Back behind the throbbing ouch in my face that I suddenly see as the hollow dugout where me and Him first made out, I hear the echo of his bat smacking the baseball into the parking lot behind left field this spring.
“Wait,” I say. “Was he my he?”
Beside me, I barely make out a girlish, though motherly, “You okay sweetie? What’re you talking about?” above the muttering motor and squeamish squeals swirling around me. But I don’t want to think to answer because my hands already feel a lump forming in the middle of my forehead like a third eye that sees how stupid I’ve been.
The home run screams stop behind me. I start to hear my own thoughts again.
Beside me, the girl whose driving says, “You knocked his mailbox right off the fucking pole Freddy.”
Oh yeah. I remember now. Freddy’s my name. But what’s her name?
“Trina,” I say out loud.
“Uh huh. That’s me, honey. I should take you to a hospital. Your forehead’s bleeding and you sound confused. I’m so sorry. I swerved to close. It was my fault. I feel horrible.” Trina’s eyes, two sparkling moons in the pond of night, still shine at the windshield.
One of the squealers behind me puts her hand on my shoulder and says, “That was awesome Freddy. Anyone ever tell you you look like Lindsey Lohan on steroids.”
I can’t remember this girl's name. And, after her left field foul, I don’t want to. “No,” I say. “Anyone ever tell you you chitter like a monkey.”
At that, the She behind me shuts up. Thank God.
Trina says, “Girls. Be nice. Freddy, you’re hot and you know it. Guys are just intimidated by your athletic ability. Daisy, you chirp like a pretty little bird.”
I think maybe He only made out with me out of pity. Everyone knows He’s the only guy I’ve ever dated. But He had no right to lead me on and then stop talking to me without even bothering to give me an excuse.
‘He’ is Alan Sturlesson. His mailbox lies mangled on the dirt road in front of his Dairy Farm, along with my mind, a mile back.
Trina swings her Lincoln Towncar around a country bend. My eyes un-scrunch open and I grab the Oh Shit Handle just in time to not fall in her lap.
She smells like Strawberries. And I want to hug her tiny Shortcake self for all the pain and pleasure of right-now’s revenge.
“Good to see you’re awake now,” she says. “Still want to go to the hospital?”
I say, “No,” because I know she wants me to say no.
Her hair is braided into tiny strands of red, green and blond. In the darkness, her eyes now look like scull sockets.
Still. She’s pretty wherever she’s at. And most of the guys like her—even though they call her a freak when she’s not around.
The steering wheel’s almost bigger than her body. She should sit in a booster seat when she drives this thing.
While looking at Trina, I see my brother Troy in the back seat. He’s the other screamer. Back at our house, he overheard Trina, Daisy, and I talking about going to smash Alan’s mailbox. So we had to take him along or deal with the fact he’d probably tell on us.
Troy is on the Junior Varsity traveling team this year. Alan is his Letter-Jacket idol. I grin back at my brother. “What’d you think little bro? Was it a homerun?”
Troy looks for a smart-ass answer in his head.
Other than the bat bouncing back into my forehead, it felt like a homer. I leaned way too far out the window for leverage—I think. The Tink off the center of my forehead wasn’t all Trinity’s fault. Some of the blame belongs to me.
Finally, Troy says, “Your forehead’s frickin gross. It looks like you slammed a baseball straight into your skull. Mom’s gonna be pissed. You have senior pictures in a week.”
Daisy slaps him on the shoulder a little too flirtatiously. “Be nice to your sister,” she chitters. “Aren’t you worried about her?”
“I’m fine,” I say. And I know I shouldn’t be giving Daisy this bitchy look. She is my friend. But she shouldn’t be hitting on my brother either. And she shouldn’t have called me Lindsay Lohan on steroids.
“No, you’re not fine,” Trina says. She looks over at my forehead. “We have to get you to a doctor. That thing’s getting bigger.”
I flick my hands back and forth, hoping to make my point a little better. “No. Nuh uh. I’ll be fine. If I wasn’t, I’d be unconscious. We’re not going to the doctor.”
“Okay,” Trina says. “Settle down. You wanna smoke?”
