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It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT… And Kelly was being made aware that it was.  He was trying to sleep in his own warm bed, in his own little room and sleep was being made impossible, as he could hear that outside in the fearful, darkness the wind blew so hard that it slammed against the window in his room and made it rattle.  Each sound set him to wondering what or who was trying to get into his house. He was frightened, so he hid under the bed covers, just in case it was one of those terrible night monsters that often scared him even when the wind was calm.

If he got up the nerve to look out of the night dark window, he was sure he could see some things moving about in the shadows… monsters maybe. He had seen pictures of them in books and on television. Kelly felt safer under the blanket where they would not see him.

Suddenly a loud bang of something hitting the wall made him peek out from under the quilt.  He saw nothing. But heard the bang again and again.

“Don’t come in.”  he called out trying to sound braver than he felt.  “I’m trying to sleep in here.”

In the twin bed across the room his sister, Rory, turned over without waking.  Poor girl, she didn’t understand what could be out there and slept without a care.

His mother came in quietly and asked him in her soothing, night voice, so as not to waken Rory, 

“Did you call me, Kelly?”

“No I was telling those night monsters to stay out.  They knocked on my wall to come in.”  Mother gave a soft laugh.

”That wasn’t anything but the Peach tree branch being blown by the wind into the wall.  It’s very windy and cold out there tonight.  This storm might even bring a little rain later, Jake dear.  So don’t worry if you hear that hit the window, too.”  She tucked his blanket around him and gave his forehead a kiss and explained, 

“Tomorrow, I’ll get your Dad to cut back the tree branches that are too close to our wall, if the weather permits.”  She glanced out the window and saw what Kelly had seen, the shadows of loose things being blown around in the wind.  A light plastic trash bag, filled with air and blew past and up like a fleeing ghost. With just a little imagination it would scare anyone. What a mess, the yard will need a lot of cleaning up after this strong storm.  She started to tell Jake that he should help his Father with that job tomorrow, but he was already fast asleep, so she tip-toed out.

The morning was bright and beautiful and it was Saturday, no school, so   Kelly woke early and got dressed to go to breakfast, but no one was in the kitchen, so he opened the back door and peeked out at the mess which last night’s storm had made.  The sun was not even all the way up, yet, but it was very bright just the same.  He saw no sign of those night monsters, so Kelly stepped out and looked at the familiar lawn and trees.  He noticed that the wind had carried some very strange stuff into his back yard.    

He saw a very pretty ball he had never seen before and walked down the steps to pick it up.  It was about the same size as a baseball.  He hefted it in his hand and then threw it up a few feet in the air.  As it flew it lit up with a bright glow which was gone when he caught it.  It was a baseball, but a very strange one.  He tossed it up several more times and it lit up with a soft glow every time it went up and landed in his hand looking perfectly normal.  He turned to take it in the house, when he heard a very tiny voice say,

“Hey! Leave my ball alone.  That’s MY ball!”  Kelly stopped and looked around but saw no one.  Hmmm, he thought.  I was sure someone spoke to me.  Still he stood alone on the steps and looked all around again to be certain.  

He noticed that the peach tree had two broken branches where it had been hitting the wall last night and under the tree there was something that from here looked almost like a baseball mitt.  Kelly walked over to it and found that it was battered and trash full of peach blossoms that the wind had taken from the tree above. 

He picked the mitt up and tossed the ball into it and watched the ball glow as it hit the glove.  

Kelly shook the mitt clean and tucked it under his arm to pick up what he thought was a broken branch of the tree and discovered that it was a little league size wooden baseball bat sticking out of the litter of dry leaves and sticks that now covered the whole back yard.

“Wow!”  He said out loud. “Dad is going to want me to help him clean this stuff up. I’ll bet.”  Then he thought, if I get started now.  It won’t cut into my week-end play time later.  

He went to the garage carrying the bat, ball and mitt with him.  They looked and felt so different that he couldn’t wait to try them out on the baseball field this afternoon.  Then as he entered the garage side door he heard a distant voice say,

“Hey you!  Leave my baseball stuff out here, so I can get it back.”

