White Picket Fences Chapter 5

White Picket Fences Chapter 5

A Chapter by Gabalicious!


            Sunday was always a dicey day for dinner. My Mom made something that they liked to call kitchen ala Johnson. Which meant that they took all of the leftovers from the weeks dinners and mixed them together and served the mess up in bowls. Upon our return from practice we found that this Sunday was no different than any other. The smell coming from the kitchen was at the least a bit odd, a mix of spaghetti and meatloaf, corn and green beans wafted through the house. Jessie and I walked into the kitchen, three steps into the kitchen I knew my mistake.

            “Get you cleats off of the linoleum.” My mom pointed at the back door. In a mad dash I ran out of the room and took off my shoes. I could hear my Mom and brother talking in the kitchen. I knew she was asking him how practice went, I was hoping that he had forgotten the line drive at Ed’s face and was talking about how he did when we practiced together. As I stepped back into the kitchen I was reassured when I heard them talking about ground balls.

            “I learned how to stay in front of ground balls and throw it to the first baseman.” Jessie was washing his hands while he spoke. I joined him guessing that my mother had told him to wash up. My mom congratulated Jessie on doing a good job practicing.

            “How did your practice go Brad?” My Mom was poking at the pot on the stove.

            “It went okay, I was late so I had to run some laps. Ed got hurt so we had to call practice early.” I gave Jessie a, don’t you dare tell on me look.

            “Is he alright?” My mom stopped and went over to the refrigerator.

            “Eh, he’s kind of a jerk, but I’m sure he’s alright.” I said half to my mom and half to convince myself that it was true.

            “Go get you Dad, I think dinner is ready.” My mom started pulling bowls out of the cupboard.

            I ran out into the backyard and called for my Dad. He was standing over another large piece of plywood; his face was covered with sawdust. “Okay, I’ll be right in.”

            I ran back into the house and sat down at the table. Jessie was already sitting at the table waiting for the rest of the family to get ready to eat. My dad came in the house and went into the laundry room where his lava soap was to wash up. Lava soap was a strange name for the green bar. Jessie and I have debated the origin of the lava rocks outside Mrs. Kopecki’s yard, but what type of volcano spews out green lava. We were never able to figure it out.

            My Dad came in and sat down at his end of the table while my Mom set out each of our bowls. When my Mom sat down we all crossed our hands and bowed our heads. After our prayer we all picked up our forks and reluctantly dug into our bowls of kitchen ala Johnson. To my surprise it wasn’t as bad as other Sundays had been.

            “So Brad, have you figured out my riddle?” My brother raised an eyebrow at me.

            “Nope, have you figured out mine?” I looked back at him.

            “Yeah, he’s a taxi driver.” Jessie looked accomplished.

            “Wrong, guess again.” I laughed at him.

            “What are the riddles?” My Mom looked at the both of us.

            “My riddle is, a man and woman were found encased in ice. Scientists believe that they are Adam and Eve. Why would they think that?” Jessie looked at Mom.

            “Oh that one from church, okay. What is yours Brad?” She looked at me.

            “A man is heading to work. He leaves home makes three left turns and returns home. What is his profession?” I kind of giggled under my breath.

            My Dad leaned back and chuckled. “I know.”

            Jessie looked at him. “Nuh huh, how do you know?”

            “Because I’m you father.” He looked back at Jessie and pushed his pointer finger into Jessie’s cheek. “Chew your food, you only have fifteen more minutes to eat.”

            “I hate it when you do that.”

            “Well than chew your food and I won’t have to do that.” Dad looked at my mom and took another bite of his food.

            I knew that Jessie felt picked on whenever Dad picked on his eating habits. It really wasn’t Jessie’s fault, he just wasn’t always very hungry and it really didn’t matter if it was kitchen ala Johnson or his favorite food, he just didn’t like to eat. “Jessie, if you don’t eat you won’t stay strong enough to play baseball, and I know you can play. It would be a shame if you didn’t eat and couldn’t play.” Jessie looked at me and too another bite of his food. “So what are the answers Dad?”

            “What.” He looked over at me distracted from my brother.

            “To the riddles, you said you knew the answers, what are they?” I took another bite of my slop. It tasted good at first, but the mixture of different foods was starting to get a little gross.

