So one way I can kind of play along with the prompts with you guys without feeling like I’m adding extra confusion to the contest is to post my responses over here on the creative blog instead. I still haven’t decided when would be the best day to post them – Friday while the call for entries is still open, Saturday when the votes open up, or Sunday just before the polls close? What do you think? When are you most likely to have time for another story?
It never made much sense to him, how he always saw the kid.
The first time it happened, he was about to take a wild swing at a pitch he knew would be off. Tony was still in little leagues then, so the kid could have blended in with the other 10-year-olds on the field – if he’d been wearing a uniform. But he stood out there in deep center field, a yellow riding mower behind him, no cap on his head, white shorts, socks up to his knees like only the dads would do. Tony had just enough time to notice how out of place the kid looked and to feel the kid’s disappointment from across the field.
The kid was right. With a deep breath, Tony realized he was about to throw the game, frustrated that his team wasn’t backing him up instead of using what he knew about the pitcher and play the game like he knew he should. When the ball came flying toward him, Tony executed a planned reach, tapped the ball toward third plate and made it to first safe. When he looked up to thank the kid, the field was empty, no tractor in sight.
From then on, he would sometimes see the kid, always with the tractor, always with that strange connection that let Tony know exactly what the kid was thinking.
That time when Justin stabbed his basketball and the skinny kid had stood there, shaking his head sadly, until Tony realized the wisdom of letting Justin win this particular battle.
The scout who tried to get Tony to sign a contract right there at the ballpark his junior year of high school. The kid was there, his white shorts gleaming in the shadows, shaking his head no, and Tony just couldn’t remember how to sign his name anymore. His coach briefed them all on scam artists posing as scouts the very next day.
Through all the important events of his life, Tony was guided by the image of the unknown kid, never knowing why or when he’d show up, but always knowing when that yellow tractor appeared, he needed to pay attention.
Then came the day he’d taken Sarah to meet his mother. She was everything he’d ever dreamed of, and he hoped his mother would at least like her. She was looking through an old photo album, waiting for his mother to finish up some business before dinner.
“You never told me you had an uncle,” she murmured, pointing to a large image. “Nancy’s kids” was written underneath and Tony could easily recognize his grandmother as a young girl, standing next to her sister. They were laughing and pointing behind them, across a freshly mown field.
On the far side of the field, dimmed within a beam of sunlight, stood a skinny boy, brown hair falling into his eyes, socks up to his knees, one hand resting on the white hood of a yellow riding mower. He was smiling and, for Tony, another connection was made.