The Kickball Game: April 30, 1975

    The tan dirt at my feet spread out into the diamond that was the infield. There was a springlike smell in the Ohio air, with a slight dampness left over from yesterday’s shower. The grass in the outfield was the fresh green of newness, having overcome the struggle of several months worth of snow covering it for so long, trying to kill it I always suspected. It would have been quite peaceful had there not been the shrill screams from dozens of eleven-year-old kids on the kickball field where I was standing. I was one of them, but I wasn’t screaming. I was “at bat” as it were.
    Two down, bottom of, well, whatever inning it was that signaled the end of recess. We were down by one run, which was impressive, and had people on second and third. I stood behind the plate assessing the situation. Eric Plemons was on the mound gripping the red, rubber ball glaring at me with a knowing smirk on his face. I could hear what he was thinking: “You little squirt! If you even get a foot on the ball I’ll pick it up and knock you over before you get half way to first, you scrawny wimp!!!”
    Eric’s right. I was one of the smallest kids in our class and the danger of me getting the ball over the heads of an infielder were minuscule at best. My guess is that he would throw a spinner, left to right, that had a little bounce but not enough to draw the “unfair bouncer!!!” cries from my teammates. And, if I kicked it to him I’d be out before I had time to realize my foot actually made contact. Other options?
    Third base: Richard Webb. Strong arm. Slightly clumsy, but if he did manage to outwit his diminished attention span long enough to catch anything I dribbled into his direction, I’d end up with a ball being placed into the side of my face, most likely resulting in decapitation. My parents would be concerned.
    Shortstop: Alfred Mason. Biggest kid in the class. A brute that I believe one day would eat his young if he found a girl dumb enough to give him offspring. Whenever I’ve been near him I’m sure I smelled sulphur. No, not to him. He’d knock me into next Tuesday.
    Second base: Tim Blaise. One time I made the mistake of trying to block a shot of his in gym class and ended up visiting the nurse. He’s inching in towards me right now, glaring, grinning, drooling a bit. I think he is the entire offensive line of our school football team. I know he’s offensive to me and a lot of people. He’s definitely out.
    First base: Wayne McKnight. I’m not sure I even want to be safe at first because I’d have to share space with this knuckle-dragger. Neighborhood bully. Word on McKnight is that he was the tallest kid in his class in the first grade because he was eight. No, if McKnight got the ball he would meet me with it on the first base line and pound me into the ground like a stake using the ball as his hammer.
    My options were not looking promising. Wait. Turn around...yes! These boneheads decided to use Deanna Criswell as their catcher thinking that this would be the place where she could do the least amount of damage! Deanna was one of these girls who really didn’t have a lot going for her, at least in my world. She never wore the right clothes, she said weird things in class. I remember in the second grade she peed her pants one time at lunch. Things were looking up.
    I stepped back about five feet behind the plate and waited. Eric began his motion and let the ball fly. Just what I thought, a left to right bouncer. I sprinted toward the plate and swung my foot back to show that I was planning on slamming this puppy into the tetherball courts a hundred and fifty yards away. Right as the ball crossed the plate I stopped my foot and let the ball just glance off the side of it. I took off like the devil himself was after me, glancing back to see the saga that was unfolding. Deanna stumbled forward to try to retrieve my bunt. Eric, who had backed up after throwing his pitch, skidded to a halt and started to run forward yelling at Deanna, “Don’t touch it, you moron! Let it go out of bounds!”
    Deanna was confused, which I counted on, and picked up the ball, still lost in the moment. She came to her senses about the time I was getting ready to place my foot on  first base and flung it weakly toward my direction. But her aim was way off and it went skipping off to her right into the line of kids waiting for their turn to kick. They moved aside, of course, not wanting to interfere with this. My friend, Jimmy Isaac, was on third and made his way across the plate tying the game. Eric was furious and bolted toward the ball which had come to a rest against the foul fence. Paul Pearson had been on second and the moment he saw what was happening shot toward third and kept right on going. By the time Eric reached the ball, he turned around just in time to see me sliding into second and Paul crossing home giving us the lead. And then the bell rang ending recess.
    Our team was jumping up and down, screaming, laughing! We won! We beat them, this group of five bullies who always teamed up against anyone and who always won! And I was the one who orchestrated the game-winning play using my brains to overcome the brute strength that those numbskulls possessed! So simple, so easy!
    As we gathered together congratulating each other I looked around just in time to see Eric and Alfred towering over Deanna showering insults all over her. Before turning to go back to the classroom I could see that she started to cry.

(To be clear, this didn’t actually happen. I know you’re not supposed to explain a story, that you’re supposed to let the reader draw whatever they see from it. However, Deanna represents every person I have hurt because I “used” their perceived weakness for my own gain, sometimes done by making fun of them. I still remember hurting a guy named Lars Peterson in the 5th grade because I made fun of his teeth. The irony here is that in describing the infielders I used names of guys who used to pick on me. It’s a cycle I suppose. So, this is my clumsy way of acknowledging what I’ve done and to say I’m sorry.)

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