Monday, December 24, 2007

The Lily Franklin Christmas Countdown 2007: #2


The Slammer – An Ever Growing Web Novel – Chapter 4.8

It was Christmas Eve when Jay had first gone to an Applebee’s restaurant, and Lily spent the whole evening complaining about it. The power had gone out at their home on the Cape, and Lily couldn’t accept having to spend Christmas somewhere other than their house. She nearly ruined the whole night for everyone, but Jay hadn’t noticed. That’s not much of a shock to anyone, of course, but it was a bit different actually then just that. Jay and her father were interacting more than usual, and she hadn’t even taken time to notice it. Her mother was starting to get rather cross with her, since she wasn’t too happy about the arrangements either, but was quietly trying to enjoy how Jay and her husband were seemingly making a good time of it. That is rather strange as Jay rarely contributed to making the most out of anything.

Jay of course had started his fascination at staring throughout the ceilings of Applebee’s at all of the memorabilia, and of course his father was encouraging this. He was after all getting more smiles and nods then he was used to. If it were turned around to the positive it would have been the makings of a very good Christmas. Lily of course was spending her first year out of the house as she was at Dartmouth and drove up the day before. She actually had been a rather spoiled child, and wasn’t becoming a better adult. Despite the fact that her sixteen year old brother had been so amazingly functionally disabled, she did avoid most of it. More to the point she often loathed her brother for changing what was already a privileged life into something less privileged. Of course nobody could blame a nineteen year old young woman for thinking this way, because it was soon to be one of the last normal things about Lily.

Jay ordered his dinner the first moment a waitress had come around, owed to the fact that his “menu” fascination had started many years before now, and even though he had never been to an Applebee’s he had memorized the menu. Lily and Jay’s father asked the waitress with a bit of a laugh to just hold on to that until the rest of the family was ready to order, and told her that Jay was just really excited to be there. The waitress gave them both a very toothy, and kind grin and replied that it would be no problem as she scuttled away with their drink orders. Lily found no humor in this, and still her mother was getting rather cross with her. Her father and her brother went back to patrolling the ceiling for more treasures that they had missed before. Lily still looked out the window, determined to show everyone involved that she would rather be elsewhere.

“You see Jay,” their father started explaining, “back in those days, they only used one baseball during a game.” Lily looked over long enough to see her brother nodding, while her father talked. For some reason her attitude had gone venomous with his attention actually being had by her father. The only times Lily had gotten attention from her brother, it never turned out very good. She was starting to blame the big oaf for the night, just because she was at the age where blaming her brother was just easier. “By the end of the game a ball like that one would move like you wouldn’t believe because it was all dented and squashed,” her father continued while she went back to looking out the window.

“I’ll probably go back north tonight and work on my …” Lily started but then trailed off when her mother shot her a look. Their father had stopped and looked at her with a grimace on his face. Lily had noticed how much older her father was looking these days. In an instant her mind locked on to that as being all of the extra time that he must have to spend with Jay now that she isn’t around for Jay to pester. She felt a pang of shame as her father shook his head ever so slightly and went back to talking to Jay. He had already spent the last few hours trying to be kind to a venomous daughter and obviously had given up. Lily took offense to this but it was probably more because he had never taken to ignoring her before, and that is where the spoiled brat part starts to sink into this all.

It was Lily’s mother who spoke next, and even though she received the same look from her husband that she had been giving to Lily, she was unwavering until the end, “I think it might be a good idea,” and she left it at that. Lily had been her little girl for the last nineteen years, and what Lily seemed to be feeling was the exact opposite of what she was actually feeling right now. As a woman she understood the angst, but it didn’t mean that she liked it in the least, and as most good parent will do, she simply decided that “letting go” of her daughter right now is the best thing to do. After all, they had many more Christmas’s to go through, and this one is simply a bit of a learning process, being apart the rest of the year and all.

Its funny how quickly things change, and how often they don’t for the better. When the family attorney finally got a hold of Lily the next day, she simply thought it was her family trying to call her as he was using her father’s cell phone. Her attitude of defiance was why she didn’t even bother to answer the first few times. She had been hanging out in the university library with the other two students in the entire campus that weren’t off with their family, and it was actually the other two getting grumpy with her phone going off so often that forced her to click the green button and say “What?”

I imagine if you had been there, you would have seen a face full of horror as she listened to the news of her parent’s death. The fact that it had happened probably within a half an hour after her wonderfully cold escape from the family that was doing their best to have a good time, despite their daughter doing he best to have the opposite. The world totally caved in on her, and the librarian that had sacrificed her Christmas day so that students with no plans would have some place to be was left shocked and speechless holding a frantic nineteen year old young lady who was totally losing it. Lily also knew that she somehow had to get from northern New Hampshire to southern Massachusetts while her young mind was filled with more emotions than the average person could ever possibly cope with, the worst of it all being shame and self loathing.

