Jason hit the ball with all his might. It flew into the air. The first base player grabbed the bill of his cap and tossed it into the base running path. Taking leaping skips, he positioned himself under the ball. His head automatically tilted back and his arms extended into the air.
His ungloved hand braced the mitt on his other hand over his head. With his eyes on the ball, he took two steps to the right. His teammates waited for the catch. The third base player screamed, “Catch it! Catch the ball!” “Slap,” the ball fell into the glove. Jason was out. The foul pop-fly stopped his chances of rounding the bases.
The next batter stepped up to the plate; her hair hung from the back of the helmet in a low ponytail. The sun sparkled off the blonde streaks in her hair. First swing, “crack,” and the ball went soaring over the outfield fence, the first homer of the game. “Woohoo!” Bree walked the bases making sure that she touched home plate. The two outfielders jumped the fence looking for the ball. They had to; it was their only ball.
“Hurry up Mikey,” they heard as they landed on their feet in clumps of knee-high weeds on the other side of the fence. Trees and bushes were scattered over the surface of the ground. Mikey sprang forward in search of the ball. “I am. I don’t see it!” he shouted back and stepped over a rotten log lying on the ground. His foot kicked the log as it passed over disturbing its occupants. He dodged the off-white winged bugs that flew off in a frenzy.
Austin, who was close behind Mikey yelled, “why did you kick the log?!” Bugs were flying everywhere. They hit his face and eyes causing him to blink excessively. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand and cleared the bugs.
Mikey approached a drop in the ground and stopped. He waited for Austin to catch up then side-stepped down the slope. Austin followed him down, stepping the same way, into the dirt imprinted footprints. Branches stemming from the bushes brushed their legs as they moved sideways down the slope. The bottom of the slope ended at a murky creek. The game ball floated on top of the slight ripples in the water.
Austin and Mikey stood at the base of the hill staring at the ball in the water. It was just out of reach. They had an idea to pull branches from nearby bushes to fish out the ball. Austin snapped a limb, but it held onto the bush by its outside skin. He pulled harder, but that didn’t help. “Let go,” Mikey said. He reached around Austin and grabbed the branch twisting it about ten turns before it broke free.
The sun reflected atop the water with its rays penetrating beneath the surface. Its light disappeared in the blue and murky brown water as it got deeper. From where they stood at the edges of the bank, they saw small silver fish darting through the water unsettling the dirt at the bottom.
Peering out into the water, they saw less and less of the ball on the surface. “The ball is sinking!” Mikey pointed in its direction. Austin took the branch from Mikey’s hand and stepped closer to the water. His foot closest to the water sunk into the sludgy mud as he leaned forward. He struggled to balance himself as he extended the branch towards the ball. The tip of the branch hit the ball and pushed it further away. The water’s current finished moving the ball out of reach. Austin and Mikey rushed back to the bushes and searched for a longer branch — no such luck. The branches were either too short or too flimsy to work. The game was over; Bree had ended it with a home run. The ball floated down the murky water until it was no longer visible.
Returning up the hill, Adam and Mikey retraced their tracks, stepping into the sunken footprints they made on the way down. Ducking away from branches was the last thing on their minds. They mindlessly walked into branches that they had previously avoided. Avoiding branches didn’t seem important anymore.
The silence of the upward climb was broken when Mikey asked, “Who's gonna tell them?” Adam ignored him. Mikey repeated the question in a stronger voice and added, “I’m not!” “Fine crybaby, I’ll tell them.” Adam delivered a quick response. Mikey didn’t expect that. His ego was hurt, and he thought about how to respond equally as hurtful, but what came out was, “I am not!” His voice echoed through the air, and suddenly other players were looking at them from the opposite side of the fence.
One of the kids asked, “What’s wrong?” An awkward silence weighted down the air before the kid noticed that both Adam and Mikey had empty hands. His eyes fell onto their pockets in search of the missing ball; flat pockets confirmed his observations. Adam and Mikey didn’t have the ball. His eyes looked past the red bush bruises on Adam and Mikey’s skin and noticed the light reflecting from the water. His facial expression changed from one that sought information to one that had found a conclusion. He knew the ball was lost..., in the murky water.
Adam looked at Mikey and said “Sorry I called you a name. I didn’t mean it.” “That’s okay, I know.” Their ears tuned into the kid at the fence that had asked the question. He called back to the other players, “Game over, the ball is lost.” Adam and Mikey processed the sounds of disappointment they heard. “All man, that stinks,” and other indecipherable words rang in their ears. But more than words, it was the momentary sentiment of sadness that united the players. With that, they gathered their things and moved their thoughts onto the next activity of the day. Now, everyone knew the game was over.
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