The Incognito Parallel -3-

Some adventures are best told by the people who lived through them. Here's Drew Kelley again, exploring...

The Incognito Parallel

by Wanda Cunningham

Chapter 3
Six, Nothing and Nothing

 

I paid the bill in the little office and the man there gave me a receipt and some change; with the money left from breakfast I had almost five dollars. He called me sweetie and honey, too, and I didn't like it as much from him as from Mom and Rosie. It made me feel a bit weird.

I went down the little driveway toward the ballgame, they were still playing. I crossed the street and watched for a bit. A few of the kids looked at me but no one said anything. I sat on an old green bench with the paint all chipped and falling off. A funny thing like a little concrete building with no windows or doors made a bit of shade 'cause it had begun to get hot. It wasn't much bigger than a kid's playhouse. I wondered a bit how anyone could get into the little building but it didn't seem that important.

When I sat on the bench, the two little boys who had been sitting at the other end looking at baseball cards got up and moved away. I didn't like to think they had left because of me. Everyone else had black or at least dark brown hair and I think I had the only blue eyes, too. One girl who had her hair in long braids came and sat down on the bench and smiled at me. That made me feel a little better.

When I looked back at the game, something had happened; even though they didn't seem to be really playing teams, the kids that had been at bat were heading to the outfield and the kids in the outfield were coming in to play the infield. It looked complicated, maybe they had three teams, somehow?

"Hey!" The tall boy moving to the pitcher's mound called. "You wanna play?"

I looked around to see if he might be talking to someone else but there was no one near me. Most of the kids not playing were little, like under five.

"You," he said, pointing at me. "Little girl in a yellow shirt. You wanna play?"

That made me mad. "I'm not a little girl!" I said.

He laughed. "Okay. How old are you?"

"I'm eleven..."

"What's your name?"

"Drew...." Oops. I wasn't supposed to tell anyone my name.

"Mine's Jimmy." Rosie's nephew, I remembered. "If you want to play second base, you can use my glove?" He held it out. He had that same way of talking his aunt had, different than back home.

I trotted on out and took the glove. It was a black infielder's glove, pretty old and the laces were rotten but it fit good, way too small for him. "Okay," I said. The glove made me smile, the leather felt as soft as Mom's cheek and the padding inside still seemed in good shape.

He grinned at me and ruffled up my hair before I could move away. "Now there's five on each team. We get three of these guys out," he waved toward the plate where the ones who had been playing the infield were setting up to bat, "then we get our at bats."

I pushed his hand away from my head and stopped smiling. "Three teams? Is this really baseball?" I shook my head and ran my own hand through my hair to unmess it a bit.

He showed me the ball. "Naw, it's softball but this version is called 'In, Out and Home'. We're 'In' right now."

I nodded, though I'd never heard of such a game. Lots of goofy versions of baseball played in places, I guess. I started to trot out to second but he ran his hands through my hair, again, messing it up. "Hey!"

He laughed. "Go play second, chiquita." He didn't sound Hispanic except when he used a Spanish word. Other times, he seemed to have the same accent his Aunt Rosie had and most of the other kids, too. A Western accent, I guess, but not like Texas.

I went out to play second, still a bit steamed because he thought I was a little girl. I really needed to get that haircut, I decided.

It was a weird way to play baseball--the shortstop was on the "Out" team along with four outfielders, one of whom had been playing second but now moved to the short fielder position--it seemed to work, though. "What's the score?" I asked the shortstop after we had warmed up our gloves and arms with some infield pepper.

He said something in Spanish then added, "Six, nothing and nothing, we're the only one's had our bats yet." He grinned at me. "I'm Julio." He wasn't much bigger than me but looked about the same age.

"Drew," I said. Too late to think of another name, I'd already told Jimmy.

"Like Drew Barrymore," he said, still grinning. Even though he had a Spanish name, he had that same accent Jimmy and Rosie had. I made a face at him but the game was starting and I didn't say anything.

The batter hit Jimmy's second pitch and I fielded a high bouncing chopper by running backward but my throw to first was too low and too late. The first baseman, one of our team, kept the ball in front of him and the big guy who had been the pitcher earlier was safe.

The short fielder, Tony, playing behind and to my right, had backed me up and looked surprised that I had even tried to catch the bouncer. "Good hustle," he said. "Not so good throw."

"She's just setting up the double play for us," said the first baseman, grinning. Everybody laughed except me. I pushed the hair out of my eyes and took the throw from first for another round of pepper, scowling as fiercely as I could.

The next batter lined out to third, Julio covered second and I backed him up but the runner tagged back to first without a play. We whooped it up this time as we played pepper, that had gone very well.

The runner at first called to me, "Chiquita, you play ball before?"

I grinned at him. "Second base on the Hilltop Giants back home, we played in the consolation game in the city championship." Fourth best team in the city, not that I had been playing second last year, I'd been lucky to get any field time at all.

"Ay!" he said, waving his hand as if he had burned it.

The short fielder, Tony, who had backed the play at first this time, grinned at me. "She can play a little," he said. I scowled but felt glad that someone had noticed that I knew where to be when Julio covered second.

Jimmy took the count on the third batter to 2 and 2 then a hot goundball sizzled right into Julio's glove at deep short--he spun and threw to me. I made sure to stomp on the bag then leaped high into the air to avoid the runner and threw as hard as I could to first. It bounced once but the first baseman gloved it easily; double play, the runner was out by a yard or more.

Tony whooped in my ear, "That's three, way to pivot!" He'd backed me again, so he was practically right on top of me. The runner even grinned up at me.

Jimmy ran from the mound, grabbed me around the waist and lifted me into the air, laughing, and Julio and maybe a couple of other guys patted me on the butt. I hadn't expected any such reaction, it startled me. "You can play second on my team any time, muchacha!" Jimmy said. "That was beautiful, I could kiss you!"

* * *



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