I look back at Troy. He squints, giving me an I’ll-file-this-for-later-leverage-with-the-parents face. Now I’ll either have to hold him down while Trina shoves a Hash pipe in his mouth and smokes him up, or deny everything.
Hash might be good for Troy. He’s an uptight Honors Student, who plays sports year ‘round. I don’t think he knows how to have fun. Even now, with his buzz cut and khakis, he looks like a psychologist taking notes on a patient called Life.
No. I won’t force my brother to do drugs. I can half bribe, half make him come along as an accomplice to my mailbox murder. But I can’t taint my little brother’s pure relative innocence with Hash’s wonderful heat wave madness.
So I lie.
“You know I never smoke Trina.”
“Yeah right.” Already baked, Trina giggles. She covers her mouth self consciously because her teeth are stained two different colors from ear medications she took when she was a kid.
I look at her seriously and put a finger up to my lips. She stops right away and clears her throat while easing her Land Yacht onto Highway 50. Too late, she realizes her screw up. She tries to cover for me. “Oh…Uh…I mean…”
The sentence trails along, unfinished, forever. The first round streetlight pole we see reminds me of Excalibur.
“Oh my God," I say. "Where’s Excalibur?" I feel around the bottom of my seat for its familiar rubber hilt or its round blade. I turn around and ask Daisy and Troy, “Did I give it to one of you guys?”
With confused blue eyes, Daisy says, “Huh?”
“Excalibur,” Troy says annoyed. “It’s her fucking bat.” He looks at me. “Just call it your fucking bat.”
Seeing another opportunity to flirt, Daisy points at him and scolds him. “Young man,” she says. “I don’t want to hear that kind of language from a fine honors student such as yourself.”
“I have to,” he says. “She’s my sister. It’s in the sibling handbook.”
I feel around by Daisy and Troy’s feet. My hands tremble as I say, “Both of you shut the hell up and answer me. Please. Excalibur is the best bat I’ve ever had. Five home runs. Countless R.B.I.s. I need it. And…”
I remember taking down the mailbox. The Tink off my head comes back again.
An earthquake of pain throbbed across my forehead. My hands pressed on it to make it stop. The rumble of Excalibur hitting packed dirt sounded a lot like the hollow tumble of Alan’s crunched mailbox across the road.
Oh no. I let go of my beautiful Excalibur and let it fall into the fowl Nether regions of The Sturlesson Dairy Farm.”
“Shit,” I say. “I dropped the bat in front of Alan’s house Trina. Go back.”
Trina looks over at me. She’s scared to say no. I can tell.
Troy says, “You’re frickin’ retarded Freddy. You can’t go back now. The Sturlessons prolly called the cops already.”
“No," I say. "They couldn’t have been up. It’s too late. And maybe it didn’t wake them. Besides, I don’t care. I have to go back. That bat is the reason I’ve been good at baseball this year.”
Quietly, meekly, Daisy says, “Freddy. You shouldn’t have taken Excalibur tonight. Can’t you just buy another one?”
Troy answers for me. “No. She can’t. It’s special to her—like holy water or a cross or something. Jocks are paranoid and superstitious. She won’t do as good with another bat because she thinks of that one as her once-in-a-lifetime magical sword. Never mind her talent.”
Talent. That’s the nicest thing my brother ever said about me. But right now I don’t care. “Please Trina. Go back.”
She takes her eyes off Hwy 50 to look at me again. We’re almost back to my house. I told mom that Daisy, Trina, and I were going to have a sleepover. Mom went to sleep two hours ago and we snuck out the basement patio door.
“O-kay,” Trina sighs. “I’ll turn around. Keep your eye out for the fuzz though. We might have to park on a side road and walk in.”
Troy says, “You mean Freddy will.”
Trina says, “Knock it off Troy.”
Troy actually listens. Weird. I think he likes her more than Daisy.
Ten minutes later, Trina parks her car in a shallow part of the ditch next to the dirt road Alan’s farm is on. I can see the Sturlesson farmhouse’s front porch light shining about a quarter mile away.
“That light wasn’t on before,” I say, opening the door.
“Yeah it was,” Daisy says.
