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  • Will they play baseball?

    Will Caliban finally settle his feud with Prospiro?

    Mom! Where is my hat?

    He turned his head from the tall sterile glass panes and checked his watch. Shit, I’m gonna be late. He tore down the carpeted staircase and into the bleached, stale kitchen.

    Slow down.

    Mother I’m going to be late for school.

    Slow down.

    Aw screw the hat.

    He dodged the next slurry of mandates from his mother and pushed through the hollow, aluminum door into the garage. The boy jammed his thumb into the beige button and the garage door slid upwards, letting in powerful morning rays. Chemical smells in the garage were sucked out by the sticky morning heat. As he pushed the pedal down he saw his mother’s crazed body fly into the garage, her bloodshot eyes lighting up as the hot sun blasted her face. He pushed it harder.

    That same morning the so-called Caliban and Prospiro were let out amongst the other prisoners into the large central field at Stallinlife prison. Crisped brown grass crunched under the prisoner’s boots as they separated, like elementary schoolers, to their particular sides of the field. A few had on baseball gloves. His silver Ford Taurus slipped silently by the double layer chain link fence casting a long shadow into the prison yard.

    For the last six months, after he and his mother had moved into the new house he had been watching the prisoners. His father was gone, killed in a car crash seven months ago. It was just him and his mother and the prisoners and his books. All of them had names he had given them. They tended to be named after the characters in the books he was reading, books that his mother was going to sell after his father died. While packing up the old house he had discovered boxes of books in his father’s closet. Most from college he thought. She would have sold them like his cars.

    After each long day of school, the boy worked underneath cars. The auto shop around the corner from the prison allowed him to blow off steam from school. Every week day he would set his books down in the small back room and change into the oil soaked, paper thin blue jumpsuit. The cloth felt good on his skin. He was clearly not the first to have worn it. Engines were simple to him, and the guys who worked there treated him with respect. His father had taught him engines. They were oiled and logical. Down in the pits on hot afternoons his skin would absorb the dark vapors in the air. Tendrils of misshapen reality were all he could see of the floor as the hot vapors rose. The clack, clack, clack of an ancient iron ratchet would give way to a seep and then a steady flow of the car’s life blood. Long thick strands would drain down into the crusted black oil pan. Sometimes he would reach a gloved finger out and watch the black fluid cleave, leaving two equal strands.

    His mother hated how he smelled, just as she had hated his father’s love for cars.
    It was that obsession that killed your father.

    Do you hear me? Are you listening?

    Hi mom. Yeah. I know.

    The door slams shut. Doors seemed to work well against his mother. If the door was shut, he was in a different world to her. Safe. Grabbing a coke on the way up to his room after work was a ritual. He knew he couldn’t just ignore his mother, but he wanted to spend as little time as possible near her. A coke, a reason to enter the kitchen
    other than just to talk to her.

    How was school?

    Fine. I have lots of homework.

    And then he was up the stairs in four long bounds.

    The only thing he liked about his new house was the long windows in his room. When it was raining, he felt like the storm was going to come tearing through, and when the sun was shining, it was almost as if there was no wall there. He could feel it baking everything. The windows were massive. His desk was on the side of the room, but against situated so he could turn his head to the right and look outside, out onto the parade ground where characters mingled.

    It was hot when they buried his father. Movies and books had convinced him that it would be raining, but the sun was hotter than ever. As the priest read the words, salty sweat mixed with the strong starch under his armpits. Caramelizing. Someone had brought him sunglasses. His mother probably, but they rested on his head. He didn’t want to be able to see the world that day. The boy let the overbearing light fill up the bright green rings around his pupils. He was blinded during the whole procession, remembering one of the first times he had watched his father in the garage. The man had lifted up the hood with his hands. Squared off fingertips.
    The cylinders fire up and down to power the car.

    Want to touch one?

    Will they hurt me?

    No. The engine is off.

    I’m not sure if I want to yet.

    Alright. Tell me when you want to.

    Sorry.

    It’s ok.

    The boy still remembers the strong hand on his back, leaving smudges his mother would clean off.

    The afternoon session was longer. From five to seven o’ clock the prisoners were allowed free time on the field. Most of the time, in the afternoon, they played baseball. The boy knew all the teams. The individual prisoners were his favorite characters from books and movies, but the teams were cars. Team mustang, camaro, corvette, galaxy, cutlass were some; they were his favorites because he could remember them in his father’s garage. He didn’t play, but he knew baseball. Team corvette was winning this season he was pretty sure. Corvette had Prospiro, and Caliban was on team Cutlass. Cutlass was in second place. He liked to think of the caged in field as an island. It was not as though these prisoners could leave if they had wanted to. There was an ocean all around them.

    The second month they were in the house there was a large fight. Prospiro, who was a tall dark chocolate colored man with slick shiny hair, had started it. He had been driving home from work when he first saw the fray and had sped up, skipped the kitchen, and went straight to his window to watch. The only reason he thought Prospiro started it was because he didn’t see the black man again for two weeks. At the end of the fight, which only lasted about ten minutes, Caliban had to be taken away on a stretcher. The boy saw the blood dripping through the thin cotton holding Caliban up. The boy thought about the tiny room where Prospiro probably sat. He had read about prisons. He had a vision of Prospiro in a tiny dark room listening to the drip, drip, drip of some ancient water leak coming through some ancient crack in the decaying concrete. The walls, when the door was opened, were beige. Shakespeare was one of the boy’s favorite playwrights. The island of the tempest, magical and awful, terrified and delighted him.

