Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Preview of Sid Sanford Lives
Chapter Four: Photo Album


In honor of…well…me, I decided to share this selection from my novel Sid Sanford Lives! Enjoy it as I get a year closer to being ancient.


Jocelyn didn’t need to look at the calendar to know that summer had finally arrived. Gail Sanford’s living room had made the transition from spring in spectacular fashion. The mantle above the fireplace was alive with fresh purple flowers and sweet smelling baby’s breath. Several candles had lids off and were offering more summertime scents. All the windows were open, letting in a cool June breeze that wiped away the remnants of the cold New England winter and rainy spring.

There were new pictures on the wall. Gone were the pictures of farms covered in snowdrifts, children building snowmen in the front yard and a family of ducks walking through a rainstorm to get home. They had been replaced with boys playing baseball on summer legs and scenes of the beach on a busy weekend. The Sanford matriarch had also taken the heavy curtains down and replaced them with white lace ones that would let the sunshine fill the room during the day. Jocelyn didn’t know how or when the woman found the time or energy, but Gail never disappointed.

Jocelyn carefully put her steaming cup of hot chocolate down on the coffee table. She walked over to the Sid’s mother’s craft table. Her eyes took in the scrapbook that had been left open and all the other odds and ends that were scattered across the table. There was a basket of goodies ready to be delivered to someone on the far corner. Jocelyn knew that the Sanford boys wasted much of their breaths trying to get their mother to sell some of the crafts she made instead of giving them away. She always refused, saying that it would then be nothing but a job and not as much fun.

“Don’t touch anything over there,” Sid said walking into the living room. “She knows exactly where everything is. I borrowed a pair of scissors the other day and didn’t put them back and I think the back of my head is still red.”

Jocelyn laughed.

“Well, your mom told me I can do whatever I want because she likes me better than you smelly boys,” she said. She plopped down on the longer of the two couches and stretched out. “Besides, I helped tear down wallpaper and paint in here, so shut up.”

Sid put down his coffee cup with less care than Jocelyn did. She cringed as she watched the light brown liquid swish wildly in the cup, threatening to spill and stain the table. Sid put up his hands in surrender and did his best to get comfortable on the love seat.

“Hey, I was there too remember and I don’t get any privileges in here,” he said hanging his legs off the side of the seat. “I still feel the pain in my shoulder some days from tearing down that damn paper.”

Jocelyn rolled her eyes.

Gail had taken over the family living a couple of years before. She had bought new furniture for the first time in her life. She spent the better part of a summer picking out the perfect paint, removing wallpaper that had been stuck on the wall for over 20 years, trashing the old furniture and setting up her crafts and decorations exactly how she wanted them. She converted the extra bedroom into a television room so that the men in her life could watch baseball and movies while burping and farting to their hearts content. She had a room all to herself now; one she could disappear into for a while to escape the pressure of keeping four men on the right track everyday.

“So what do you want to do?” Jocelyn asked. He shrugged his shoulders.

Typical response.

“You wanted to go see a movie?” she offered.

“Nah.”

“You want to rent a movie?”

“Nah.”

“You want to play a board game?”

“Nah.”

“You want a hit in the head?” she asked balling up her fist and showing it to him.

“Sure,” Sid responded without moving a muscle.

Jocelyn gave him a playful jab to the head and then took a long sip from her hot chocolate. Her eyes scanned the room again. They lingered over all the old pictures Momma Sanford had on the shelves that surrounding the fireplace. Several generations of her family, as well as Sid’s father’s family, were represented. She liked the picture of Sid’s French uncles playing cards drunk. They all had sloppy smiles on their faces and all their cards were facing the wrong direction. There was a small picture of Sid’s Uncle Clifford in his Army uniform she liked too. The first time she saw it, she though it was a picture of Sid dressing up for Halloween. Sid was definitely the Frenchman of the household.

She liked the fact that the Sanfords were so proud of their history. Her mother kept albums, souvenirs, and mementos, but nothing like this. Her father wasn’t the emotional type, so he didn’t find much use for old pictures and knickknacks. Most of her aunts and uncles were still alive too; much of her history was still being written. Gail was the youngest of eleven children. Her history had branched out long before she came into the world and had limbs that were scattered across the country. It was a history that the matriarch treasured and preserved and kept on display no matter what season it was.

“You could be nice and show me your photo albums again,” Jocelyn said hopefully. “We could reminisce a little. I mean, we graduate high school tomorrow, when would there be a better time?”

