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Jimmy and the Mysterious Ticking Ball
Author's note: This is a story adapted from a screenplay I wrote at the beginning of the school year.
Throughout history, some of the world’s most revered, important, and influential individuals such as Cleopatra, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., John Kennedy, Gandhi and more have changed the world. They did not do it alone though. They had help from a mysterious ticking ball.
This story begins on a mild Saturday in September, 1947. Jimmy Grimes sat bolt right up in his “bed”. The place in which held his sleeping body was actually nothing more than a makeshift mattress constructed from a few stale towels stacked on top of each other, a lumpy army issued rucksack stuffed with shreds of his old clothes, and a thin blanket his mother knitted him when he was born. He pulled the soft baby blue fabric close to his cheek. She had been gone for what seemed like so long and yet the blanket still held every sensation of her warmth.
Jimmy got up from his nest and tidied up. He changed into his navy blue, slightly stained, corduroy overalls over top of his white, wrinkled short sleeve shirt that used to be his father’s. He pulled on his thick wool socks over his feet and topped his head with his black cap. He was ready for the day, today was a special, for it was Jimmy’s birthday. He peered over at his desk. In his entire ten years of life, nothing ever managed to stay on that desk, for it was slightly, awkwardly crooked. His colored pencils would roll down its surface and onto the floor, like soldiers evading grenades. Even the heavy arrow heads he and his father collected managed to tumble to the ground. Jimmy gathered up all of the fallen materials and placed them on the stool in front of the desk, where they would be safe. He looked out his window and one of the sun’s rays kissed him good morning and with that he exited his bedroom to see what the world had to give him today.
The ramshackle hovel had four and a half rooms. Jimmy and his father each had a small bedroom of their own, a bathroom with a toilet and tub; and then there was the kitchen with a small stove that worked on occasion, a sink that only produced water on Fridays, one cabinet that held three dishes, a mug and a cup, and finally a small table with two chairs for meals. Jimmy was used to being greeted by silence in the morning. His father worked eighteen hour shifts at a fruit factory every day and often times did not even get to kiss Jimmy goodnight; however, every year he would take the evening off on Jimmy’s birthday so he would be home in time to make his son a special dinner. Mr. Mahoney, the owner of the General Store by the factory sold him the same thing every September 9th: a box of spaghetti and a can of meatballs only a day passed the expiration date, all for only a nickel; for it was all Mr. Grimes could afford. Jimmy loved his special dinner nonetheless.
Jimmy’s favorite day of the year was his birthday. Since his mother’s death when he was five, there had been no Christmas in the Grimes’ household, for they had no money to buy gifts nor decorate, not even able to keep the house warm. It was only on his birthday that he felt he had not a worry in the world. He got to spend time with his father and he also received a gift. The size of the gift did not matter, but Jimmy was always excited to see what his father could surprise him with. Last year, his father had made him a paper airplane out of recycled newspapers…
“All right, son, are you ready? Got some kamikaze fire comin’ in, now!” Mr. Grimes questioned as he readied the airplane for flight. Jimmy backed up and held his small arms up in the air, prepared to catch the marvelous craft. His father smiled and tossed it gently. The wind pulled it towards Jimmy. Jimmy rocketed up from the ground and caught the plane. A grin painted his small face. He adjusted the plane to his tiny hands and he launched it back to his dad. The lanky man caught it effortlessly.
“Pa, did you see that? I was like a fighter pilot! Just like you!” Jimmy exclaimed. His father nodded and smiled, repressing the memories of what he had done with the planes he flew.
“I’m tossin’ it back now,” Mr. Grimes warned. Jimmy planted his feet on the ground and stared intently at the plane. It was immediately in flight with a slight flick of his father’s wrist. Jimmy sprung up to catch it again, but he fell short. The plane glided over his head and landed into a puddle. The plane was eaten away and submerged on contact.
“Aw shoot, that was the best plane ever.” Jimmy murmured, looking down at the wreck. “If only I were bigger,” Jimmy cursed. Mr. Grimes knelt down and put his hand on Jimmy’s shoulder and looked into his boy’s eyes.
“Hey now, you don’t have to be big to do great things. Besides, you will have plenty more birthdays, which means plenty of more planes. You never know, maybe you’ll get something even better next year.” He promised. Jimmy nodded his head and smirked. His father pulled him close for a hug.
