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Authors: Gene Fehler

Beanball (6 page)

BOOK: Beanball
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Most other guys get all nervous

when they try to talk to Luke.

 

Gordie says things like, “You know, Wizard,

it's your fault I'm so worn out these days.

Now that you're not out there,

I have to run twice as far

to cover the whole outfield.”

 

He doesn't seem spooked by Luke's face

the way most everybody else is.

He jokes around and tries to lift Luke's spirits.

 

It's just too bad he hasn't had

any more luck at it than I've had.

Gordie Anderson, Oak Grove center fielder

Ma's been a home healthcare nurse

since before I was born.

She took me with her a lot when I was a little kid

and she couldn't get a baby sitter,

so I've been around sick people practically my whole life.

I've seen things a heck of a lot worse than Luke's face.

 

He probably wonders why

more guys don't come to visit him.

It's not that they don't care.

It's not that they don't wish

the whole thing had never happened

and he was back playing again.

 

Some of the guys just can't handle

seeing him lying there helpless

with his face looking like something

out of a monster flick.

 

They might be doing Luke a favor by staying away.

Clarissa Keller, Andy's sister

Luke's been feeling so bad,

and he doesn't like the hospital food much,

so I decided to make him something special.

I decided to make him some brownies.

 

I didn't ask Mom to help me;

I wanted to do this all by myself.

 

I had to throw the first batch out

because they were dry and half burnt.

The second batch was better.

 

Luke ate three big brownies

in the few minutes I was in his room,

so even though he didn't say so,

I know he liked them.

Luke “Wizard” Wallace

Clarissa is sweet.

She usually comes along with Andy,

but sometimes she comes alone.

She knows how to cheer me up,

if only with her smile and her cute dimples.

Sure, Andy and I complain

about what a pest she is sometimes,

but she's really a pretty neat kid.

 

I don't have any brothers or sisters,

but if I had a sister,

I'd want her to be like Clarissa.

 

Actually, I spend so much time at Andy's,

I sometimes feel as though she
is
my sister.

Andy Keller, Oak Grove third baseman

I've never hit better.

I can't explain it.

In the last three games, I'm seven for ten,

two of them doubles.

I can't remember ever getting seven hits

in a three-game stretch,

even in Little League.

 

I wish Luke could've been there.

He'd be proud of the way I'm hitting.

He'd be proud of the way the team is playing.

He has to know we're doing it for him.

We owe it to him to win the conference.

The way he played, his love for the game

made everybody around him play better.

 

We remember, and we don't want to let him down.

Luke “Wizard” Wallace

The doctors say it'll be a while yet

before I can go home.

I still have one more operation to get through,

and I can't go home until after the surgery,

because if I move around much

before the bones are completely set,

I'll run the risk of losing sight in my right eye, too.

They say there's no chance I'll ever see again

from my left eye.

None.

The surgery is only to make sure there's no further damage.

 

Maybe they're saying that so I don't get my hopes up.

Maybe when they operate they'll discover

a way to save my sight after all.

Maybe there
is
a chance.

Melody Mercer, Oak Grove student

Andy Keller stopped me in the hall today.

He actually sounded mad because I hadn't been

to the hospital to visit Luke again.

Like it's my duty to go.

I don't think so!

 

I'm sorry Luke got hurt; he's a nice guy.

But it's not like we're an item or anything.

So we dated a few times. So what?

We had fun, but there's nothing serious between us.

That one visit to the hospital was enough.

The place is so depressing,

and there wasn't anything for us to talk about.

 

I'll see him when he gets home from the hospital.

It'll be easier then.

Red Bradington, Compton coach

It's not the same team without Dawkins.

We need his arm.

I had no choice but to pitch Klinghagen today.

Sometimes he throws well in batting practice,

but in a game . . . I don't know. He chokes.

That's about the truth of it.

He was tossing lollipops up there,

and the Crescentville players were sure taking their licks.

 

When you have a kid hit three home runs,

like Preston did for us today,

and your team scores eleven runs,

you should win the damn game.

 

Good defense is the only reason

Crescentville didn't score more than their fourteen.

 

A coach can make all the right moves,

but if he doesn't have the horses . . .

Luke “Wizard” Wallace

The days are so long.

The only thing that helps me get through them

is when people come to visit.

 

Mom and Dad, Andy and Clarissa,

Gordie, Coach, and Sarah Edgerton.

They're the ones who've been here most.

I keep hoping Melody will come again.

Just seeing her pretty face

and being able to touch her

would give me something to think about

during the long nights.

 

Sometimes I feel like I'm trapped on a desert island.

Once in a while a ship comes in.

But not to save me.

Not to take me away.

A visitor shows up and then leaves.

The ship sails into the sunset,

and I'm alone again.

Andy Keller, Oak Grove third baseman

I've never seen Luke so down.

He's got good enough reason, that's for sure.

Before the accident, we'd always joke around.

Even when he was in the dumps because of a tough loss

or because he hadn't played as well as he thought he should,

I could always cheer him up.

But not today.

 

I told him this story:

In history class we were doing a review

for our big exam on U.S. wars.

