Yuma Loses Game Seven, part two

By
Updated: November 7, 2014

31 October 2020: Yuma, AZ — It’s still All Hallow’s Eve in Yuma, Arizona. It may forever be All Hallow’s Eve in Yuma. The Dozers lost, and nothing since has made much sense. Where once there was a small but thriving desert community, now there’s a crisis. Where once folks looked to a brighter future, now they obsess with the past. Where once the Dozers could be depended on to finish last, season after season, now the team has proven it can win.

And winning is much harder on the soul than losing.

The souls of Yuman Beings roam the earth this Halloween. There is no rest for the tormented, the disappointed, the abandoned and forsaken. The Bulldozers almost won it all … and their almost winning has sent this town spiraling down the whirligig of time toward the ghost town Yuma once was.

After the Great Flood of the Colorado in 1862, the struggling riverboat stop that had once been called Colorado City and later Arizona City, renamed itself again, this time as Yuma. But few buildings survived the flood and even fewer residents. Yuma was born as a ghost town and remained a ghost town until 1875, when the territorial prison was built in Yuma. Then the town began to revive. The Southern Pacific Railroad bridged the Colorado River near Yuma in 1877, providing the town with its first reliable year-round mode of transportation east and west. The town has been growing steadily since, booming during years when the local military bases were funded by Congress and peaking at just over 100,000 residents according to early estimates of the 2020 census.

But with America’s final drawdown of combat troops from Afghanistan in 2015, and the current administration’s plan to reduce troop commitments in Pakistan (due to the failure of military efforts to defeat or disrupt al-Quaida activities in the area) as well as in Tibet (where an American presence was once welcomed by locals hoping to win independence from China, but in light of recent skirmishes against regular Chinese troops any American troop presence now appears to threaten the tenuous Sino-American peace accord signed in 2019).

Reduced military operations abroad means reduced military expenditures at home, specifically the closing of some military bases. U.S. Senator Katie Hobbs (D-Arizona), who gained notoriety several years ago while serving in the State Senate for breaking her leg during a softball game, met with local leaders in Yuma to discuss the anticipated closing of either or both the Marine Corps Air Station and the Army base at the Yuma Proving Ground. The city’s plans for the economic consequences of the base closures were discussed in detail. The general consensus among business owners in Yuma is that the town will inevitably suffer economically, young people will leave for jobs elsewhere, and the area’s population could decline by as much as 10-20% over the coming decade.

The outlook is grim. The former ghost town may once again be inhabited chiefly by ghosts. The sudden success of the city’s baseball club brightened an otherwise depressing summer of news, but their defeat in game seven of the PEBA Championship Series has added to the concerns of city leaders.

Deputy Mayor Leslie McClendon recently gave a pep talk to the Kiwanis Club, emphasizing the possibilities for growth and economic recovery in areas unaffected by military funding cuts. At the conclusion of her speech, the Deputy Mayor said, “We shouldn’t focus on the final game of the Bulldozer’s brilliant season, my friends, but on the enormous success of the team all year long. Let us not belabor a lost Championship Series, but rather remember the Sovereign League pennant the Dozers won. Let’s think of Yuma’s ball club and Yuma herself not as losers but winners. Let us celebrate what we’ve accomplished rather than bemoan what we have lost.”

While the audience appreciated the Deputy Mayor’s uplifting rhetoric, few felt any more hopeful than they had before. As the County Prosecutor John Welloff put it, “Leslie has a way with words. I only wish she were as in control of the economy as she is of rhetoric.”

Local developer Bryan Longgone, Deputy Mayor McClendon’s chief opponent in the last election, added, “The Deputy Mayor can spin words any way she wants, but next year we’ll still be facing an enormous economic downturn that all the speechifying in the world won’t cure.”

“This town gonna be down, down, down,” Taffy Slummings exhorted early morning workers from his soap box on the corner of Main and 1st. “I told y’all. Told ya time and again. The end is nigh, nigh, nigh! Time to sing the ghost town blues!”

The ghosts of Yuma’s past have returned. Saloon doors yawn open and the sounds of a honky-tonk piano tinkle into the streets. Tumbleweeds roll across empty parking lots and gather like an invading army against the fences on the outskirts of the town. The police have put away their riot gear, media helicopters have returned to their landing pads, the detectives have given up their surveillance. In an alley off 4th Street, a food truck sits idle. No one is cooking, no one is preparing, no one is there. Nadie.

