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As Ryan struggled into his light coat, he quickly grabbed the light lunch his mother packed for him and ran out the door. Provisions were running low due to the war, but he was becoming accustomed to missing out on the simple things in life.
“Ryan,” his mother shouted before he got very far, “make sure you get to school on time. If you don’t, you’ll end up like your brother!”
“Yes, mom,” Ryan replied absentmindedly as he ran on. He thought about his brother, and how he could have had a job at home if he had a proper education. He felt a quick tinge of remorse.
Ryan’s father found a job at the pier in Halifax, so they had to sell their farm near Harrietsfield to move closer to his work. Ryan’s brother’s port of entry would be in Halifax. His family prefered to be close to Ryan’s brother on the day of his return. Ryan started off as a bit of an outcast, as he was a farm boy and the others were fishing kids. Luckily, he found a group of accepting friends who welcomed him into their clique. They were waiting for him as he ran up to the best place they could find to play baseball.
“Hurry up,” Taylor said. “My grandmother could have gotten here faster than you, and she’s dead!”
Breathing heavily, Ryan took off his coat. It was a surprisingly warm morning for December.
“The other team is batting first,” Jonathan said as he threw a glove to Ryan. He put it on, scrutinizing the worn-down piece of equipment. Jonathan continued, “Be careful with it. I can’t get any more.”
“Why not?” Ryan asked.
“My father’s toy factory now makes bullets, just like all of the rest of them pretty much. This war isn’t great at all!”
The teams took their positions. Jonathan insisted on pitching first, and the quiet, short kid who Ryan never talked to took second base. Taylor threatened to beat up Ryan if he took second base, so he took third. He didn’t know any of the kids on the opposing team, but there were four of them. They all looked average, especially compared to Jonathan, Taylor, and the other kid. Jonathan was unusually tall for his age and looked as if he hadn’t eaten a decent meal in a month. It was ironic because his family was more prosperous than any of the other children’s families. Taylor was a girl with short, dirty-blonde hair who looked and acted like a boy. The other kid was short, shy, and unimportant. He only ever talked to Jonathan and Taylor.
Jonathan’s long, skinny arms wound up for the pitch. He threw a relatively fast, underhand throw. The person batting had a few holes in his shirt, so Ryan thought of him as the Holy One. The Holy One swung hard and missed the ball.
“Strike one!” Jonathan said, trying to sound like an umpire. Another kid on the other team with a baseball cap retrieved the ball and tossed it back to Jonathan.
“You suck,” the kid with the hat said to the Holy One. Ryan nicknamed him the Mad Hatter.
Jonathan caught the ball and pitched it back to the Holy One, who swung hard. There was a loud crack sound as the ball came whizzing toward Ryan. He panicked and lifted his gloved hand in front of his face. A dull pain rippled up his arm as the ball fell to the ground. His heart was racing faster than the legs of the Holy One as he reached for the ball on the ground. Taylor was shouting for the ball, but the Holy One was just about to reach first base, so Ryan threw the ball to the quiet kid. By the time the ball rolled near first base, the Holy One was almost at second base. The quiet kid picked it up and threw it back to Ryan. He got ready to catch the ball and looked over to see a kid sprinting toward him. Instinctively, he stepped out of the way as the ball fell to the ground. The Holy One finally halted on third base, assuming that Ryan wasn’t nearly as bad at baseball as he truly was. Ryan picked up the ball and threw it to Jonathan, who was calmly beckoning for the pass. Taylor, on the other hand, was not very calm.
“What was that?” she screamed from second base. “I’ve never seen anything so pathetic in my entire life! I’m glad you chickened of missing school for all of those other games! For Pete’s sake!”
Ryan felt his cheeks going red. He just wanted to curl up into a ball and disappear forever. Despite his shame, he decided to stand tall. He was determined to somehow get better throughout the game, to prove to his new friends that he was acceptable.
“Even Tomas agrees! Isn’t Ryan the worst baseball player you’ve ever seen?” Taylor continued.
The quiet kid just looked at Ryan, then back at Taylor, and shrugged. Ryan took a mental note that his name was Tomas. He also took note that one of the people on the opposing team was laughing. Ryan called him the Clown because he was funny looking.
The second person to go up for batting was someone Ryan hadn’t come up with a name for yet.
“Let’s go, Nick!” the Holy One shouted. Jonathan pitched the pall, and Nick hit it smoothly into the air. It landed in some trees at the end of the field, and both Nick and the Holy One cheered as they ran home.
Ryan zoned out, thinking about what would happen if he were to hit a home run. He smiled as he imagined his surprised team members shouting in joy as he relished the victory.
The other team hadn’t gotten very far after their two-point home run. Ryan accidentally let the Clown on third base, but Taylor caught the Mad Hatter’s fly ball and got a double play after throwing the ball to Ryan, who miraculously caught it, getting the Clown out. The Holy One then proceeded to strike out, which got a good laugh out of his teammates.
Ryan’s team lined up to bat. Taylor was batting first, then Jonathan. Ryan was put at the back of the line, behind Tomas.
“You can’t hit the ball,” the Clown laughed. “You’re just a girl!” Everyone else just stared at him. The others sensed the tension. Ryan was confused by everyone’s reaction. He watched Taylor’s face redden as she gritted her teeth hard enough to crush a diamond. Once the Clown gained his composure, he pitched a bad throw. Taylor jumped out of the way, and Tomas ran to retrieve the ball.
