I Hope There’s Baseball in Heaven

Life matters not when you’re twelve. What matters, or what mattered to me, I suppose, were the worn baseball cards sticking out from my back pocket, the yo-yo, baseball glove and Yankees hat (with the brim bent just so) in my knapsack, and particularly, the baseball in my hand.

I walked, one lace-loose sneaker in front of the other, chomping on a stick of Wrigley’s gum and tossing the ball up in the air with my bare palm.

On the very next step, I ran into an elderly woman who was lugging her metal shopping cart behind her while navigating the cracks in the sidewalk with a wooden cane. She squealed as I kicked the cane, causing my sneaker to break free from the sole of my foot and sail through the air. The baseball dropped to the ground, bounced off the shopping cart and rolled into an adjacent alley.

At twelve, you don’t stop to think about a feeble old woman with a cane when your most prized possession in the world has just disappeared down a dark alley. I didn’t apologize. Instead I ran full throttle, stumbling with one shoe on and the other in my hand. I spotted the ball trickling along the ground, propelled forward by a slight downward slant in the concrete.

I slipped on my sneaker and sprinted, gathering the ball up in my hands before it reached the sewer. Something foul stung my nose. I winced, walked backwards towards the street and studied the ball to make sure it was unharmed.

A bird flew by, stealing my eyes for less than a second. It was more than enough time for me to notice the body. I saw a pair of feet first, followed up the beanstalk legs to the tattered clothing, color-faded and ripped along the seams, then across the broad shoulders to the back of the balding head and to the arms spread wide like a pair of broken wings. Whoever lay there had been wearing a maroon cap, velvet red at some point before the weather had gotten to it.

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