By David Clay
“Mom, I’m home.”
She mouthed, “I’m on the phone.”
“Sorry,” I said.
Standing by the sink, the long yellow phone cord fully stretched, she said, “Yes, my son does go to Beech Grove Elementary.”
I whispered, “Mom.”
She held up her wait finger. “Yes, he is in the fifth grade.” She shrugged her shoulders and said into the phone, “No, he can’t be in ICU; he is standing right here in front of me. He just got home from school. I hope whoever it is will be okay.” She hung up. “What took you so long? You should come straight home.”
“Found my sweater.”
“Where was it?”
“The top of that old oak,” I said, “that’s why I was late gettin’ home. How ‘bout some fish sticks? Who was that on the phone?”
“The hospital.” She set down a plate. “They said you were in ICU, that you’d been hit by a car on the way home from school.”
“Nope, not me.”
I took the ketchup out of the fridge, turned the bottle upside down and squeezed; it made the appropriate offensive sound and projected a large blob of red liquid. I crammed the entire fish stick in my mouth. “Hey, Mom, is it okay if I go over to Earl’s to play baseball?”
“Sit your entire behind in that chair and eat. Land sakes, you are never still.”
I ate as fast as I could and went into my room to get my glove.
“Mom, have you seen my glove?”
“I don’t wear your glove.”
The phone rang.
She said into the phone, “No, Joyce, he’s right here. I don’t know, but it’s not him. Thanks for checking.”
I was looking in the couch for my glove when my mom came into the living room and started to rub my head. “I can’t find my glove,” I said. She hugged me. I said, “Stop it.” She laughed.
The phone rang. I heard her say, “No, he’s not in the hospital; he just ran out…”
I went over to Earl’s. He said, “Where’s your mitt?”
“I don’t know. Someone must’ve stole it or something. I can’t find it anywhere.”
Frankie said, “Dumbbell, you let Stuart borrow it for recess.”
Stuart had recess after I did and, in the hall, on the way to his recess, he’d asked me if he could borrow my glove. I told him, “When you get home, bring it to my house. I’ve got a game at Earl’s.” After a lot of long division at the end of school and climbing that old oak to the very top to get my sweater, I guess I forgot.
“Then I guess I’d better run to Stuart’s house.”
Stuart was younger than the rest of the fellas, younger and smaller. He had been moved up a grade because he was smart—in everything; it didn’t matter if it was English or math or science. He kept bragging that they were thinking about moving him up another grade. To tell you the truth, he got on my nerves. He and I were always arguing over the question, “Does it take two to have an argument?” My idea was that no—not really—you could argue with yourself. Smarty-pants Stuart pointed out that the two of us were arguing over the question about arguing, which, he argued, proved his point. Stuart and I argued over arguing all the time. I was pretty smart, but not as smart as Stuart. I got irritated with him some, especially when he acted like a know-it-all.
When I got to Stuart’s house, his mom was watering some type of strange plants on the side of the house. His mom was smart, too; so was his dad, and his older brother. The whole family was smart. I think that’s why they had strange plants on the side of their house. “Hello, Mrs. Daughtery, is Stuart home?”
“Why Doug Hall, I heard you were in the ICU at the hospital!”
“No ma’am, not me. They called my mom, but I was standing right there by her when they called, and she told them I was not in the hospital. ‘Cause, you see, I was standing right there beside her.” I always try to act smart for Stuart’s mom. “Is Stuart home?”
“No, he may be over at Paul’s playing chess.” She kept watering her strange-looking plants.
“Mrs. Daughtery, I have to say I am a bit annoyed with Stuart.” I could have used the word “perturbed” because perturbed was the word the teacher used this morning when I wouldn’t stop talking in class. “Douglas Hall, I am right perturbed with you,” she said. But I thought “annoyed” was okay. “He didn’t come straight home and give me my glove, even though I’d told him I had a game. So, you can see why I’m, uh, I’m, you know, right perturbed with him. I let him borrow my glove for recess. He must’ve forgot.”
She turned toward me and very slowly asked, “Douglas, did you have your name on your glove?”
“Yes ma’am, in big letters where my thumb goes. I wrote “Douglas Hall” with a big black magic marker.”
She ran into the house, and in a flash, she was backing the car out of the driveway.
I turned off the hose, and on the way to Earl’s, I figured it out. I told you they were smart. I hope I get my glove back.