“Strike one!” the Clown sneered, then giggled. He threw the ball again. This time, Taylor hit it. The ball headed right in the Clown’s direction and was a direct hit to the ribs. He fell to the ground but quickly got back up in time to throw the ball to third base, keeping Taylor stuck on second.
Jonathan was more clumsy and hit a ground ball to the left field. He only made it to first base but allowed Taylor to make it to third. Then it was Tomas’ turn to bat.
He picked up the bat and looked the pitcher directly in the eye. The bat made contact with the ball, and the loud “crack” resonated in Ryan’s ears. Nick was expecting a good hit, so he was waiting near the trees. He didn’t quite catch the ball, but he threw it home in enough time to stop Tomas from making a home run. Ryan picked up the bat, adrenaline returning to his stressed body. He was determined to hit the home run he promised himself.
“You’d better not let us down,” Taylor said, practically reading Ryan’s mind. After three quick pitches, Ryan struck out.
Taylor angrily picked up the bat. She made it to second base, but Jonathan hit a fly ball that was caught, leading to another double play.
The game was going faster than expected. Jonathan and Taylor were playing their best game on defence, getting people out more than ever before. The other team was taking advantage of Ryan’s terrible baseball skills and always hit the ball in his direction. That gave him a lot of practice; he started to improve. Tomas hit a home run every time, and Ryan either struck out, hit an easy-to-catch fly ball, or hit a ground ball and got out on first base.
The Clown didn’t mess with Taylor at all since the first inning, and Taylor was softening up toward Ryan as he slowly began to improve. He even caught a fly ball in the fourth inning, getting the Clown out. Taylor gave him a big hug, and Tomas gave him a compliment. It was the first time Ryan had ever heard him speak.
The score stayed tied most of the time, until the last inning. The other team was winning by three points. Taylor hit the ball straight at the Clown again, but he quickly lifted his hand, catching the ball perfectly. Jonathan held the bat shakily and sloppily hit a ball down to right field. He sprinted to second base, but Nick was faster. Jonathan also got out. Tomas even hit a foul ball! The whole team was shocked and almost lost hope. The second pitch was hit, restoring what was lost. It was a home run.
Then Ryan was up. He took a deep breath. The Clown pitched, and Ryan hit it. It rolled up to Nick on second base, but Ryan made it to first on time. He was internally leaping and screaming with excitement. Taylor proceeded to hit the ball directly over second base. Nick absent-mindedly threw the ball to first base and realized his mistake directly before the ball left his hand, causing the throw to be way off target. Ryan ran straight to second base, happier than he was when he made it to first base. Jonathan did even better, hitting the ball to the left side of the field behind second base. Ryan ran all the way home, his whole team, including Tomas, cheering him on as he ran harder than he had ever run before in his life. A tsunami of excitement and relief terrorized his insides as he strode over the makeshift home plate.
Taylor and Jonathan also ran, but were waiting eagerly on third and second base respectively as Tomas lined up for the next bat. Attempting to surprise the other team, he bunted the ball, letting it roll only a few meters until it came to a stop. The other team read him like a book. The Clown, who was pitching, picked up the ball and stood on home base, stopping Taylor from being able to run for it. It was all up to Ryan.
Ryan started to shake. The bases were loaded. There were two outs. The Clown pitched, and Ryan swung the hardest swing of the entire game. He missed. Because of his teammate’s preoccupation of being on bases, Ryan had to retrieve the ball himself. He passed it to the Clown, who snickered. He pitched again, this time faster than the last one. Ryan missed it again. Strike two. He retrieved the ball again and passed it to the Clown.
Ryan looked up at the sky. It was still relatively early in the morning; it couldn’t have been later than nine o’clock. Ryan thought about the whole day of school ahead of him. He cringed at the thought of lugging through the day with the burden of knowing that he caused his team to lose the last game of baseball before it started to snow.
“Dear God,” he prayed, “may you please help me succeed through this obstacle in my life?”
He quickly snapped back to concentration as the Clown wound up for the pitch. He watched in what felt like slow motion as the ball came speeding toward him. He swung wildly and felt the contact of bat-on-ball jolt through his arms as he heard a loud boom. The ball flew through the air as if the hand of God himself had picked the ball out of the sky and threw it as far as he could.
Not only did the ball fly through the air, but so did the children. It felt surreal to Ryan as he saw a bright flash, and felt his body being torn off the ground and launched forward. The next thing he remembered was hitting a tree like a ragdoll, and everything going blank.
In the back of his mind, Ryan saw his father as he watched the SS Mont Blanc burn catastrophically.
“Oh, God,” he plead, “let my wife and son survive this…” Ryan screamed internally, knowing the fate of the most important man in his life. His prayer was cut short by the biggest explosion made by man until that point in history. Ryan watched in sheer terror as his father and the other bystanders near him were vaporized. Nothing was left of them but pink mist and bone shards.
Later, Ryan awoke in the trees near the field. He had a throbbing headache, and he vomited because of his concussion. After a quick, painful search, he only found Jonathan and Taylor, spread out from each other. He helped them up and limped back to the town of Halifax. He was glad to be near people he cared about who had experienced the same trauma as him. They stumbled through a bush and emerged to see the rubble of their beloved city burn as their ears were filled with the screams of terror and agony.