He went in without knocking. Muffled crying filled the stale air. Skinner felt the death. A part of Skinner began to weep but knew the moment couldn’t last long. The fat lady was dead, period. Pumpkin Boy had no one left, period. He walked through the kitchen and looking around the corner saw Eugene in the fetal position sobbing. The string was drawn tight enough to bring oozing blood. Skinner’s voice was soft.
“Where’s your Momma, boy?”
Eugene whimpered.
“No time for all this moaning boy. She ain’t moanin’, why you moanin? Is she in the room there?”
Eugene pointed towards the bedroom door.
“Ok. I done called the ambulance up now. They’ll be here in a bit. You want that they see you like this?” Skinner glanced in to Fiona’s room. He saw flies gathering on the sandwich and a green sheen on her cheek.
“Or see her like this?”
Eugene motioned a no with his head.
“Ok then boy. I’ll tend to her. Try and get her arranged so as them gossiping bitches don’t talk ‘bout how she was eating. You get up now boy. Get up. Come on. That’s it. Look here, you go in there and work on that kitchen a bit. Last thing your Momma would want is stranger’s bustin’ up in here and seeing this place. Damn wreck of the Hesperus.”
Skinner wiped Eugene’s eyes.
“Boy, about now you need to get something in your head quick.”
“I’ll try sir. But my momma–”
“I know boy. Ain’t no cause to talk ‘bout it. Pain lasts long enough without talking ’bout it. Talkin’ seems to make everything last longer. Talkin’ don’t take away pain none. Time takes pain and talking stops time. But you gotta learn now it ain’t no time no more for being a boy. You ain’t gotta choice boy. No more time.”
“I know.”
“Ok. Get on them dishes. You got water now?”
“No sir.”
“Ok then, well shit. Get a bag. Take a pilla case if you need to, and get them dishes up and run ‘em over to my house. Put ‘em in the yard outback, near that well. I’ll get her ready for them ambulance folks.”
. . . . . . .

Sixteen people showed up for the funeral. Seven to mourn. Nine to lower her special order coffin into the wide grave. Preacher Paul and the Damn Spic showed up as well as Skinner and Eugene. A thin tall man arrived with a bolt in his nose’s bridge accompanied by a midget with an eye patch and a limp. From behind two rows of graves stood a dark black woman who chanted and wailed. She wore a bright blue dress that matched her veiled hat. Preacher Paul spoke over the grunts of the pallbearers. Eugene looked at the coffin during the service. Skinner stood nearby, but not close enough to offer physical comfort. No time for being a boy, he reminded himself. The service closed as Fiona’s coffin reached the grave’s floor. Pallbearer ropes curled atop the coffin as Eugene threw in the one white rose Skinner had told him was only right. No one spoke to one another except the tall thin man and the midget. The midget gave a shotgun burst of laughter as the tall man whispered in his ear.
“Yes, Yes. I remember. She was brilliant that night.”
As Preacher Paul watched, the Damn Spic and the circus freaks left. Preacher Paul left after patting Eugene on the shoulder.
“She was my favorite neighbor.” he said.
Eugene watched the empty grave await its dirt. Skinner told him it was time to leave. Time to let her sleep. It was only right to do so.
Eugene turned to walk away, fighting the tears he felt belonged to another life.
They returned to Skinner’s house for dinner. Skinner watched Eugene eat. And eat. And eat.
“You know boy. That ain’t all genetic.”
Eugene ignored him shoving another piece of bread in his mouth.
“You like baseball then do you boy?” Skinner said.
“Yes.” Eugene replied before gulping milk.
“You any good?”
Eugene laughed.
“I don’t even have a bat.”

Skinner watched the boy for a moment. He knew he had little to offer Eugene. Skinner believed in no God, loved no family, and possessed no friends. Despite the momentary lapses when the house was quiet and he was a bit drunk, Skinner had no want to ever change.
“Well I can tell you this boy. The bat don’t matter much.”
Eugene stopped eating. The rise and fall of Skinner’s voice commanded his attention.
“You gotta have a bat to play ball ‘round here. The flyer said so. I ain’t got no bat. And my glove is second-hand from some old circus freaks. The midgets used to use my glove to catch the poop the monkey’s would throw. ‘Cept they weren’t monkeys. Just more midgets dressed like monkeys throwing chocolate bars ‘round at each other. Don’t make sense really. Wastin’ that chocolate.”
“It ain’t the bat that hit’s the ball boy; it’s the batter.”
“Everybody knows that.”
“No they don’t boy. They go out and buy fancy gloves, whiz-bang balls, and big silver bats thinking they gonna hit the biggest home runs ever. But in the end, the batter makes the ball go over the fence. Not the bat.”
Skinner left the table and headed up the creaking stairs of his home.
Eugene gulped milk. He spied a crumb, wet his finger, then lifted the crumb off the table with the wet finger.
Skinner returned carrying a soiled baseball bat.
The wood was smooth but almost black with age.
“Good lord that thing’s long.” Eugene said.
“Yep. It is. I used it when playing the circuit years ago. Back in 1961 my boy used it to hit a grand slam home run in the World Series. That’s how they won that game. That’s why we got that one sign painted with the World Series on it over at the park. My boy hit a Grand Slam homer with this here old bat. See, it won’t the bat. It was the batter.”
“Did he play in the pros?”
Skinner ran his hand along the bat. He patted the wood into his palm.
“No boy. He didn’t. There was a crash on the way back from Florida that year. I was driving with my wife and son.”
Skinner’s emotions rose and fell across his face.
“Things happen boy. Kids hit home runs. Dads drive cars. Drunks drive cars. Kids die. Things happen boy.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Skinner.”
“Nah. Talkin’ don’t make pain go away boy. Only Time does that. Talkin’ takes up time.”
Skinner stood.
“Here. I want you to have it.”
“Your bat? Your boy’s bat?”
“Nope. I want you to have your bat, boy. It’s been holding a wall up in my room for thirty years. I got no use for it. But you gotta remember boy. No matter what some fool coach tells you. It ain’t the bat that hit’s the ball–”
“I know. It’s the batter.”
“Alright boy. ‘bout time for your shower.”

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