By Joy K
|"Hello? Oh okay, the computer is writing what I say."
"You said I could do it."
"I know, JD. I was just making sure the computer voice thingy was working."
"But it's my turn. You always get to go first."
"Use the force, Luke!" said Vin as he held up his light saber. Okay, it was really a plastic, yellow wiffle bat, but it would do.
JD held up a bat of his own, wielding it like a sword as he joined Vin in the imaginary battle. "I am Darth Vader," said JD in the deepest voice he could manage. He really wanted to be Luke Skywalker, but Vin always got to be Luke.
Chris watched the imaginary war progress as he grilled hamburgers and hotdogs. He winced as JD whopped Vin on the side of his head with his plastic bat - sword.
Vin rubbed his cheek. It sure did sting when you got smacked with the bat.
"Sorry, Vin! Sorry," said JD quickly. He knew he wasn't supposed to hit anyone with the bat, but it was an accident. He didn't mean to hit Vin, but he was a little pleased that he actually got around Vin's defense. Vin always beat him in the sword fights.
"Hey now," said Buck, pulling JD's plastic bat from his hands. "This is for playing ball, not for hitting Vin."
"I didn't mean to," said JD, but his demeanor wasn't totally convincing.
"You've been told to be careful with the bat," Buck scolded. "You could hurt someone."
"I didn't do it on purpose, Buck," protested JD. "We was just playin' until you was ready to play ball with us."
"Well, I'm here now. Tell Vin you're sorry."
"Yeah? Well how about if you mean it this time," said Buck.
"Sorry, Vin," said JD, lowering his head contritely. "I didn't mean to hit you."
"It's 'kay, JD," replied Vin, still rubbing his stinging cheek.
"Okay. Let's get in a few swings before we eat," said Buck, satisfied that his point had been made. He looked at the 'fielders' sitting in lawn chairs and relaxing.
"Hey, quit loafin'! We got a game to play," called Buck with a grin.
The 'fielders', Nathan, Josiah and Ezra, moved to the appropriate positions for the pseudo game.
"Vin first!" said JD, hopping from one foot to the other, excited to play the game. He figured if Vin went first all would be forgiven.
"All right, Vin. Let's see what you've got." Buck set the plastic wiffle ball on the tee while Vin stepped into position.
Vin stared at the ball, before taking a half swing to line up his plastic bat with the ball. Then he cut loose with a real swing
and totally missed the ball.
"Steeeeee-rike one!" shouted JD gleefully. A little too gleefully. Vin was always better than him at physical activities. It was frustrating to the five-year-old to 'lose' at games, but he failed to recognize that it wasn't simply Vin's natural talent, it was also due to the fact that Vin was older and his coordination was more developed.
Vin shot a miniature version of the Larabee glare at JD, then got ready to try again.
"Steeeee-rike two!" shouted JD with a laugh.
"You're a little high, Junior," coached Buck. "Keep her straight and level."
"You can do it Vin," called Chris from the grill.
Vin looked at him and smiled, encouraged by his dad's words. He stepped back into position, and glared at the ball. He was going to hit it this time. Vin adjusted his baseball cap and then reached down and got some dirt on his hands. He wiped off the excess dirt on his jeans, and with the tip of his tongue sticking out between his lips he focused hard and made his swing.
The small plastic ball sailed off the tee in Uncle Ezra's direction. Vin dropped his bat and ran as fast as he could to the Frisbee that was doubling as first base. They only had first base and home plate because they only had two Frisbees. Besides, they didn't have enough players to play the full game.
"Yay, Vin!" called JD, getting caught up in the excitement and forgetting his frustration. It was going to be his turn now.
"Way to go!" Chris called, clapping for Vin.
Ezra threw the ball to Josiah, who was playing first base. It fell woefully short of the base.
"Good throw," Nathan cat-called sarcastically.
"It is considerably harder to throw that ball with any power than it looks," Ezra commented. He was right. It was almost impossible to throw the little plastic ball any distance at all.
"My turn!" said JD excitedly. He approached the tee with his own bat. It wouldn't do to use Vin's.
"I'se ready, Buck," said JD.
"Okay, Little Bit," said Buck as he placed the ball on the tee. "Bring Vin home."
"Huh?" JD looked up at Buck in confusion. "Vin is home."
"It's a baseball saying," explained Buck. "What I'm saying is get a hit, so Vin can run to home plate."
