The boy, armed with a bat and an old satchel of baseballs, was in a field adjacent to land owned by a chicken farmer. Most of the chickens ran free, but a coop near the fence that divided properties gave refuge to mothers and their chicks. The boy liked chickens but he did not let himself get distracted from the task at hand. When he found what he deemed to be the perfect spot, he tossed up a baseball and quickly swung past it as it hit the ground.
He tried again and made contact. Pride gave way to a sincere confidence. He kept going, hitting more imagined singles and home runs than he missed. He was into a good groove when he ran out of balls and had to walk to the other end of the field to start again. On the way, he thought about the kids in the neighborhood who wouldn’t let him play. He hoped that something would bring them to the field and they would see what a master he was of the bat. They would be amazed and beg him to join their pick-up games. His mouth moved as he silently recited a modest acceptance of their approval.
He found all but one of his balls and began again, hitting to the opposite direction. On his sixth ball up, the hit sent it too far left. Way too far left. It bounced off the chicken coop’s tin roof, and landed in front of the birds’ entrance. The plonk of impact startled the chickens and they clucked around in disorganized panic. The boy dropped his bat and walked almost half way to the fence, stopping short when he noticed the dent in the roof.
He looked around for any human witnesses. Seeing none, he crouched down on the spot. One arm hugged his knees as he pulled at blades of grass at his feet. He thought maybe the dent was already there and it wasn’t his fault. Maybe no one had heard the chickens squawk the blame on him.
They seemed to settle in with their new ball. For a minute he thought everything might be okay. He stood up. Well, why not? No one was hurt. A tin roof isn’t the same as a window. He wasn’t even sure he did anything wrong. He decided to just keep hitting balls. Maybe in a different direction, though. He nodded to himself encouragingly as he walked toward his bat. No big deal.
He heard footsteps on gravel, coming from somewhere behind him. He turned to see the farmer approaching the chicken coop, looking in the boy’s direction. The farmer casually raised a hand in greeting.
The boy bolted, leaving the bat and baseballs behind.