Workers hurry to work, oblivious of the fate of their town. They see only what they expect to see: the thin morning light reflected off windows on the third and fourth floors of south facing buildings, traffic signals cycling from red to green to yellow and back, the Koffee Kart on the corner of 4th Street, the old man on his soapbox on 1st. Everything is as they expect it to be.

Only it isn’t.

The phones in the Yuma Crisis Hotline office have never stopped ringing. Rainie and Bo have answered calls nonstop since late last night and now they are exhausted, hungry and desperate for some simple silence, an hour in which they don’t have to talk a teen down from the ledge or persuade a young woman not to climb into the tub she’s filled and use the razor she’s prepared. Just an hour of silence, that’s all they think about, but the morning shift hasn’t shown up yet—they’re usually late, but they bring coffee and rolls and besides, who calls a Crisis Hotline in the morning?—and the damn phones still haven’t stopped ringing.

“Yuma Crisis Hotline, how can we help you?” Rainie says for the hundredth or two hundredth time since last night. Behind her, Bo is listening to an 87 year old woman whose pain meds are no longer working, whose cancer is terminal, whose bank account has long since gone belly up, and he’s trying to find something to say, something to convince the woman to stay alive just one more day.

But he’s run out of reasons to live. He’s used them all up.

“Yes?” Rainie says, the questioning tone of her voice intended to encourage the caller to keep talking.

Rule One of the Crisis Hotline Training Manual: keep them talking. 

“I understand,” she says.

Rule Two: never disagree, always express sympathy and understanding. 

“Would it help to share your concerns with a social worker or counselor?”

Rule Three: when appropriate, refer the caller to someone who can help. 

(Or to the person they have a complaint with.) But the caller is having none of that.

“Oh, I see, yes, well then, it sounds like you want to talk directly to him. Would that help? If I could put you in touch with him?”

There are no rules to cover what Rainie is doing now, offering to put a caller in touch with the person he or she is complaining about. But experienced crisis hotline volunteers know that sometimes the easiest way to resolve an issue is to put the parties involved together—not literally, but by phone. In a way, Rainie thinks, it’s a way to fulfill another guideline in the Manual.

Rule Nine: most problems can’t be solved, so the goal is to defer them—until tomorrow, until next week—keeping the caller alive and safe, and thereby giving them time to find other solutions. 

Rainie calls this tactic “Handling the crisis.” Instead of solving anything, you manage it and make sure it doesn’t end badly. Even promising the caller you’ll call them back with a solution or a contact can work miracles, and keep the caller from committing suicide that very minute or rushing out the door with a gun to solve their problem violently.

A poster on the wall behind Bo tells the truth:

“Job One: Keep the Caller Safe.”

“Well,” Rainie continues, “if you’ll promise me you’ll stay at home and wait for my call, I’ll see if I can find the manager or one of the coaches and have them talk with you. Can you promise me that?”

Bo, meanwhile, has given up. Some problems have no solutions. He can’t pretend to encourage the 87 year old lady with the usual aphorisms like “it’s gonna get better” or “time heals all wounds” or even “when you get through this …” because the woman’s not going to get through it and things are never getting better. Bo can’t think of a single reason she’d want to stay alive, but he can’t say that, so in desperation he offers the one thing the Crisis Hotline Training Manual says never to do:

Under no circumstances, shall the volunteer promise to call on, visit, or contact any caller except by phone during Hotline hours. To do so endangers the volunteer and compromises the anonymity necessary to the crisis hotline.

“Mrs. Mowbry, wouldya like me to come visit you later today? … At the nursing home, yes. That be something you’d like? … Good, good, we’ll talk about this later then, okay? … Yeah, as soon as I get off work here. … Yes’m, I promise ya I’ll pay ya a visit, but ya have to promise me ya won’t do nothing rash, okay? Just hang in there a few hours more and we’ll talk. … Yes’m, we’ll figure things out for ya. … We’ll talk about that too. … Yeah, I promise. Okay? … Good, I’ll see ya later then. … Yeah, bye now.”

Bo drops the phone into his lap. The battery light indicates it needs recharging but he doesn’t have the strength to pick it up again and place it in its recharging dock. He doesn’t know whether to cry or scream or both. Instead, he just hangs his head and breathes deeply.