Sid finished the last of his coffee and glared at her. She’d seen every picture and had heard every story twice over. He tried to make his face do all the talking and let her know she needed to come up with a new idea.

“Come on Sid, please?” she asked trying to look as cute as possible. “It’ll put you in the right frame of mind for your speech tomorrow.”

“How is me re-telling stories you could probably recite to me help put me in the right frame of mind?” Sid asked.

“I don’t know, it just will,” Jocelyn said making a move toward the shelf with the photo albums. She was not giving him a choice now. “We’re not going to decide to do anything anyway and I’d rather do this than sit and stare at each other all night.”

“Good point,” Sid said. Tomorrow everything in their lives was about to change. It was the perfect time to take a look back. He hated when she was right.

“What album do I get to torture you with first?”

“Your baby album,” she said carrying the dark brown book over and putting it in front of him on the coffee table. “I want to hear all the stories about what life was like before you met me.”

Sid smiled. There weren’t too many memories that he could recall without Jocelyn in them. All the stories about his early life had been passed down from his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. He wore them all close to his heart like badges of honor.

He opened the familiar brown binder. His ran his fingers over the fading stickers that were pressed to the back of the front cover. They explained that Sid had been eight pounds, two and a half pounds and was 20 inches long. They kept his date of birth, the name of the hospital, who his doctor had been and the date he was finally able to come home.

“You were so cute!” Jocelyn said giggling. She wrapped her arm around the inside of Sid’s and inched in closer. “Look at that hair!”

In the picture, Sid was wrapped securely in his blue blanket. His eyes were closed tight and his little hands were balled into fists. It looked as though he had a full head of hair and it had been perfectly combed and parted.

“My mother likes to tease me, saying I came out fully prepared to hit on all the nurses,” Sid said. “After crying my head off for two straight days, she didn’t have anything to worry about.”

“Your father must have been so proud,” Jocelyn said turning the page. “Tom must have been too, look how happy he was holding you.”

Sid chuckled and leaned back on the couch. Jocelyn feigned looking confused.

“What’s so funny?”

“Well, they both almost missed me being born,” Sid said returning his focus back to the picture of him and his older brother.

“Your mother must have been pissed.”

“Oh, she was,” Sid said. “But on the day I was born a blizzard hit; and it was a big one.

JANUARY—18 YEARS EARLIER


Kenneth Sanford paced the small living room one more time. He started biting the nail on his thumb. He took his glasses off and wiped them with the bottom of his shirt. He put them back on again and watched the basketball game on television for a few seconds. He started pacing again. Kenneth stroked his moustache as he stopped at a picture of his wife as a little girl. He smelled coffee.

“Please Kenny, sit down and have some of this before you put a rut in my living room floor,” a voice said quietly behind him. His wife’s mother Cecile Blanchette’s French accent was reassuring; so was the hand she put on his shoulder. He reached up and squeezed it, trying not to let the tears sneak out of his eyes.

“I was right next to her when Tom was born. I was holding her hand. I was helping her with her breathing. I knew she was scared and I was helping her,” he said staring at the picture. “If I’m not with her tonight, I’ll never forgive myself.”

He looked out the window. The snow was still falling rapidly and the wind was stronger now than it was when it was blowing the Sanford’s compact car all over the road on Kenneth’s way over here. He had gotten the call that Gail was going into labor at work and had eagerly left the store. He had walked into the biggest blizzard to hit Connecticut in 20 years. He knew Tom was safe and sound at his Mémère’s house and that the hospital wasn’t that far away. With the weather the way it was, he knew there was a possibility of getting stuck at his mother-in-law’s. He thought about how excited Tom had been last weekend helping his mother get his new brother’s room ready. Kenneth decided that if he was going to see his new son being born, then so was Tom.

“Daddy, am I going to see my little brother tonight?” a voice behind Kenneth asked. “I have his stuffed animal all ready for him.”

Kenneth turned to see Tom standing in the doorway. He had his coat on and the stuffed animal stored safely in a plastic bag. His winter hat was pulled down past his eyebrows and he had a very serious expression on his face.

“Of course you are,” Kenneth said. He bent down to hug his son. “Daddy is just waiting for Uncle Skip to come pick us up with his big truck. Daddy’s car can’t make it very far in this weather.”

“Is he coming soon?” Tom asked. His brown eyes widened, but the serious expression didn’t leave his face. It wouldn’t until he got answers or was on his way to the hospital.

I sure hope so, Kenneth thought.

“He’s on his way to save the day right now,” he said. “You can probably take your jacket off though. It’s warm in here and I don’t want you to get sick.”