"Oh! Okay." JD aped the movements Vin had made on his successful swing. He adjusted his cap. He rubbed his hands in the dirt and wiped the excess on his pants. Then he stuck out his tongue and took a swing.
"Strike one!" chortled Vin from first base.
JD frowned. He had done everything just like Vin, but he missed the ball.
"Try again," said Buck. "Keep her straight and level."
"Who?" asked JD.
"Oh." Baseball sure had a funny language. JD went through all the motions again, and missed again.
"Strike two!" Vin sing-songed.
JD glared at him. "Stop it!"
"Just focus on the ball," encouraged Buck.
JD tried again and missed again.
"Strike three," said Vin with a clap of his hands.
Buck shook his head. Whoever thought these two boys weren't competitive was sadly mistaken.
"Let me help you," said Buck, knowing that JD was getting frustrated.
"No!" insisted JD. "I can do it!"
Buck stepped back as JD pulled the bat away from him. He'd let JD keep trying.
This time JD hit the tee and the ball fell off.
"That was really close, Little Bit," encouraged Buck.
After four more swings, Vin was sitting in the grass, twirling the Frisbee that served as first base. "Strike eight," he reported. Apparently he didn't realize that the rule in baseball was three strikes. Of course, the rule didn't really apply in the Tanner-Dunne version of wiffle ball.
JD was frustrated. He had tried his hardest and he couldn't hit the ball. He had tears in his eyes when he turned angrily and handed his bat to Buck. He started stomping towards the house.
"Hey, come 'ere," said Buck. "It just takes practice." He knelt down and lifted JD's chin with his hand.
"I can't do it," JD answered. "Vin can do it. Vin can do everything."
"Sure you can. Let's try again," encouraged Buck. He set up the ball and the tee, and handed the bat to JD.
"Show me your swing."
JD reluctantly swung the bat.
"Strike nine," said Vin, his voice reflecting his boredom as he twirled a piece of grass between his fingers.
"Stop it, Vin!" JD growled.
"Vin, I think it would be best to go easy on JD," said Josiah softly. "He's trying his best and you know what it's like when something is hard to do."
Vin looked at Josiah and nodded. He was just teasing because JD had whopped him with the bat and made fun of him when he missed the ball, but he knew Josiah was right, and he really wanted JD to be able to hit the ball and be happy.
"Okay, that was a good swing," said Buck. "Let's just move your hands closer together and move them up the bat a little."
Buck helped JD adjust his hold on the bat, then, still kneeling, he wrapped his arms around JD and helped him swing the bat. Together they smacked the ball off the tee.
"Good job!" praised Buck. JD looked up at him with a grin.
"Now you try it yourself," said Buck, standing up and taking a step back.
"Okay!" said JD. He was going to hit it this time no matter what.
JD swung as hard as he could.
He totally missed the tee and the ball...
But his momentum spun him around and the bat connected with a very sensitive part of Buck's anatomy. The plastic bat buckled from the force.
Buck grabbed himself and dropped to the ground. Everyone winced in sympathy.
"Buck! Buck are you alright?" asked JD, dropping the bat and falling to his knees beside Buck. "I'se sorry. I didn't mean to "
Buck tried to find his voice, knowing that JD was afraid. "It's okay, JD," he squeaked.
JD knew it wasn't all right. Buck had tears in his eyes. Buck had told him to be careful, he might hurt someone, and now he had. JD looked up as Uncle Nathan stopped next to him.
"You all right, Buck?" he asked.
"Oh yeah," Buck answered in a high pitched voice.
JD began to cry. He had hurt Buck. He hurt his papa.
"I'm sorry Buck," he sobbed.
"Josiah? You want to take over the grill?" said Chris as he approached. He picked up JD, knowing that Buck would need a few minutes to regain his composure.
"It's all right, JD," said Chris. "Buck's going to be fine."
Vin trotted up beside the pair, while Ezra joined Nathan and Buck. "Wow, JD! You musta swung real hard 'cause the bat don't hurt that much."
JD sobbed louder. He had hurt Buck because he swung as hard as he could.
Vin grimaced. He was trying to tell JD he did a good job swinging, but it just made him feel worse.
"Buck is fine," Chris repeated.
JD sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve. "Nuh-uh. He's crying and he can't stand up."
"Well," Chris hedged. He wasn't sure how much of an anatomy lesson he needed to go into to get his point across. "If we let Buck rest for a few minutes he'll be just fine. The bat just hit him in a bad spot."
