Captain Cubbie and the Cubbettes sat on a bench at a bus stop at the corner of Clark and Addison, a high pop foul from home plate at Wrigley Field. They had come, with spray-painted hair and insignias on their faces, to celebrate and nothing, not even a 6-3 loss to the San Diego Padres today, was going to stop them.
"We'll sit here till next year," said the Captain, a 21-year-old, 260-pound diehard named Joe Bell who hands out pamphlets for a beauty school when he's not sitting outside Wrigley Field.
"We waited this long, we can wait another year," said Rhonda Rainer, Bell's niece and one of two Cubbettes. Their hair was supposed to be painted red, but it turned out pink.
Then the Captain turned up his portable stereo and they drifted into "Hey, Hey Holy Mackerel," the Chicago Cubs' theme song begun in 1969 and resurrected for this season.
The season ended early this evening in San Diego, but, on Chicago's North Side, where police set up barricades in anticipation of a victory by the Cubs, it lingered poignantly.
"I wish they would come back and play one more game in there right now," the Captain said, pointing over his shoulder to the stadium.
"Let's have another game," Rainer said. "Let's play one more."
Wrigley Field was dark as 250 people congregated outside, as if something was about to happen inside. It won't until April. Vendors peddled Cubs World Series pennants and expected to take a financial bath. The fans put their arms around each other and sang Cubs songs. Curiosity seekers drove by, screaming bad things about Padres.
Across the street, at the Cubby Bear Lounge, the regular crowd filed out when Jody Davis grounded into a force-out in the top of the ninth.
Others, looking for solace, wandered in.
"I cried," said Linda Takach, a 28-year-old marketing representative who lives a half-block from Wrigley Field. "I had to cry. But when I walked in here, I told myself I might as well have a positive attitude."
Fans couldn't help but return to 1969, to the last time the Cubs had it and blew it. Takach didn't like the thought.
"I hate it; there's no comparison," she said. "This year they had it, they had it this year."
Others found a symmetry in '69 and '84.
"This is the last lament of a Cub fan," said George Kolar, 28. "To have this happen -- winning the first two and losing the last three straight -- is destiny.
"To just win it, to have it that easy for us, just wouldn't be right. Some cities always have champions. If everything comes easy, you have no valleys, so you don't enjoy the good times as much."
The air was damp outside, as sorrow attracted bigger crowds outside Wrigley. But not everyone was serious. "You can't be mad," said the Captain. "All they got to do is get rid of (shortstop Tom) Veryzer and they'll be fine."
Clearly, there still is joy in Cubville. The tears have dried, the upper lips are stiff.
"This isn't a time for mourning, it's a time for celebrating," screamed Eric Whealdon, well on his way to losing his voice standing behind the Captain and Cubbettes.
"Diehards never give up."