W.A.R. Part One - Black Summer
Chapter Ten - The Worst Day
by Jeff Wilson
August arrived and brought with it an even worse heat wave than June had. I was so happy that my team would be having its last game of the season! I didn't want to have to spend any time out in the weather if I could.
Brett had left to go to New York and even though he had only been away for a few days it seemed like an eternity since he'd been gone. It was so boring without him. I couldn't wait for him to come back. I sat at my grandma's house longingly looking out the window. I would have called, but all Brett left for a number was his mom's cell phone. He said he'd work on getting a cell phone from his mom for himself, but so far he hadn't had any luck. I didn't want to tie up his mom's phone, so it had been two whole days since I'd seen or heard from him. They were the longest two days in the history of mankind!
Grandma's house had been sold. It went very quickly. Our neighborhood is nice and the houses are cheap. It had caused quite a bit of grief between mom and her sister. Mom had had enough. Taking care of her mom and her own family was too much. My aunt suggested that we move grandma into our house and not spend the money on a rest home. Mom was furious! Mom would never say it aloud, but we all thought that my aunt was being a greedy bitch and only wanted to save what little inheritance there was for herself. But in my family we kept those kind of opinions to ourselves. And really, where did Aunt Patty expect us to put grandma? Our house was barely big enough for the three of us! There was nowhere to put grandma in our house. We only had two bedrooms and we weren't wheelchair compatible.
We were packing things up all week. Grandma was being moved at the end of the month right before school started. It was a very stressful time for my mom and I did my best to stay out of the way. I was looking forward to the time at the ballpark so I could get away for a little while. While it wasn't as fun without Brett, it gave me a chance to be out of the house. It was nice to hang out with Dustin, too. Dustin had continued his domination of the league to the point that the team would finish with a winning record. In fact, we hadn't lost since I got injured. I wondered whether we were doing so well because Dustin was back or because I wasn't out there to screw things up. Anyway, Mr. Smith wasn't any happier that we were winning than he was when we were losing. He always could find something wrong with the way Dustin was playing. It made me mad sometimes, but I really couldn't do anything about it. I was just a kid, after all.
The day started like any other. Dad was already long gone for work when I woke up. I wasn't looking forward to getting up at six o'clock in the morning again when school started. I jerked off, as was my usual custom, then I showered and dressed for the day. I still wore my jersey to the games even though I wasn't playing. It just made me feel more like part of the team. Though my face was back to normal, I still couldn't play. I had about three more weeks until I was cleared for sports again. I walked over to grandma's house to spend some time with her while I still could before the move. She was feeling a lot better, I could tell. She was smiling and happy, and very responsive. She squeezed me pretty tightly when I gave her a hug and told her I loved her before leaving for the ballpark. She smiled back at me as I was leaving.
I walked the familiar trail through the woods and veered to the right toward the park. It was a short distance that I could walk faster than anyone could drive. I was early, so I walked to the pond and watched the ducks for a while. The whole day just seemed to be humming along effortlessly. The sounds of the ballpark filled the lazy summer air. Kids were playing around on the swings. Parents were cheering on their kids at the ball field. Ducks quacked and splashed happily in the water. An ambulance siren was the only indication that there was a busy little town just through the woods.
When the time came for our game, I walked happily to the ball field. While the boys warmed up, Mr. Smith handed me the score book and actually thanked me for all the work I'd done. I actually started to like him for a minute until he yelled at Dustin for something stupid. I was beginning to think that there was no way Dustin could ever please his dad no matter what he did. It made me mad.
The game moved along at a snail's pace. The heat was unbearable in the shade, and I hated to think what the guys in the field were going through. They all came back soaked with sweat and the smell was horrendous! We were winning and it looked like everything was going to end well when Dustin noticed something.
"Hey, Billy, isn't that your dad?"
I looked in the direction he was pointing and squinted. Sure enough, my dad was walking toward the dugout.
"Yeah it is!" I said. I wondered what he was doing there. He hadn't come to see me when I was playing, so why would he come to see me now when I was just sitting on a bench being bored. Dad made it to the dugout and pulled Mr. Smith aside. Mr. Smith looked over his shoulder at me and then said something back to my dad. I was beginning to get a bad feeling about the situation.