Jimmy found a note on the kitchen table next to a small bowl of grits with peaches. He sat down at his seat and enjoyed his breakfast. He eventually opened up the note and read it-
Happy birthday, my boy! I am sorry I did not get to
see you this morning, but I hope this makes up for
it. Mr. Richman let me bring home a crate of peaches
and apples. I will be home tonight to cook supper, I
know you need your spaghetti and meatballs!
I love you, I hope your day is full of adventure.
Check under the table.
Jimmy put his spoon down and brought the note closer to his face. Check under the table? He reread in his mind. He dropped the note and fell from his chair, clambering to the floor. Sure enough, there was a small box underneath the table. It was his dad’s old ammo box from when he was a solider. Jimmy smiled wide and opened it up. There was a hand carved, wooden plane sitting inside waiting for him. Jimmy gently took it out and examined it close. He immediately ran to the door, slipped on his shoes and bolted into the outside world.
He made it to the park and that is where he spent nearly his entire birthday. He used that plane to travel across all of the oceans on the earth and several only known to his imagination. He defended his imaginary city against a dragon. He wrote his name in the clouds. He flew to heaven to see his mother. The sun began to grow sleepy and retreat; and Jimmy did the same.
Jimmy walked down the sidewalk and was nearly to his house when he heard a laugh crack like a whip through the silence. He looked over his shoulder, holding his plane close and saw three large boys strolling up behind him. He recognized these brutes from the playground. They were older than he was but they picked on him because they were so much larger than him. The boy on the left was Sal. He was pudgy and oafish. He had shark eyes, and his right iris lazily strayed to the side a bit. The boy to the right was Andy. He was gangly and awkward, but had massive hands. Jimmy had seen him crush a mouse once. Finally, there was their leader, the boy in the middle, Big Tony. Big Tony was actually very thin, but he was all muscle. He had large eyes that loved the sight of terrified victims and a malicious grin that defined him as a sociopath. Jimmy sped up, he heard their footsteps quicken.
“Get him!” Big Tony ordered. Jimmy began to run. He darted down an alley, dropping his plane. He hid between two buildings behind a dumpster.
“Where’d he go?” Andy questioned. Jimmy held his breath. Their laughs invaded his ears.
“We’ll get him tomorrow, we got his plane.” Big Tony scoffed, scooping the toy up from the ground. The team savored the victory for a second and then hurried out of the alley to torture someone else. Jimmy snuck out from behind the dumpster. He felt empty. His head dropped and he took a step towards home when an odd sound whispered in his ear. He turned towards the direction of the sound. It was a soft ticking, a bit faster than that of a clock. A ball rolled out from the shadows behind the dumpster. It tapped against his foot.
“Wowsers,” Jimmy sighed. The ball crooned as he picked it up, and continued to tick. The ball was marvelous. It was a bit small than a grapefruit and transparent. He could see there was a glow inside of the ball, but there were no moving parts that could possibly be making the ticking sound. He studied it, awe struck. He looked around, making sure that Big Tony and his lackeys were gone, and ran home.
Upon entering the house, the smell of marinara sauce and sautéed meat attacked and seduced his senses. His father was stirring the pasta on the stove, that decided to work today, and he greeted Jimmy with a smile.
“I was wondering when the birthday boy was going to return home. Go wash up for supper, it will be ready in a few minutes.” He told. Jimmy nodded, holding the ball behind his back, hoping to muffle the ticking sound. Jimmy hurried down the hallway and into his bedroom.
The ball was still tick-tick-tick-ticking away, almost mesmerizing him. He cleared off his stool and sat down. He placed the ball on the desk so he could take his shoes off. He bent down to unto the laces when he spun around, prepared to catch the ball. However, the ball did not move from its spot on the desk. It stayed sedentary. Jimmy cocked his head to the side, confused. He picked up a pencil and placed it next to the ball. The pencil sang as it rolled right off of the surface and crashed onto the floor. The ball simply sat there. Jimmy kicked off his shoes and studied the ball closely.
“What are you? What’s that ticking sound? I hear ya tickin’, but you ain’t got no doodads or springs or nothin’ in ya to make them tickin’ sounds.” Jimmy interrogated. The ball replied with more ticking. Jimmy scooped it up and began to toss it up into the air. At first the ball only went up a few inches, for he was not putting much strength behind his toss. Then, the ball began to fly higher up into the air…on its own. With each toss, the ball approached the ceiling more and more until it finally kissed it and stuck there. The ball was fused to the top of the room. “Aw, shoot,” Jimmy cursed.
