Tuesday, January 24, 2017

the last book I ever read (Wonder Boys: A Novel by Michael Chabon, excerpt two)

from Wonder Boys: A Novel by Michael Chabon:

In the summer of 1958 it was reported in the Pittsburgh newspapers that Joseph Tedesco, a native of Naples and an assistant groundskeeper at Forbes Field, had been suspended from his job for keeping an illegal vegetable garden on a scrap of vacant land that lay just beyond the wall in center right. It was his third summer at the ballpark; in the years before this he had failed at several modest enterprises, among them a domestic gardening business, an apple orchard, and a nursery. He was careful in his work but terrible with money, and he lost two of his businesses through disorderly bookkeeping. The rest of them he lost through drink. His well-tended but rather overexuberant patch of tomatoes, zucchini, and romano beans on tall poles, some four hundred and twenty feet from home plate, had caught the unfavorable notice of a real estate broker who was attempting to close the deal for the sale of the ballpark site to the University of Pittsburgh, and soon afterward Mr. Tedesco found himself sitting, in his vast undershorts, in his living room in Greenfield, while his former crewmates went on chalking foul lines and hosing down the infield dirt. Then his tale of injustice made the papers; there was a public outcry and a protest from the union; and a week after the scandal broke Mr. Tedesco was back on the job, having fulfilled his promise to dig up the offending plants and transplant them to his own postage-stamp backyard on Neeb Avenue. A few weeks later, just after the all-star break, at his youngest child’s and only daughter’s eighth birthday party, Mr. Tedesco had too much to drink, choked on a piece of meat while laughing at a joke, and died, surrounded by his wife and children, his two grandchildren, and his rows of Early Girls and lima beans. With an almost mysterious affection his daughter would afterward remember him as a big, fat, shiftless, and overexuberant minor craftsman, with bad habits, who committed a kind of suicide-by-appetite.

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