A few moments go by before he realizes Rainie isn’t talking either. He looks over at her. She has just replaced her phone in the charger and is making notes in her journal. All volunteers are supposed to log in and out every call they take, making notes in their journals about the nature of the crisis and the action taken. Bo looks at his own journal. He stopped making notes hours ago, when the incoming calls outpaced his ability to both answer and record. Sometimes he fills in the journal later, after his shift ends or when they have slack time. But he realizes he is never going to enter this last call into the journal, not only because he has broken the rules in promising a visit, but also because he can’t bear to see Mrs. Mowbry’s crisis sketched into the journal along with teenage breakups, marital spats, fake suicide calls, and prank calls. Mrs. Mowbry’s crisis puts the others in perspective. Mrs. Mowbry has a crisis, the others just need some attention.

“I’m freakin’ tired,” Bo says aloud.

Rainie looks up from her last journal entry. “Yeah, me too. What a night!”

“No, I mean this whole crisis intervention racket, the whole thing,” Bo says, swinging his arms wildly about him as if to include the entire room in his statement. “I’m gettin’ out.”

“They should be here by now,” Rainie says, checking the clock. It says 8:01. “Coffee and a roll will cheer you up. Stick around.”

“No, I’m not goin’ out,” Bo says. “I’m gettin’ out. As in not being here any more. Never more.”

“You’re quitting?”

“Bright girl,” Bo says, snapping his fingers and pointing at her. “Ya got it. Out, out, out. Gone. Bye bye! And awa-a-a-ay we go! Hasta luego, auf wiedersehen, ciao, so long. What’s that song? Sound of Music, I think.”

And with that Bo begins to sing, or simulate singing, since he can’t carry a tune to save a suicide. Rainie covers her ears. But she is smiling.

So long,

Farewell,

Auf widersehen,

Adieu.

To yer, and yer

And yer and yer and yer!

He gets up and starts to dance, in a stumbling sort of way. Then offers a hand to Rainie, hoping she will dance with him but never expecting she will.

“What the hell,” she says. “It’s been that kind of night.”

They stumble about the tiny room, pushing cushions out of the way, spilling outdated magazines to the floor, banging against the hallway door. But they are laughing, delirious with laughter, and eventually collapse on the old sofa in the center of the room. Then lean against each other and catch their breath. It is closer than Bo has ever been to Rainie, closer than she has ever allowed him to get.

He puts his hand on her shoulder. “How many’d we take tonight, ya think?”

“Hundreds,” Rainie says and, in the glow of the end of their shift and the dizzying dance, she forgets to push his hand off her shoulder. “We could count them up,” she says, ready to spring from the sofa and begin counting.

“Estimate,” Bo says, “just estimate. I had three lines busy at one point and don’t remember a single minute when someone wasn’t on a line. You?”

“Two lines was the most I had, until right there at the end when that last call took so long I had to ask two others to hold. It was the worst night ever!”

“Did ya ever get a break, more than just to sip your water or make a note in your journal?”

“Not that I remember.”

Bo does the calculations silently, then says, “So, whatta ya figure, we averaged 5-6 calls an hour, each, for our entire shift, that’s what? Ninety-six phone calls.”

“No! Gotta be more than that. I mean, I handled that many myself. At least.” With that, Rainie pulls away from Bo to get her journal. She starts counting. Bo closes his eyes and imagines what he might have done if she hadn’t suddenly moved off the couch.

“Sixty-eight,” she says, disappointed. “I thought it was more than that.”

“Think about it,” Bo offers. “Sixty-eight calls in 8 hours is just over 8 an hour. That’s less than 8 minutes per call! How’d ya do that?”

“You must’ve done it too. You had even more calls waiting at once than I did. Count ‘em. Count your journal logs.”

Bo senses the optimism he’d felt only moments ago about to go south on him. He delays answering as long as he can, to hang onto his last shred of hope.

“Count your journal,” Rainie insists.

“It’s … incomplete.”

“So fill it in.”

“I can’t ‘member ‘em all.”

Rainie looks at him. “Incomplete like … a few, the last hour, what?”

Bo hangs his head. “Like since midnight.”

“Midnight! That’s … that’s … eight hours ago! You stopped recording eight hours ago?”

Bo nods. Rainie doesn’t know what to say. Finally, just to say something and to avoid telling Bo what she really thinks, she blurts out, “Where the hell’s that coffee?”

No one moves. No one says anything. Nadie.

The silence floats in the air between them like a hanging curveball, waiting to be crushed.

