Chapter Three: A Whole Herd of Girls

  

After school, Robby waited for his mom in the pickup line by the curb. Mondays were the worst because his dumb sister Claire had ballet practice and Robby had to sit on the bench outside the studio with his mom and wait for her until the class was over.

            Robby lifted up his shirt. Right above his belly button, was the big red circle. And running from one side of the circle to the other was a super red line that Robby knew from Baseball for Beginners, was from the 108 stitches that held the baseball together. He felt like a cow that some cowboy had branded with a baseball brand.

He was just pulling his shirt down when Melvin and Alex came running up.

“Wow, that must really hurt,” said Melvin.

“It hurts a lot,” Robby said.

“Well, don’t show your Mom,” said Alex. “If she sees that, she’s never going to let you play baseball.”

“Yea,” said Melvin. “She may not let you play any way. You know how she is germs and disease and stuff.”

“I know,” said Robby. “She’s weird about that stuff. But I’m going to convince her to let me play.”

Robby took Baseball For Beginners out of his backpack and showed it to his friends.

“This book says if we’re going to play baseball we gotta have gloves,” Robby explained. “If you don’t have a glove, you can’t catch the ball because it’s super hard and it will smash your hand off.”

“Too bad your stomach didn’t have a glove,” Alex said.

            “Claire had a glove when she played softball,” Robby said. “I’ll get my Dad to get me one too.”

            “We’ll all get gloves and bring them to school tomorrow,” said Melvin. “That way we can practice at lunch.”

“Great idea,” said Robby.

Two seconds later, Robby’s sister Claire came bopping up with a whole bunch of her dumb fifth grade friends. Claire was so tall and skinny that Melvin said she looked like a golf tee. Claire mostly ignored Robby because he was only in third grade and she said his brain was still way too small for him to understand what she said.

“Nice job at flag salute.” Claire said. “You made 19 kids and the principal throw up. That’s a record.”

“I got hit by a baseball.” 

“Jamie Brown took a video of it on her phone and posted it on the Internet. It got over a thousand hits!”

Claire and her friends started laughing, but Alex pulled a big brown booger out of his nose held it up and that shut them up pretty quick.  

Luckily, just then Robby’s mom drove up in her big, blue minivan. Robby said goodbye to his friends, pulled open the door and jumped inside. Like always, his mom handed him the box of handi wipes. He took one, rubbed it over his hands and tossed it in the trash.

Robby tried to close the door before Claire got in, but she was too fast.

“Nice try, dweeb,” she said.

“Claire, are you ready for your big ballet recital?” Mom asked. “Just six weeks until the show.”

“Hey, Mom,” Robby blurted out. “Can I try out for baseball?”

“She’s talking to me,” said Claire. “And yes, Mom, I’m ready. Also, Robby threw up on some kindergarten kids at flag salute today.”

“What?” said Mom. “Why?”

“I got…just didn’t feel good,” said Robby. He did not want to tell his Mom about getting hit with a baseball. Not now. “I’m fine, Mom.”

“Did you go to the nurse?” Mom asked. “Did they give you tests?”

“Yes. I…I took a bunch of tests. I’m fine.”

“Can we talk about me again?” said Claire. “And how I’m Clara, which is the star dancer in the whole Nutcracker show.”

“Yes, I am very proud of you.” Mom popped a peanut into her mouth. She ate a lot of peanuts and the floor of the minivan was crazy with peanut shells. Most times it crunched when you walked. Mom had low blood sugar, whatever that was, and had to eat peanuts and cheese and beef jerky all the time or she got really grumpy. Her breath smelled like Robby’s dad’s feet.

“Mooooooom!” said Robby as he bounced up and down on his seat to get her attention.

“Wait one minute please.” Mom rubbed her head and made the “Mom is stressed” look, where she rolled her eyes up into her head.

“Everybody wishes they could be Clara,” said Claire. “But I’m Clara and Claire.”

“Who cares about dumb old ballet anyway?” Robby said. “There aren’t even any boys in it.”

“Yes there are boys, smarty,” said Claire. “There are two boys who are mouses. In the Mouse King’s Army. And they’re in fifth grade so they could kick your butt.”

Ugh. This was going nowhere. Robby counted to five in his head to keep from being angry. “Mom, can I speak now?”

“Yes, Robby,” she said. “Thank you for waiting. What did you want to say?”

“Baseball tryouts are coming up and I want to play. So I’m asking if it’s okay.”

“You don’t know how to play baseball,” Claire said. “All you know how to do is play video games with Dad and that silly monster card game where you and Melvin are always screaming ‘Attack!’ at each other. That’s why everybody thinks you’re such a dork. If you played baseball, I bet you’d get knocked on the head in the first game and they’d have to take you to the hospital and have an operation. Look what happened today.”

“What happened today?” said Mom.

“Nothing,” Robby said.

“Robby got hit in the stomach by a baseball. That’s why he threw up on those kindergartners.”

“You did?” Mom said.

“It was an accident Robby said. “No big deal.”

“Do you want me to show you the video of Robby throwing up on your cell phone?” Clair asked.

“Mom, come on,” Robby just about yelled. “Can I play baseball, please?”

“I don’t know, Robby,” Mom said. “Baseball is an outside sport.”

“Yes, but I think…”

“So there’s grass.”

“Yes, but….”

“Grass is dirty, Mom,” said Claire, scrunching up her nose.

“The dirt is under the grass,” said Robby.

“And bugs live in grass, Mom,” said Claire. “And germs.”

“Don’t’ listen to her, Mom!” said Robby.

“And disease,” Claire added. “Grass is crazy with disease.”

“That’s a problem,” said Mom. “How often do they wash the field?”

“Wash it? I don’t know,” said Robby. “But baseball is just like softball. And you let Claire play softball.”

“Yes, and she had a cough the whole time,” said Mom.

“Please, Mom,” said Robby leaning forward in his seat until the seat belt started hurting his shoulders. “I’d have practice once a week. You can drop me off and have an hour to yourself. You can get a smoothie and charge your batteries.”

“Hmmmm, that would be nice….”

“The Great Plague of 1665 started in grass,” said Claire. “And you know what happened to those guys.”

“Come on, Mom. This is important. Please!”

“I wouldn’t do it, Mom,” said Claire. Leaning way forward in her seat, she put her hand up next to her mouth and tried to whisper to Mom. But of course, Robby could hear what she said. “Baseball is way germier than softball,” said Claire. “And baseballs are much harder than softballs. Robby could get hit in the head. And he’s only ten years old so his head bone is still soft.”

“My head bone is really hard, Mom.” Robby yelled. He made a fist and punched himself in the head. “See?”

Mom ate a peanut and thought it over.

“If I let you play baseball will you protect your head?”

“You bet!” said Robby. “I’ll wear a helmet and everything.”

“And you’ll make sure all your homework is done without me having to tell you?”

“Yes!”

“And you’ll wash your hands with soap without me having to tell you?”

“Yes!”

“All the way up to your wrists?”

“All the way up to my shoulders, okay?”

“Okay. You can play baseball. But you’re going to take extra vitamins and no talking back.”

“I will take as many vitamins as you want,” Robby said. “Thanks, Mom. Thanks a bunch.”

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