Plunked

Plunked by Michael Northrop

Book: Plunked by Michael Northrop Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Northrop
dive for it.
    I miss.

“Man, you were awesome out there yesterday,” Andy says.
    We’re sitting at our normal table in the cafeteria, and someone was going to have to say something about it sooner or later.
    â€œYeah,” I say. “Thanks. I hope you guys understand I’m not trying to show you up or anything.”
    â€œNo, no, no,” says Tim. “A star has gotta shine, right?”
    â€œYeah,” I say. “Exactly.”
    â€œHeck of a catch out there, too,” says Chester, who made it all the way to third after my diving miss. If I’d stayed back, like a non-brain-damaged player, it would’ve been a single.
    They’re going easy on me. After six years of mostly good practices, I guess maybe I get a pass for one really bad one. But they don’t know what I know, what Coach Liu knows. I change the subject.
    â€œI was watching this show on cable last night, about rodents,” I say. That’s about as far away from the subject as it can get. It might be a little too far away. As soon as I say it, I’m afraid they’re just going to let it drop and go back to talking about practice. But Andy bails me out.
    â€œOh, yeah,” he says. “On Discovery?”
    I know he’s just guessing, acting like he saw it, but no one else does. It’s a pretty solid guess. It would be either that or Animal Planet.
    â€œYeah,” I say.
    â€œLike Most Extreme: Rodents , right?” he says, doubling down. “Yeah, that was cool.”
    â€œExtreme rodents?” says Tim, and now the ball is rolling. “That’s ridiculous!”
    â€œYeah, yeah,” says Dustin, who has started sitting with us most days. “Oh, no, a gerbil!”
    â€œNo, but a rat can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter,” I say. “And chew through concrete.”
    â€œNo way!” says Andy, already forgetting that he was supposed to have watched the show.
    â€œYuh-huh,” I say. “And they’re the deadliest animal in history.”
    â€œWhat?” says Dustin. “You have lost it. Seriously.”
    â€œNope, it’s true. Because they spread disease. Like the Great Plague wiped out millions of people, and that was because of rats.”
    â€œNuh-uh,” says Tim. “Fleas.”
    â€œYeah, but the fleas were on the rats,” I say. “That’s how the disease spread so far.”
    â€œYeah, but it was still the fleas that carried it,” says Tim. “So why aren’t fleas the World’s Deadliest Animal in History?”
    And then we get into a long, kind of dumb discussion about whether insects are animals or just, you know, insects. That’s fine with me. I’d rather talk about that than my meltdown at practice.
    It’s not until the end of lunch that we get back to baseball, and then it’s to talk about the next game. The five of us are clearing away our trays and heading out. We’re talking about the Rockies, and they’re, you know, “all around us,” so we can’t be giving away any trade secrets. Still, Dustin wants to know what we think about our chances, so we tell him.
    â€œYeah, I think we got ’em,” says Andy.
    â€œYeah, mos’ def,” says Tim.
    We haven’t played them yet, but we see those guys around all the time. I have to wait to give my take until their starting catcher walks past. Dustin nods to him in that yeah-I-have-to-wear-all-that-gear-too way. And I know he’s the Rockies’ starter this year because he’s in my gym class. He nods back at Dustin and then at me.
    Once he’s gone, I start talking. “Yeah, I like our chances,” I say. “But they’ve got some decent players.”
    Then I think of something else: “And we won’t have J.P. on the mound — at least not until Malfoy gets knocked out in the third!”
    The others laugh, except for Tim. I can see his eyes get

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