- Slow Motion
You made me leave work for this?" Henry asked. I could tell he was trying not to look at me by how hard he stared at the road, by how his hands gripped the steering wheel where they usually rested, tapping out a tune that I never knew. I pressed the handkerchief he'd given me against my nose.
"Charlie looks worse," I told him, even though I knew he'd seen Charlie. Henry and the principal had stood outside the school nurse's office, their arms crossed, and watched me and Charlie shake hands. I could still feel how easily my knuckles fit into his left eye socket.
As soon as we'd opened our math books that morning, Charlie had started throwing pencils at my head. By lunchtime I couldn't take it anymore. When I got mad, things started moving really fast—elbows and fists and even teeth sometimes. This wasn't the first time it had happened.
"Why can't you be more like Bay Bailey?" Henry said. "He wouldn't have let some jerk like Charlie get to him." Henry's face was long and sharp-looking, like a blade of grass that would not bend, no matter how hard the wind.
"He doesn't go to school," I mumbled into the blood that had dried around my mouth. Bay Bailey. It was like a nursery rhyme.
Henry, that's my father, that's what he wanted me to call him. It was the first thing I remembered him telling me after my mother died. "We're a team, James," he said. "People on the same team call each other by their real names."
The only team I wanted to be on was the Giants. Barry Bonds was my favorite. My Uncle Jack, who lived in San Francisco, sent me newspaper articles about all the home runs Barry had hit. He told me Barry could read every single pitch like he was watching it move through Jello. By the time it got to the plate he knew exactly what to do.
I'd only seen a real baseball game once, when Henry had taken me to Uncle Jack's for the weekend a few years ago. Now Henry was always too busy. Baseball and produce had the same seasons.
The windows of the truck were closed, but I could feel heat pushing against the glass, even in April. Everywhere else, baseball season was just starting. We passed rows and rows of trees beginning to bud. I squinted down each row to see where it ended. The way they flickered by made it hard to know where I was. [End Page 171]
When we pulled up to the Baileys' farm, Henry stepped hard on the emergency brake and yanked the door open. "You can either come help out or stay in the car," he said. I tugged the seat belt strap tighter across my chest. "Fine." He slammed the door and the truck shook.
He stormed off across the field, stomping between rows and rows of lettuce. I could see the Baileys—all five of them—rise up from where they crouched with bags slung over their shoulders. Mr. Bailey, his face pink under his big straw hat, Mrs. Bailey and the tent of her long hair, moved together toward Henry, reaching out as he got closer.
Mr. Bailey slapped him on the back and Mrs. Bailey put her arm around Henry's shoulders. The school must have called here first; he put the Baileys' number on any emergency forms because that's where he always was. They must have known more about me than I did myself.
Even Sky and Amber, almost as tall as their parents and glowing with tans I could see from here, reached out and patted Henry's arm. Bay looked up at the truck, then back down at his work.
Bay Bailey was my age, and until last year he'd been in school with me. He was a funny-looking kid, with shaggy hair sprouting down over his ears like fuzzy earmuffs, and he did everything right. He read thick books; he wore wool...