neighbors moving away by Jack C. Buck

neighbors moving away

In 1996 our neighborhood’s designated second baseman moved away. It felt like an acceleration of change to our youth that we weren’t ready for. His mom hit a slot machine jackpot at the local casino. First, they came home with a new SUV. In the evenings, the family would take joyrides around the block in a parade. We would hop on our bikes while waving wildly, racing the car side-by-side. My bike was stolen from our garage earlier that summer so I ran instead. A week later they came home with a boat. Every morning their family would be out there on public display, laughing and laughing, while polishing and rubbing the boat down. At night in bed, I would look out the window into the street, fearing the ship would crush our house while I slept. After the initial excitement, everyone was growing tired of having to hear the story of how the mom hit the big one. It went something like this: Well, at first, I was down big time just kept losing like always, but then out of the corner of my eye I saw this flashing slot machine, and right then I just knew it was a sign from above for me to put a buck in. It was Sunday after all. Sure enough, I was a winner. By the third week it was just too much. They didn’t even offer to pick up the tab when the ice cream truck made its evening round. It was now getting towards the end of summer. Before they left for good, I remember playing one last game of baseball with him and the rest of the neighborhood out in the street. I offered to pitch. When he came up to bat, I remember throwing as hard as I could. Ready to blow out my arm if I had to in the name of what’s right. I wasn’t pitching tomorrow so let it rip, as it’s said. I ran up a full count to make it last. Mixing in some balls and strikes. With a 3-2 count, I drilled him point-blank. We all knew I did it on purpose. It had to be done. The sun was almost fully set for the night. He remained out there, body twisted in the middle of the street, wailing loudly at first then softly like the kids we all were. Hushed adults watching from stoops let it be by turning down the music and setting their after-work beers down on the porch railings. While us in childhood gathered around him in a circle. Knowing we would never see him again. And without the proper words this was our clashing reaction to being sad and angry about such realization. With this we picked him up, and one by one formed a line, hugging him out there in the middle of the street saying goodbye to our friend.

Jack C. Buck is the author of Deer Michigan and Gathering View. He lives in Idaho with his wife and dog.

Read more by Jack C. Buck dear michigan

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Art George Luks CC1.0 Public Domain ALT painting of a young boy, looking sad, wearing a hat and sitting next to a baseball

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