"Hey, Dustin. Take over for Billy, will ya?" Mr. Smith said. "He's gotta go with his dad."
I handed my scorebook over to Dustin and joined my dad and Mr. Smith. "What's going on?" I asked. I'd never seen dad looking so nervous.
"Son... I don't know how to tell you this..." dad said hesitantly.
"Tell me what?" I asked.
"It's your grandmother," he said. The sound of a bat cracking a baseball over the left field fence and the crowd roaring filled the air. Mr. Smith turned to see what had happened, but then quickly returned to dad and me.
"What about grandma?" I asked, fearfully.
"She's had a heart attack, boy," dad replied.
"Oh shit..." I gasped. "Is she going to be alright? Did they take her to the hospital? Let's go! What are we waiting for?"
"Billy..." dad said. "She didn't make it."
"What do you mean, didn't make it?"
"I'm sorry, Billy. She's gone," dad said.
I stood there stunned for a minute. What dad was saying didn't make sense. It wasn't possible.
"What? You mean she's dead?" I asked numbly.
Dad just stood there. I knew in my heart it couldn't be true. Somehow I'd have known.
"But she was fine," I insisted. "She was fine when I left."
"Billy..." dad put his hand on my shoulder. I shrugged him off violently.
"Don't fucking touch me!" I demanded. "That's not even funny, dad! Why would you say something like that? She was fine when I left! She was getting better! I know she was!"
"I'm sorry, boy. Everything happened very suddenly."
"I need to sit down." I stumbled forward and sat on the dugout steps. Everything felt weird and was spinning around. I put my head in my hands. It didn't make sense. It wasn't fair! She was getting better!
I heard my dad and Mr. Smith talking, but I couldn't understand them. Something about if we needed anything and a bunch of other crap that I didn't care about. I couldn't feel anything. It was so weird. It was like my entire world went numb. I don't remember getting up from the steps, but I remember walking toward dad's truck in the parking lot. I don't remember the ride home, but I remember pulling into the driveway. When we got out and I looked across the street at grandma's darkened house was when reality began to finally set it. That house in which I'd been loved and cared for for so long, it would never be the same again.
"She's really gone, isn't she?" I said to no one in particular.
"I'm sorry, boy," dad replied. "Come on inside. We have a lot of work to do."
Mom was locked away in her room when we went inside. I could hear her sobbing and it made me sad. I couldn't bear to hear it, so I fled to my own room. I sat on my bed for a while, I don't know how long. I lost track of everything, including time. I didn't cry. I couldn't. I just sat there cross-legged on my bed. Eventually, people began showing up at our house. First was the pastor of the Methodist church grandma went to and that mom sometimes dragged me to. Then later some of the women from the church came with food. I don't know why they brought food. No one felt like eating. I just sat in my room listening to the sounds coming from the living room and kitchen. I couldn't believe my ears. Was it laughter I was hearing? How could anyone laugh at a time like this?
I certainly wasn't going to sit around and listen to it. It pierced my heart like a knife to hear anyone having a good time. I picked myself up off the bed and tried to sneak away. Of course I was noticed when I entered the living room. Sure enough my mom and some of her friends from the church were smiling and laughing like they were having a Sunday social. It angered me to see her happy. Hadn't her mother just died?
"Billy, be sure to tidy up your room. Your aunt and uncle and cousins are going to be staying for a few days. Brian and Jesse can sleep in your room," mom said.
"Why can't they stay at a hotel?" I whined. I really didn't care too much for my cousins. They always wrecked my stuff and didn't help to clean up.
"Billy, behave yourself!" mom scolded.
"I mean what are we, the Hilton?" I protested. "It's not like they were ever around to help out before! They're a bunch of assholes!"
The church ladies gasped as if they'd never heard that word before.
"Billy, please..." mom sighed.
"But it's not fair..." I started.
"Shut up, boy!" Dad shouted, putting a decisive end to my protestations.
