December 14th, 2016


LJI:3 brushback pitch

It was the summer of stitches.  Nearly every kid in our neighborhood had ended up in the ER to fix knees, elbows, foreheads, and in one particularly memorable bike accident, a hand and fingers.  We had all been admonished by parents to 'play safely, please' but we couldn’t be concerned with caution if it got in the way of fun.

The site of most of our games (and injuries) was the neighborhood ‘backyard’.  Our block had an empty grassy lot that touched on the edge of all our yards.  The lot was an old cemetery and no one could build there without exhuming the few bodies still buried, so it stayed empty.  We all knew this history because of Mr. Carter who died in 1880.  His was the only tombstone left, and we all examined it regularly.  Mostly because it was frequently used as part of our games.

On this particular afternoon my brother wanted to use his new wooden bat, so the game was baseball.  We created a vaguely diamond shape out of a sapling tree for first base, a Frisbee thrown down for second, Mr. Carter’s stone for third and a slight sandy depression that we drew an “X” in for home plate.  Our games were usually four on four and heavily weighted in favor of the team batting; the team in the field needed a pitcher and a catcher, which left only two kids to cover everything else.

I don’t remember much about how the game began.  When I came up to bat Ritchie was the catcher and I told him he was standing too close.  I told him more than once, in the bossy tones of the oldest kid in the neighborhood, that he was going to get hit if he didn’t back up a few steps.  He didn’t back up a few steps.  And on a mighty swing – I missed the ball completely – I connected with Ritchie’s forehead.

Now Ritchie had just gotten stitches taken out of his forehead a few days before.  That time he had been trying to jump from the porch swing to the porch railing and back and he missed.  This time we all looked at Ritchie who was crying and had blood all over his face and kids scattered.  My brother and I got him up and walked him to our back door.  Ritchie agreed that the person to talk to first was our Mom, not his.

Mom got him cleaned up and brought him next door to his mom Annie, who sighed and put him in the car for another ER trip.  I was crying a little by then, freaked out that I had hit him.  I told Mom the whole story and she reassured me that it was an accident and Ritchie would be okay.  She talked my brother and me into staying inside and playing a board game for the rest of the afternoon.

After that baseball fell out of favor in our neighborhood.  I didn’t mind, I was never very good at it anyway, and it took some time before I stopped hearing the sound of the bat meeting Ritchie’s head.  We started playing kickball instead, which had the advantage of being less likely to cause damage to us.  The Sampson’s windows however…

***This is my entry for week 3 of LJ Idol.  Other folks' takes on brushback pitch are at the link.  I did not get any stitches that summer, but on the last day before school I broke my arm falling off a sllide.***
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