Tom rolled his eyes and headed back down the hallway to his playroom. His head was down and the plastic bag was dragging on the floor.

Kenneth’s heart broke all over the place.

Less than an hour later, a truck thundered up the steep driveway. Its big headlights cut through the falling snow and illuminated the house. There was a heavy knock on the door moments later.

“I heard someone needed a lift,” Skip asked loudly.

“I do! I do!” Tom yelled running down the hallway. Cecile stopped him so she could put his jacket back on him. He impatiently let her and then hurried out the front door.

“Mom, the weather’s bad out there,” Kenneth said watching Cecile button her coat. “Skip can come back and get you when the weather clears up a little bit.”

“Kenny, I lived most of my life in upstate Maine and had eleven children,” she said calmly.
“When that thought was running through your head, did you really think I would listen to you?” She asked wrapping a warm scarf around her neck.

“No.”

“Good. Now get your coat on and make sure you button it all the way. It’s freezing out there.”

Kenneth nodded his head and did as he was told. He helped his mother-in-law up into the truck and hopped up himself. Skip put the truck in gear and they started out into the snowy night.

Hang on Gail, he thought. Your men are on their way.

Gail was as comfortable as she was going to get. A nurse fluffed a pillow every so often, but it was an exercise in futility. She was fed ice chips every so often as well. The doctor always had an encouraging word when he stopped in. He said it wouldn’t be too much longer. He kept saying that. Gail didn’t know what time it was, but she was sure hours kept going by. There were two things that weren’t happening: her baby boy being born and her husband next to her holding her hand. It was a toss up which Sanford male she was more annoyed at. For the moment, she was giving her baby a break on this one.

She winced as she felt another pain. She felt like everything below her neck was screaming out. Her blue eyes remained fixed on the door as the pain subsided momentarily. She wanted Kenneth to walk though the door so badly. She really didn’t want to do this without him. Gail was fairly certain that he had a good reason. The doctor had said something about a snowstorm. She decided to go easy on him when he got here. He’d smile and hold her hand until he didn’t have any feeling left in it. He’d be here soon enough. He’d have Tom with him too. He’d be here to see his family get a little bigger.

Yes, she thought. I promise myself I will go easy on him.

Gail thought she was hallucinating when he rushed past her door. She blinked expecting him to come back or for her to return to the real world. She wasn’t dreaming; she heard his voice somewhere down the hallway.

Where the hell is he? She thought. What the hell is he doing? Who the hell is he talking to over there?

“Kenny!” she yelled.

She heard footsteps on the hospital floor. Moments later, Kenneth was standing in the doorway. He looked tired and ragged, but he still had a twinkle in his brown eyes and an apologetic smile on his face.

“Where the hell have you been? Do you know how many hours I’ve been in labor? Did you get lost on the way here? Do you know I’ve been alone all this time? You better have a good reason for nearly missing the birth of your child! Speak, boy!” Gail yelled all in one breath.

Kenneth chuckled a little as he tossed his jacket on the chair in the corner. He walked over and kissed the top of his wife’s head.

“You wouldn’t believe the snowstorm that’s going on outside. Your brother-in-law rescued us from your mother’s house. I almost came right here, but I didn’t want Tom to miss it,” Kenneth said. He sat down next to the bed. He quickly grabbed her hand and held it tight. Gail looked like she was thinking over whether or not to forgive him. She decided to let him off the hook and gave him the best smile she could.

“O.K., that’s a good reason. How is Tom?”

“He’s excited. I would have been here a few minutes sooner, but I had to explain to him that his other grandparents were on their way. He was worried they were going to miss his little brother. I told him not to worry, that everyone that could be here would be here as soon as they could,” Kenneth answered.

“Good job.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Are you serious?” she asked taking in breaths. “Do I really need to answer that? Are you that much of a guy?”

Kenneth put his free hand up in surrender.

“Your doctor was in the hallway,” he told her. “He said he’d be in soon.”

Gail rolled her eyes. She was sure he was going to bring the same news. He’d tell her that her son was almost ready to join the world. She just wanted him to be here already. She was ready to hold him and stop him from crying. The pain didn’t matter anymore. The worse it got meant the sooner she’d have her son in her arms.

As if on cue, the doctor walked through the door. He was all smiles.

“How are you feeling?” he asked Gail.

Gail was about to let him have it, but Kenneth started talking before she did.

“I don’t know if you want to ask that Doc,” he said. “It’s a sore subject with her at the moment.”

The doctor laughed as he wheeled his stool between Gail’s legs. Gail doubled over in pain. The doctor peered over the bed sheet. He had good news this time.

