At the Turn Around
Nobody ever came down to the turn around unless they were lost or missed the driveway of one of the nice houses further up. Then they had to turn around at Charlie’s trailer, where we lived in those days. Drafty and wind-loud in the fall and winter. Holes in the floor yawning mosquitoes through in the summer. Rats, too, but I smashed them with my yellow wiffle ball bat. Actually got pretty good at it. Dropped their broken asses back down the hole they crawled through as a warning to their friends.
I kept that bat around, rats or no. It was good for swatting bees out of the air. And Charlie’s nuts. Left or right. Sometimes both if he was loaded and came after me or Manny or our mom. So I kept that bat around. Slept with it most nights.
Manny had it one morning. He was thumping around. I jerked awake and snatched for it right off, not knowing what the noise was. Except he was thumping around with it out in the living room. I walked out there and he was swatting at a big red balloon I won for him at the spring carnival. He must have been at it for a while judging by how he was sweating. His face was red except for a pale v-shaped scar over his right eyebrow where Charlie busted him a while back for tracking mud into the trailer.
My first thought was to cuss him out and swat him around a little bit. He needed to toughen up anyhow if he was gonna take people’s shit. And especially if he was gonna survive at the turn around. But he was having fun and looked like he was really trying, so I let him go.
He was twisting himself into the floor with each swing, from his ankles up to his floppy brown hair. It looked painful, but he could bend and twist his little kid body all kinds of ways. Thankfully he hadn’t broken a lamp or something. Charlie would have taken it out of his ass and probably tried to come after me, too, for letting it happen.
I told Manny go slow. Just try to tap your balloon. Feel the balance in the bat. Get to know it.
He did that for a while until he got good at keeping the balloon off the floor. The second I turned my back, he whacked that balloon and it popped. Scared him, too, the noise. He started crying. I told him balloons are gonna pop, baby bro. That’s life. Try not to be scared.
He snotted and slobbered about how he was sorry and he really liked the balloon because I got it for him. I liked that he thought that, and I was tired of his crying, so I ran down to CVS and stole him a bag of balloons.
We blew those things up and swatted them around. It was good because we didn’t have much else to do on summer days. Manny didn’t realize that I was blowing the balloons up smaller each time to help him get better with the bat.
After a few days of boy versus balloons, it was all wins for Manny. He was walking around with his chin up. I didn’t mind if he had my bat so long as it was within reach at night. Turns out I didn’t have to worry about that for long. I saw a blue bat pretty much the same as my yellow one in a garbage can up the street. I pulled it out for Manny.
We ran out of balloons the next week. I told him I wasn’t gonna steal him another bag because it was stupid to steal petty shit. Then I had an idea. I grabbed a bag of frozen peas out of the freezer and started lobbing them to him.
He couldn’t swat them at first and was about to cry, but he toughened up and got his shit together. We got through half the bag before he started really whacking those things. Then I flicked them at him like little green missiles. He turned on one and it zipped past my ear. I was like, damn, baby bro!
Manny stopped for a second and wiped his face on his shirt sleeve. He rubbed the v-shaped scar over his brow with his finger. He cocked his bat, ready to slice the air again. Charlie was gonna be surprised if he ever came after Manny or our mom when I wasn’t around. I smiled thinking about it. Manny was probably thinking the same thing the way he giggled and grinned real huge.
Jeff Burd spends a lot of time writing and thinking about writing, and worrying about not writing and thinking about writing. His flash work has appeared recently in Scribble, MacQueen's Quinterly, and Hobart. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University writing program, and works as a Reading Specialist at Zion-Benton Township High School in Zion, IL.
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