The Incognito Parallel -13-

Too Cute for Shades?

incognito.gifby Wanda Cunningham

Chapter 13
Muá±equita - The Little Doll


Chapter 13

I left the motel room and trotted across the little street toward the ball field, noticing that in the short time I had been inside the weather had changed. All day, what wind there had been had blown from the west or northwest, coming across the desert. Now the wind blew from the southeast, off the mountain and it had an odd feel.

I actually stopped in the middle of the street to smell the wind, like a goof. But I'd smelled that sort of wind before, living where we had -- rain. I looked up toward the mountains and saw the anvil shape of a thundercloud away to the south. The bottom of the cloud looked dark with rain, and gray and white clouds spread out from it like spilled milk in a slow motion movie special effect. Almost the whole southern sky was covered by clouds.

Besides the wind being wetter somehow, it had that electric feel. It's kind of a good feel but it sort of makes you nervous too. I could see lightning playing around the peak of one of the mountains. The quiet thunder came so late I knew the mountains were further away than they looked -- and bigger than they looked, too. The rain was pretty far away.

If I had seen a cloud like that back home, the wind would probably have been cool and clammy. Here it felt hot and sticky. It might have been cooler than the dry air it was pushing away but it had enough heat and wet to feel hotter. We didn't have mountains nearby back home, though. A thunderstorm there came across flat land for hundreds of miles. I wondered what difference the mountains would make.

Grandad Charlie always said that if you could see the thunderhead and feel the wind on your left cheek, the storm was coming straight at you. The clouds were south of us and the wind was coming from the east. I wondered how long we had before the rain arrived.

Getting out of the street, I walked on across to the ball field where the kids had changed from playing pepper to work-up. I heard someone yell, "Chiquita!" I looked and Jimmy was trotting toward me.

"Cute hat," he said. "And the sunglasses make you look like a movie star." He grinned.

"Mom said I had to wear them," I told him.

He laughed like that was actually funny. "You wanna bat? I'll let you take my place up and I'll go to the outfield? Hah?"

"You don't have to ..." I started to say but he trotted on back toward the players, talking in both English and Spanish, telling them that he was giving up his place for me.

A big kid with brown hair and pimples on his forehead protested. "She's just a little kid!"

Tony, who was pitching, and Jimmy, started telling him that I was actually a good player and older than I look. The big kid, they called him Andrew, scowled but he shut up about me and stood in the batter box, left-handed. "C'mon, throw it," he said to Tony.

I walked around the sort of pit dug by maybe hundreds of batters and catchers kicking the dirt for years and years and sat on the rickety bench near the big concrete sump-thing. A little girl, about four, sitting there with a rag dolly in her lap, reached out and took my hand. It surprised the heck out of me.

I looked at her. She had dark, curly hair and eyes so brown they looked black. I hadn't seen her before and didn't know why she would take my hand.

She looked really cute and she grinned up at me. "I'm Delia. Wass your name?"

I didn't want to say Drew again, I wanted to stop using my real name. Besides, I probably should use a name that couldn't be a boy's name if I really wanted to make my disguise work. So I took the other end of the name I usually use and said, "Call me Annie." Besides, now there was another Andrew in the game.

I meant to say something more but stopped because what I had said gave me like a chill in my stomach. The wind had actually died away again, so that wasn't it and it wasn't a cold wind anyway.

"My dolly's name is Annie, too!" said the little girl. She held the doll up with her other hand and danced it on her lap, "Anita Muá±equita!"

We both giggled for some reason. She squeezed my hand and I squeezed it back.

"You're pretty," she said, "and you gots a Twinkie Belle hat!"

So we giggled some more.

A new gust of wind brought that smell of rain far away again and I looked up. From where I sat, the thunderhead seemed to sitting right on top of our motel room. I didn't like that.

An argument started at home plate. In work-up, after you have two strikes, a second foul ball counts as a strike. The pitcher and catcher said Andrew had fouled off four pitches in a row which made him out. Andrew said it had been only three pitches because when I got there he'd had only one strike against him.

Tony said it had been two. The catcher wasn't sure anymore. Jimmy settled things by yelling in from right field. "Give him one more pitch."

Just like in the morning, pretty much everyone did whatever Jimmy said. I wondered if he owned the ball or the field or something. Or maybe just because he was the tallest kid. Andrew must have been nearly as tall and maybe heavier but for some reason, I didn't think the other kids liked him very much.

He growled at Tony and waved his bat so the end of it made a little circle above his head. "Throw the damn ball," he said.

"Watch-a-lay," said Tony. I think that's what he said. "There's little kids here, no cussing." He wagged the hand holding the raggedy-looking softball at the batter.

"Throw it!" Andrew shouted.

Without a windup, Tony lobbed a soft underhand toss over the big batter's head. Andrew cussed again, even louder and more nasty.

Mattress, the catcher, said something like, "Quiet-ay! No cussing! Tinker Belle and her friend are listening." He pointed at me then threw the ball back to Tony.

Andrew snorted and used an even worse word then yelled at Tony. "Throw it!" He added some more cussing and called Tony a greaser.

Mattress stood up behind the batter, looked at Tony and pointed at his own head like with a gun.

Andrew didn't notice. Tony nodded, then lobbed another soft one, this time right at Andrew's head -- you could tell.