“Where are you?”  Kelly whirled around and said back to the voice.  “I can’t see you.”

“Of course not!”   It said, “It’s much too bright in the day.”

“Where are you?  I’ll ask you again.”  

“I’m sitting here in the dark shadow of the Peach tree.  I’m not allowed to be out in the light.  I just had to come to get my stuff that blew away in the storm.”    Kelly looked and looked but still saw no one.  He cautiously went to the tree peered back where there was some shade, then walked around under it and even looked up into the branches.  He still saw no one.  I must be getting balmy, Kelly decided and he went to set the baseball, bat and mitt inside the kitchen door and go back to the garage to get the rake to begin.

As soon as he had the debris from the storm piled up next to the garage as he knew his Dad would want it, he put the rake inside of the tool side of the garage and went back to the kitchen, turning his head this way and that watching for anyone and listening for the voice again.  As he entered the house, he might have heard a faint, “Hey!”  but shrugged it off as he muttered, “Very strange.”

“What did you say Kelly?”  Mother asked.  She was now in the kitchen making breakfast for the family.  “My but you got up early Jake.”  She told him.  “I saw you raking the yard.  Your Dad is going to be very pleased.”   She set a small glass of Orange juice down at his place.  He knew at once that it was just what he wanted and he downed it very quickly.  All of that yard work had given him an appetite and most of all he was thirsty.”

“More.”  He told his mother.

“More what?”  she answered,

“Orange juice.”  Kelly said loudly.

“And…”   Mother put her hands on her hips and stood waiting.  Suddenly Kelly knew what Mother was waiting for every time she stood like that.

“Orange juice, Please!”  he said a little softer.   Mother smiled and poured his glass full again.  

“That’s a good boy, Kelly.  And”  she added, “Your Dad will think so too, when he sees the yard.”

Kelly was happy that his Dad, Grant, was so pleased with the yard work that he offered to take him to the ball park to try out the equipment the wind had blown in.

“You know, Son,”  Grant said “Someone may be out looking for these things, they are too different to be just junk.  On our way to the field let’s put some little signs on the telephone poles to tell anyone who may be looking for them where to call and identify them.   We will certainly give them back to the real owner if he or she calls.  So they each printed a couple of signs with a black marker and wrote,  “Ball, Bat and Mitt found call, 949/5551”

“That should clue in anyone who is seriously looking for these three things.”  His Dad decided as he gathered them and some tape to attach them to… something. 

At the park Kelly and his Dad tossed the ball back and forth a couple of times.  Then Dad stopped and looked at the ball carefully.  “Hmmm, I was sure I saw this ball light a little in the air, but it must be the reflection of the sun or something because it doesn’t look like it opens or has batteries in it.  Every time Dad threw that ball, it went straight to the mitt Jake held, no matter where he held that mitt, up high or down low, the ball smacked right into the center.   Kelly began to think that was odd.  He even tried to miss the ball on purpose, but he could not.

When his Dad noticed Kelly’s strange antics, he called across the field, 

‘What are you doing, Kelly?”

“I’m Just trying different ways to catch.”  Kelly felt too silly saying, I’m trying to see if I can miss the ball, but can seem to do that.

“Well the different ways may look funny, but they are certainly working.  You haven’t dropped it yet.”

“So I noticed.”  Kelly mumbled, as he thought, it’s not me, it’s the ball.   Then he decided that it could be the Mitt.  He set the mitt on the grass and put out his bare hands to catch the next throw.  Seeing this, his Dad tossed a softer one to his son.  So of course,  Jake caught the slow ball easily and proved nothing. 

Just then Kelly saw his father pick up the new found bat and call for Kelly to pitch him one.  As Kelly still had the ball, he moved a little closer and threw the ball as hard as he could.  It flew right at Dad and then just as his Dad swung the bat he saw the ball slip around it and go sailing further down field behind him.