            Dad took out a pen from his back pocket and picked up his napkin. “I’m going to write the answers down on my napkin, tomorrow at dinner you two give me the answers. If you are wrong you two will clean up the garage for the next week.”

            “What if your wrong?” I looked at Jessie, sure that he would tell me the answer.

            “If I’m wrong I will do your chores for the entire week. Sound fair?” He looked at the two of us. “And if I find out you two gave the answers to each other you will have to clean the garage for a month.” He raised his eyebrows at us.

            “Okay, sounds like a deal.” I looked at Jessie who nodded in agreement.

            “Okay finish up your food so we can go to the batting cages.” Dad took a bite of his food and pushed an empty bowl out from in front of him. “Is there any more dear?” He looked at my mom and smiled.

            “No dear.” She emphasized the dear in an almost sarcastic tone.

            Dad sat there and waited for the rest of us to finish our dinners. Jessie as usual was the last to finish, but he managed in less than twenty minutes. “Okay go grab your bats and meet me by the van.” Dad got up and the rest of us excused ourselves from the table. Jessie ran out of the house and headed for the garage where our bats were.

            Jessie and I were pretty excited. We never really got to do stuff like this very often. We really didn’t have a lot of money which was why we at all of our leftovers on Sunday night instead of having a new and different dinner.

            When Dad got out to the van Jessie and I were already sitting quietly in the van waiting to leave. “Where does Dan live?” He looked back at me.

            “Across from the high school in the blue house.” I answered.

            “Okay off we go.” He tuned the radio to the local classic rock channel and backed out of the driveway.

            My dad really liked music. It took a long time for me to figure out that the bumper sticker that he had inside his trunk was for the music band named Judas Priest and not some religious thing. After he married Mom we moved in and suddenly had a very large stereo and a lot of new records. Even his car had a tape player that usually had some type of rock pumping through his speakers. 

            After a short drive we pulled into Dan’s drive way. Dan came out and got into the van while Dad got out and went to talk to his parents who were standing on the front porch. Dan’s dad was very short and had red hair and beard. His mom was as round as his dad was short with a very pale complexion.

            “Hey Brad, can I use your bat, I don’t have one?” Dan sat down on the bench seat behind Jessie and me.

            “Yeah, no problem. I have to help Jessie with his batting tonight to, so you guys have to get cages next to each other okay.”

            They both nodded in agreement and my dad returned to the car. “Thank you for bringing me Mr. Johnson.” Dan looked at my dad.

            “No problem Dan.”

            “Kiss a*s.” I mumbled under my breath. I watched out my window as we pulled out of Dan’s driveway and headed off to the batting cages.

            When we got there the sky was completely dark and the towering floodlights lit the batting cages. To the left side of the parking lot was a go-cart track and to the left were the batting cages. There were very few people at the batting cages but the go-carts were really busy. In between the two sides stood a concession stand where you bought tokens for the batting cages and tickets for the go-carts.

            The four of us walked up to building. “My dad told me to give this to you. Whatever I don’t use you can use for gas.” Dan handed Dad a twenty-dollar bill.

             “Thank you Dan, you two should be more like Dan.” My Dad looked at Jessie and I. Jessie claimed poorhouse and I just rolled my eyes. Dad went up and bought a handful of tokens and walked over to the cages.

            “Jessie, you should go in the slow pitch one, and Dan you should go in the middle speed.” I pointed to the two adjoining cages.

            “Why do I have to go in the slow one?” Jessie whined at me.

            “Jessie the slow pitch one is where we all started, besides it’s faster than anyone can pitch in the league your gonna play in.” Reluctantly he stepped inside the fenced in portion.

            After both of them got inside and stepped into the batters box I stood outside the fence between the two. “Okay before we start the machines set your feet at shoulder length and make sure you bend at the knees. Make sure when you swing you are rotating at the waist and the balls of your feet are staying put.”

            “Like this.” Dan took a few practice swings. Jessie watched Dan and did the same.

            “Yeah like that. For the first couple pitches don’t worry so much about making contact, just focus seeing the ball coming and keep your swings level. You are only gonna hit the ball straight up and straight down if you swings are uneven. Dan you should really be able to hit anything.”

            “Whatever I can barely hit an underarm pitch.”

            “You are a pitcher, you know what every pitch looks like. So if you can practice and learn to see the pitches coming at you, you should be able to know where it is going to cross the plate and hit it.”