“I think your little man is ready to come out Gail,” he said sending his nurses into a flurry of activity. “I think he might have been making sure his Daddy was here to see him, that’s all.”

Kenneth’s heart swelled with pride. His wife’s hand tightened up on his. The doctor commanded her to start pushing. Her grip got harder and harder each time she was coaxed into pushing. After 10 minutes, there was still no baby and a bruised hand.

“Honey, can we switch hands? You’re really doing a number on this one,” Kenneth said in between tries.

“Are you fucking kidding?” Gail asked breathlessly. “And no, we can’t.”

She started pushing again and she doubled her grip. Kenneth winced. She stopped again and took a deep breath.

“I’m serious darling,” he said. “My hand really hurts.”

“It’s not as bad as your head is going to hurt after this is over. Suck it up Kenneth!”

The doctor told her to start pushing again. Kenneth braced himself. His wife had moved her hand lower and was now starting to crush all of his fingers together.

“Gail!”

“Shut up Kenny!”

“You’re breaking my hand!”

“Shut up Kenny!”

“O.K.,” the doctor said as calmly as humanly possible. “I need you to give me one more big push!”

“Ahhhhhhh!” the two parents screamed together.

Tom swung his legs. Worry was still all over his face. It felt like he had been waiting forever. He had to wait months after his parents told him the news. He had to wait to find out whether he was getting a brother or sister. He had to wait to find out his name. Tom was tired of waiting. He wanted his little brother now!

His eyes looked down the hallway again.

His father was walking toward him fast. Tom stood straight up. He held on tight to the stuffed animal. His father was smiling. Tom smiled back.

“You want to come see your new baby brother?” Kenneth asked holding out his hand. “We named him Sid.”

Tom jumped up in the air and then took his father’s hands. They walked down the hallway together.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Preview of Sid Sanford Lives
Chapter One: Pastime
Conclusion



Sid watched as Jocelyn stood up. He saw her eyes go wide.

“We don’t bite,” Kenneth said, waving his hand. “You can come over!”

Jocelyn didn’t hesitate. She leapt the fence like it was nothing and ran over to where Sid was standing. Before she could say anything, Sam almost knocked her down trying to investigate the new blood. She laughed and instantly became Sam’s best friend when she let him lick her face.

“What’s your name?” Sid asked, not impressed. The girl wiped her wet face off with her hand and then extended it to Sid. He reluctantly shook it with a disgusted look on his face.

“My name is Jocelyn. I’m 10-years-old, I’m going into the fifth grade, I have a dog named Cisgo, and I like to play baseball more than anything in the world,” she said all in one breath.

“Well, I’m Sid Sanford and that’s my dad. Can you pitch?” Sid asked, retreating back to home plate.

“You bet I can!” Her brown eyes lit up as she caught the ball Sid threw toward her.

Sid brushed off the plate and tapped it with the bat. He pulled his hat down tight. There was no way he was going to let a girl get the best of him.

“Wait! Wait! I want to play!”

Hawk burst through the screen door and ran out into the yard. Sid groaned and rolled his eyes.

Now he wants to play.

“What’s up little guy?” Jocelyn asked, giving the youngest Sanford a high-five. Sid flung the bat up in frustration and walked over to the two of them.

“This is my brother Patrick, but everyone calls him Hawk. Hawk, this is Jocelyn. She’s a girl and she’s from next door.”

“Hi Josh-e-Lyn,” Hawk said, murdering the pronunciation of her name. She laughed and flicked the younger Sanford’s hat over his eyes.

“You can just call me Jochie,” she told him. “See, we both have nicknames because we’re cool.” Hawk smiled and repeated the name a few times, liking the way it sounded.

Sid was growing impatient. This had nothing to do with baseball.

“Can we play or what?”

“Relax, Sid,” Jocelyn said. “I’ll make you a deal. If you hit the ball farther, I won’t make fun of you anymore. But if I hit the ball farther, I can play baseball with you two anytime I want.”

Sid liked the sound of that. He was going to win easy. The two spit into the palms of their hands and shook on it.

“Can I pitch? Can I pitch?” Hawk asked.

“Yeah, I guess so. You can hit first Jochie.”

Hawk ran to retrieve his glove from the ground where he left it and Jocelyn retrieved the bat Sid had tossed. Her eyes were open wide and she looked relaxed at the plate. She blew a bubble. Hawk wound up, just like Tom had taught him, and heaved the ball toward the plate. With no effort at all, she took a step forward and launched the ball unto the roof of the porch.

