Since it doesn’t show up in pen on paper, you might as well know that words like “because,” “fart,” “there,” and “banana” come out sounding like “becazz,” “faht,” “they-a,” and “bananer” when I say them out loud. I got this from Pop, who’s even worse than I am. One time we took the train down to New York so he could show me where Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds used to be, and while we were ordering pizza in Brooklyn and back-and-forthing about who you’d rather have batting cleanup behind you—Pistol Pete Reiser or Charlie Banks—the waitress asked us what country we were from. (Like they’ve got room to talk in Brooklyn.)
A lot of the snoots on Beacon Hill like to tell you that their ancestors came over with the Pilgrims, but this didn’t happen to us Kellers. We came over with the Red Sox. My Grandpa’s name was Tris Speaker Keller (after the 1907 outfielder they called “The Grey Eagle”), my Dad’s name is Theodore Williams Keller (world-famous slugger with ’tude in 1940-something), and I even have an Aunt Babe and an Aunt Ruth. (This was a lucky coincidence. They met 38 years ago at a Bobby Kennedy rally in Rockport and they’ve been together ever since. Aunt Babe swears they would have fallen in love even if Aunt Ruth’s name had been Sheba, but I’m not so sure.) Pop couldn’t decide whether to call me Rico Petrocelli or Freddy Lynn, but Uncle Yaz had twins that year and beat him to it. That’s how I wound up Anthony Conigliaro Keller (another snarly batting champ who got beaned in 1967, which somehow turned him into a hero). And the only one who’s allowed to call me Tony C is my Dad, because I’m the only one who gets to call him Teddy Ballgame. To everybody else I’m just T.C. Except to my brother Augie, who calls me Tick.
Oh, yeah. I should probably explain the brother thing, except I don’t really remember how it happened. We were in first grade, the Red Sox were in fourth place, and I had a brand new hole in my heart from losing my mother. But even though Augie and I had never talked to each other before, he was the only one who knew what to say and how to say it. (Everybody else thought they could get away with blowing smoke up my ass about Guardian Angels and Eternal Paradise, like my mother had gone on a Princess Cruise.) Pretty soon we were taking make-believe trips to the planet Twylo and losing our thumbs to alien walnuts, and that’s when I knew for sure that I wouldn’t be sad forever. Well, anybody who can pull off something like that for you isn’t just a best friend—that’s brother territory. So Augie told his Mom and Dad that they had a new son, and I told Pop the same thing. Screw biology.
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