            “What about me Brad.” Jessie looked back at me.

            “You just need to get used to swinging and trying to hit the ball. This is practice, it took me a long time to get good at hitting, remember Dad?” I looked over at him leaning on the railing.

            “Of course I remember, you couldn’t hit a soft ball when you started.” He laughed. “It takes some time and a lot of practice. It won’t happen over night.”

            “I wasn’t that bad.” I felt a little sheepish.

            “Yes you were, now keep your eye on the ball and swing through the pitch even if you miss.” Dad walked up to the token slot and fed it a few tokens each.

            A moment later the pitching machines whirred to life and started shooting balls over the plates in each cage. Both of them took a few pitches missing each one. Finally on the fourth pitch Dan connected and sent a wheezing grounder off to the left. Jessie kept swinging finally connecting on the sixth or seventh pitch. The ball went straight up and landed around where the short stop would stand.

            I spent most of the evening reassuring Jessie that it takes time and practice, while telling Dan to tweak his stance, or to move closer or further from the plate. After two rounds Jessie was finished, he seemed defeated. “I am no good, I only hit four balls the whole time.”

            “The machines are harder to hit than a real person. Maybe if you ask Dan he will pitch to you sometime after practice.” I roughed up his hat on his head.

            “Good idea, I’ll ask him when he’s done.” He perked up at the thought. “Are you gonna practice?” He looked at me.

            “Can I go in for a little bit Dad?” I looked at him.

            “Sure, but we know you can hit on slow and medium, only if you go in on the fast pitch.”

            “Alright, but I don’t know if I will do any better than Jessie did.” I put on one of the smelly helmets and stepped into the fast pitch cage. I crouched into my batting position and waited for Dad to feed in the coins. A moment later the machine kicked on and I watched the baseball zing right by me. It made a loud pop as it hit the mat at the back of the cage. I looked back and Jessie, Dan, and my Dad were all watching me.

            “You can do it Brad!” My brother shouted. “Just keep you swings level and follow through with you swing.” He repeated my own words back at me.

            I waited for the next pitch. As it came I tried to see the ball, I swung and made contact, a foul ball, my hands rung at the impact of the ball and my bat. I tightened my grip and waited for the next pitch. The ball came screaming from the machine. I made contact and sent the ball back at the machine two feet to the right of the hole, a base hit. My spirits had gotten brighter; I could see the fast pitch balls coming at me. I finished out the round, I hit eight of fifteen balls, six were in fair territory and four would have gotten me on base.

            “Great job Brad.” Jessie congratulated me as I walked out of the cage.

            “Yes, very good job. It won’t be long now before you are hitting them all.” My dad clapped me on the shoulder as we walked back to the van.

            “Thanks for bringing me Mr. Johnson.” Dan sat back on the bench seat as we drove home.

            “You already thanked me Dan, it’s no problem.” Dad looked in the rearview mirror as he spoke.

            “Thank you to Brad, I never thought about knowing how the pitches from other pitchers would be. I think I will play a little better at the next game.” He smiled at me.

            “Hey Dan, can you pitch to me after next practice. I would like to get some practice hitting from a real pitcher.” Jessie looked back at Dan.

            “Sure, no problem. You did pretty well tonight to Jessie. You hit better than I did a year ago.”

            “Thanks, I hope I can hit like Brad one day.” He looked back at me.

            “I’m sure you’ll do better than I do. You are starting younger than I did.” We drove the last five minutes in silence. We all said goodbye to Dan and headed home. It was nice to go to the batting cages. Jessie needed some confidence so I had better talk to Dan before the next time we practice.  

© 2008 Gabalicious!

My Review

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I still really liked this, though I thought the pitching scene was a little bit much at the end. I liked the part about the family dinner, and the interactions with the other characters. But the extended baseball sequence didn't seem really relevant to the plot. You've already done several baseball scenes which had a nostalgic feel, so this felt a little redundant. But I really do enjoy your writing style. :)

Edit comment: I noticed several commas missing, things like that. I'm not an expert on punctuation, but I did notice that several times. Other than that, great job. Not too many adverbs. Just enough description. :)

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Added on February 9, 2008
Last Updated on February 14, 2008



Denver, CO

I was born and raised in Chicago, where my family still lives. Thanks to them I have a large amount of material to draw from in regards to my writing. I have finished several short stories, one of whi.. more..