Finally, when she can bear it no longer, Rainie swings for the fences. “I heard what you said to your last caller. Mrs. Mowbry? Don’t do it.”

“Promised.”

“Yeah, and your promise will probably keep her alive another day. But a visit …”

“Ya don’t think that’s all she needs, someone to visit? Someone to—”

“I don’t know what she needs—you don’t know what she needs. We’re not here to fulfill people’s needs. Just to talk them back from the brink. You did that. Let it go. She’ll call again.”

Bo shakes his head. “She’s terminal.”

Rainie looks at him but says nothing. The static electricity in the room would power the John Deere Stadium lights for a week. Finally, Bo tosses a pillow across the room. It kicks up a pile of dust in the corner. He doesn’t know what to say and he is about to toss another pillow when the door bursts open.

“Coffee and rolls!”

A wave of caffein-charged, sugar-coated relief washes over Bo and Rainie. They greet the morning shift and grab the proffered edibles. With their mouths full of java and croissants, they try to answer their co-workers’ questions.

“Worst night ever.”

“More than a hundred calls.”

“Two hun’erd!”

“A suicide every hour.”

“Two an hour!”

“Wackos coming out of the woodwork.”

“Not a single break all night.”

“Calls on hold all night.”

“Two at a time!”

They laugh, they sip their coffees, chew the croissants, and enjoy the company of adults who don’t expect them to solve a crisis.

“Jo,” Rainie says to the older of the two co-workers, “the last call I took this morning was a man so upset over the Dozers loss yesterday that he was talking about killing the manager or someone.”

“Really?” Jo says, incredulous.

Rainie nods, “To calm him down I had to promise to make a phone call for him, find someone in the ball club willing to talk to the guy. I figured that’d buy us some time, maybe he’d calm down, you know.”

“You handled it,” Jo said.

“But he might call back. He expects someone from the Dozers to call him. Someone he can blow steam off to. Someone he can blame, I guess.”

“You want me to call the Dozers’ PR person and see if they’ll give him a call?”

“Would you? Thanks. I’d do it, but …” Rainie lets her head drop like she’s dead beat.

“Go,” Jo’s partner says. “Sleep. You too, Bo. You deserve it. We’ll take care of it.”

“Thanks,” Rainie says, looking at Bo to see if he is going to share his decision with the others. Bo won’t look her in the eye. His eyes are wide open, but seeing nothing. He looks like a zombie.

“Been a weird night in Yuma,” Jo says. “More than just Halloween, I mean. Something big’s happened. You guys will probably hear about it. Nothing you can do now, so get some sleep, but …”

“What is it?” Rainie asks.

“The police nearly gunned down a guy last night.”

“Who? Why?” Rainie asks. “What happened?”

“Some coach for the Dozers, I guess,” Jo says.

Davey Goode,” Jo’s partner adds. “You know, he used to be—“

“Goode?” Bo interrupts, suddenly coming to life and speaking in a rush. “He’s the bench coach, was a player with Yuma, twice, actually, traded away and then reacquired. Wow, Davey Goode. Who’d a thunk?”

“Yeah,” Jo’s partner continues, “you heard of him, Bo?”

Bo smiles and nods and then tilts his head back and begins singing in his off-key, out-of-tune voice.

Born down in Houston, not in Tennessee

August 28 of 1983

A Texas boy, he played Little League

Swung him a bat since he was only three—

Davey, Davey Goode

The Twelve Million Dollar Man!

Born with a hickory bat in his hands

Could hit from the tee to distant lands

But put him at the plate with a man on board

And he’ll strand that run, just take my word—

Davey, Davey Goode

The 12 Million Dollar Man!

Bo slumps back on the couch and moans like some Halloween ghost.

“Where’d that come from?” Jo asks, but Bo says nothing. Just lies there like a lump.

“Is he dead?” Rainie asks. Jo gives Rainie a strange look. “Goode, not Bo.”

“Don’t know,” Jo says. “Critical condition in the hospital, last I heard.”

Bo laughs and says quietly, “Holy mothermuckin’ mayhem.”

The others nod in agreement, and Bo’s voice lifts into a final verse:

Now he’s playin’ for the Valhalla team

Swingin’ for the fences of immortality

In a lineup with the Babe, Roy Hobbs and Satchel P.

He’s sluggin’ them homers like a man who’s finally free—

Davy, Davy Goode

The 12 Million Dollar Man!