Brainstormed With: Chelsea Gumbley
Written By: Robin Gagnon
Jake smirked when he saw Sara with her group of lame friends. They were a couple of years younger than him and his friend Luke, and they thought it would be fun to mess with them. After all, it got boring in a small town.
“What’s up, losers?” Jake taunted them, stealing the smaller one’s, Kevin’s, hat right off of his head. “What are you up to standing outside the cemetery?”
“Hey, give that back,” Kevin whined, flailing his hands, as he tried to reach his hat that Jake held above him. “We were just deciding where to play today.”
Getting bored of the hat, Jake threw it into the graveyard like a Frisbee. A cold, bitter wind blew it even farther into the field of sullen tombstones.
“Look’s like you’ll be playing in the graveyard today, kiddies,” Jake laughed, watching the fear on Kevin’s face. “Better go get your hat before it gets dark.”
Kevin looked at his two friends Sara and Trevor for help, but both of them looked back at him with the same amount of fear that he did. From behind, Jake and Luke began making chicken noises.
“That’s not very nice,” Sara finally spoke up, grabbing Kevin by the hand. “Come on, let’s go get your hat. It’ll be fine.”
They ventured into the cemetery to where Kevin’s hat had landed, with Luke and Jake making scary noises the entire way. Trevor had stayed behind, too scared to join them.
“Look out, I think I see a ghost!” Jake yelled out, making the two younger kids jump. “You guys better be careful, or demons will come out and get you.”
“Be quiet,” Sara demanded, finding Kevin’s hat and picking it up off the ground for him. “There, now we can go.”
The two of them pushed past the two older bullies and headed straight for the exit, but Jake was bored again.
“Oh, look,” he suddenly announced, picking up a baseball that had been with a memorial for a young boy’s grave. “I found myself a new ball.”
“Put that back,” Sara demanded. “It’s not yours and you shouldn’t take something from a grave.”
“What’s the matter?” Jake taunted the young girl, throwing her the ball. “Scared to touch a dead person’s baseball?”
Sara quickly threw it back and pleaded with him, “Please stop it and just put it back.”
“Oh, come on,” Jake laughed, turning to read the tombstone of the grave he had robbed. “I’m sure…Owen McPherson won’t mind.”
Giving up, Sara quickly walked out of the graveyard, with Kevin in hand, and rushed home, not wanting to have anything else to do with the two older boys.
“You’re not actually going to keep that, are you?” Luke finally asked him, as they walked home slowly. “It’s, like, bad juju or something.”
“Don’t tell me that you’re scared too,” Jake teased, repeatedly throwing the ball up in the air and catching it. “It’s just some dead kid’s baseball.”
Luke didn’t say anything and when they past by a black wooden home, they both looked to the porch to see a wild-eyed old woman with greying hair and a crooked nose.
“That crazy, old loon is as creepy as ever,” Jake muttered, making eye contact with the old woman, as she rocked back and forth in an old wooden chair that matched her house. “When do you think she’ll keel over?”
“Shh,” Luke hushed his friend, sending a worried glance in the lady’s direction. “She’ll hear you.”
Jake snorted, as the old radio next to the woman started playing an old timey tune in voices that weaved in and out the static.
“Take me out to the ball game. Take me out to the crowd…”
“Can we go now,” Luke pleaded with his friend, as Jake stared, unblinkingly, at the ancient radio. “This is getting really weird.”
“…If they don’t win it’s a shame. For it’s one–.”
Just like that, the radio cut out and Jake looked up to see the old woman staring at him with a wicked gleam in her eye. He quickly started walking again and, eventually, he headed home.
“Jake, where have you been?” his mother called from the kitchen, taking something out of the stove. “It’s time for dinner.”
Jake began heading up the stairs, “I’ll eat later.”
“Jake,” his dad’s voice boomed, as he set the table. “Get over here and eat right now.”
Jake sighed and with a roll of his eyes, went to sit down at the dining room table. His grandfather was there too, since his mother had decided to take care of her dad after he began to get sick.
“How was school?” Jake’s mom asked a little while later, as they sat and ate dinner together. “Learn anything interesting?”
“Not really,” Jake mumbled, not interested in the conversation. “Can I go eat in my room?”
“No,” his father immediately denied, as his mother got up to answer the phone that rang on the wall. “We eat as a family in this household, not in our rooms.”
“That’s how we used to do it,” Jake’s grandfather rambled. “My father would of had me over his knee if I made such a suggestion.”
“Uh-huh, okay, thanks,” Jake’s mother said over the phone, to whoever was on the other end, before hanging up. “Jake, that was Sara’s mom. She said you stole a baseball from a gravestone this afternoon.”
Jake cursed under his breath, before swearing that he’d get Sara back for tattling on him. In his pocket, the ball stuck out, clear as day.
