It was a beautiful afternoon. The kind of day that kids daydream about when they’re stuck inside a school listening to their teachers drone on and on about World War II or the Pythagorean Theorem. Christopher had been waiting all week for Saturday to get here and he had been praying just as long for a warm, sunny day. He could hardly believe it, but he got exactly what he wanted.
He woke earlier than any 13 year old should on a Saturday morning. But he was excited. He had paid close attention to the weather forecast while his dad watched the evening news. Clear skies and a high of 72. Perfect weather for some baseball with the other guys in the neighborhood. It took just about all that he had to resist the impulse to run out the door and hop on his bike as soon as his eyes shot open. He stopped himself, though. None of the other kids would be at the empty lot at 7:30 in the morning. So he waited.
In the meantime, he decided he could use a decent breakfast. Well, as long as blueberry Pop-Tarts can be considered decent. His folks weren’t up yet and he still wasn’t, technically, allowed to use the stove unsupervised. No bacon and eggs for Christopher this morning. By the time he finished eating it was nearly 8. Still too early.
Chris flopped down on the sofa in the living room and turned on the TV. Not that there would be anything good on. He flipped through all the cable channels three times before giving up and turning the television back off. He peeked out the curtain of the front window and sighed. He wanted to go out so badly. But it was still too early. Besides, he had to at least wait for one of his parents to come downstairs. He couldn’t just leave the house without telling them where he was going.
8:27. He finally heard someone moving around in his parents’ bedroom. Of the two possibilities, the footsteps sounded lighter. Must be mom, he thought. A moment later he could see the bottom of his mother’s bathrobe as she descended the stairs.
“Mom, can I go play ball with the guys?” he asked before his mother even got to the bottom step.
She tried to stifle a yawn, which really didn’t work. “Isn’t it a little early for baseball?” she asked.
Christopher rolled his eyes. As far as he was concerned, it was never too early for baseball. The sun was shining. As long as he could see the ball, he could play the game. “It’s 8:30! I’ve already eaten breakfast. I promise I’ll take a break and come back for lunch. Please?”
“Okay.” His mother was barely able to say both syllables before he hugged her and thanked her and ran out the door.
Chris stopped by the garage to pick up his bat, glove, and a ball. He wasn’t sure who else would be out at the empty lot or if they would have thought to bring anything with them. He honestly didn’t care if no one was there yet. He would be perfectly content running the bases alone, imagining that he had just knocked one out of the park at Fenway.
He rode his bike about as fast as he could. He could have gone faster, but he didn’t want to overexert himself before he got a chance to play a game. Chris arrived at the lot and saw that he was the first one there. He surveyed the ground before him. It wasn’t very well kept. Grass growing sporadically here and there. Rocks and gravel made for interesting obstacles throughout the dirt. They had tried to clean up all the broken bottles and empty cans, but he could see that they missed a few. Or there were a few new ones. It’s not like cops came by here on a regular basis to enforce litter laws.
He dropped his glove on the ground near the road. Then he walked over to home plate with his bat and ball in hand. He tossed the ball into the air and took a swing. Miss. Wake up, Chris! He tried again. This time he connected.
He hit the ball a lot harder than he had intended to. The baseball from his garage sailed past what the kids considered to be outfield. It flew over the privacy fence that acted as the boundary of Old Lady McGee’s property. And that’s when he heard the sound of glass shattering. Before he could blink, he was back on his bike, pedaling as if his life depended on it.
Chris got home, threw his bike to the ground, then ran inside, slamming the front door behind him. “You weren’t gone long!” he heard his mother call out from the kitchen. He was breathing heavily. He was scared. He’d just broken the window of one of the meanest old ladies in town. Then his heart dropped. He suddenly forgot how to breathe and all the blood in his body drained down to his feet. To his horror, he realized he left his glove lying on the ground. The baseball glove that had his name and address written on the inside with a black Sharpie.
His mother came around the corner, still in her bathrobe. “Are you okay?” she asked, suddenly concerned when she saw how pale her son was.
“What?” Chris asked, “Oh, yeah, I’m fine. No one was there, so I decided to wait here for a while before I go back.” She won’t buy it, he thought.
“Are you sure you’re feeling all right? You look like you’re gonna be sick.”
Chris let out a nervous laugh. “No, really, I’m fine. I just rode my bike really fast to get back here. I got chased by a dog that got loose.” She won’t buy it, he thought again.
“Mmmhmm…” His mom turned to go back to the kitchen.
He let out a sigh of relief. She bought it. “I’m gonna go up and play a video game to kill time,” he said as he took the stairs.
Chris turned on his Wii and had barely begun a game of Super Mario Bros. when he heard the doorbell. A few seconds later, he heard his father say, “I’ll get it!” before hearing him walk down the stairs.
He dared to open his bedroom door, just a crack. He couldn’t hear what was going on, and from that angle, he certainly couldn’t see who was on their front porch. And then his dad called his name.
Busted. Slowly, as if he were walking the Green Mile, Chris made his way down the stairs. Sure enough, standing in their doorway was Old Lady McGee. She was holding Chris’ bat and glove in her hands. His dad was holding his baseball.
“Chris,” his father began sternly, “I believe you owe Mrs. McGee an apology. And a new window.”