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Extra Innings

Lara Pasternak Robicheaux is a writer and educator who lives outside of St. Paul, Minnesota. Her work has previously been featured on NPR.

******Editor's Note: Warning. This story deals with the loss of a child*********
Your chubby arms cradle the ball to your chest, like you're the daddy. The weather is unseasonably perfect, and we somehow have the whole park to ourselves. Toddling away across the hot grass, you face me. I don't know how you can even see me; your honey hair hangs too long over your eyes. I keep meaning to cut it.
"Too far!" I laugh.
That stubborn tongue hangs out, and you lob the ball overhead. It should soar an impossible distance.
You freeze. The ball hovers between us.
A door opens in the field and a technician appears, wiping away grease from his chin. He's still chewing his lunch. "Sorry, man. Just a glitch."
He goes to some hidden panel and fiddles with the pad. Your face is stuck in a grimace of effort. I've seen that look before. You were lying in the hospital bed, drowning in tubes. Your mother had curled her body around you, but your hand hung limply out of the thin sheet, and that was all mine. You did not squeeze back.
It lasts just a moment. You are moving again. The ball flies through the air.
"All fixed. It does that sometimes. I'll give you an extra thirty minutes." He resets the program.
Your chubby arms cradle the ball to your chest, like you're the daddy.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, March 24th, 2022

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- Lara Pasternak Robicheaux
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