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  • On the last day of school, when the bus reached our stop, we escaped through the back door — the door the red-paint warning said we should use only in an emergency. In case the driver chased us, we ran — headlong, headstrong into June’s gathering haze.

    When we finally stopped running, the bus, the school, the words and numbers on calendars, the hands on clocks and a few natural laws had all vanished.

    After breakfast the next day, we began a Wiffle Ball game in a remote corner of the cemetery where there were no graves. The innings stretched to dusk. No one kept score. No one kept time. The game became time itself. Kids went home for dinner, others to camp, others on family vacations — but new players took their places. The game continued without interruption.

    A speedy kid chased a fly ball so deep into the outfield that he disappeared. We missed him, but we replaced him. When he reappeared, he made us jealous with tales of Fenway Park and tall ships in Boston Harbor. A next-door neighbor underwent rotator-cuff surgery after throwing one million consecutive strikes. A record. We’d witnessed it. Then the newest kid in the neighborhood, the frail-looking son of a computer programmer, walked onto the pitcher’s mound with two outs and the bases loaded. He threw a curveball that traced the infield clockwise, left the graveyard through the wrought-iron gate and returned from above on a direct line with the sun.

    I, the batter, couldn’t see the ball. But I could hear summer hissing in its plastic shell. I swung mightily, missing it by a mile, clobbering it farther than anyone ever had. I collapsed in defeat and then trotted a victory lap around the bases.

    One morning, we met not at the cemetery but at the bus stop. Dressed in new clothes, we eyed each other like strangers. Even the bus driver failed to recognize us as the punks who’d once escaped through the back door. We were different people — transformed by the trial of doing precious, precious little.

    Music: "10 A.M." by permission of the artist, Lucio Menegon, "Soundtrack Instrumentals (Music for Driving & Film, Vol. I) —
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