Okay...it was weird.
The people out in the field were weird. The people sitting on the cement steps were weird. And Willy -- well...he was weirdest!
My people went to the kitchen to eat. These people ate on the cement steps. My people listened to music and visited. These people yelled and other people threw them food. In return, they gave them little pieces of paper. These people would seem fine, then all of a sudden they would leap to their feet and yell at the top of their lungs. They would clap and...
...and they would jump up and act really mad. Then just as quickly as they started, they'd sit down and eat and talk some more.
The people out in the grass were just as bad. They talked and jabbered all the time. They wore shirts, tight pants with long socks, and little caps on their heads. Right now most of them had blue caps and white pants. There was only one, standing on a little bag, who had on a red cap and gray pants. But just a moment ago it was the other way around and...
...and most of the boys had on these big gloves. That was weird because they were lots bigger than the gloves my people wore in the wintertime. But what was even weirder was that they only wore one glove instead of two. People had two front paws -- I mean hands -- so why only one glove? Maybe the other hand just didn't get cold.
The glove was so big, they couldn't pick up stuff with it on. They couldn't pick their noses or scratch. About the only thing they could do was catch the ball that they threw at one another. One boy stood on a pillow. He didn't have a glove. Fact was, he didn't have anything except his pants and shirt and...
"Willy, cool it!"
...and shoes and red cap. But another boy, who was dressed just like him, had on a hard hat and a big stick in his hand. It wasn't a very good stick. The thing was wide and sort of swollen on one end and kind of narrow on the other end.
One of the boys who wore a blue cap kept throwing a ball at the guy in the red cap. He wasn't a very good thrower, because he hardly ever hit anybody. Sometimes he did get close, and the boy with the stick would use it to whack at the ball so it wouldn't hit him. Another boy, who was really short, would throw the ball back so he could try again.
Usually everybody missed. The thrower missed the guy with the stick, and the guy with the stick missed the ball and...
"Willy, don't even think about it!"
...and this big man in a black suit behind the little short guy would yell: "Strike!" When that happened, people on the steps would stop eating long enough to yell at him. Then the whole thing would start all over again.
I guess the boys standing out in the grass wanted to play with the ball, too. They were always watching it. When they weren't watching, they would yell stuff like:
"Batter, batter, batter, BATTER, SWING!" And other times they would yell: "Easy out. Easy out."
Mostly, they just chewed their gum or blew bubbles and they spit a lot and...
"Willy! Would you quit it!"
...and they scratched a lot, too. I guess they had fleas. I had a flea once. The thing sure itched. I probably scratched as much as they did.
Willy and I sat beside this big, long trench in the ground. It was made of hard, gray blocks and had a metal roof. Sometimes when it was really hot, Willy would dig a hole or a trench and we'd lay in it to cool off. These boys weren't trying to cool off, though. They were busy yelling at the boys on the grass -- especially the guy who was throwing the ball at their friend. They'd called out things like "We want a pitcher, not a belly-itcher." Other times they would yell at the man behind the little short boy -- especially if he shouted, "Strike."
They would yell back at him, "Ball."
Like I said -- weird.
The ball...well, that was what made Willy weird. I mean, it was driving him nuts!
And Willy -- he was driving me nuts!
Willy never took his eyes off of the ball. We were fine as long as someone was holding it or if it was in the air. But if the ball ever hit the ground...
All I'd done since we got here was yell and fuss at Willy. As far as I was concerned, this baseball stuff wasn't that much fun.
The boy with the stick whacked at the ball. I guess he figured it was going to hit him, so he swung really hard. A loud crack sound came to my ears. The ball hit the ground. A little puff of dust exploded, and the other boy in the red cap, who was standing on the bag, had to jump so the ball didn't hit him.
Sure enough...Willy's muscles tensed. His enormous chest quivered and his legs trembled. The ball was headed the other direction -- going away from us -- but it was all I could do to keep my friend from chasing after it.
I jumped up and put my paws against his shoulder.
"Willy, knock it off!"
The way he was shaking and the way his muscles tensed -- ready to spring after the rolling ball -- well, this time...I didn't know if I could hold him or not.
Luckily, the boy in the blue cap picked up the ball.
Willy sank down on his haunches. He was still panting, his long tongue dangling from his slobbery mouth, his eyes wide and excited. But he sat down. With a heavy sigh, I sat down beside him.
"Willy? I think it's time to go back home, don't you?"
His big, brown eyes never left the ball. Even sitting down, I could see his stub tail wagging -- stirring the dust behind and underneath him. When he didn't answer, it made my tail flip.
"Willy? Are you listening to me?"
He gave a slight nod. My tail jerked the other direction. "Willy!"
"Yes," he answered. "I'm listening." He tried to look down at me and keep his eyes on the ball at the same time. I leaned over and rubbed my cheek against his arm.
"Let's go home, please. If you get their ball, it's going to make them mad. They might call 'The Pound!' And we don't want that, do we?"
He shook his head, but he still wouldn't look at me. It was irritating, to say the least. Now my tail was jerking back and forth so hard that I could barely sit.
"I mean it, Willy. You're gonna get us in trouble. I'll leave you. I'll go home without you. I'm serious."
"Okay. Just a second." Like he was in a trance or something, his eyes never left the ball. "Just let me see this one more pitch, then we'll..."
The little, round ball came flying right in front of the trench where we stood. Willy took off!
It was amazing how something that huge and clunky looking could move so fast. It was like watching an enormous black streak of lightning.
One second he was sitting there beside me, trembling and all excited. The next second he was gone! All that was left was a cloud of dust as he chased after the rolling ball.
The boys with the blue hats yelled at him. The boys with the red hats yelled at him, too. The man in the black suit just shook his head.
Now you've done it! I thought to myself. Now they're going to call the pound and the guy will catch you and drag you away and...and...this time I won't be able to save you.
Text copyright © 2000 by Bill Wallace
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