Busy day. Still not feeling great, but despite (or because of) that, I spent the day – like the past several – careening around the house like a pinball from one must-do project to another. Why? I don’t know. It’s how I careen.
Anyway, let’s see, I dropped Julia off at a birthday party, then about an hour and a half later Bill took Alex to his (Alex’s) ball game (fall ball), and then I picked up Julia, dropped her off at Alex’s game, and then headed to work. Bill had told me to call in sick, but I couldn’t do it. Anyway, I got there, and they didn’t need me, so I got to leave in order to (per one of my coworkers) have some soup and some tea with honey and lemon.
I opted, instead, to catch the end of Alex’s game.
I arrived in time to catch his latest at-bat, and he took some pretty good swings but struck out. (Bill told me later that Alex had driven in a run in earlier.) Eventually Bill noticed me from the dugout and I explained why I was back. He’s an unofficial official assistant coach. Unofficial because he didn’t sign up for it. Official because he’s got a hat with the team logo on it. And he hangs out in the dugout and keeps the kids from becoming hooligans. As a middle school teacher, he’s quite good at that.
Anyway, Julia saw me as well – she’d been playing with some little baseball friends – younger sisters of boys on Alex’s team – and she came over to get some money to buy a yellow Gatorade. The off she went, I watched the game, texted my sister, and squinted in the hot late afternoon sun.
About five minutes before the end of the game, Julia came back and plunked herself down beside me, a little pout on her birthday-party-face-painted face.
“What’s the matter?”
“Something’s the matter.”
“What’s the matter? I can tell you’re upset.”
“No I’m not.”
“They don’t want me to play with them any more.”
(I immediately hate them, the snobby little brats.)
I put my arm around Julia.
“They’re stoopid!” I said comfortingly.
(I don’t ordinarily call anyone stupid, but I said it in the same tone of voice Julia uses when she’s mad at Alex. And I don’t like mean girls, no matter how small.)
Julia looked at me and corrected me. “M’s not stupid.”
“Well, I know she’s not really. I was just trying to cheer you up.”
“I should tell that police officer.”
“That they don’t want you to play with them?”
A vigorous nod.
“Hmm. And what do you want him to do?”
“It’s a her.”
“What do you want her to do? Lock them up for not playing with you?”
“Imagine that? You’re going to jail for not playing with Julia!”
We savored that thought for a moment, but then Julia slumped against me again.
“I just want someone to play with. That’s all I want.”
I didn’t know what to tell her. I didn’t know what had happened between the three, but I do know that when there are three, it’s not uncommon for two to buddy up and eventually exclude the third. And it sucks to be the third.
I tried this: “Well, Alex’s game is almost over, so we’ll be going home soon anyway.” (I know. Lame.)
“I’m not going home.”
She looked very determined. Or stubborn.
“You’re going to stay here at the ball field?”
“Where are you going to sleep? In the dugout?”
“I don’t think you’ll be very comfortable.”
“I don’t care.”
I didn’t know what to say to that, so I just watched the game. Within a couple of minutes it was over. We sat there and watched Alex and Bill and the rest of the team exchange high fives with the other team and then head back to the dugout to get their stuff.
“Okay, let’s go.”
“I’m NOT leaving.”
“Come on, Julia, the game’s done.”
“Do I need to carry– Do you want a piggy back ride?”
A smile breaks through her grim little face and she gets up happily. Sometimes I get inspired.
“You hold your Gatorade,” I told her, and picked up my own bottle of water. I turned my back to her so she could climb aboard, and with a little hop on her part and a little crouch and lift on mine, she was up.
And as she joyfully swung her arms around me, she hit me right in the lip with the Gatorade bottle.
My upper lip is now red and swollen on that side.
I don’t think Julia would have been very comfortable sleeping on one of those wooden dugout benches.