“You can’t throw it over that fence. No one can,” said Pudgy.
The rest of the children egged Hugo on. Hugo tossed the dirty baseball in his hand, sweating his next move.
It wasn’t that he didn’t think he could do it – he knew he could. But if Hugo lost that baseball, he would have nothing left to remember him by.
“Just give me another ball,” said Hugo. “I don’t want to throw this one.”
“No!” said Pudgy. “It’s the only one we got.”
“But it’s my ball!” said Hugo.
“What’s the matter, too chicken?”
Hugo shook his head, then spit on the ground. He rubbed the spit in with his foot to buy himself some time.
The baseball had been a birthday present from his father. Hugo never forgot what his dad said to him that day:
“I know, I know. It might seem like a crappy gift, giving you a worn-out baseball and all, but I’m doing this on purpose. Hear me out, now – This baseball’s dirty, beat-up, and worthless. But none a that matters, because… Hugo, are you listening? It’s important to me that you hear this.”
Hugo rolled his eyes. “Yeah, dad.”
“Good. This baseball rolls along just like any other ball, and regardless of how hard it gets hit, it’ll always, and I mean always, find its way back home.”
He didn’t know it at the time, but those words proved to be the last he’d ever heard from his father.
“Just throw it already!” yelled Pudgy. The other kids continued to laugh.
Hugo narrowed his eyes, like something on the fence had caught his attention.
“What?” said Pudgy.
“How about I throw it at the fence? If I hit it on a line, will that shut you up?”
“Hit the fence on a line?” Pudgy turned to the other kids. “The wind has a better chance of throwing Hugo then that happening!”
Now the kids were cracking up hysterically, one of the boys laughed so hard he dropped to the ground and clutched his stomach.
Hugo snarled, then whirled the ball back and threw it with all his might.
The other kids watched with amazement, in disbelief at how fast the baseball flew.
“Woah,” said Pudgy.
The ball zipped through the air, remaining on a line as tight as a wire. It smacked the fence in no time.
“Holy crap, Hugo!” Shouted Pudgy. “You got a rocket launcher for an arm?”
The kids slapped Hugo in the back, shocked at how hard the skinny kid could really throw. The only one who wasn’t celebrating, however, was Hugo.
Measles noticed it too. “Guys,” he said, “Look!”
Measles pointed at the fence, right where the baseball had collided. Rather than the mark Hugo had hoped to leave behind, there was a hole.
“That’s Old Man Semos’ yard!” said Measles. “You’re not actually thinking of going over there?”
“Why not?” said Hugo.
“Because Old Man Semos got a guard dog as big as a horse!” said Pudgy.
“And if that doesn’t kill you, Semos will,” said Measles.
To be continued…
- Thomas M. Watt