Let there be the second installment of “Jebediah Banks’ House” from Households. And if you haven’t read the first part, click here. This is all fiction, people. Nobody approaches the truth through the front door.
Continued from “Jebediah Banks’ House”
A short story
Most people thought she was dumb, but she used to be a classroom aid when she finished school. She was excellent at maths and sciences and only mediocre at everything else, which was opposite of Jeb. Well, she had to admit, Jeb was good at anything he wanted to be good at. He was especially good at eating, which reminded her that she had to order the pizzas.
She always wanted to be a nurse, not a single mother, so she treated Jeb like her patient. He was a good patient. Sometimes he told her that he loved her and sometimes he screamed at her and wished she was like everyone else’s mom. But she knew that was typical. Her psychologist told her so.
Naturally the boys got to playing a game of whiffle ball in the street before it got too hot. Jeb had his black jeans on held up by a leather square-buckled belt and the Quicksilver T-shirt that one of the kids got him for his birthday last year. Mrs. Banks saw her emptied home as an opportunity to use the restroom. She slid open the opaque window above the tub to spy on the game. Nobody quite saw her. The boys turned on the radio and propped their glasses on the steps to the front door. They unlatched the front gate and divided up into two teams with some efficiency. Patrick always said he was a terrible baseball player so he got picked last and was on Jeb’s team. They put the batter’s box three houses down and were careful to determine the bases by marks in the road.
Patrick looked at the smooth palms of his hands once more knowing that it was only a matter of time before they would be skinned and burning. The wind picked up a bit, sending pollen and helicopter-like seed pods floating past them in the blue sky. There weren’t any trees along the street and it was possible to see the tips of the San Mountains still covered in snow. Hwang excitedly suggested they catch lizards in the wash or go to Tropical Snow instead of playing ball because he had bad allergies. He was also fat and notoriously lazy. And the answer was no. Patrick felt the sun on his neck and supposed it was nice by the beach where his parents were spending the day. People liked to leave to go somewhere but there was nothing that he would rather do than play games.
They started up and the other team got out on three pop-ups, one of which was saved from falling on Mrs. Price’s front lawn by Jeb’s reaching grab over her gate, which was right to the sidewalk. He took his applause as a plane droned overhead. Then the teams switched and Patrick was first at bat. The kids laughed when he missed but his swing was enormous and they knew it. The first time he caught up to a lobbed pitch, he ripped the ball left over the homerun line and into the Price’s backyard.
“Home run!” Jeb started yelling. “Home run!” The other team got mad and started jumping at his throat. Mrs. Banks let out a laugh that drew their attention but she couldn’t be seen crouching in the tub.
“It was too a home run, dude. Anything past the outfield line is a home run.”
“I thought you said that line was the sewer cap,” freckle-faced Moonie, the pitcher, argued with Jeb, holding his hand up to block the sun from his eyes. He was small and feverish.
“Naw,” Jeb said, “not the cap, the line. Can’t you see the civil engineer’s orange spray paint?”
“What are those for?” Patrick interjected.
“They’re plans for when they build a new road,” Hwang answered.
“Who cares? It was foul before it went over either line,” Moonie announced.
“I think he’s right, Jeb. It looked foul to me,” Patrick admitted.
“Why don’t you shut the fuck up? That was a home run. And even if it wasn’t what are we going to do about getting that ball? Does this mean game over?”
Hwang came over from first base and the other four kids got tired standing around waiting. They all huddled around making faces. Safety Dance came over the radio and a few of them drifted into doot-doot-DO-do-doot-doot-doot-dooting in unison, moving like robots to the beat. Then everyone chimed in to frustrate Jeb. He went to wrestle the bat out of Patrick’s hands and Patrick threw the bat to the tall and lanky kid who quickly went out looking to pass and they played keep away like that while making or faking the words to the song. Jeb didn’t know and didn’t care about the words. He got the hose and held it up.
“Alright. It wasn’t a home run, but someone better get that fucking ball.”
“Don’t you have another ball?” Hwang asked. “Those balls come in three-packs.”
“That’s not the point, dude, and no I don’t.”
“What about in your backyard,” Lips smirked.
“Maybe your mom has some balls in her room,” Moonie blurted.
Jeb pulled the trigger of the hose gun all the way down and Moonie ran. Jeb started to chase him but tripped over his wet pant legs, landing on the gravelly road with a bone-cracking thud.
“Are you okay?” Hwang asked.
He launched up and started the hose at him.
“Okay, okay! I’ll get the fucking ball!” Patrick yelled.
All the boys turned and said, “Oooooo, you cursed! You don’t curse, Patrick.”
“Shut up! I’ll get the ball.”
The plan was to try the front door first and if nobody answered go out back.
Never mind that Mr. Meeks joked that his son had two left feet; Patrick was built to climb walls. He was decently tall and he had faith in his leaping ability. The only thing that might have set him back was the fact that he was partially blind in his left eye. He skateboarded and BMXed and played sports just like he could see, so people just thought that he was squinting from the sun. But doing something for the first time took him a little longer and he’d never been over that wall in Jeb’s backyard before.
Mrs. Banks lost sight of Patrick ringing Candy Price’s doorbell.
He was nervous so he approached his mission cautiously, held his head low, pushed the hair from his face, straightened his shirt. He was going to ask if they could get his ball. That shouldn’t have been difficult. He unlatched the gate and walked on the cracked concrete path up to the front of the house. A black iron screen was locked in place two inches in front of the solid hardwood door. He could make out the faint smell of ivy and the dust that mixes with desert heat. Somehow the ripe green lawn and the shade from the awning made things seem a lot cooler. Patrick had goose bumps.
Nobody answered. On the second and third ring he thought he heard voices, but when he turned back to the group it was just them whispering. Patrick tried to see into the windows behind the hedges on either side of the door. The curtains were drawn. The chain-link gates alongside the house were locked. He went back down the concrete path and said he thought no one was home. Jeb helped him get through the gate to his backyard. It looked like it hadn’t been swept for a year. The houses were about ten feet apart in the back and it was obvious that the concrete walls were there to outline the properties. Patrick thought about the boys waiting in the street and wondered if this house was the only one without anything green in the yard.
Mrs. Banks came out just as he was thrusting himself up.