“I’m open! I’m open!” yelled Sean.
I laughed and chucked the ball to him. It was a little high, but he jumped up and caught it. Then it was my turn.
“I’m open, I’m open!” and Sean threw it back to me. That was our favorite joke. Pretty much any time we’d play catch with just the two of us we’d each make that joke at least once.
“Ok go long, this might be a home run!” I wound up as Sean booked it as fast as he could. I let it loose to fly through the air. I traced it with my eyes as it soared, and soared, and kept going past Sean. My heart sank into my stomach as I saw the ball give up soaring and finally sink past the fence. That was Old Man Jenkins’ yard. Sean stopped dead in his tracks. The look of terror mirrored mine.
That was ball was signed by Roy ‘La Boom’ Jackson! “AAAA! How am I supposed to get that back!” he exploded.
I jogged up to him and put my hand on his shoulder. “I’m-” I gulped. “I’m really sorry”.
“My Uncle Richard got it for me. And he’s a millionaire. How am I supposed to get another one? What if he asks me about it, I’ll have to lie and say I lent it out.” After a few moments, Sean began to sob softy.
I couldn’t stand to look at him like this. I felt so awful about what happened. But what am I supposed to do? I can’t buy another ball signed by La Boom. That ball is gone… Or is it? A devious thought crept into my head. I started for the fence.
“Where- *sniff* Where are you going?”
“I’m going to get that ball.” I said defiantly.
“No! It’s too dangerous!”
“I’ll be quick, I promise” I said more confidently than I was.
“Are you sure? I mean, I’ll figure something out with Uncle Richard.”
“No I’m sure. I’ll be right back.”
“Well I’m going with you.”
“You don’t have to, only one of us needs to go.”
“Well I’m going.”
We walked up to the fence and peeped through the slats. I could see the ball sitting on the ground just a few feet from the fence.
RAWR RAWRA ARWRA ARWRRA
Leroy jumped up on the fence and scared the pants off of us. His slobbery jaws housed a vicious row of teeth. He snarled and barked continuously. When got our wits about us, we realized something. We need a plan. Sean agreed to run to the other side and taunt the monster while I sneak in grab the ball and get out.
Once Sean was in position and Leroy was worked up. I jumped the fence. It was eerie inside. I felt like Neil Armstrong. I bolted for the ball. But, clumsy me, just as I was about to slow down to pick it up, my foot punted it. It rocketed back into the air, ricocheted off a small structure shading the well and then straight into the well.
“Nooooo!” I screamed.
RAWR RAWRA ARWRA ARWRRA
Panic seized my stomach and my legs started moving on their own in a desperate attempt to run from the dog who was now nipping at my heels. Where was I supposed to run in this death trap of a yard? I realized my legs were taking me straight for the well. I didn’t have time to think. I just jumped into the darkness…
I fell for what felt like hours. It was only by some miracle that when the light returned to my eyes, that I realized I was sitting on my rump on a grassy hill in twilight. It was noon when I was playing with Sean. It must be at least 7 o’clock now.
A stranger walked up to me from over the hill.
“Hello stranger, enjoying your day off?”
“Uhh, day off? Yeeah I guess so.”
“Great. Great. Ok well I hate to be so blunt, but we are having a Parrocagata tasting contest in about 15 minutes.”
I coughed hard. I blinked slowly, trying to take it all in. Where was I? Why wasn’t I dead? Am I dead? Did he just say a dog poop tasting contest? What question do I ask first?
“Uh no, I think I’m going to just rest here for a bit and collect my thoughts.” I said.
“Oh ok, that’s fine.” said the stranger sadly. “It’s just that we have this super rare 50 year old base ball as the prize and the rules dictate that we must have exactly 10 contestants. But that’s ok.”
I blinked twice more. A what? That couldn’t be /the/ baseball I’m looking for. I mean, what are the chances? I looked around quickly at my surroundings. All I could see were luscious green hills, this well which looks identical to the one I jumped in, the beautiful pastel sunset, and this stranger offering me dog poop. I guess it’s worth a shot.
“Did you say a rare baseball? You know, I think I would like to participate after all.”
“Oh great. I knew you’d come around. Ok just follow me. What’s your name?”
“Justin.” I said.
“Great. Nice to meet you Justin, my name is George.”
George led me to the contestant prep station which contained a mirror, some basic make up supplies, and mouthwash. I started to get cold feet, but the memory of Sean sobbing spurred me on.
I rinsed my mouth out with mouthwash, because, why not? I had time to kill. Then I sat for a few more minutes. Finally a woman with a glasses, a clipboard, and a tiny microphone glued to her cheek knocked on my door.
“Are youuuuu…” She trailed off and scanned her clipboard as if finding one name out of 10 would be hard. “Justin?”
“Ok I hope you’re ready, just follow me.”
I followed her to a chair on the stage where 9 other contestants were sitting at a table draped in a silky white table cloth.
The woman announced, “And finally, we have Justin, who has agreed to fill in for Peggy at the last minute!”
