Cleaning Away the Memories

Jack would never play baseball again.  The pasty white cast felt heavy on his right arm.  He used to be the star pitcher for the Roosevelt High Rockets.  Now he wasn’t sure what he was.

He sat on his bed, staring up at his trophy display case.  Warm rays of sunlight shone through the closed blinds over the window above his bed, little dust particles gleaming as they floated through the air.  Baseball was all he ever cared about.  The trophies showed that.

He was only sixteen, but he had already made the varsity team.  College scouts had already come to his games to watch him pitch.  Jack was going to play in college, and then go on to the pros.  He was going to be the pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  He’d been playing ever since he was five.

And now he’d never be able to play again.

The doctor had said that the humerus bone was broken in three spots, and would never be back to normal.  It would heal, sure, but he’d never be able to throw a ball like he used to.

The trophies sat in the glass case, taunting him.  He stood from the bed and walked up to the display case, looking at all of his trophies.  He didn’t want them anymore.  Fifteen trophies, all for nothing.  What good were they if he couldn’t grow the collection?

Jack sauntered to his desk and grabbed the small trash can sitting beside it.  He pulled it to the trophy case.  Opening the case’s glass doors, a puff of dust billowed out of it.  He hadn’t opened the case since he had won his last trophy.

It was the largest, in the center of the case.  There were three pedestals holding up a golden cup.  On the base was a bronze plaque:

First Place

State Title – 2014

Roosevelt High Rockets

Jack Smart, Pitcher

Each player had received their own individual trophy.  That wasn’t the norm for most tournaments.  Usually the team received a trophy as a whole, and it was placed in the school’s trophy cabinet. But the state title was different.  They had made sure each player went home with a trophy.

Jack gripped one of the gold-colored pedestals and tossed the trophy in the trash can.

He reached for another trophy, another, another, throwing them all in the trash.  Regional titles, division titles, individual MVP trophies.  They didn’t mean anything anymore.

The case was nearly empty.  Only one trophy remained on the top shelf.  Jack could hardly see it.  The trophy sat at the back of the top shelf, only the little golden man’s head visible from where Jack stood.  He reached up with his left arm—his good arm—standing on his toes.  He couldn’t reach it, so he went to his desk to retrieve its chair.  Stepping up onto the chair, he reached for the trophy and pulled it off of the shelf.

He hopped off with the trophy in hand and plopped onto the bed, remembering when he had won this dust-covered gold thing.  It was just a simple trophy, a small plastic pedestal on a white base, a little golden man standing on the top.  The golden man wore golden cleats and a golden cap and was holding a golden baseball in a golden hand.  His golden arm was held out above his head, ready to throw, with his golden leg outstretched behind him.  The golden man was a pitcher, just like Jack.

Jack Smart, Tee-Ball

2003

It was his first trophy.  It was his first year playing baseball, if Tee-ball could even be called that.  He remembered hitting the baseball off of the tee, running to third base instead of first because he had gotten confused as to which direction to run.  But he had loved every second of it.

He couldn’t throw out his first trophy looking as dull and dusty as it was.  If it were going out, if he was never going to win another baseball trophy again, then they would both go out shining.  He had to clean the Tee-Ball trophy.

Jack raced out of his room, down the stairs, into the kitchen, opened the cabinet under the sink, and dug through the cleaning supplies until he found a dishrag and the bottle of Windex.

“What are you doing?”

Jack turned abruptly with the cleaning supplies in his hands, shutting the cabinet door with his foot.  His mom stood in the doorway to the living room.  She looked concerned, but she had looked like that ever since Jack broke his arm.

“Nothing,” he replied, and rushed through the other doorway and back up to his room, shutting the door behind him.

He sat down on his bed and picked up the trophy.  He squirted some Windex onto the base with his right hand, wiping away the dust with his left.  He was never going to play baseball again.  He squirted more Windex, wiped the pedestals.  He was never going to be an Arizona Diamondback.  He squirted more Windex, and began to wipe away at the golden man.  He was never going to win another trophy again.

His dreams were shattered, just like his humerus bone.  Jack began to cry.  He wiped at the golden man, squirting more Windex and wiping away more dust and squirting more Windex and wiping away more dust and squirting more Windex and wiping away more dust.  He wiped and wiped, the Windex beginning to drip down the sides of the golden man as his tears began to drip down his cheeks. The dust completely gone, but Jack continued to wipe away the dust, wipe away the dirt, wipe away the memories, wipe away the dream, wipe away baseball.

The golden man’s arm snapped.  Jack instantly stopped polishing the man as the arm fell into his lap and bounced onto the floor.  He had been wiping so furiously that he hadn’t noticed that the little golden man was plastic.  Weak and vulnerable and hollow and broken.  He had snapped off the golden man’s arm.

He stared at the golden man.  He wasn’t the same.  The golden paint had begun to corrode, leaving grainy black splotches all over his body.  His right arm was severed at the elbow, a gaping hole where the rest of his arm should be.  Jack hadn’t polished the man—he had destroyed him.

Jack screamed as he picked up the Tee-Ball trophy and threw it at the bedroom’s blue wall.  The little golden man shattered into a million little pieces, decorating the carpeted floor.  Jack laid back on his bed in frustration and sobbed.  He would never play baseball again, he would never play baseball again he would never

The door swung open.  “Jack,” his mother said worriedly.  He saw her there, standing in his doorway, looking down at the floor at the shattered trophy.  She frowned subtly and went to Jack.  She sat down next to him and ran her fingers through his thick black hair.  He laid his head in her lap and cried.

“I’m never playing baseball again.”

His mom just continued running her fingers through his hair.  He remembered his first Tee-Ball game, where he had cried after running the wrong way.  His coach had yelled at him, and Jack had gone to his mom.  She had done the same thing then.  She had run her fingers through his hair, staying silent.

“I didn’t mean to break the trophy.”

“I know,” she said quietly.  “I know.”

Jack sat up, his eyes red.  “What now?”

“We wait.  For your arm to heal.”

“But the doctor said I would never be able to pitch again.”

Jack’s mom grinned.  Her smile radiated warmth.  The stuffy, dull room seemed to brighten.  “That’s what he said, but not even doctors can predict the future.  We have to believe that we are strong enough to do whatever we set our minds to.  We can’t give up, Jack, even when it seems everything is against us.”

“But what if the doctor’s right?”

“Then we make ourselves a new dream,” she replied softly.  “But until that moment, we have to keep on believing.”

Jack sniffled.  His mom always knew how to pick him up.  Maybe there was a chance he could play again, a chance that these trophies might mean something.  He stood from the bed and reached into the stuffed trash can.  He pulled out the trophy on top:

Second Place

Regional Title – 2011

McKinley Middle School Monkeys

Jack Smart, Pitcher

Jack had never liked his middle school’s mascot.  He grinned slightly as he dusted off the trophy with his fingertips and placed it back into the glass case, remembering the regional tournament his eighth grade year.  These trophies contained memories—memories he wasn’t sure he wanted to give up.

As his mother sat on the bed, watching him, he retrieved every trophy from the garbage and put them back in the case.  When the can was empty, he looked over at the golden man’s shattered pieces.

He wanted to say something, but he didn’t know what to say.  Jack just looked up from the golden pieces and looked at his mom.  She stood from the bed and hugged him.

“We’ll fix him,” she said.  “We’ll fix him.”

One thought on “Cleaning Away the Memories

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