They peeled the circus posters off the walls and windows. Skinner cleaned and scrubbed every wall, each bit of floor while Eugene did his best to help. More often Eugene ended up in the backyard pitching a ball in the air hoping to hit it with his new bat. Eugene came over to Skinner’s for meals, showers, and sleep but the rest of their time was spent at the small stucco house.
“The landlord wants it ready by end of the month.” Skinner told Eugene.
“Why does it matter? Why does it matter to you?”
Skinner looked at Eugene though the boy sensed that Skinner looked past him as he spoke.
“It’s the right thing to do boy. Don’t you want people ‘round here to remember you for at least having a clean house. Cut grass. Tidy little yard.”
“Folks gonna ‘member me as the pumpkin kid with a fat, dead momma.”
“Folks ‘member the last thing they know ‘bout you. The last thing they see. Can’t hurt for them to see a clean house.”
A knock came to the front door.
Skinner opened it to find a woman fitted into a business pant suit and wearing mirrored sunglasses. Hair pulled into a ponytail erased any trace of a smile on her equine face.
“Mr. Skinner I assume?”
“Yes ma’am. I live across the street though. Can I help you?”
“I’m Deloris McCabe from Social Services. I understand you’ve been keeping one Eugene Klumpkin since his mother’s passing last week?”
“Well, he’s been showering and eating over at my place but I ain’t exactly planning on keeping him.”
“I understand Mr. Skinner. I’ve done some inquiring at the police station here in Mahalia and they say you’ve been helpful until we could facilitate Eugene’s entry into the Social Services System.”
“I thought facilitating was for facilities?”
“A funny. How refreshing. No. Is Eugene Klumpkin here? I need to speak to him about the plans for his future.”
“He’s in the back playing at baseball.”
“An athlete! Superb. Sports has a way of making a boy into a fine grown man.”
“If he’s an athlete then I’m Rockefeller.”
“Another funny. Where’s is Eugene Klumpkin?”

The week after Fiona Klumpkin died moisture boiled out of the sky. The grass around Mahalia was sharp against bare feet. But at the Dixie Youth Park, Skinner had kept the irrigation system pumping. Green grass, perfectly trimmed surrounded the dirt infield as volunteers lined the bases and batter boxes for opening ceremonies. The kids were decked out in freshly washed uniforms. Dads were sporting matching hats or colors as the green bleachers filled with sweaty relatives. Some folks sat along the sideline fences in lawn chairs under portable gazebos. The air was dusty but smelled of hot dogs with restless voices of anticipation coming from the stands. Skinner stood near the right field fence watching the people pile in, keeping a keen eye on reactions to the field’s Eden like appearance. No one noticed, or if they did, Skinner was unable to read their reactions. His mind, despite his best effort, kept going back to Pumpkin Boy. The social services lady took him a few days before, and Skinner hadn’t seen him since. The stucco house was rented out three days later. The landlord never even waved at Skinner as a thank you. Nothing. People always let you down, Skinner thought.

“I never heard of Okrafolk before?” Eugene said. He sat in the backseat of Deloris McCabe’s state car. Her ponytail touched the seat as she glanced in the mirror.
“Okrafolk is over in the next county. They have a fine orphanage, despite their horrible name. Like I told you, you’ll stay there until some next of kin can be found.”
“What if I got no next of kin?”
“Everyone has a next of kin Eugene. Everyone. It just takes time to find them.”
“What if they won’t be found nowhere?”
“Mr. Skinner was awfully nice to you wasn’t he?” she said.
“Oh yeah. This bat is from him. His son used it to hit a big home run before he died.”
“That’s sad.”
“Yeah. Mr. Skinner didn’t talk much about it. I liked baseball a lot.”
“Liked?”
“Well, you think they gotta team over in Okrafolk? Hey looks like opening ceremonies. Can we stop by?”
Deloris McCabe looked at her watch.
“We need to–”
“Jes for a minute. I wanna show ‘em by bat. Mr. Skinner said people ‘member the last thing they see. I ain’t coming back here. I know that. You know that. I want them kids to see I gotta bat like they do.”
She looked back and saw Eugene’s hopeful face.
“Ok, a minute. Just for a minute.”

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