Jack watched in admiration as the baseball arced through the air far over his head, the sun momentarily blinding him as it shot like a missile towards the yard next door. It disappeared over the fence accompanied by the groans of his church youth group.
‘Oh great, now we are never gonna get it back. It’s in the crazy lady’s yard’, moaned the pitcher named Billy.
‘Send Jack to go get it’, suggested one of them.
‘Yeah, good idea, send Jack to get it’, the plan quickly spread among the boys.
Jack being new to church stood and watched as the crowd gathered in front of him like a firing squad. Not wanting them to think of him as chicken he squared his shoulders and plastered a fierce expression on his little boy face. ‘I’m not scared. I’ll go get it’, he announced firmly.
The team quickly surrounded him smacking him on the back and shouting words of advice over each other as they pushed him up to the path leading to the front walk of Crazy Ole’ Millbury’s house.
Abruptly they stopped and disappeared back into the church yard watching from what they considered a safe distance. His heart beating fast Jack stood looking back at them for a moment, then turned and faced the house. Tentatively he took a step towards the front door but froze when he saw the curtains twitch in the window.
Taking a deep breath he let it out slowly then strode up the walk. Lifting his hand to knock he was startled as the door was wrenched open and he was yanked inside. His back pressed up against the door, he stood immobilized with fear. The boy’s shouts of horror echoed dimly through the old wood as his eyes adjusted to the darkness inside.
‘Just why are you poking around my house young man?’, a voice creaky with age demanded
Slowly turning his head Jack took in the poof of white hair that stood like a cloud around a wrinkled old face. Bright blue eyes rheumy with age watched him, as her lips pursed below cheeks of rosy red. ‘Why she doesn’t look so scary’, Jack thought as he caught his breath. ‘Wonder what all the guys are so freaked about?’
‘Well, speak up youngster! What have you got to say for yourself?’, she ordered sharply, her arthritic fingers absentmindedly playing with the ruffle on the pocket of her faded pink housecoat.
Jack jumped, stuttering over his words. ‘Wwwell, we lost aa baseball in the backyard, and we were hoping to get it back.’
The bright eyes studied him, seeming to see more than Jack felt comfortable sharing. Letting out a faint humpf, she shuffled towards the back of the house waving a crooked hand for him to follow. Pushing open the door in the far end of the hallway she waved him through as sunlight rushed across the old floor.
Taking a step onto the back deck Jack stood and surveyed the yard. Old bottles and discarded bits of machinery lay half buried by time. Leaves lay in mounds and weeds grew wildly. ‘Go on now. If you can find it out there in that mess, you’re welcome to it. I ain’t able to get out and do much nowadays.’ This said she gave him a gentle nudge and closed the door.
Compassion rushed through him and a plan formed in his mind. Running around the side of the house he approached the boys. ‘She says we can have it back but we need to find it first. And way I see it, we are only going to find it if we clean up the yard. There’s a thousand years buried back there.’
Dozens of voices clamored for attention. ‘Are you okay? She’s never let anyone in her house before. What’d she look like, crazy?’
‘Guys. She needs our help’, he said and stood watching to see who would say no.
The boys stood looking at each other then as if silently agreed moved together. They busily filled Ole’ Millbury’s yard chattering and warily eyeing the house as Mrs. Millbury herself watched through a haze of tears at the act of kindness brought on by one small boy. Thankful that God still worked in the hearts of the young, she shakily opened her back door and stood watching with a quivering smile, sending a wave in the direction of the uncertain youth who sent her small smiles in return.
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