Inning 4 ★ A Cursed Player

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But then he didn't show up for tryouts.

"Where the hell is Santiago Miranda?" my dad screamed at the forty strong boys that showed up, and me. Although he seemed determined not to acknowledge my presence next to him. Not nice.

A few kids were frowning, some didn't seem to care much for worrying about strong competition. Some were gleeful. Fucking McCann.

"He'll show up," I said firmly. My dad pursed his lips in a way that made him look like the ginger version of the sad emoticon.

After that conversation Santi and I had on Monday, I decided I'd employ my failed strategy for dad on him. I harassed him. 24/7. By text, phone calls, emails, in person. Wednesday night at 3am I sneaked into his room and jumped on him while he was asleep. We wrestled for a moment and while he was half asleep and stunned he put me in a painful headlock, so I bit his hand hard. He'd screamed and let me go. His parents showed up and saw the earthquake-like damage we'd caused in a few seconds, and I politely let them know that their son did not want to try out for the baseball team this year.

Barbara, his mom, gasped and covered her mouth with her hands to stifle a sob. Domingo had looked crushed. It had not been at all the reaction I'd had expected. I thought they'd get pissed and maybe even join me in the manhandling. They said something quick in Spanish and left. I sat on the corner of Santi's bed, dreading him all of a sudden.

"I'm sorry."

"Yeah, you better be. Get out."

He went back under the covers and shoved me out of the bed with his feet. I stood there, looking at his form in the dark and how it dwarfed the bed.

"You need a king size bed, by the way."

"Get out."

I did get out, but I did not stop my relentless attack. By Thursday I had recruited half of the old baseball squad and they were just as enthusiastic about the quest. Chris had to be the worst/best. Every second we were not in class, he'd hang off of Santi's shoulders whispering threats in his ears about all the bodily damage they'd do to him if he didn't try out. Anthony was pretty good, too. He was born with natural puppy eyes that worked on anything with human chromosomes, and spent the whole day using them to guilt trip young Miranda. To our surprise, even some of the cheerleaders had joined in the efforts.

Thursday afternoon, just before last period, we were all with Santiago when one of them approached him. I'd seen her around, a pretty sophomore that looked like a college girl through the power of makeup. She sauntered over, flashing a smile that even I could tell sent all the boys' blood to a boil, and stopped right in front of him.

"Hi, Santiago."

She pronounced his name like it was caramel rolling down her throat. If it were any other boy, he'd have barked and obeyed the next command at the ready. Instead, one of Santi's eyebrows went up.

"I just wanted to wish you good luck on the tryouts tonight."

She winked and turned around in a practiced way, as if it were part of a cheer routine. My eyes went down her shape and I had to admire all the effort she put in it. You won't look that good just on genes alone.

The boys lost it then. I think Anthony actually melted because she'd made him so hot.

Santiago shut his locker and headed to class without a word.

Three other boys, Ellen and I exchanged glances.

"He sure is a tough crowd," my best friend said.

I looked out at the forty some boys in front of me then with my arms folded. Some of them were good, really good, but nowhere near half of a Miranda. We had to get him on the team if we wanted to stand a chance this year. Not to mention that the world had to see more of him.

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