“My goodness!”  Grant shouted, “Guess I’m more out of shape than I thought.  Well, I had better find time to go to the gym and do some working out.“ His Dad said, as he moved closer to Kelly and upon arrival handed the bat to over to him.  “I’ll give you a few more pitches for some batting practice and then we better head on home.”

Kelly took the bat and looked it over carefully wondering what this bat had to offer. Something, he was sure after his experiences with the two other things.  He could see plainly that his Dad had not missed the ball, the bat had avoided it and he was wondering if that was what was in store for him.

The bat looked simple enough.  It was some kind of wood alright.  He just could not identify it.“What kind of wood is this thing made of Dad do you know?”

“ I was guessing, birch.  But I’m not sure.  It seems very light for birch.  We should have brought your old birch bat along, just to see if it is heavier.  I would imagine that you would find a slightly heavier bat would work best for you.”

“Our Little League School Team uses an aluminum bat which is pretty light though.  I don’t know why coach went to those, but they’re alright after you get used to the dull ping they make against the ball.  Especially after we were so used to the loud, satisfying, smack of the old wooden ones.”  

“I think they last longer and won’t break like the wooden ones.”  Dad replied as he slowly backed into pitching position.  “ I’ll try to pitch right to you so you can get accustomed to that light wood bat.  Don’t go at it too hard though, It would be a shame to break it for the real owner… if he shows up.”

Grant pitched a careful, slow-ball. But the darn thing gathered speed as it flew at Kelly and just before he could swing, the bat took off and swung hard like nothing he had ever felt before… right at the ball.  It went sailing over his Dad’s head and almost clear to 

the street.

His Father swung around to follow the ball and saw the sun reflecting off of it as the glowing ball landed in the grass nearly to the car parked at the curb.

He was cross with his son as he walked after the ball. Kelly went running after him carrying the bat and mitt.  

“I thought I asked you to be careful with this light bat.”  He took it and looked it over.  “I guess you didn’t hurt it any.”  They tossed everything back in the car and headed for home.  So much for batting practice. 

“ I’m Sorry, Dad, I was trying to, but the bat…”

“The bat does not belong to you. Kelly we should take care of it for the owner.”

At home Grant put everything on a shelf in the garage.

“We’ll leave them there for two weeks and give the owner that long to claim them.  After that we’ll see.”   Kelly couldn’t help wanting them but then, in a way, he didn’t,  as they were so…  strong minded… he stood amazed that there even was such a thing. 

These three pieces of baseball equipment were all very strange, odd, things, with wills of their own.  Nothing at all that he had was anything like that.  All of his things were just his same old stuff without wills or directions of their own making.  Who had created them and how?  He was only nine years old, but he walked away wondering.

It was a dark and calm night, but Kelly could not sleep.  He was trying to figure out what those three found things were all about.  Is there really something like magic?  He didn’t know, but he knew what his parents would say.

“Magic means tricks played on your eyes and mind by people who have practiced for years to use those tricks on you and make you believe the impossible.   They are just for show enjoyment.  People often like to be tricked, if they are kind or funny tricks.”

He looked toward his dark window.  He had been tricked into thinking he had heard a voice out there. And no one was there.  And now those game things were playing tricks.  Where were the people who played them?

A couple of soft taps on his window startled him. So he pulled his head under the quilt so they couldn’t trick him anymore.  They only grew louder.  The wind was not blowing the peach tree. It wore quiet, leaves he could almost see, plus the tree had been trimmed. 

More tap, tap, tap.

Okay so he would be brave and go see what was tapping his window.  

A small dark shadow was cast upon his window, but by what?  He tip-toed out of bed and across to the window feeling a little bit brave and a lot scared.  

The cold floor on his bare feet reminded him that he was actually doing this investigation, instead of hiding under his quilt.  

He still didn’t see what was tapping, so he opened the window and pressed his head against the screen to look both ways.  He didn’t see anything, well except those menacing dark waving shadows,  but he now did hear that same little voice.  It was not demanding like before, but pleading.

“May I please have my game things back now.  I need them.”