"This is stupid!" I shouted and stormed out the back door, slamming it as hard as I could, just to show them how pissed off I was.
I wandered around the neighborhood for a while trying to collect my thoughts. I hadn't meant to act like a jerk. The angry words just flew out of me before I had even thought about it. It was still light outside even though the sun had set. I had absent-mindedly walked all the way down the hill from our house and onto the main street of town. I didn't even remember how I got there. I wished I could feel something besides anger and numbness. All the cheer that the day had started with had been washed away like a cold shower.
I didn't feel like eating, but I stopped at the small deli in town and bought a bag of chips and a bottle of Dr. Pepper. As I was walking back toward the house, it was getting darker. I heard the sound of a pick-up truck slowly creeping up behind me and stopping beside me.
"Get in, boy."
I looked at the steep hill I had left to climb and then at the truck. I got in.
"What do you think you're doing wandering off like that?"
"Sorry, dad," I replied.
"What were you thinking, upsetting your mother like that? She needs you, boy. We've got to stick together if we're going to survive. Let's just get through this together," dad said. "Things are going to get better."
I didn't say anything more on the way home. I didn't say much of anything the whole rest of the evening. I was miserable. My cousins arrived around nine o'clock and they were obnoxiously loud and raided my room and my belongings like they owned them. I was mad, not so much that they had no respect for my stuff as that they didn't seem the least bit upset or sad about the reason they were there. Grandma was dead, and they were fighting over who got to be Mario and who had to be Luigi. They didn't care. They didn't know her like I did. They hadn't been there like I had. They hadn't taken care of her. They didn't live so far away that they couldn't have visited.
I went out to the living room, hoping to watch some tv. Mom and Aunt Patty sat there talking so politely as if they hadn't spent the last month arguing over what to do with grandma. I had to leave when they started talking about how maybe it was all for the best that she'd died before she had to go to the home. If I'd have stayed, I'd have probably gotten into trouble again.
I sneaked out to the back porch, hoping to get away from people. My dad and uncle were out there, smoking and talking about cars. I just sat there listening. I didn't care that I didn't know much of anything about what they were talking about, I just appreciated that they didn't tell me to go away because I was just a kid. Around midnight, dad sent me off to bed. My cousins had thoroughly trashed my room. There wasn't a single thing I owned that they hadn't found, played with, and left laying in a mess on the floor. I was so mad! But, I contained my temper and cleared the mess off my bed. I stripped to my underwear and pulled on some shorts. I tried my best to fill as much of the bed with my body as possible, but before too long, I was joined by my youngest cousin Brian. Within minutes, I was the one with about an inch of bed to sleep on while he hogged the middle.
I lay there clinging to the side of the bed and listening to the breathing of my two cousins in the room with me. Jesse had found a spot on the floor that he and his brother hadn't ransacked and snored loudly. Brian was practically on top of me and I considered getting out of bed and going around to the other side since surely there would be more room there than what he was giving me. I envied their easy sleep. This was going to be another one of those nights where my mind wasn't going to shut up. I should have known better than to drink pop so late in the day. Whenever Brett drank pop the caffeine would actually calm him down. But then, Brett's weird...
I missed him so much! It wasn't until I was laying there awake that I realized just how much I had missed him that day. Why did he have to be on vacation this week of all weeks? I thought about calling him right then and there just to hear his voice, but I didn't think his mom would appreciate a call at two in the morning.
I pushed Brian hard and he rolled over without waking up. I finally had a little room to breathe. I still lay there though. I had to get to sleep! Tomorrow I was going to have to go through a viewing and then a funeral the next day. I needed my rest! I closed my eyes, but all I saw was dad walking toward that dugout and all I heard was the sound of Jesse snoring. Somehow though, I managed to fall into a troubled sleep.
Hello again! As always, I thank you for reading. And so we say goodbye to dear Mrs. Cunningham. Next time will wrap up part one of the story. How will Billy react to all this? You'll have to read to find out! I also hope that you'll support the good folks at nifty, who do a great job of hosting these stories. I always enjoy your comments! You can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org See you next time!