my hands begin to shake.
“Son of a bitch,” I mutter under my breath.
Nobody makes my nephew cry, especially not some retired, past-his-prime baseball player.
“He sounds like a jerk, sweetie,” Wren says. “You don’t want an autograph from someone like that anyway.”
Enzo sniffs, nodding, and buries his face into Wren’s shoulder.
That fucking asshole.
He better hope we never cross paths again.
The pizza box slides across my island, coming to a quick stop in the dead center. Hunched over this poor excuse for a dinner like some lion devouring a gazelle, I inhale slice after slice.
It’s been one of those days.
One of those so-much-shit-going-on-I-forgot-to-eat kind of days, and I fully expect to devour every last slice of this disgustingly large corned beef and cabbage pizza.
Eating standing up is one of the best things about living alone. The table never gets dirty and never needs to be set. No one’s fussing at me to eat a proper meal.
I grab a bottle of dark lager from the fridge and twist the cap, watching the evaporation spray from the top and disappear into thin air before taking a swig. The bottle leaves my lips with a satisfying pop as the lager swishes to the bottom.
Irish beer and pizza.
Never gets old.
When I’m well past the point of full and my stomach is threatening to burst, I shove the box in the trash and head to my room. Slipping my hands into the front pockets of my jeans, I empty the contents on my dresser before unzipping my fly.
A handful of coins go rolling before spinning and coming to a stop between a pack of gum and a wadded-up receipt, and a thin, mint-green business card rests in the middle of all that. Squinting, I examine the card, trying to remember where it came from.
And then it hits me.
That gap-toothed, freckle-faced kid at the pizza pub.
He wanted my autograph.
I don’t care how cute those little snot-noses are, I have a strict no-autograph policy, and I have since the day I retired. If I’d made an exception for him, I’d have had to make one for the group of assholes sitting at the bar, harassing me as I waited for my carryout pizza. I’d just finished telling them “no” and listening to their jeers and heckles about how pathetic and washed up I am when the kid walked up and handed me a pen and a business card.
I’m in no condition to be dealing with the general public, and maybe I should’ve ordered delivery, but being holed up in this apartment day in and day out makes a man crave a brisk, mind-clearing walk.
The whole concept of autographs is ridiculous to me anyway. Who the fuck cares about an illegible signature? It’ll probably get stuffed in the bottom of some teenage boy’s smelly sock drawer anyway, or if the thing is lucky, it might get framed and hung on the wall of some memorabilia collector’s basement in Indiana after he buys it from the kid at a yard sale.
I saw one of mine fetch over five grand once, when I was at the height of my career. It disgusted me. These people paying this kind of money for a scrap of paper? I’ll never understand it. That money should go to feeding the homeless, mosquito nets in Africa, no-kill animal shelters.
Not my goddamned signature.
Come the fuck on.
I’m just another asshole who happens to know how to throw a ball.
Or at least, I used to.
I catch my reflection in the dresser mirror, my eyes sagging and tired, and run my hand down the sides of my jaw. My beard needs trimming, but making a trek to the barber’s tomorrow holds zero appeal to me.