“I can’t see you.  Tell me who you are.”  Kelly listened carefully, somehow no longer afraid of the small, young sounding voice.  Kelly even told the voice, “My Father put them up until we get a call from the rightful owner.”

“I am the rightful owner, honest, the wind took them away from me and they soared high into the air and I had a very hard time finding where they landed, by then you had found them.”  He sound real even though he was not visible, soKelly tried a suggestion.

“If I go down and open the door you can come in and tell my Dad that, but he is kind of cranky when he first wakes up. Especially if he just went to sleep.  Maybe you had better come back in the morning for that and he can give them to you then.”

“I can’t.”  Said the almost whiny voice.  “I can only come out in the night.  I am one of the Shadow People.  We move around and have our fun at night when you are all asleep, or at least are in bed.  I’ve seen you at the window before, as my friends and I play in our yard.

“Do you mean MY yard?” Kelly asked.  

“Well, yes, It is yours all day, but at night it all belongs to us.  We like to play baseball.  But I have to have my “Can’t miss ball. And the “Brings the Ball in,  Mitt.” And that special bat that “Swings Just for Me.”

“I know” said Kelly, “It swung hard for me and got me in trouble with my Dad, but he missed and thought it was his fault… when it wasn’t.  How do they do that?”

The voice was silent.  

“Are you there?”  Kelly inquired. Cautiously, fearing this too was all a trick on his mind.

“I’m thinking.”  The voice whispered,  “I guess I don’t know the answer to that.  They just do and always did. And… I can’t play night-ball with the other Shadow Kids without them.  They have them, too and in the dark you need a ball that glows as it is flying, or you can’t see it.  When it stops it doesn’t glow, but if you hit your mitt with your bat the ball will glow on the ground, so you can find it, if it has rolled under a bush or something.”

“Well then just go into the garage and get them.  I can tell you that they are on the top shelf, next to the side door.”

“I can’t. We are not allowed to go inside of anything. We will disappear and not get out.  Not into your house or your garage or anyplace.  We live in the Shadows that you have often watched or maybe even have heard us having fun, playing among the dark places that the night creates.  The first morning light takes them all away and we must go in until the sun is totally gone again.”

“In where?” Kelly wondered out loud.  The Shadow boy began whining again and Kelly hated that, and now he knew why his mother, Evelyn, complained when he was doing it. 

“Where they take us… where we Shadows always go when the sun comes out, of course.  You sure are full of hard questions.”

“But… I can even have a shadow when the sun is bright.” Kelly argued,  “Why can’t you?”

“Oh those dumb things, pooh, they are just people shadows.  The poor things can only follow you around, stuck to you.  They aren’t real Shadows at all. If you go in the house or someplace without enough light, Poof! They just disappear.   We real Shadow People, all live our own lives and go where ever it is dark enough to almost be seen by you, but not quite.  I have heard that little children of the people, like you, are often afraid of us.  Is that true?”

“No, Not really.”  Kelly didn’t want this young shadow to think he was afraid of simple little Shadow People outside playing.   Well, maybe some very little kids are.” He confessed, to get himself out of telling a lie, which his parents always told him was a bad thing to do.

Then he got an idea.  “I’ll tell you what I will do.  I will come out and go into the garage and take your game things out for you, but before you go in, in the morning, you must leave them by the door of the garage for me to put them back before my Dad gets up, so I won’t be in trouble for taking them from where he wants them to be for just two weeks.  Okay? “

“Why don’t you just tell him that the owner came and got them?” the voice asked.

“In the middle of the night?  He would never believe that.  Besides, my way I can play with them in the day time, then I promise that I will leave them outside for you, before I go to bed, and you can play with them all night.  Fair enough?”The Shadow Boy’s voice was a lot happier this time as he agreed.“That sounds okay with me, as long as I get them all night.  That is the only time I can use them.”  So Kelly went into the garage and pulled a ladder over to the shelf with the three things that the shadow boy wanted.

Outside of the garage, he set them down next to the door and stood back trying to see what would happen next. Would he see them get taken? All around him Shadows played wordlessly. Shadows that he once thought were monsters coming after him.  