He got up onto his stool, onto his tippy toes and attempted to yank the ball down. He was too small to reach. Even when he jumped to smack the ball, his fingertips barely brushed against it. Jimmy sat down and hung his head. He opened up his hands and looked down at his palms.
“I’m too small,” Jimmy muttered. Suddenly, the ball dropped down and landed into his open hands, tick-tick-ticking away.
“Jimmy, time for supper!” Mr. Grimes called.
“Coming!” Jimmy hollered back. He put the ball back on the desk and went to the door. He looked back over his shoulder at his new friend. The ball dismissed him with a tick-tick-tick and Jimmy went to dinner.
“So, how was the day?” his father asked, serving Jimmy a meatball. For an instant, Jimmy thought he had heard the meatball ticking, but the sound soon faded.
“It was spiffy! Well, the plane was really neat and I had lots of adventures but then I ran into a bit of trouble on the way home.” Jimmy reported, poking at his food. His father put down his fork and knelt down in front of Jimmy. He examined his son’s face for any bruises or cuts.
“Are you hurt?” he questioned. Jimmy put his hand on his dad’s.
“I’m okay, but I lost the plane. I’m really sorry. These three really big kids took it from me and I was too small to fight them and mama always said fightin’ was bad anyways, and,”
“Jimmy, it’s okay. I’m just glad you’re not hurt, that’s all. Shame on those boys for picking on you because of your size, you know I always say,”
“You don’t have to be big to be powerful.” They stated at the same time. Mr. Grimes smiled at his boy and rustled his hair. Dinner resumed and finished without incident. Jimmy thanked his father and retired to bed. Jimmy was lulled to sleep by the tick-tick-ticking of the mysterious ball.
The next day, Jimmy took the ball out to a lot behind an abandoned warehouse and played wall ball. He tossed it towards the brick and the ball bounced back. He had a steady rhythm going, but the tick-tick-ticking sound began to speed up. When the ball came back to Jimmy, it nearly went through his palm. The ball proceeded to throw itself, using Jimmy’s arm as a catapult. Back and forth, back and forth the ball went from Jimmy to the wall when boom! The ball knocked Jimmy back onto his behind. Jimmy giggled and gathered himself, taking a few deep breaths.
“We could use you in the majors!” Jimmy commented, rubbing his hand. The ticking had resumed to its normal pace.
“Whatcha got there, pipsqueak?” a husky voice inquired from behind. Jimmy jumped from the ground and attempted to run but he was grabbed by a large pair of hands. He looked up and Andy was holding him prisoner. Big Tony ripped the ball from Jimmy’s hands, the ball stopped glowing and the tick-ticking sound became slow and distant.
“Give it back. Please!” Jimmy demanded. Big Tony cackled and tossed the ball in the air a bit.
“Take it from me, spazz.” Big Tony challenged. Andy pushed Jimmy forward. He was a David among Goliaths. He reached for the ball and Tony shoved him away.
“Let me see it.” Andy requested. Tony threw him the ball; it soared over Jimmy’s head. He jumped up to grab it but failed. Andy caught the ball and chuckled. He chucked it to Sal. The three of them volleyed it between each other, always keeping it out of Jimmy’s reach. Jimmy bumped into Tony. Tony pushed him.
“Little pipsqueak, can’t do nothing about anything.” Tony mocked, teasing Jimmy with the ball in his face. Jimmy pushed Tony back, much to everyone’s, even his own, surprise. Tony’s face grew hot with anger and he grabbed Jimmy. Tony gripped Jimmy’s collar and brought his hand holding the ball back, preparing to slam it into Jimmy’s face.
“You want your ball back so bad?” Tony threatened; he was interrupted by the ball beginning to tick-tick-tick faster and louder. Tony released Jimmy. The ball glowed with a malicious crimson shine. “This blasted thing’s busted,”
“I don’t think it’s bust-“ Andy added but was interrupted when the ball exploded into a bright white light. Jimmy shielded his face and everything spun, the ticking ceased.
When the light faded, Jimmy relaxed and opened his eyes. He looked around. Big Tony, Andy and Sal were gone. Jimmy saw the ball at his feet, it was tick-tick-ticking away and glowing happily as if nothing had happened. Jimmy bent down and picked it up.
“You make one heck of a birthday present,” he revered.