“Wow! Nice hit, Jocelyn,” Kenneth said. He adjusted his glasses with one hand and flipped the burgers one last time with the spatula in his other. Even Sam had lifted his snout to see where the ball had landed.

It was Sid’s turn.

He had to wait a minute though. Gail had come all the way outside to tell her husband the rest of dinner was ready so she could figure out who this blonde girl was in her backyard with her boys.

“All right Sanford, the potato salad is done, so we’re waiting on you,” she said planting a kiss on her husband’s cheek. The blue eyes she had passed down to her sons made contact with his brown ones. He winked at her. Sam bounded up from his spot miffed someone besides him was getting attention from his master. Gail waved to the boys and then went inside with the black lab close behind.

“Hurry up guys, the burgers are done,” Kenneth said, giving them. “Jocelyn, you’re more than welcome to join us if you’re hungry.” He plopped the burgers on a plate and made his way in.
Hawk forgot about what he was supposed to be doing and raced inside after his father. If there was something Hawk loved more than baseball, it was food.

Jocelyn stood on the mound and waited for Sid to get ready again.

“Hurry up Sid, those burgers smelled out of this world!” She said, feeling her stomach rumble in agreement.

Sid took his time though. This was serious business. Besides, he knew he could hit the ball farther than Jocelyn. This was his park and no one, especially not a girl, beat Sid in his own backyard.

He got into his stance and focused all his attention on the ball. Jocelyn reared back and threw. Sid’s eyes lit up and he rifled the bat through the strike zone. He made contact, but knew right away he was in trouble. Sure enough, the ball dribbled a few feet in front of him. Sid wanted to crawl into a hole somewhere. Jocelyn didn’t laugh, but instead ran over and threw her arm around his shoulders.

“Don’t worry Sid, you can beat me the next time we play. Let’s go eat!” she said, flicking his hat over his eyes.

He felt better.

Jocelyn stopped short before they walked into the porch.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“I just moved here and everything and I don’t really know anyone. I was wondering if you wanted to be my best friend. I know you probably have like a million best friends at school, but what do you say?” she asked, her brown eyes filling with hope.

“Sure,” he said shrugging his shoulders. Sid raised his hand to give her a high-five, but she pulled her hand away at the last minute and he fell forward. Jocelyn laughed as she raced into the house.

Sid didn’t follow her right away.

He had taken only a handful of swings that night and none of them had turned out the way he expected. Sid strode back to the plate with all the confidence in the world. All of his failures up to this point were forgotten. He was the man again. He owned the game again.

He dug in his back foot. He waved his bat toward the pitcher’s mound. He adjusted his cap one last time. He tossed the ball into the air. Sid took a breath and waited a heartbeat.

He swung.

Read Part 1. Read Part 2. Read Part 3. Read Part 4.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Preview of Sid Sanford Lives
Chapter One: Pastime
Part 4


Not a whole lot of words needed to introduce the latest preview. I originally planned to break this up into individual posts, but I just couldn't break up Sid and Jocelyn's beginning.

Enjoy!


There had been a storm the night before.

It was so hot that September that the midnight rain had barely been on the ground before being burned off by heat and humidity.

The 10-year-old boy had made sure that conditions were perfect for a game as soon as the family got back from Tom’s baseball games. He had raked the bare patches of earth that served as the pitcher’s mound and home plate. He had hosed off all of the white plastic bases and set them down with care along the well-worn base paths. He had opened up a brand new Wiffle ball and tucked it into his 6-year-old brother’s glove that sat waiting on the deck.

He did some major begging throughout the day to ensure his younger half would agree to play one last game before the summer weather disappeared for good. He had been forced to agree to do the dishes for a month, but at least he’d have his game. The thought of this game would get him through the winter. He had been jumping out of his skin all day just to get to this moment.

He strode to the plate with all the confidence in the world. He was shy and reserved in every other situation in his life, but never once while playing on this makeshift baseball field. He stepped into the batter’s box and went into his routine. He touched the top and the bottom of home plate with his bat and dug in his back foot. He gripped the thin club tightly in his hands. He extended his arms toward the pitcher’s mound, pointing the head of the bat directly at his brother. His electric cool blue eyes caught a glimpse of the faded “SS” he had branded the knob of the bat with permanent marker way back in April. He had hit more than 100 homeruns since, the most he’d ever had in one summer.

He took a deep breath and brought the bat to his shoulders. He made sure his hat was on perfectly straight before his counterpart delivered his pitch. He barely felt the weight of his aging Yankee pinstriped t-shirt. It had become more of a second skin rather than a piece of clothing. The same could be said for his grass stained jean shorts and white tube socks that had long ago been permanently stained brown.

