So when something comes out the way you want it, you sorta wanna show it around and see if others agree and subsequently stuff your big fat, swelling ego. As certainly not a surprise to anyone who frequents my blog, I have recently published my third children’s book, THE 11th YEAR OF CHRISTOPHER ARTHUR McDANIELS. Now, when it comes to really really good writing, I have a loooong way to go before I have to worry about making an acceptance speech for a Pulitzer. But for right now, I’ll settle for one of the chapters from my new book that I think came out just right. Here’s the entire chapter…hope you agree!
Chapter 11, The Catch
Now that I’m almost twelve, my mom is beginning to trust me a little more. She says if she begins giving me more responsibility, then maybe I will become more responsible. My first reaction to this is to be cautious. What she says sounds like something she’d say when she’s up on the judge’s bench looking down at some poor guy who messed up a little and now he has to answer to the mother of all judges, my mom. I say, “okaaaay” with a long sounding “a” at the end of it since I’m really asking her for more information, like where’s she going with all this? Mom doesn’t hesitate at all. She’s right there with what she’s really getting at.
“Christopher, it’s time you begin taking a little more care of Samantha.” Samantha is my little sister. I’ve talked about her before, but I don’t think I ever mentioned her name. So Samantha needs more taking care of…from me. Now I really know where this is heading. It has nothing to do with more responsibility and lots to do with more work…for me. You gotta watch parents, they’re tricky like this.
“I want you to take her for a ride in her stroller every afternoon. It’ll do you both good,” my mom tells me. “You can use the exercise and she can use the fresh air. So what I want you to do is take her out every day after school. You can just push her in her stroller around the block and then bring her back inside. If you take your time and maybe even stop at the park so she can play in the sandbox, that would be extra nice.”
“Evvvveryday?” I ask, this time with a long “ev” at the front of the word so she gets what I’m asking. She gets it. Her answer is what I thought. I have to walk Samantha evvvveryday.
Right away, twelve isn’t looking as good as I had expected. With the year I’ve had at eleven I thought maybe things would start going a little better. Maybe not. But I guess being a good brother may get me some points. I can always use extra points.
The next day when I get home from school I get the stroller out of the garage and roll it around to the front door. Samantha is all excited. She loves her stroller. She can even climb into it by herself with a little help. We head off down the street and I’m hoping we don’t run into Bradley the Bully. That’s all I need. But today was a lucky day. Bradley was nowhere to be seen.
Samantha and I continue down the block and around the corner. It’s not far down from here that there’s a small park. It’s not very big, but it does have a sort of fake baseball field that the kids in the neighborhood have made in the back corner. Today, as usual, there’s a bunch of kids getting ready for a game. I don’t hang here much. As you know, I’m not a prized sports type. Everybody knows this so no one is banging on my door asking me to come out and play ball. But today things are a little different. When I start walking by the park with Samantha this kid, Stephen Anderson, comes running up to me.
“Hey, McDaniels,” Stephen yells, “How’d you like to play baseball today. We’re a player short for right field. How ‘bout it?”
Now, let’s back up a minute. This is another one of those times when you need some background information to understand the impact of what’s going on here. First of all, Stephen Anderson is just about the best little league baseball player in the universe. I mean, no kidding, twenty years from now I’ll be watching him on TV playing for the Yankees and I’ll tell everyone that I knew him when he was just a kid. Now, Stephen Anderson is exactly the kind of kid who never ever would even think of asking me to play baseball unless he was like totally desperate and the world was about to blow up to oblivion and beyond for him to actually ask me to play baseball—and be on his team! Stuff like this just doesn’t happen, at least to me. I’m like in shock.
“I’m taking my sister for a walk in her stroller,” I tell him. Brilliant! Like he doesn’t already see this.
“We’re just playing a short game, five innings. Why don’t you park her by the fence and you can still keep an eye on her.”
“Okay, that sounds like a plan,” I say, “but I don’t have a glove.”
“No problem, you can use my new one. It isn’t broken in yet, but you can still use it.”
The thing is, the condition of the glove is meaningless. For me, I could have a dump truck on my hand and I’d still miss any ball coming at me. I’m thinkin’ this day is just getting weirder and weirder. Stephen Anderson wants me to play baseball…on his team…and he’s even going to let me use one of his gloves. This could be my ticket out of nerdsville.
I roll Samantha over by the fence. I give her a pep talk about how important it is that she doesn’t be a pest and that I have to make a good impression playing baseball. I don’t think she picks up on any of this. She’s like tuned in to some other station. I give her a pack of chips I had in the back of the stroller hoping that will keep her busy.
The baseball gods are with me today. I don’t mess up. Of course, no balls come my way, which is a good thing. Plus, the two times I’m up to bat I do everything I can not to swing the bat. I figure if I just stand there looking like I’m going to pound one out of the park, but not swing at anything, the odds are I’ll get a walk. I’m right. I get on base both times with walks. This beats my usual three swings and three misses. Even Stephen yells “Way to look ‘em over McDaniels.” I’m pumped.