I saw Jimmy running in from right field. Andrew dodged but the ball hit him on the thigh. Then he screamed more cusses and started toward Tony with the bat in both hands.

Everybody was yelling. Delia held onto my hand and practically pulled herself into my lap. I hugged her up close because I felt kind of scared, too.

Jimmy had the biggest voice, even bigger than Andrew's cussing. "Take your base, moron, or you're out and out of this game!"

Andrew turned to face Jimmy. "He did that deliberately!"

Jimmy nodded. "Yeah, and that's wrong. Are you hurt?"

That seemed to puzzle the big kid. "Uh, no," he admitted. "It was just a loop-de-loo."

"Well," said Jimmy. "Don't be such a big baby about it. Take your base and quit whining." He turned on Tony and said, "And no throwing at people." Then to Mattress, "And no doing what you did, you know what it was."

Mattress just grinned and Tony laughed and looked embarrassed.

Andrew tossed the bat back toward home plate and trotted to first. Jimmy followed and they said something together. Then Jimmy turned and looked at me, "It's your bat, Tink."

"Aw, man!" said Andrew. "She's going to make an out and I'm going to be stuck here. Why you give your bat to Tinker Belle, anyway?"

"Her name is Annie! Just like my Dolly." Delia yelled back at him from my lap, waving the doll around.

I felt my face turn red, that stupid hat. A gust of wind came up and I wished it would blow the hat away.

Jimmy just laughed and trotted on out to right field again.

Delia scooted up in my lap and pulled my shades down. "Ooo. Pretty eyes," she said. She giggled and I had to laugh. I tried to put her down but she put her arms around my neck and held on.

The other two kids who were batters, a big girl I hadn't seen before and a skinny boy named Chava, waved at me. Chava ran out and got the bat and brought it toward me. "Let her go, Dely. She has to bat." Delia kissed me on the cheek then slid down off my lap and laughed.

"She's my little sister," he said handing me the bat. Little Delia immediately grabbed his hand like she had grabbed mine.

I pushed my sunglasses back up, smiled at both of them and walked to the plate.

"Oh," said Tony. "Shades, she's got shades." He grinned at me. "'At's a really cool look, Tinkabell."

I made a face at him and he laughed again. Julio, who was playing third, called out, "She's too cute to pitch to, you gonna have to walk her." He and Tony laughed some more and I heard Mattress snicker behind me. I thought about turning around and bonking him, just lightly, with the bat.

It was a bigger bat than we used in Little League, almost an adult-sized bat. A softball bat with a longer barrel and shorter handle which would make it awkward to bunt with. The smaller baseball-style bat I'd used in the morning game was gone, whoever owned it probably took it home and hadn't come back or forgot the bat. Now we only had the one bat to play with, so I had to use it. I felt pretty sure that I wouldn't be able to hit with it for any good plays.

I would have to try to draw a walk or bunt. A softball is easier to bunt than a baseball -- even with the big awkward bat, I thought I could do it. I didn't want them to know that, so I swung the bat around my head like Andrew had, pretending I would try to get a hit with a full swing. Some of the kids laughed. I heard one of them say, "The bat is bigger than she is."

"She's too little to pitch to," I heard from third base. Julio, who'd been one of the pitchers on another team in the morning waved at me. He had the black glove I had used earlier but it was too small for him. He only had his thumb, index and third finger in the glove with his long finger and pinkie outside it. His third finger was in the glove part for the pinkie, too.

I tried to give him a cool look through my shades but I guess that's hard to do when you're wearing a Tinkerbell hat cause he just grinned at me.

Tony grooved one and I laid a bunt down the third base side and took off running. Andrew ran for second. I didn't look to see what happened but I figure that Julio tried to scoop up the ball in that too small glove and missed or dropped it. I beat the throw to first and Julio overthrew and Andrew ended up on third, laughing and trash-talking Julio for the bonehead play.

Jimmy was playing right field so he didn't make any mistakes and I knew I couldn't get to second so I just tagged up and smiled. It was as good of a bunt as I'd ever laid down.

Tony called at Andrew, "Told you she knows how to play."

Andrew grinned then made a face and called over to me. "You should have tried for the double, Tink!" Then he chopped at his arm, wiped his hand across his forehead then his thigh. He cut his eyes and wagged his head and clapped his hands twice as Tony got ready to pitch.

It looked funny but I knew what he wanted. I let Tony throw to the big girl first. She popped the very first one up and Mattress caught it right in front of home plate. I knew I couldn't run so I just stayed close to first. Andrew and Julio traded more insults.

Amy, the big girl became catcher and Mattress took her place at bat since he had caught her pop-up in fair territory. If he'd caught it foul, she'd just be out and go to right field and everyone would have rotated and Nacho would be at bat.

Mattress called at me. "I get you home, chica."

Delia called out, "Her name is Annie," like she had before. She waved at me and I waved back. Chava was sitting with her on the bench by the big sump-thing and he waved, too.

Another gust of wind reminded me to look at the sky but the rain still hugged the mountain far away.

I looked over at Andrew and he did his impression of a third base coach again. This time I nodded. Amy wouldn't be expecting it, just having come up to catcher. I snugged my hat down, and took a lead off first. Andrew and I were going to try a double steal.

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