The Whiffle Ball Kid

by Thomas Beller

10/25/2002

2nd Ave & St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

Neighborhood: East Village

The swimming pool was very warm. There were huge trees in the backyard and they swayed in the breeze, and at the local Haymarket–which is sort of a Balducci’s for Connecticans–my friend left the key in the car while we went shopping and it was still there when we came back. I mean, he left the key in the car, and car running. But no one was interested in the Audi.

The temperature of the pool and the various pool toys and the sweltering weather and the fact it was the July 4th Weekend all contributed to a dreamy atmosphere–we went a little insane running around on the fresh green lawn and then had a barbecue.

At some point a whiffle ball game broke out. There was lots of laughter at this event but no one really said a damn word to each other, which I suppose was fine, but it made it somewhat conspicuous when a skinny guy with sunglasses and jeans that were too small started to take some cuts with the whiffle ball bat. He was good. He swiped at the thing. Skinny kid; no shirt. He looked like a mini-Dave Kingman. Later he and his friend, another pale skinny guy with long red hair, engaged in a kind of gladiatorial battle. He had a whiffle ball bat, the other guy had a floppy foam tube thing you float on–and they beat each other viciously in the dusk while we all stood on the porch and tried to find the proper moral attitude in the presence of recreational pain.

A week later I was taking a picture of Gem Spa’s front door. It was late, and the night was a little lost. Or maybe that was the effect of Gem Spa, a late night oasis of egg creams, magazines, strange candy, and moods. I took one snap with a figure blurrily in the background, opened the door, and discovered the figure was the whiffle ball kid. He was in a mood. Turns out he was an aspiring model, and was searching out aRude magazine, where he had a photo spread.

“By you or of you?” I said.

“I was the model.”

Gem Spa, normally so proficient at having everything you could want in the magazine trade, was out. Or not yet in. In either case they didn’t have aRude and the whiffle ball kid was a bit down.

“I need the tear-sheets,” he said.

I asked if I could take his picture and he obliged, and I felt like I might cheer him up a little, letting him practice his model moves, which, amazingly, he did. He turned his face a little and his expression emptied and became rather evocative. Here is the picture. Then we said good-bye. Never got his name.

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