All this time Samantha is being a perfect little sister. She’s just sitting in the stroller eating her chips and watching all the kids. Things are just excellent. The game? It’s all those things the TV announcers say about an exciting game—a real nail-biter…a barn-burner. Stuff like that. It’s the bottom of the last inning, we’re winning 3 to 2. The other team is up. They have the tying run on third. Two outs. I’m still managing to stay out of trouble. I have two walks, no errors and Stephen Anderson’s glove is still on my hand. Oh, one other thing I forgot to tell you. We didn’t run into Bradley the Bully when Samantha and I first left the house because he was already at the park. He’s playing on the other team. Guess who’s up?
Bradley takes a few practice swings and steps up to the plate. Even from way out in right field I can see his usual snarling face and squinty eyes. He’s looking at me. I can’t believe it.
“Better start running now, McDaniels,” he yells out to me, “‘cause this one’s for you and you’ll never catch up with it.” Suddenly I sense the baseball gods have left the house. The sky has grown darker. There’s a hush in the stands and even the announcers are stuck for something to say. It’s over. Bradley the Bully is going to mess up what was about to be my greatest hour-and-a-half in sports history.
“Don’t sweat it, McDaniels,” yells Stephen. “Look like a baseball player.”
I start trying to figure out how a baseball player looks so I can make myself look like that, but I was interrupted by this humongous bam of the bat as Bradley connected with the next pitch. It’s very clear at this moment that the ball is actually coming in my direction, sort of. It begins fading to my left, but there’s no one over there to catch it. I’m the one who is supposed to catch it. I have to practically run faster than a cheetah on rollerblades to even get anywhere near it. Up, up and up it’s going. Then it sort of hovers like a helicopter for about ten minutes, searching for the best place to come down so that I have absolutely no chance of catching it. It finally picks a spot and begins its speedy descent back to earth. I’m still running. Then I’m still running more…and some more. My legs are like churning knee-deep in a pool filled with peanut butter. I’m trying to make them go faster, but they don’t seem to get the concept. The ball slows down. Then it speeds up. It’s teasing me. I can almost see the red stitches on it and I imagine they’re smiling at me, a big snarly Bradley smile. Every muscle in my body is on full alert. I stretch out, practically flying through the air like a hawk. My mind goes blank. I’m in another zone completely. I start hearing that strange church music again with the singers who sing “ahhh” up and down. Now I wish I had gone to church more. I hope my few trips to Temple with David might come into play. It’s about now that my only sense is this incredible, humongous smack of a giant boulder smashing into the palm of my hand like a meteorite plummeting from outer space. The next sensation I have is the whole left side of my body skidding across twenty miles of grass and weeds and rocks and finally coming to a rest halfway through a hedge that’s at least forty feet high. I’m not sure where I am. I’m not sure who I am. I can’t figure out what I’m doing. All I can see is this grungy old baseball sitting firmly inside a baseball glove that is firmly attached to my hand. O…M…G! I caught the ball!
The next thing I know, a bunch of kids are running up to me. “What a catch, what a catch,” Stephen Anderson is yelling excitedly. I’m lifted up high on top of a bunch of shoulders and like a moving mound of human limbs, me and all the shoulders take a victory lap around the bases. All the time everyone is chanting, “Christopher McDaniels is duh man!” It’s the greatest moment of my eleven-almost-twelve-years. I can’t wait to get home to tell my dad what happened.
As I’m rounding the corner of my block I’m not even worried about running into Bradley. I figure he doesn’t want to even see me right now let alone start messin’ with me. I run across my front lawn and into my house. My dad is sitting in the family room and I sort of startle him when I come blasting in all sweaty and excited. I begin telling him about the game and how I was actually playing with Stephen Anderson and how I was walked twice and how I was in right field when Bradley the Bully came to bat and how he looked out and yelled at me and—then my father put up his hands like he was some kind of traffic cop stopping traffic.
“Whoa, just a minute,” he said, “I know you’re excited and I want to hear every detail, but I have to ask you something first.”
“What’s that?” I ask.
My eyes blew out of my skull about six inches, just like that duck in the cartoons. My jaw dropped so far down I probably put a dent in the floor.
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,” is all I can remember saying as I tore out of the house and ran up the street. All the while I’m repeating and repeating, “Please be there, please be there, please be there, please be there.” “There” is no longer just up and around the block. “There” has been moved. Now it’s at least six miles away and no matter how fast I run I’m not getting to “there” fast enough. This is the worst moment in my life. My dad, meanwhile, is right behind me. My mother is right behind him.
We all arrive at the park at the same time. It’s beginning to get dark by now. The street lights have come on. There is one lone lamppost in the park. It’s way over in the back near first base, next to the fence, next to Samantha’s stroller. Samantha is in her stroller, cheese chips smeared all over her face and sticking to various parts of her body. More chips are scattered around her on the ground. She is sound asleep. Thank you, God.
This is the first time I went to court knowing I was fully guilty and ready to accept being sentenced to two thousand and fifteen years in my room. In the end, I lucked out. It was only one thousand and ten years. I gave Samantha a hug and told her I was sorry. She was busy playing with an empty cereal box and didn’t seem to care much. I headed up the stairs to serve my time, knowing I’d be an old man with gray hair and a long beard by the time I would come back down. I was halfway up when my dad motioned me from his chair in the family room.
“Hey Chris,” he said, “Nice catch. Wish I’d seen it.”
Copyright © 2914 Marc Kuhn