It was a cool sunny Sunday afternoon in October, fifty degrees, and the blue sky as deeply colored as an ocean. Church was over for most people in Ridgewood when I bobbed my fishing line in Myers Creek beneath Cherry Street’s cement bridge.
The boy gave me the once over after he slid down the creek’s embankment and entered the narrow strip of grassy underside below the steel bridge. I stood far enough away so I did not intrude on his spot.
Lenny Stevens looked the same, just a little older.
“Hey,” he said to me, friendly but with a note of suspicion.
I said it back, then left him alone until his hook and bait were in the deep middle of the creek and a few cars had rumbled by overhead.
“Fish here often?” I asked when the disturbed dirt and dust had settled.
“Yeah.” He played his line. “Never seen you around before.”
I considered how to answer his question. “Just visiting,” I said.
He seemed okay with that, so I told him my name. He told me his: Lenny Stevens.
After we traded introductions, we did not speak again for ten minutes or more.
I reeled in my empty hook, went to my tackle box, and closed it up. My head was full of thoughts right then.
“Where are you going?” he asked when he caught up to me. We were on the bridge.
“Looking up some old friends,” I said.
Lenny walked with me up the street. He said, “Who are they? Maybe I know them.”
“Dave and Amy Evans. They’re twins.”
Lenny shook his head. “Nope. But I know Dave and Amy Erickson. They’re triplets. Their sister’s name is Vree.”
“Is Vree short for Verawenda?”
“Yes. Do you know her?”
“She’s my neighbor.”
I stopped. “Wait a minute. Did you say she’s you’re neighbors?”
“Yeah. We live on Myers Ridge.”
A redheaded woman called Lenny’s name from the front door of the blue house we stood in front of.
“Who’s that?” I asked.
“My Aunt Janet. I have to go home now. Maybe I’ll see you around the next time I’m in town.”
“Yeah. Maybe.” I waved at him as he went inside.
Dave and Lenny used to play softball on Sundays for an organized church team named the New Gospel Saviors. Their rivals were the Nazarenes. I went to the ball field, seated myself at the top row of the bleachers behind home plate, and admired the pretty girl with curly brown hair who sat a few feet to my right. She clapped and cheered for New Gospel to win.
“Who’s winning?” I asked her.
She stopped cheering and addressed me with a cool look. “Bottom of the seventh,” she said. “Nazarenes are up five to four.”
“I’m Steve,” I said, smiling at her.
She squinted at me. “Do I know you?”
“I know your sister.”
She pointed at home plate. “That’s her at bat.”
I nodded and cheered for New Gospel to win. Vree began the final half-inning by fouling a pitch from the Nazarene Church’s ace pitcher, Jenny Blake. Amy told me that Jenny had been throwing change-ups and heated strikes at the corners all game and was still striking out batters.
Vree fouled the second pitch, which cleared the backstop and practically landed in my lap. I threw the ball back onto the field.
With two strikes under her belt, Jenny Blake’s next pitch dropped before it reached home plate. In her excitement to get a hit, Vree swung at the pitch and missed. The ball scooted under the catcher and zipped straight to the backstop. Vree, aware of this, never hesitated. She raced to first base as the catcher caught up with the ball and threw to first base. The speedy Vree beat the throw.
The next batter headed to the batter’s box.
“Just make contact, Kendra,” Amy yelled.
“Trying for the long ball,” the third baseman yelled out to her teammates. Then to Jenny, “Throw her the heat.”
Kendra hit the first pitch—wham, bam—right into the third baseman’s glove. In a matter of a second, she had lined out. The next batter grounded into a double play: 6 to 4 to 3. The teams met at home plate in a game ending ritual of touching hands and saying “Good game.”
Amy stood and prepared to leave. I asked, “Do your parents still own the Roundhouse?”
She scowled at me and said, “They’re thinking about buying it. How did you know?”
“Something I heard my parents talk about.” I stood. “Do you play the guitar?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Yes. I have a band called—”
“No. I have a band called The Amys.”
“Yes. We have some songs on the town’s radio station. You should give it a listen.”
“I will,” I said to her fleeting backside as she sprinted down the bleachers.
Moments later, I, too, headed down the bleachers and away from the ball field. I needed to learn more about the new Ridgewood.