Illustration by Idiots’Books
Hilda and Lester sat uncomfortably on the sofa next to each other. Perry had hoped they’d hit it off, but it was clear after Lester tried his Yoko joke again that the chemistry wasn’t there. Now they were having a rare moment of all-look-same-screen, the TV switched on like in an old comedy, no one looking at their own laptop.
The tension was thick, and Perry was sick of it.
He reached for his computer and asked it to find him the baseball gloves. Two of the drawers on the living-room walls glowed pink. He fetched the gloves down, tossed one to Lester, and picked up his ball.
“Come on,” he said. “TV is historically accurate, but it’s not very social.”
Lester got up from the sofa, a slow smile spreading on his face, and Hilda followed a minute later. Outside, by the cracked pool, it was coming on slow twilight and that magic, tropical blood-orange sky like a swirl of sorbet.
Lester and Perry each put on their gloves. Perry’d worn his now and again, but had never had a real game of catch with it. Lester lobbed an easy toss to him and when it smacked his glove, it felt so right, the sound and the vibration and the fine cloud of dust that rose up from the mitt’s pocket, Christ, it was like a sacrament.
He couldn’t lob the ball back, because of his busted wing, so he handed the ball to Hilda. “You’re my designated right arm,” he said. She smiled and chucked the ball back to Lester.
They played until the twilight deepened to velvety warm dark and humming bugs and starlight. Each time he caught a ball, something left Perry, some pain long held in his chest, evanesced into the night air. His catching arm, stiff from being twisted by the weight of the cast on his other hand, unlimbered and became fluid. His mind was becalmed.
None of them talked, though they sometimes laughed when a ball went wild, and both Perry and Lester went “ooh,” when Lester made a jump-catch that nearly tumbled him into the dry pool.
Perry hadn’t played a game of catch since he was a kid. Catch wasn’t his dad’s strong suit, and he and his friends had liked video-games better than tossing a ball, which was pretty dull by comparison.
But that night it was magic, and when it got to full dark and they could barely see the ball except as a second moon hurtling white through the air, they kept tossing it a few more times before Perry dropped it into the pocket of his baggy shorts. “Let’s get a drink,” he said.
Lester came over and gave him a big, bearish hug. Then Hilda joined them. “You stink,” Lester said, “Seriously, dude. Like the ass of a dead bear.”
That broke them up and set them to laughing together, a giggling fit that left them gasping, Lester on all fours. Perry’s arm forgot to hurt and he moved to kiss Hilda on the cheek and instead she turned her head to kiss him full on the lips, a real juicy, steamy one that made his ear-wax melt.
“Drinks,” Hilda said, breaking the kiss.
They went upstairs, holding the mitts, and had a beer together on the patio, talking softly about nothing in particular, and then Lester hugged them good night and then they all went to bed, and Perry put his face into the hair at the back of Hilda’s neck and told her he loved her, and Hilda snuggled up to him and they fell asleep.
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As part of the ongoing project of crafting Tor.com’s electronic edition of Makers, the author would like for readers to chime in with their favorite booksellers and stories about them in the comments sections for each piece of Makers, for consideration as a possible addition to a future edition of the novel.