    He liked school. He liked finding the mathematical equations in stories that were utterly unsolvable. Like the black oil leaking out of the carefully welded metal. After moving, he had yet to make any close friends besides the mechanics at the shop. The boy liked the way the mechanics talked to each other. They were confident, and understood machines, but they had a good time. There was a man who reminded the boy of Caliban in the shop. He was short and Hispanic with wildly long hair that he left in a pony tail. The boy was fairly confident that the man never took his hair out of that pony tail. One day, he was having a soda in the alley behind the shop which faced a large fenced, but empty, plot of land. There was a sign up that it had been sold, but the boy wasn’t sure. The man who looked like Caliban, his name was Jose. Jose smoked cigarettes. They weren’t allowed to smoke anywhere near the cars, so Jose would come out to the alley. They stared off into the empty lot and listened to the whining sound of a pneumatic drill behind them. Jose would take a drag of his cigarette, and the boy would sip at the coke. Every so often Jose would conjure up his broken language: Spanish and English mix. He had named it spanglish. Sometimes, it was hard to understand.
    It’s damn hot out here.

    Caliente?

    No. Amigo. It’s calor. Caliente is for food, or women.

    Oh.

    The hum of the industrial strength fans, blowing the heat out of the shop behind them droned on. Jose had taught the boy a few words in Spanish, and he was taking it in school, but language didn’t fascinate him that much. He enjoyed Jose’s wordless company.

    Don’t ever smoke these things kid. I can’t barely breathe no more.

    Fumar?

    Yeah that’s it: smoke.

    Jose took a long draw, and the boy watched the end of the cigarette flare and shorten down to the dark brown filter. He took a sip of coke and leaned back onto the fence. Smoke fingers disappeared upwards.

    He was quiet during his classes. The school was small and private, he had told his mother that he didn’t mind going to a public school. She told him that private school would get him into college. She didn’t want him to become some “grease ball” mechanic. He didn’t much care for school, but he liked most of the things they were learning. In school, he would sit next to the window. In every class, he could watch the particles of dust appear and then wink out as they floated through the rays of light. He would watch and think about the field. By then, about five months in now, the teachers knew that he didn’t like to be called on. He would answer of course, but they knew the real intelligence that the boy had came in his assignments. His spoken words tended to get garbled and his cheeks would turn red. He would think about the empty lot and the cigarette smoke.

    The boy went off campus for lunch. Fast food drizzled down his chin. Hamburgers were his favorite food. The heavy smell of fried food was calming, so went out to lunch almost every day. On off days he would eat in the cafeteria and sit with the few friends he had made, but, after school, he went to the shop. The boy never invited friends over anymore. He never went out to parties. His mother had been worried at first, and she tried sending him to therapy. For two weeks he sat in the pale room and stared at the fishbowl on the therapist’s desk. They were sparkling goldfish, constantly running into the tiny confines of their glass prison. The boy wondered if they were blind.

    Do you think often of your father?

    Yes.

    What do you think about?

    Him.

    Something about him maybe?

    His cars.

    Ah yes, your mother told me he liked cars. Did you like the cars too?

    Yes.

    And she, your mother, she sold them after he died?

    Yes.

    Do you feel angry about that?

    The boy watched as one of the larger goldfish suddenly stopped swimming and turned belly-up, floating towards the surface.

    Your fish is dead I think.

    What?

    Your fish.

    He pointed at the glass. The therapist cursed and then apologized. The sessions went on for two weeks. At the end the therapist told his mother they had made some real progress and took the check that she wrote out for him.

    Prospiro came back after two weeks in solitary confinement. The boy was worried that Caliban might go straight for him, but they avoided each other on the field. The cutlasses were still behind in the baseball tournament, but they had put themselves in a good position to take the lead while Prospiro was gone. Caliban played catcher, and he was the team’s best batter. The prisoners didn’t count the balls that were hit over the fence however, because they couldn’t get them back. Home runs were the balls that hit the fence, but not the ones that went over. The boy would read, and watch, and read more Shakespeare. Late at night he would pull one of his large windows open and sneak down into the cool darkness. He collected those baseballs. Already, the boy had acquired two buckets from the shop filled with them. He kept them hidden in his closet next to his father’s books. The boy wanted to give them back, but was sure if he brought them to the guards, they would laugh and throw them away. He had seen it happen in the movies. The guards hated the prisoners because they had to keep track of the filthy cage that held them in. The boy thought about the goldfish. He hoped the prisoners wouldn’t go belly up.

    It finally happened though. It started raining that Saturday. The boy had woken up early to go to the shop. Sometimes he worked weekends if he had nothing else planned for him. The large dark drops came down on his windshield as he drove back to his house around noon. He could see a commotion in the distance, and as he drove along the fence, he spotted men. One of them was draped across the first line of the double layered chain link barrier. Through his drenched window, the boy saw what had happened. At first, the boy thought that Caliban had attempted to hit Prospiro with the bat, but then he noticed Caliban’s outstretched fingers were clinging to the tope rungs of the fence. The rain came on steadily now, washing the blood from the dull chain links. There were holes in his chest and shirt. He had tried to escape. The tall black silhouette, Prospiro, could be seen through the now thick rain, standing over the corpse as the guards rushed onto the field. Then the torrential rain came down. The last thing the boy saw, during a sharp flash of lightning, were the guards trying to pull Prospiro off Caliban’s corpse. He was trying to lift it up. His eyes panned back to the road in front of him. Trembling, the air grew cold; the boy looked down and was astonished to see large wet blotches on the clean floor. He was crying. As the rain made the car disappear to the world, the boy wept hard and long. He cried into the night.

    The next morning the air was clean and wet from the cold downpour. The prisoners were let out for their normal morning exercise when one of them spotted two buckets filled with floating baseballs sitting defiantly on the other side of the fence where Caliban had so desperately tried to escape. The balls floated on top of the clear water.
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