I had noticed him before. The boy, about our age, peering out of his third story attic window across the street. His face was pressed up against the pane, his hands flattened, palms open, almost as if he wanted to push the glass out to get a better view. He could have, but the window was always shut. I waved, and he disappeared, leaving no trace except for his fingerprints reflecting off the afternoon sun. The entire window was smeared from day after day of his quiet but methodical observation.
“Alright boys, roll it!” Coach Frank shouted. He flicked his wrists and the fungo whipped around, neatly chopping the ball towards third. Andrew, our third baseman, snagged it, snapped it to Shane, our second basemen, who spun and fired to Kevin at first.
“There we go!” our stud shortstop Greg encouraged.
“Let’s do it again,” came Coach Frank’s reply. We repeatedly executed the double play, an art of sorts in high level baseball, varying starting points, but inevitably meeting the same result. It was almost as if our coach met Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
When we took a break for water just before batting practice, I glanced over to my left at the house across the street. My gaze moved skyward, to the third story window, and I saw the kid standing there, or maybe kneeling, I didn’t know. He was staring intently at the field and my teammates, a faraway, depressed look on his face. I waved, again, and again, he retreated. I assumed he lived up there in some sort of decked out attic, with air conditioning and heat and his own space that he could just hang out in but chose to spend his free time watching our practices. I wondered what he did on days we did not have practice. “Probably homework and hanging out with his friends,” I thought to myself.
“Jay, hit first and then toss your gear on,” Coach Frank called, stuffing his lip with dip.
“Gotcha coach,” I replied, reaching for my helmet and batting gloves. I took batting practice and then put on my equipment to catch for coach while he threw. Every so often he would spit, a brown stream of saliva and carcinogen.
“Frank needs to stop. That’s disgusting,” Drew, our right fielder and biggest kid on the team said.
“I know, right,” I replied. “That stuff is gonna leave him looking like hockey players back before they had to wear helmets.”
Drew cracked up, and as a result, whiffed at the pitch that was coming. Our team had a chemistry that was unparalleled by any other team I had been on in my twelve years playing ball. We worked together like a well oiled machine, knowing exactly who had what responsibilities, and knowing how to keep each other in check during heated games.
After practice, we were all enjoying our Friday afternoon, horsing around as we waited for rides. Andrew tackled Shane, and the rest of us formed a ring, joking about a fight between the two, even though there was over a hundred pound weight difference. We discussed plans for a pool party at the end of the season, made fun of each other, and were enjoying each other’s presence as much as baseball itself. I spared a quick glance at the window to see if the kid stopped watching after we finished practice. He did not. He was still there, and, to my surprise, had a stream of tears running down his face. Some of the drops caught onto the glass itself, slowly running down, forming streaks in the fingerprints. He vanished. “What was that all about?” I wondered to myself.
The following Monday, when we returned to the practice field after games all weekend, I noticed a policeman with a notepad standing in the yard of the house across the street, interviewing a woman whom I assumed to be the mother of the kid in the window. Meanwhile, another cop entered the front door, a flashlight in hand and a radio clipped to his belt. I wondered if there had been a break-in.
I forgot about it while we warmed up, gradually backing up until we were at a solid seventy-five yard long toss. After walking back in, I sat down on the bench and strapped my shin guards on. We continued with the usual batting practice and infield-outfield drills. I played fairly well, making good contact and foiling a few attempts to steal second base. As was per usual, Coach Frank talked with us after practice for a bit as to what our objectives were for the week, and then we horsed around waiting for our parents to come pick us up.
I went to finish off my water and to find a spot in the shade to get out of the sweltering heat. I sat down and glanced at the house, the peculiar events nagging at my thoughts. A Prius pulled up, and a man with a camera and ID badge on his chest was going over pictures with one of the cops. The other policeman had handcuffed the woman and led her to the police cruiser. As it pulled away, it revealed four wooden stakes in the ground, each about four feet tall. Connecting them was yellow tape that read, “Police line, do not cross.” On the ground inside the boxed off area, I saw what appeared to be square coasters for putting cold or hot drinks on, except these looked rough and dirty. The grass was matted down. The window was open.