He had complete ownership of everything he touched on this backyard diamond. He knew the situation. There were two men on base and two outs. The score was tied. He could feel sweat starting to dampen the back of his neck. He knew it was from the heat rather than any kind of nerves. He knew he was going to hit a homerun and wipe away that tie score. He saw the pitcher launch into his delivery. His blue eyes locked in at the small white target that was about to be hurled his way.

Sid Sanford was ready.

“Wait!” The younger Sanford yelled out at the last moment before he released the ball. “Time-out! I got to go to the bathroom, Sid!” The younger boy let the ball drop listlessly to the ground and raced into the house. The screen door creaked shut before Sid could say a word. He slammed his bat down hard.

I finally get Hawk to play a game with me and he finds a way to get back inside, he thought. He aggressively hit the dirt off his old sneakers.

Sid knew his brother was going to take forever, so he started playing his own game. He got back into his stance, tossed the ball up, and launched it into the humid air.

He slowly walked to retrieve the ball. The screen door swung open. Sid didn’t get his hopes up. Hawk was never that quick. His instincts were right; his older brother Tom popped into view. Sam greeted the new presence outside by thumping his long tail against the floor of the deck.

“Is Dad coming back out?” Sid asked. Tom nodded, placing the tray of cheese down next to the grill. “Where’s Hawk?”

“I think he said he was going to the bathroom, but he’s probably ditching you to play with his action figures.” Tom said matter-of-factly. “Just keep an eye on this, O.K.?”

Sid nodded. Moments later, he was alone again.

He hurried back to home plate. He wasted no time in throwing the ball up again and smacking it across the yard. This hit didn’t go nearly as far, but that didn’t bother Sid.

“I can hit the ball farther than you!” a voice called out.

Sid stopped short and looked around. The neighbors to the right of the Sanford’s house had a granddaughter in Sid’s class, but he knew it wasn’t her. The new neighbors to their left had been moving in all day, but their house was quiet right now and Sid hadn’t seen any kids running around earlier.

He picked up the ball and made eye contact with Sam who was panting happily away. Any other dog might have barked or at least hunted around a bit, but not Sam. He cocked his head to one side, but he didn’t really care. He was more interested in waiting for Sid’s father to come back.

Besides, it was no big deal because whomever the voice belonged to had gone back into hiding. Sid decided to hit a couple more. Hawk probably wasn’t coming back and he had time to kill before his father finished grilling up the hamburgers.

Sid leaned his weight back on his back leg, threw the ball in the air, took a step and transferred the weight to his front leg, and swung. The yellow bat cut through the sticky evening air, but missed hitting anything. The ball fell to the ground unharmed.

“Ha! You stink!” The voice was back and clearly enjoying Sid’s failure.

“Come on! Who is that?” Sid yelled out.

There was no response and the neighborhood appeared to be as still as it had moments ago.

Kenneth walked out of the porch and Sam sprang to life. He leapt up, nearly causing his master to trip.

“I was just hear you stupid dog,” he said, pushing the lab away lovingly. Kenneth managed to navigate his way over to the grill and checked the burgers on the burner. “What are you yelling about out here, partner?”

“Some girl keeps making fun of the way I swing,” Sid answered. “She keeps hiding though and I can’t find her.”

The elder Sanford adjusted his glasses and laughed. He closed the top of the grill and bent over to finally roughhouse with Sam. The dog had settled under the shade of the tree and had no intention of being roused. Kenneth gave up as usual and turned his attention back to his middle son. It didn’t take him long to realize Sid had missed something.

“You might want to open your eyes the next time you look around, bubble butt,” Kenneth said pointing to the red fence that separated the Sanford’s from their new neighbors.

* * *

Did I really just say all that?

It wasn’t the first time the tall, blond-haired girl hiding behind the fence had seen him.
She had seen him before she even set foot in her new school. He was the second boy waiting in the line of fifth graders eager to begin their last year of elementary school. She saw him again in the cafeteria at lunch sitting with a couple of friends. She was sitting alone, but she felt okay about it. She knew her outgoing personality wouldn’t leave her friendless for long. She didn’t give it much thought anyway because she couldn’t take her eyes off this boy. Which drove her crazy.

She wasn’t a girly girl by any means. She liked sports, rough housing, and speaking out against all the boys that thought she couldn’t play because she was a girl. All of her jeans were holey and grass stained. She was tough and liked it that way.

