Kick the ball straight and follow through

by Henry E. Powderly II

She dragged the pink toes of her gym shoes as she shuffled to the batter's box, leaving two, thin straight lines in the packed-down dust behind her.

He played with a rock he'd picked up on the way outside, rolling it in his pocket while a manure scent of wet decaying leaves sailed in the tight cold October air, over the field.

She was up first, and a fluffy cloud shadowed the field as the pitcher bounced the red, supple ball down the line, far askew, a foul that stopped against the chain fence behind her. Then the teacher clapped and picked up the ball and rolled it back to the pitcher's mound as the shadow slid past first base and over the woods that bordered the playground.

He dropped the rock and kicked it beyond the edge of the outfield.

She thought about his clammy hand and how much fun it was to hold, and though her best friend had sneered and teased her, she knew she'd hold it again.

This time the pitcher delivered, straight to the box where she, with her arms outstretched like wings, kicked and buried her toe dead center launching the ball over the pitcher, who threw up is hands and jumped, though he could have been a giant and he still wouldn't have had a chance.

It bounced between the second and third basemen, who each ran after it with their arms outstretched like mini Frankensteins or Japanese robots, but more frantic and cute.

Run, shouted the teacher. And she did run, her long braids swinging like Tarzan vines behind her back. The ball had bounced back into the air when she looked to the outfield where he stood, right in its path.

He watched the spinning red ball, and only would have needed to slide a few steps to his left if he wanted to catch it. But he didn't, he just let bounce past him and roll deeper into the outfield while the other fielders frowned and yelled at him and chased after the ball themselves. He stood and watched her run towards second, round the base, and stop at third right as the shortstop caught the ball, passed by the center fielder from deep right field.

She turned around to smile at him, but he was searching the grass for a stone, or maybe a bug or some other treasure buried there.