Joey and Willie were the best of best friends. Whatever Joey did, Willie did. Usually they played hide-and-seek, but Joey wanted to use his new Whiffle ball and bat. Joey ran outside wearing his plastic Roman soldier’s helmet – he didn’t have a baseball helmet – and two thick lines of his mom’s black Halloween lipstick under his eyes.
“Willie, let’s play.” Joey raised his arms displaying his bat and ball. He took off his helmet and tossed it and the bat by the bush – which was home – and walked to the “mound.”
“You may want to put that on in case I come high and hard.” Joey winked. He held the ball at his waist before a high kick wind-up like Steve Carlton, only right-handed. He hurled the ball over the plate. Joey jerked his head up toward the sky and turned looking over his neighbor’s house. He then hung his head.
Emma scoured the bank of the Ohio River to find the flattest, roundest
rock. She grabbed a dark gray half-dollar-sized one, right where the water
met the shore.
“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy! I found a perfect one.”
Johnny couldn’t sleep after the first time Mary woke him up with a hand to the face.
He watched her flip from one side to the other, muttering mostly nonsensical words, but he could make out the occasional, “No” and “Mom and Dad.” Then the scream happened right before she opened her eyes. He knew the nightmare. He knew she dreamt of the night were her parents, and his parents, died a year ago on a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Or the two double funerals they had to plan and Johnny stroked Mary’s sweat-soaked hair, unsuccessfully smoothing out the wild strands. “You need to talk to someone, babe.”
Mary rolled her back to Johnny, who started to stroke her arm. “I can’t. It’s—it’s too—” She trailed off, but Johnny knew the next word.
“Painful, I know. But my nightmares aren’t as bad once I started to talk with Father Tim. It’s really helped. I can actually sleep at night.”