The Jacksons strike

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4

Vinny Pearson was batting.

Jacko Jackson was bowling.

It was a cool Wednesday evening and the kids were in a heated game of baseball. I was, as always, sitting quietly in the stands, rubbing my palms against my knees. I had already made my trousers wet with the sweat. I murmured- Come on Jacko, make it strike three.

The only person who was sweating more than me that cool evening, was Vinny Pearson who had already bagged two strikes from Jacko’s ball. I wondered- If Jacko took enough time throwing the ball, Vinny would drop the bat out of sheer sweat. I hoped he would.

Finally Jacko was ready. I knew, because his right leg got stuck to the ground and never shifted. He was in position. Jacko pulled back his bowling arm, and raised his left leg high to his shoulder, then bringing it down in a swing, thrust the arm forward, launching the ball forcefully out straight. I closed my eyes. I waited for the sound of wood hitting the ball. I waited. But no sound came.

Until finally I heard Jacko scream out in the air and I opened my eyes. Did we do it?

Jacko was leaping up and down frantically. I could hear in my head daddy’s voice when he would come to watch Jacko play at school- No boy! You have to be professional!

Vinny was sitting on the base, despondent like a broken lamp. Jacko was dancing, Vinny hung his head. We did it!

I ran down the stands onto the ground. I picked up the ball from behind Vinny and tossing it up in the air started jumping and dancing myself!

“We did it! We did it! We did it!”, I sang. Our side of the team joined us on the ground but they kept a little away from the lunatic show Jacko and I had revved up. Vinny’s side came out too. They had all known Vinny was done for.

The thing is, Jacko has never got a strike two and not made it a strike three. So it wasn’t really a surprise.

Jacko and I skipped back home just as it got dark. Once back in, Jacko went straight up to his room, suddenly stopping skipping. I never knew why he didn’t stay and tell mommy and daddy about his game. But anyway, I always did, so I guess it was alright.

I kept dancing and skipping right inside the door so when mommy came in to put the dishes on the table and almost ran into me, she snapped angrily, “Jenny Jackson, what in the world are you doing rampaging like that? Go do something and stop being a hurricane.”

I had heard that before. Stop being a hurricane. It was one of mommy’s favourite dialogues. She always called me a hurricane, no matter how I looking. When I got ready for school, mommy would throw her hand up and call me a hurricane, and then stuff my shirt in my skirt. I don’t know why she did that, my shirt was always exactly the way Jacko’s would be. Anyway, I liked being mummy’s hurricane.

So I went and sat on the stairs. I waited for daddy. Usually after Jacko and I came back from the park everyday, daddy came after ten minutes. Jacko and I would sit on the top of the stairs and wait for him to come and say his first few words. That’s how we knew if our tummy’s were full or we wanted dinner that day.

“That rascal!” usually meant we had had a lot of lunch.

“I’m home!!!” meant Jacko could take any notices from school down to daddy.

“What’s for dinner?” was the tricky one. These were the only words that didn’t tell whether daddy was coming from the pub or the base. So we had to wait for mommy to tell him, and then for him to speak.

Today was one of those days when I would sit at the bottom of the steps and wait. I looked up to see if Jacko was at the top. He wasn’t. He would get there.

And then daddy came home. He fumbled with the door knob, as he always did. Then finally, daddy opened it. I stood up. I thought I would tell daddy about Jacko’s game and quickly go away before daddy spoke any of his opening lines.

“Daddy I-”

Daddy swirled on his feet. I stopped speaking.

“Where are you, you dirty woman?” daddy cried out to no one in particular. He shifted weight from one foot to another and almost lost his balance.

Mommy had stopped working in the kitchen. She was being very quiet. It was strange. Daddy stopped moving too. He looked ta me.

“Hi daddy.” I said and waved.

“What are you doing here?” daddy said, squeezing his eyes shut and walking towards me. He kept one hand firmly on the wall. “Don’t you have to go to school?”

“I will, daddy. In the morning.” I said politely. Daddy asked funny questions sometimes.

“Of course. I know that. It’s night right now, of course. What?! Do you think I’m foolish?” Daddy came up close. He smelt.

I didn’t know what to say. Suddenly, my shirt pulled up. I looked behind me. Jacko was pulling me up the stairs.

“But Jacko, daddy’s talking to me…”

“Come on, Jenny. Now.” Jacko didn’t listen to me. He kept pulling at my shirt and it started to hurt. I got up to leave. He wasn’t giving me a choice.

“You’re going to take her away, huh? You think you’ll ignore me like this? Come on here, and I’ll show you. Come on-”

There was a thud. Jacko turned around. My shirt loosed so I turned too. Daddy was lying on the floor, his head and hand on the first stair. Daddy slept at funny places sometimes. Jacko took me away. I heard mommy close some boxes. She must have returned to work.

5

Later in the night, I went out of Jacko’s room. He was doing homework. He didn’t see me leave.

I went down the stairs, and peeped inside the drawing room. Daddy was sitting in a chair, watching TV.

I went up to him and sat down next to him. I looked up. He hadn’t seen me. Sometimes, people don’t seem to see me in the house.

“Daddy?”

Daddy grunted.

“Daddy, Jacko had  a good game today. Another strike three.”

Daddy grunted again.

I got up and left. I had done my job. I went back to Jacko’s room. He had fallen asleep. I brought my own pillow from my room, and slept on the floor, holding on to his hand that dangled down. I soon fell asleep.

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