She knew she would have to be extra tough when her parents told her they were moving away from everything she knew in Pittsburgh to Connecticut. The construction company her father worked for was relocating and offered to pay for a handful of employees to relocate with them. Her father had taken one look at the deteriorating job market in the Steel City and knew accepting the offer was a no brainer.

Are the boys stupid there too?

Jocelyn, the boys here aren’t stupid.

Well, are they smelly?

Jocelyn, the boys here aren’t smelly either.

I’m going to beat them up anyway.

Please try to be nice honey.

Only if they are nice to me.

I’m sure they will be.

As long as they let me play baseball, we’ll get along.

It was his blue eyes she decided.


Those eyes had bored into hers that afternoon without even trying. It was only for a moment, but it was enough. She didn’t even think he meant to look at her. He just happened to glance over in her direction while scanning the rest of the busy lunch scene. But she felt her cheeks redden and her heartbeat speed up as their eyes locked for a fraction of a second. She didn’t know what this feeling was, but she didn’t like not being in control of it. She tried to talk to him ever since, but always chickened out. She never thought to take a good hard look at the two boys who were always playing outside in the backyard next to hers.

She really should have seen it coming.

It seemed every good moment in her life happened around a baseball game.

It started when she was very young and used to crawl into his father’s lap as he listened to his beloved Boston Red Sox on a transistor radio he had supped up. She never learned why he didn’t root for his hometown Pirates, but the Red Sox became her favorite team too. Sometimes he’d come home late, collapse on the couch, pull her close, and they’d listen to the Sox battle the New York Yankees with their eyes closed.

She also remembered how her mother had consoled her when the neighborhood boys refused to let her play stickball. After calming her down, her mother grabbed her by the shoulders and met her eye-to-eye.

You’re just as good as those boys.

You don’t stop practicing; you don’t let anyone tell you no; and you don’t back down ever.


When the boys finally relented, she beat their brains in. She remembered jumping on home plate after hitting another home run and catching her mother’s gaze from the family’s front lawn. She couldn’t think of a time when her mother smiled wider. Jocelyn had pumped her fist and let out a scream. The boys always let her play after that. And she always won.

Now what?

When she realized whom it was she was living next to, she nearly dropped a gallon of milk on the kitchen floor. He was racing around the bases, one step in front of his younger brother. Even from the window, she could see his blue eyes flashing in the fading fall sunlight. His smile widened as he crossed home plate. Before she knew it, she was crouched behind a bush next to the red fence separating the two yards.

Why am I hiding? I’m not scared of anything!

Jocelyn saw the boy’s father spot her. She didn’t have a whole lot of options now that wouldn’t end in complete embarrassment. She made sure her ponytail was securely tucked through the hole in the back of her Red Sox hat. She pulled the brim down just above her brown eyes. She put on her toughest face and stood up.

I hate that I fell in love with those eyes.

Read Part 1. Read Part 2. Read Part 3. Read Part 5.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Preview of Sid Sanford Lives
Chapter One: Pastime
Part 3

It was 4 a.m. My eyes were wide open. I had closed my laptop, but my mind was still working. I turned on my light and jotted a few more notes in my small green notebook.

I forced myself back to bed and plunged myself back into darkness. My eyes flicked open moments later. I just couldn’t shake him tonight.

The story of Sid Sanford demanded to be written.

I’m not one to argue with my muse. When she calls, I answer because she might never come back again. That was the main reason I talked myself into accepting a cup of coffee from my roommate the first night in our new apartment. And also why I thought it was a good idea to have a second cup.

Did I crash midway through the next day? Of course I did. Did I try to put ancient content into my job’s daily newsletter? You bet I did. Would I do it again? I just finished a cup of coffee and it’s approaching the witching hour.

I’ll be able to sleep again someday. I just know that this is an important moment in the evolution of Sid and the writer who is painstakingly trying to bring him to life, so I plan on running through walls until I get the job done.

So enjoy the next installment of the preview of the opening chapter in Sid Sanford Lives. I plan on releasing the next installments Friday and Saturday so stayed tuned.


Dirt from the pitcher’s mound was still falling off the teenager’s baseball cleats.
His mother had yelled at him to take them off before he ran across her clean kitchen floor, but he hadn’t listened. He didn’t have time to waste. The doubleheader had taken up the morning and afternoon, and he had an hour of school reading to do and an hour of personal reading to finish before the night was over.

He yawned and adjusted his glasses. He tossed his purple hat with the yellow “J” on it to the other side of the room and rubbed his shaved head. He brought his legs down from where he had them propped up on his desk and stretched them. He finally undid the laces of his cleats and let those fall to the floor. He wiggled his toes as they became free.