Mr. Sanderson asked Gilda Roumaine about the War of 1812,

when and where the final battle was fought.

Gilda said she didn't remember where,

but she thought the year was 1776.

 

Luke didn't even smile.

Dr. Wesley Hunter, ophthalmologist

Given the crisis we were faced with that first night—

the possibility of total blindness,

brain damage,

or even death—

I couldn't be happier with Luke's progress.

Physically, at least.

 

I know Luke doesn't agree.

Anything short of being able to see

with both eyes is unacceptable to him.

But his final surgery went well.

If there are no complications,

in a few weeks he should be able to resume

normal activity without fear of further damage.

Luke “Wizard” Wallace

I almost wish I were deaf instead of half blind.

Then I wouldn't have to listen

to people's stupid remarks.

They come to visit me,

and I hear pity in their voices.

Those who don't feel sorry for me tell me

how thankful I should be to be alive.

They remind me that so many others

have it a lot worse than I do.

 

Of course they do. I know that.

There are kids dying of cancer

right in this hospital.

There are kids without arms or legs,

kids who are completely blind.

 

But playing sports has been my life,

and now that's been taken away.

I
understand
that I should be thankful;

I just can't
feel
thankful.

Victor Sanderson, Oak Grove history teacher

We've covered a lot of information in our unit on war.

I thought a good way to personalize its tragedies

would be to read the class some poems on the subject.

Two that I shared were written by Wilfred Owen.

He knew about the horrors of combat firsthand.

He was a soldier in World War I

and was killed a week before it ended—

a young man in his midtwenties,

with an unlimited future ahead of him.

 

In his poem “Disabled,” he writes about

a legless young man in a wheelchair.

Toward the end of the poem, there are two lines:

“Tonight he noticed how the women's eyes

Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.”

When I read them, Sarah Edgerton burst into tears.

She covered her face and ran out of the room.

 

I wish more of my students showed emotion

at the reading of moving and powerful poems,

especially about the tragedies attendant to war.

 

Owen surely would have been gratified by her reaction.

Luke “Wizard” Wallace

It's hell being a prisoner in this bed.

If I move too much, my head aches so bad,

I feel like screaming.

 

I'm going crazy just lying here.

I remember how it feels

to run as fast as I can,

my legs weightless, my head clear,

my breath coming quick and easy.

I remember how it feels

to know I can run forever and nobody can catch me.

Nothing can touch me.

Nothing can stop me from getting where I'm going,

ahead of everyone else.

 

Now I'm stuck in this bed,

and I feel like a turtle turned upside down,

trapped inside a shell,

when all I want to do is run free.

Melody Mercer, Oak Grove student

Wait till you see my prom dress.

It's so cool!

I know Derek will think it's sexy.

I've already told him what color corsage he should get me.

I know we'll be the most gorgeous couple there.

Everyone says we'll be voted king and queen.

 

I'll just die if we aren't!

Luke “Wizard” Wallace

I've been fooling myself.

I kept telling myself it was all a mistake,

that they'd find some way to save my left eye.

But now I know the sight's gone forever.

 

The weird thing is,

I don't feel angry or sad.

All I feel is a big hole inside me,

an emptiness that can't be filled.

It's as if I'm hollow—

one of those chocolate Easter bunnies

you break open and find

 

nothing's there.

Andy Keller, Oak Grove third baseman

I'm taking Peggy Arrons to prom.

She's a lot more excited about it than I am.

To be honest, the thought of going

doesn't really thrill me.

 

Luke and I were supposed to double-date.

He probably would have gone with Melody Mercer.

I hear she's going with Derek Hamilton.

Talk about a guy who loves himself.

He and Melody deserve each other, if you ask me.

But I don't dare say that to Luke.

He's kind of blind when it comes to Melody.

Damn! What made me say that?

 

Prom won't be much fun without Luke.

It's not right, the rest of us out partying all night

and him stuck in that hospital room.

 

The guy I really envy is Garrett Davis.

He's going with Lisalette Dobbs.

Some people have all the luck.

Luke “Wizard” Wallace

I had the TV on for a while this afternoon.

I've never been home much during the day,

so I had no idea how bad the shows are.

 

I kept flipping through the channels.

Nothing.

The sports channels reminded me of too many things

I didn't want to think about.

The talk shows were filled with people

who spent all their time screaming at each other.

The soaps were depressing.

I wasn't in the mood to hear about

all the problems the characters thought they had.

 

Finally, I found a movie, an old western, that wasn't too bad.

But after a few minutes, my head started to ache again,

so I turned if off and tried to sleep.

Elizabeth Wallace, Luke's grandmother

Larry and Randy encouraged Luke's sports.

I don't fault them.

That's what fathers and grandfathers

do with sons and grandsons.

 

But I thought there should be more balance.

I tried to interest Luke in real music—

Chopin, Bach, and Mozart—

not the kind of music so many teenagers listen to:

loud, screaming cacophony.

 

A few months ago, Luke played me some songs

by his favorite group, the Cave People.

It was just noise to me,

but Luke is my grandson,

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