JD looked over Chris' shoulder at Buck. "Are you sure?" he questioned.
"Yep. We've all been hit there at one time or another. It hurts like - uh," Chris stopped himself from swearing and having to pay the bad word jar. "It hurts a lot when it happens, but you get over it."
Seeing that JD wasn't entirely convinced, Chris decided a diversion would be the best tactic.
"How about you and Vin helping me make up the hamburger and hot dog buns, and by the time they're ready, Buck will be fine."
JD sniffed. "I breaked my bat," he said sadly as they walked to the picnic table.
Vin picked up the bent plastic and walked with him. It was definitely broken.
"You can use my bat, JD," he offered.
JD took his broken bat from Vin, and watched Buck for a few minutes, while Nathan sat with Buck.
Chris handed him a hamburger bun.
"Get your bun ready," said Chris.
The boys helped Chris put all the condiments on the buns, soon losing themselves in the task of making sure there was extra ketchup on Vin's and extra mustard on JD's. Uncle Ezra didn't want ketchup or mustard. He liked that special kind of mustard. Uncle Josiah liked lots of onions on his, and Uncle Nathan liked his with lettuce and tomatoes.
By the time they completed their task, Buck had sufficiently recovered and was glaring at the knowing grins of the 'uncles'. His glare became a frown, when JD sat down across the table instead of next to him. Obviously JD was still upset about 'hurting' him.
After they ate, Buck moved from the picnic table and sat in a lawn chair. He called JD over to him.
JD approached with his head down, his long dark hair obscuring his eyes.
"JD, look at me."
JD looked up guiltily.
"I'm fine. It wasn't your fault anyway," said Buck. "I was standing too close to the bat. It was my fault."
JD's lip quivered. Tears began to trickle down his cheeks. He blinked them away.
JD dove into Buck's lap, and Buck artfully caught him and protected himself from additional 'injury' from sharp elbows and small knees. He hugged JD tightly and kissed him repeatedly on the top of his head.
The next afternoon, Ezra, Josiah and Nathan made a special trip out to the ranch. They came bearing gifts.
"Master Dunne, we have something for you," said Ezra, holding out a brightly wrapped package.
"Oh boy!" said JD. He tore the wrapping off, revealing a brand new plastic bat and ball. This time, it wasn't the skinny yellow bat. It was a fat red, plastic bat. JD looked confused.
"It will make it easier to hit the ball," explained Josiah. The wider bat would give JD more opportunity to actually hit the ball than the slim bat.
"And this is for you," said Nathan, handing Buck a package.
Buck looked at the stupid grins on the faces of his friends and knew without a doubt that something was up. He cautiously opened the package revealing a baseball player's protective cup.
"Ha-ha," he replied sarcastically.
"Well, Mr. Wilmington, it was Nathan's idea," Ezra volunteered. "He figured with the larger bat, there was even a bigger chance "
Ezra ducked away as Buck took a swing at him, and chased him across the yard.
The boys laughed at Buck chasing Ezra. Then JD tugged on Chris' pants leg.
"What was Buck's present?" he asked innocently.
Chris glared at Nathan and Josiah, but his humor shown through when the glare turned into an evil smile. He wasn't about to get stuck explaining the gift to JD. Let Nathan and Josiah squirm.
"Go ask Uncle Nate and Josiah."
With that, Chris turned and went inside the house, laughing all the way.
"I still don't know what was in Buck's present."
"I don't think we're supposed to know, JD."
"But I liked my new bat. It's big and fat and red..."
"And it breaked my bat."
"I didn't mean to, Vin. I guess it's too big to be a light saber."
"That's okay. Chris said he might get us a real baseball bat soon. But he says we can't play swords with it, and he says we can't play baseball with it unless an adult is with us and we wear helmets."
"Oops. Time to go. Uncle Ezra's coming. Vin, do you think Buck is still mad at Uncle Ezra?"
"Nah. He weren't mad. They was just playing like you and me when I teases you sometimes."
"And then I chase you?"
"Yep. Hi Uncle Ezra. We just finished."
"Did ya bring your sneakers, Uncle Ezra?"
"Why would I need sneakers, Master Dunne?"
"So yous can run real fast like this."
"I think he's gone, Vin."
"Yep. Here's my paper. Bye Computer."
Next: Stripes and Fried Stars...
In The Good Ol' Summertime (Index)