“Wait,” Trina puts her hand on my shoulder. “Freddy. Really. You don’t have to go back and get it. You can get another one just like it.”
Troy gives the rest of us his “I quit” sigh. I want to fix his pretty boy face with more than this glare I’m giving him.
“No,” I explain. “I need Excalibur. What if King Arthur just dropped his sword while defending Camelot, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “Ah. Screw it. I’ll have The Lady of the Lake make another one just like it.”
Troy says, “Oh brother. Cut the crap.”
This time, even Daisy loses it. All three of us tell Troy to, “Shut Up” at the same time.
“Fine,” he says. “But you’re going to get caught Freddy. They must’ve heard the mailbox go down. They have to be up now.”
I say, “Everyone on the team knows who owns Excalibur though. I christened it with a Sharpie in Old English letters. So I’ll be in trouble either way—unless they didn’t wake up and I can get in, grab the bat, and go. That’s my only chance. I gotta do it.”
“Yeah. Sure. You’re screwed.” Trent is worried about me. It’s cute. I want to pinch his cheeks and punch him at the same time.
The scent of cow poop and dust drifts in through my open door. Humid night air invades the air conditioned Towncar. I move to get out so my friends won’t have to suffer the heat and smells any longer.
The tan Crock on my right foot barely has a chance to touch the ground before Trina says, “Nuh uh. You’re not going alone. If someone’s out there, hiding in the barn or something, we’ll face him together.”
“Ooooh,” Daisy says. “Scary.” I watch her snuggle up next to Troy’s shoulder in the rear view mirror.
Troy looks a question at Daisy. Then he says to Trina, “They wouldn’t be hiding unless they knew we were coming you ditz.”
I point at his face. “You call her a ditz one more time and I’ll rack you on that barbed wire fence over there.”
Trina says, “I’ll just make him walk home.”
Daisy says “Nooo. He’s too cute.”
Puzzled, Troy scowls at Daisy again.
I say to him, “She likes you idiot. She’s flirting with you.” I look at Daisy. “Stop flirting with my little brother. He doesn’t even understand what you’re doing.”
Troy blushes. His freckles stand out like Red Giant Star constellations.
Seeing the look on my face, Daisy moves back to her own side of the bench seat.
I open the door again and step out.
Trina sounds like an angry little fairy when she says, “Freddy, you get back in this car right now. I’ll drive past, you’ll get out and grab the bat, and we’ll go.”
I don’t really have to think about it. I wasn’t looking forward to going there alone. “Fine,” I say, getting back into the car. “Let’s go then. We have to hurry up anyway. If mom wakes up and finds all of us gone, Troy and I will be in big trouble. So we should hurry.”
Trina’s foot is already on the gas. The Sturlesson’s pasture, fenced in with big, blocky posts and barbed wire, passes on our left. A waste-high cornfield whips past on our right. She slows down as we get to the spot where the mailbox should be, across the road from their big barn. I half open my door.
Both the bat, and the mailbox are gone.
“Damn,” I say.
Trina stops the car for a second.
“No,” Troy says. “Don’t stop. Someones…” His words trail off.
A dark silhouette appears from around the corner of the barn. By his lean tallness and gangly steps, I can tell it’s Alan. His undead Viking face emerges from the shadows into the porch light coming from his house.
I’m scared shitless of the dark look in his transparent blue eyes. He’s only in his boxer shorts, so I’m a little turned on too. He’s holding Excalibur by the hilt. As he gets close to the car, he raises it.
Daisy screams. “He’s gonna kill us.”
Troy says, “Go, go, go. Hit the gas.”
Trina listens. She floors it. But Towncars don’t accelerate real fast,, so we’re still passing Alan when he winds up and fastballs the bat, end-over-end, at my window.
I yelp and cringe. My third eye throbs. Through it, I see the spiral of Karma we traveled on through time to this moment. I shut my looking eyes as Excalibur breaks through the car window like Avalon water.
Tink doesn’t quite happen again. I open all three eyes and see the round tip of Excalibur’s blade sticking through Trina’s passenger side window, millimeters from the lump on my forehead.
We ride on through the night.
Created: Feb 20, 2010Document Media