He stretched out his arms over his head as he pulled off the purple shirt with “Jays” written in yellow script across the chest. He threw that next to his hat. He pried off his long white socks and thin yellow stirrups and pitched those into his growing pile of soiled baseball stuff. He decided to keep his baseball pants on. He had pitched a great game and wanted to keep that feeling as close to him for as long as possible.

He quickly rearranged himself on his chair. His legs reached for his bed this time around. He found where we was in the text and started reading.

That’s when he heard the screams.

“You are out!

“No I’m not!”

“I tagged you with the ball!”

“No you didn’t!”

“Are you kidding me?!”

“No way José!”

“You cheat!”

“You cheat!”

My brothers.

Tom Sanford really did want to be out there with those two. He wished he could be as laid back and carefree as his younger siblings. But being the oldest brother came with responsibilities. He had to be the one to set the best example for them. He had to be the one to do all his chores without complaint, work as hard as he could to get good grades in school, and help out his parents as much as possible. Besides, he didn’t allow himself to play Wiffle ball. Throwing the light white ball and swinging the thin yellow bat could have a damaging effect on his actual baseball skills. Not to mention the way those two played the game, he’d be lucky to get a hit without one of them crying about it for hours.

Still, Tom knew that school had just started a couple of weeks ago, and it was only fall baseball, so it was silly to deprive himself of a couple of minutes of brotherly bonding even if he didn’t ask into the game. There were times he didn’t enjoy being the smartest kid in the class, and this was one of them. But he wanted to get as far ahead of the game as possible.

In his mind, he didn’t have much choice. Even if he hadn’t overheard his parent’s conversation, he would have been able to figure it out by reading their faces. Things were tight and the hard work his mother and father were putting in was taking its toll on them. And that was just to keep what they already had: food, shelter, and clothing. Paying for things like college or trips was a distant possibility that might as well be impossible. And Tom wanted nothing more than to go to college to continue learning and play baseball.

He was going to have to get there himself.

He didn’t mind that. He didn’t blame his parents for all the extra effort he was going to have to put into the classroom and on the baseball field to accomplish his goal. He liked that it was hard. He didn’t want anything handed to him like some of his classmates. There was nothing better in his mind than proving himself and making his own way in the world. That way, the responsibility of succeeding or failing was completely on his shoulders. His parents had done enough to give their three sons more than they ever had been given. He was the oldest, so it was his responsibility to give some of that good will back.

Smack!

He heard the Wiffle ball crash into his parent’s bedroom window that was right above his room. He again felt youth and ambivalence tugging him away from the English textbook in his lap. He shook off the feeling as quickly as it came and continued reading.

His eyes ran into a word he didn’t know. He groaned and looked around for his dictionary. He found it on his bookcase well out of reach. He bounded out of his chair. He pulled the well-worn book off the shelf. He found the word he was looking for in no time. He tossed the book on his bed so he wouldn’t have to get up again. He glanced up at the baseball figurines that he had displayed on the top of his bookcase. Don Mattingly and Daryl Strawberry were definitely out of place.

My brothers.

Tom did some quick rearranging. He nodded in satisfaction when he got them just the way he wanted them. He collapsed on his bed and pulled his textbook toward him. He was much more comfortable than he was before.

He heard his father shuffle into the kitchen. He heard his mother and father’s voices. He heard laughter and kisses.

Tom smiled.

There was a knock on his door.

His mother sighed when she opened it.

“You’re still in your baseball pants?” Gail asked.

He shrugged his shoulders.

“Well, at least get off your comforter I just washed will you?” She said walking over to him. She planted a kiss on his forehead. “Blah, salty!”

He chuckled.

“I need you to bring out the cheese for the burgers to your father in a couple of minutes,” She said as she started to walk out. “Plus, I think he could use another drink sooner than later.”

“Sure thing Momma,” He said marking his page and closing his book.

Gail stopped before she went back to getting the rest of dinner ready. She wrapped Tom in a big hug.

“I was proud of the way you pitched today. Your dad can’t wait to hear all about it.”

“Thanks Momma.”

“But I’m exhausted,” She said returning her focus to the kitchen. “It feels like I’m out there with you on every pitch!”

Tom smiled.

“While you’re out there, make sure those two don’t kill each other,” Gail added. “At least not before I have the chance to.”

He looked out his bedroom window and listened to the shouts.

My brothers.

Read Part 1. Read Part 2. Read Part 4.