Baseball gloveTitle: When They Take Your Dad
Author: J. Spinazzola
Category: Fiction

The day the agents knocked on the door he’d been reading comics in the basement.  Stephen was the only one home, and they wouldn’t stop knocking.  The comics would have to wait.
“Your dad home?”

“He’s working.”
“When’s he get home?”

“I don’t know.  I was just reading some comics.”

Stephen didn’t know what else to say.

One of the agents showed his badge with an eagle crowning the top and then asked if they could take a look around.

Stephen noticed the other agent gave his partner a look as if they weren’t allowed to ask a kid for permission to enter. 

“I think you should wait for my dad.”

“We can wait.  We’ll be out there.”  Their car, an intense gray like a stare, was parked outside the house along the curb.

Years later Stephen would remember a long conversation that night with his mother, a crash course on tax evasion, and what it felt like to have the FBI take your dad.  He’d remember all kinds of things he used to do with his dad when he was little:  throwing a baseball back and forth in the front yard, his first trip to the comic store, and the cold slush his dad brought home the day Stephen had his wisdom teeth removed.  He’d remember his dad always knew what to do and that, for once, he did, too.

He called his dad from the house phone.  These were the days before caller identification, and it didn’t occur to him that his dad might think he was lying.  Stephen always told the truth, but in times like this, the truth wasn’t important.

“Dad,” he said, his voice cracking.

“What’s wrong?”  His dad always knew.

“I’m lost.”

“What do you mean you’re lost?”

“I went to a friend’s house and got lost on the way home.  I’m by that park where you used to take me on Saturdays.  I’m calling from a payphone.  I’m on my last quarter.”

“Stephen,” his dad said.  “This doesn’t sound right.”

“It is right, Dad.  I’m at the park, and I can’t find my way home.  Please, I need you to come pick me up.”

“You’ve walked back from that park a dozen times on your own.  It’s only a few blocks from the house.  There’s a key outback.  You know where.  Did you lose your key?”

Everyone knew their way home from that park: the only one in town with lights over the playing fields, it was like a landmark. 

“Dad, I need your help.”

“I’ll pick you up at the park,” his dad said.  “Don’t go anywhere.  Fifteen minutes.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

“Stay where you are.  Your dad loves you.”

Stephen had just finished seventh grade and hadn’t heard those words from his dad in what felt like a long time.  He didn’t need to hear the words to know they were true.

Fifteen minutes was more than enough time.  There were two gloves and a baseball in the garage.  A door from the kitchen opened to the garage, and he crawled along the garage floor where the agents wouldn’t be able to see him through the windows.  That’s how they used to make garage doors, with windows, and Stephen had to be careful when he reached up for the gloves and ball or else the agents might see his arm from where they were waiting at the curb.  When he pulled the gloves down, the ball slipped out, but he dove forward like one of the school athletes and caught the ball before it could hit the hard concrete.  His other hand, holding the gloves, broke his fall.

The gloves had been in the garage since he gave up baseball when middle school made it clear which kids were athletes and which ones read comics and cheered for their friends from the stands.  His dad loved baseball more than Stephen ever did, and the gloves had sat on the shelf too long.

Stephen crawled back toward the kitchen with the gloves in one hand and the ball in the other.  Then he snuck down to the basement where he kept his comics, found a pair of sneakers by the couch where he’d been reading, laced up, and headed out the sliding glass door in the rear of the walkout basement.  From there he climbed over a couple of familiar neighborhood fences, careful not to drop the gloves or baseball, then took the long way around to the park.

When he got there, his dad was waiting.

“Stephen, I thought I told you to stay put?”

Stephen was sweating.  He’d run the whole way.  His dad, still holding the car keys, had obviously taken less than fifteen minutes; he must have left his papers at work and sped to get there.

“Put this on,” Stephen said, extending a glove.

“What is this all about?”

“Please, Dad.  I need you to put this on.”

His dad shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and dropped the car keys to the ground.  His dad always knew what to do.

After taking the glove, Stephen’s dad asked the obvious question. “I thought you didn’t like baseball anymore?”

“Let’s just toss the ball.”

No one loved to toss a ball more than his dad, and they tossed the ball like that without either one of them saying anything about it.  They just tossed the ball back and forth in the park until they couldn’t see the ball, and when the park lights came on overhead, they tossed it some more.

J. Spinazzola is a writer and former attorney.  His stories, poems, and legal articles have appeared in print and online.  Most recently, Charlotte Viewpoint published his short story,“The Next Big Thing.”