It wasn’t that hard getting from point A to point B though since the brother and sister that had been in the library with her immediately insisted that they drive her out. The hardest part of it all was all of the free time that she had to go even crazier on the way to see her brother who was near death himself in the hospital. The hatred she had in her own heart for being such a rotten person the night before wasn’t helping at all, but it did confirm her resolve as she had shown up at the hospital already set to make the hardest decision of her life since she decided to never play baseball again. The family attorney had met her at the hospital with all of the options for what she could do with her brother, and the family business, but it had fallen on deaf ears. Everything did fall into place in the end.

It wasn’t easy in the beginning, but she did have a few things going for her in all of it. Her brother, despite his autism never once gave anyone a hard time with his recovery. Actually it had been remarkable how well he dealt with all of it, and more to the point his nature in general was perfectly compatible with stringent rules, and basic order. Lily had to have nurses come live with them so that she could finish up her business education at the local Junior College, keep an eye on the company, and keep up with what her brother was doing. She didn’t have to worry about losing her social life because like Jay had accepted his treatment for the broken ribs and broken leg, she had accepted that she would no longer have one. Jay had become so placid at home that Lily had finally, through the encouragement of the doctors, let go of the nurses and simply gotten a maid. She wasn’t stupid though and made sure that she had gotten a rather large male as a maid though, just in case. This of course was how baseball came back into all of this.

Their maid, Bill, was actually a former boxer. The Boston area is full of former boxers so that isn’t very unusual, and when Bill had finally given up on his chosen career of being a boxer, he entered the non athletic world as a janitor. He was very good at it, and then over time had children of his own and through the musings of his wife had become the custodian of the company that Lily was now in charge of, where his wife had been a cranberry canner. Lily had taken to him and his wife and asked him to become the fulltime maid at their home, and to get him over the stigma of being a “maid” offered to pay him more than he and his wife made together, so that she could stay at home and work on other things. He was so proficient at the job though that it left him large amounts of free time alone with Jay, who wasn’t exactly the best of company on his good days. Although he never played the game, Bill was a huge fan of baseball, and he and Jay did have that in common when the games were on.

Lily came home from work one day to an empty house, and wasn’t too worried really, but she was curious as to what the two “boys” as she had taken to calling them were doing. Bill usually had dinner waiting for the two of them before he left for the night, and the kitchen was spotless clean, but there was no dinner. Lily really didn’t care because it really wasn’t part of Bill’s job, but he had become such a good cook over the last few months that she really appreciated it. She walked through the kitchen and peered out the back widow to see Bill, an incredibly large man, crouched down wearing catcher’s equipment that appeared to be made for a very small girl. What she saw next made her jaw drop in astonishment, and she stood perfectly still to admire it.

Her brother stood there wearing an old little league cap with the back adjuster unhooked so that it would fit his head. The brim was pointed down and he was wearing his old baseball glove, that also was a bit too small, but he didn’t seem to care in the least. The laundry basket next to him was about half full of baseballs and there was a scattered pile of them which Lily assumed was the rest sitting next to Bill on the ground. She hadn’t witnessed this in many years, and the sheer size of her “little” brother was intimidating even with the equipment that was obviously too small on him. She let out a bit of a gasp as Jay’s knee started lifting up in front of him. “He never did master a good wind up, and had always preferred the stretch” she whispered out loud to herself. The knee came up almost to the point where it touched his chest, and he outstretched his arm behind him in a wingspan that Lily also noted had gotten huge. As his entire body wheeled over itself to launch the ball at Bill, Lily could have sworn that she heard a hiss before the earth shattering CRACK hit the glove. Bill was very lucky that he has some of the strongest hands from his years of boxing because that small glove would have ensured that most people’s hands would have been shattered with such force.

Bill jumped up to his feet, probably not as fast as most because his knees are a bit older these days, but he exuberantly yelled back to Jay, “That’s it kid! Like I tell ya, you are the real deal!” and then he dropped the baseball in the pile with the rest, as Lily slid open the back door.

Lily noticed it like it was a message from God, but her brother looked strait at her. At this point in Lily’s life it was still extremely peculiar to get any sort of response from her brother, much less the big smile, like a ten year old who just got a wonderful Christmas present. Tears were filling Lily’s eyes, but she walked towards Bill who smiled at her too. “He’s amazing isn’t he?” Bill then said to her, as she came closer. Lily simply nodded at him.

She had totally lost her voice, but something inside of her was growing. She had forgotten what it was like to see her brother alive like this, and part of her was starting to feel ashamed of that, as she had that Christmas day when she had made that promise to herself that she was going to take care of everything. She had gotten so wrapped up in being an adult at this point in her life that she had forgotten that she knew all along, how to reach out to her brother. Perhaps she had simply decided to herself that he wasn’t reaching back enough, but he broke the awkward silence by speaking. She had totally forgotten what his voice sounded like too, so it completely startled her. “Can we go to Applebee’s tonight?” and until recently there were two things in Jay’s life that were constant. He only ate at Applebee’s and from that day forward he would only pitch to Lily, who had decided the next day to let “the business folks” take care of the company, while her and her brother made up for lost time. Jay was alive when the two of them spent the next day at the Sports Authority getting every piece of baseball equipment that two shopping carts would hold, and Bill was happier to watch her catch his pitches because, though he will never admit it, Jay was really killing his hands. … to be continued