It was a damp morning in the park, the remnants of last night's rain evident on the sidewalk and in the streets, in the drops still slowly slipping down the trunks of the trees or dripping from the branches, their impact making soft smacking sounds on the mat of yellowed grass and once-leaves below. The clouds were low but moving fast away toward the south and east, as though embarrassed at being caught in the act of doing something illicit. There was a chill in the air but not enough to keep Duncan and me from the park, or the Little League players from the first game of the season.
As we strolled around the baseball diamonds, we sized up the players, all of them twelve or thirteen, the most awkward of ages. Some of them were surprisingly tall and husky for their age, while others were still scrawny and bony and hardly looked ten. Their voices were as varying as their builds. While they warmed up, their uniforms still crisp and white, they shouted and called to one another, some in deep baritones, some in gravelly awkward cracks, and others in tones and timbres that had not even considered puberty.
Duncan was indifferent, of course, sniffing his way along the line of the fences, using his nose to turn over discarded potato-chip bags, until an occasional stray ball rolled toward us, and struck the other side of the fence, then he perked up and watched intently while the player retrieved it. I watched and listened, though, because the world of sports and thirteen year-olds are things I have never understood, even when I was that young.
A group of four small boys were warming up on one side of the field, throwing a ball back and forth between them, all of them eying their competition, who––looking much older and larger––were doing the same on the other side of the field.
"Do you see that big one," one of them asked conspiratorially. His teammates followed the jerk of his head in the direction of a tall, dark-haired boy across the field who was barking at his team in a deep, confident voice.
"Taylor Mitchum?" another asked.
The boy, gangly and small, nodded. "He looks old enough to shave," he marveled.
Another boy nodded. "Yeah, but check this out," he said, lowering his voice. "My cousin goes to school with him. Not only does he shave, but he has pubes."
There was a strange silence and I had to fight to keep from laughing.
Finally another boy spoke up. "Dude, I have pubes."
"Me, too," another confessed.
"Yeah, I do, too," the third admitted. They stared at their teammate in silence, sizing him up, the ball frozen in his mitt. "Dude! You don't have any pubes yet? What's wrong with you?!"
"Shut up!" he protested. "I got one!"
I still don't understand them.