The crowd was huge. I could tell I was in an auditorium and every single seat was taken. People were sitting on the edge of their seat waiting with anticipation.
“Well contestants, the rules are simple. You’ll each be given 10 small portions of Parrocagata, numbered 1 through 10, and you simply have to mark the number next to the name that you think corresponds with the sample.”
I looked down at the table and noticed a sheet of paper with 10 names that were totally foreign to me and a blank next to them.
A chef brought out a silver platter with 10 cubes of what looked like brownies for all I could tell. He used tongs to place a cube on each of our plates.
“This is a Brown, from France.” he announced.
I breathed deeply. I held my nose. I took a tiny nibble…
I was horrendous! Oh my word. I immediately spat it out. Awful was the only word I could think of. It didn’t resemble what I thought dog poop would taste like, but it was still awful. It was remarkably bitter. I looked to the left to see my compatriots grinning. It made some of their cheeks rosy. They began to make small talk.
“Well, what do you think, Patricia?” said one.
“Oh it’s delightful. It can only be Rochetta.” another replied.
“Rochetta? Really? I was thinking it was Botetti.” said the first.
“You know, Botetti and Rochetta are made from the same process, Beatrice?” said someone else.
“Um, excuse me.” I spoke up. But no one heard me, so I cleared my throat and spoke louder. Excuse me!” That got everyone’s attention.
“You people know that ‘Perro cagada’ means dog poop, right?”
“The whole table and the crowd burst out laughing- at me. I blushed bright red. But still, how could these people tolerate, let alone enjoy this stuff?
When the one they call Patricia calmed down, she said “Oh my dear boy, you have no idea do you? Parrocagata is a delicacy. It’s consumed the world over. It’s one of most popular foods ever. Oh I can’t believe you just compared it to dog poop of all things.” She wiped a laughing tear from her eye.
I still didn’t believe her. Maybe this was a global conspiracy of some kind. Maybe this is all a hilarious prank. Maybe this is just a dream and I’ll wake up. Well this is a taste testing contest after all. I found a name that looked as horrendous as this tasted and marked it.
The chef brought out the next round, announcing that it was a Tan from Washington. Again it was awful. But maybe, not as bad as the last one. There was a name on the list that was the 2nd least awful looking, so I went with that.
The other contestants chatted nosily.
“Oh I can taste a hint of chestnut and coriander.” said one braggishly.
“Really? I taste a complex swirl of chocolate and rosemary.”
Again the chef dolled out the tiny bricks. This one was apparently from Mexico. I spat it out it was so bad. I have no idea how I’m supposed to make it through all of these. I picked a name from the list.
This time the chef dished them out and the other contestants complimented it’s clarity and purity of taste. They could eat it all day it seemed like.
At first I thought I was just imagining things, but now I’m sure that I’m feeling funny. It’s hard to explain. It’s like feeling fluid, or lubricated. Maybe a little giggly. I asked the guy next to me, “Hey do you feel funny at all? I think there’s something wrong with this poop.”
“Ugh. It’s not poop.” He scoffed at me. “And yes it has intoxicating effects.”
“Woah dude.” I thought. “If I wasn’t lubricated I’d have a real problem with you.”
The next round brought comments of caramel, so I found the name that least resembled caramel because these people are clearly nuts.
Finally a round that was at least tolerable. Definitely sweet and a little fruity. I couldn’t believe I was thinking these thoughts.
Without thinking, I poked the guy next to me. “Hey, this one tastes pretty ok, why do you s’pose that is?”
“Well it’s because they load it with sugar.”
“… to make it taste better, why else would they add sugar?” He said flatly.
Well that seemed weird to me.
“Why not just skip the poop brownie and just eat sugar?”
The guy just turned back to the others. I probably won’t be hearing from him again.
I tolerated another 4 poop bricks before they collected our answer sheets. Finally the lady with the tiny microphone got up to the podium.
“Thank you all for joining us today! And now, tonight’s winner is… Justin!”
My eyebrows nearly jumped off of my face, as did the rest of the contestants, and the entire crowd.
“Here you go, Justin. Congratulations.” Said the lady. She was very nice and was handing me the baseball, but also just made me eat 10 pieces of poop to get it. I have mixed feelings about her to say the least.
I took the baseball in my hands in disbelief. This was the exact one I was playing with earlier today. I looked to my left, then to my right. Yup, no obligations in sight, and I’m plenty lubricated. I took off sprinting for the well, not even saying thank you or good bye to these weirdos.
When I got to the well, still not thinking. I jumped in with the ball. I kept falling, just like before…
I woke up on the other side, it was pitch black out except for the eerie glow of the moon. I could see Leroy sleeping peacefully. It was the only time I had ever seen him be peaceful. I crept up to the fence and jumped out.
I threw rocks at Sean’s window until he came down.
“Wow! How did you get this! Last I saw you jumped the fence and then I couldn’t find you!”
“It’s a long story.” I said.
“Ugh gosh, your breath is awful. Brush your teeth or something and we’ll talk tomorrow”