“Seriously,Jake?” his father yelled, grabbing the ball out of his son’s jacket. “We’ve talked about stealing things. You can’t go around and do whatever you want and take what isn’t yours. There are consequences.”
“You wouldn’t have this problem if you had put him over your knee,” Jake’s grandfather nagged, before noticing the name written on the ball. “Hey, that’s Owen McPherson’s ball. Boy, you better put that back. That kid was bad news, but loved baseball. There used to be stories of him haunting the field after he died. Poor lad was hit in the head by a line drive. Never woke up.”
“Jake, go put that ball back right now,” his mother demanded. “It wasn’t yours to take.”
Jake sighed and headed upstairs after putting his dishes in the sink.
“I’ll do it later,” he muttered. “I have homework to do.”
Heading into his room, Jake tossed the ball onto his bed and pulled out a comic book to read. A wind began to howl and the tree outside his window began to scratch the worn glass like monsters trying to get inside. He got up and pulled the curtains over, unnerved by the sound.
As he stood there, his clock radio turned on. After a lot of tuning, it found a station and a familiar, timey tune began to play through the static.
“Take me out to the ball game. Take me out to the crowd…”
From his bed the ball fell to the ground and rolled to a stop at his foot.
“…If they don’t win it’s a shame. For it’s one, two–.”
All of a sudden, the radio cut out. Looking from the ball to the radio Jake felt his stomach swirl in unease, as an ice cold chill ran up and down his spine. He went over to the clock radio, yanked out the cord and picked up the ball, before storming down the stairs.
“The sun is going down,” his mother called out, meeting him at the front door. “Are you going to take the ball back now?”
Jake shoved on a pair of shoes, “Yes, I’m going. Jeez. Get off my back.”
“Don’t talk to your mother that way,” his father scolded him from the living room. “And make sure you put it back where you found it.”
“Ya, ya,” Jake muttered, heading outside. “Whatever.”
He walked for a while, retracing his steps all the way back to the graveyard. The sun had begun to set and the darkness had begun to creep in. A cold breeze made him pull the collar of his jacket over his neck, as goosebumps started to form on his arms. About half way there, he got angry and turned to throw the ball into the forest.
“Have your stupid ball,” he yelled out, trying to supress his ever-growing fear. “You big baby.”
He quickly headed back home and charged up the stairs, not even answering his mother when she called for him.
Later that night, he lay in bed. The sounds of the wind and the relentless scraping on his window tortured him awake. Furiously, he turned on his bedside lamp and yelled for everything to be quiet so he could sleep.
As if in response, his clock radio turned on and began to sing that annoying timely tune that he had grown to hate. This time the song played to the end with parts of it tuning in and out.
“Take me out to the ball game. Take me out to the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and crackerjack. I don’t care if I never get back. Let me root, root, root for the home team. If they don’t win it’s a shame. For it’s OnE, TwO, ThRee strikes. You’re OuT at the old, ballgame.”
With his heart racing out of his chest, Jake went to unplug the old clock radio, only to realize that it was still unplugged from earlier. The wind and the scratching at his window became much louder and he feared that this time something really was trying to get inside.
“I don’t have your stupid ball anymore,” he yelled, his eyes tearing up. “Leave me alone.”
For a moment, he swore he saw the shadowy figure of a boy on the other side of his curtains. A scream began to rise from deep inside his throat, but was lost as his window smashed to pieces.
The next morning, Sara woke up and went to school like any other day. She said goodbye to her parents and walked with her friend’s Trevor and Kevin to school. Just as they turned the corner and headed up the street, they saw more cops than they had ever seen before, lined up in front of a house.
“Hey,” Kevin piped up, his baseball cap turned backwards. “Isn’t that Jake’s house?”
Curious, they went and investigated, sneaking past the police tape to stand next to an officer that was writing something on a notepad.
“The kid was found bludgeoned to death in his room,” he was saying quietly to another cop. “They haven’t found a murder weapon yet.”
Jake’s mother wept uncontrollably into her husband’s arm, as he stood silently with no emotion on his face. Beside them was Jake’s grandfather, who was waving his hands frantically in the air.
“I told him to put that baseball back,” he yelled to no one in particular. “Old Owen’s back at it again.”
“Hey,” an officer called out, finally noticing the trio of kids. “You shouldn’t be here. Go to school.”
The three hurried away in silence, not sure what to say. They never liked Jake, but it was scary to think he had been murdered overnight.
When they past the cemetery, Sara paused and looked through the gates in thought.
“What are you doing?” Kevin asked nervously. “Let’s go.”
“One second,” she announced bravely, as her curiosity got the better of her. “I just want to check something.”
She hurried through into the graveyard and looked for one tombstone in particular. When she finally located Owen McPherson’s grave, she found a familiar-looking baseball that sat at the base. Peering to get a closer look, she couldn’t help but notice the blood stains in between the stitches.