Kelly was distracted for a few moments by the night sky with its millions of stars.  He had seen them rarely, back before today when he used to be afraid of going out in the night. Scary things happened in the dark. Back when he was afraid to go in the dark places, inside or out.  

Rory would sit on the nook bench with her back to the window when it was coal black outside.  It didn’t bother her that she had no way of knowing what might attack her from behind.  Not Kelly, who thought, then, that he was smarter than that.  Now suddenly, as he looked up at the stars, they attracted him and he wanted to learn more about the Constellations as they made their regular travels across the night sky, while we on Earth went around the sun. Kelly wanted to understand when those Planets and Stars would be where he could see them.  He already knew the Planets were closer and part of his Star, the Sun.  He wished he knew much more.  His new friend the Shadow Boy probably learned all about the night sky.  But Shadow People could not even see the Sun, he said, or they would disappear forever.  Is that the same as dying?  He wondered.  At nine there were so many things to wonder about.

He was still standing look up when his Dad came out to see what he was doing outside in the middle of the night.

“I‘m looking up at the stars.”  He pointed up.  “Is that called Astronomy or Astrology?”

“Both.”  His Dad said, as he too looked up and therefore didn’t see the three baseball things at Kelly’s feet.  He put his arm around his son and said, “Come on back inside and I will show you how you can learn all about them on your computer.  Then we can go out at night, tomorrow, and see how much more interesting they are once you know their names.”  

They walked toward the house as Kelly looked back to see what would happen to the things he had left by the door.  They were already gone.  Kelly knew the big test would come, if he found them back there in the morning. 

His Dad followed through with the computer lesson on Astronomy.  Actually even though he had originally simply pulled that subject up to distract his Dad from noticing the baseball and the other stuff on the ground, he was very enthralled with that lesson and was happy that his Father had promised they would follow it up with an actually sky search for the most prominent ones that he now could name.  He almost recognized Orion from his memory of seeing it last night. The Constellation was so large and impressive.  He practiced naming the four corner stars, Betelgeuse,  sounds like a movie he saw, Rigel, Bellatrix, and Saiph.

Kelly wanted to impress his Father by knowing those four.  There were so many more, but he would go for those later.  He forgot the name of the brightest star but knew he could recognize it as close to Orion.  And the other big bright one, Aldebaran, where Orion’s sword was pointing to it,  in the next door constellation, of…. Oh well that was enough for today and he knew his Dad would remind him when the time came.

The first thing he did early the next morning was go out to the garage to rescue the baseball, bat, and mitt… if they were there. 

And there they were, pushed slightly under a nearby bush to be visible only to someone who was looking for them… like him.  He would leave them in that same place tonight before bedtime… or right after, whatever worked out.

Meanwhile he was determined to get some play time with these fantastic toys.  He carried them with him in a back pack.  The bat handle poked out a bit and he cleverly hung his hat on it.  

Up in the closest park field he found some kids with an incomplete number to play baseball, just doing some tossing and catching, pitching and batting, in that order.  Kelly watched awhile, itching to join in but not sure how.  These boys were at least eleven and twelve.  As a nine years old he might not be welcome.  

Then he got an idea.  He took out the “Can’t Miss Ball” and shot several hits with his “Works for Him Bat”, even thought it almost pulled him off of his feet doing its own thing.  One landed not far from theirs.   When his ball rolled into their game, one of the boys picked it up and pitched it to Kelly.  

Kelly swung, sending the Ball to the far fence, while keeping the appearance of swinging it himself.  All of the older boys watched it go, then one walked over, after retrieving Kelly’s Ball and handed it to him with an invitation to join in with them.

He was generous and let the other boys take a turn with his ball and bat, but for some reason, they did not understand, they were unable to hit that ball with that bat.  So they went back to their own familiar supplies, leaving Kelly to use his own.

They all admitted that this little kid was some great ball player and even invited him to come back anytime.  He left happy.  Everything had worked very well and he loved being the best for the first time in his life.