Let’s Play Ball, Cecil by Dan Crawley
A young boy entered the sunken ball court through the skinny entrance not far from the ancient pueblo ruins. The only other visitor in the miniature arena was a man wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt and orange pants as thin as pajama bottoms. A bright red bandana cinched around the man’s brow and his long braid of gray hair. And the boy noticed the man’s humongous feet strapped in humongous sandals. “Fair to middling day, my boy,” the man said and waved. After that he tipped backwards and did not stop. Copper dust lingered around the man’s body now sprawled out on the dirt. The boy laughed. The man’s thick fingers resting on his tie-dyed chest beckoned the boy to come closer. “That crazy rubber ball knocked me clear to last Tuesday,” the man said hoarsely, squinting at the sun directly overhead. The boy looked around and said, “What ball?” Then the man pointed over to an area of the low wall that encircled them, built with the same flat sandstone bricks as the nearby dwellings. The boy could see his dad and mom and sisters further up the hill snapping one picture after another near a crumbing structure, with the tiniest windows notched out of one of its still standing rock walls. “Finally, we got out, Cecil.” The man’s voice was somewhat revived. “‘Airstream’s not my home,’ you’d say. ‘Wait till we escape down the road and play out in the wide-open spaces,’ you’d say. Remember?” The man became even more fervent. “Here’s our chance, Cecil. Go kick the ball. Let’s play ball, Cecil.” At last the boy said, “My name’s not Cecil,” but would not give his real name. His mother warned him about this with strangers. The man gazed at the sun and had nothing more to say. But his thick fingers resting on his tie-dyed chest curled and straightened, curled and straightened. So the boy walked slowly along the low wall, scrutinizing the flat stones and dirt and small clumps of scrub. Finally he kicked hard at the ground, staining the front of his socks, and laughed again. “That ball sailed right over you,” the boy called out to the man lying supine on the ground. He ran and hopped over one humongous sandal and then cleared the other humongous sandal. The toes of the man as plump as small potatoes. He kicked at the dirt again. And as the dust settled, was there maybe a whisper of the faintest cough? The boy leaned way over, shading the man’s tanned face covered in sweat, which now held a fixed grin. The boy whispered that Cecil just got there. That Cecil was kicking the ball.
Dan Crawley’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals, including Wigleaf, Spelk, New World Writing, Jellyfish Review, CHEAP POP, and North American Review. He is a recipient of an Arizona Commission on the Arts creative writing fellowship. Along with teaching fiction workshops and literature courses, he is a reader for Little Patuxent Review. Find him at https://dancrawleywrites.