Saturday morning came and went and no baseball glove was anywhere in sight. After rushing out to the empty porch in his pajamas early that morning, Teddy had thrown himself headlong onto the Diving Board and wailed his little heart out. Mamaw sat next to him on the floor, stroking his hair and humming her hymns. Even after he stopped howling he wouldn’t go saddle up on the water tank or walk to the creek with me. I laid in the front yard on a quilt that afternoon, looking up at the clouds and being glad that when my daddy didn’t show up, he at least sent my other grandma or one of my aunties in his place.
Bubby Jeffries rolled around as usual that afternoon. By then, Teddy was wailing again. He’d gathered up some hope that maybe by lunchtime his daddy would be by the house and waited outside again, but Mr. Kenneth never showed. Bubby weaved in and out of a lopsided circle in front of me on his rusty bike.
“What’s all that cryin’ about?” He nodded toward the screen door.
“Uncle Kenneth promised Teddy a new baseball glove. He swore it’d be on the porch when Teddy woke up but he never came around or called or nothin.’ Teddy’s been cryin’ on Mamaw all day.”
Bubby pulled the grimy blue bandana out of his pocket, popped his baseball cap back an inch or two and mopped his greasy forehead. “A baseball glove, huh? Well now…that’s a real shame. I reckon his daddy got hung up somewhere. Where’s your Aunt T at?”
I shrugged. “Out.”
Bubby nodded. “See ya later, kiddo.”
He pedaled off, slowly as ever, whistling that same old tune.
Saturday night found me hanging around in the back yard watching Uncle Alan fiddling with Mamaw’s broken toaster. He fancied himself capable of fixing anything, but it seemed to me there were always more broken appliances and unfinished projects littering than the yard and scattered under the carport than there should’ve been for someone who knew what they were doing. As it began to get dark, I walked around front with my empty pickle jar, hoping to catch some lightning bugs or a toad.
Bubby Jeffries was off his bicycle and midway up the three steps to our front door with a cardboard box in his hands. I couldn’t remember ever seeing him fully dismounted from the bike – even when he was stopped in front of the house trying to catch Aunt T’s attention, he was always straddling the bike and holding onto the handlebars.
“What’re you doing Bubby?”
“Shhhh…” he put his index fingers to his lips. He set the box down next to the door. It was open on top and whatever was inside was covered with newspaper. “Theodore” was scrawled in heavy black marker on the side. He walked back down the steps and threw his leg over the bike. He got back on the street and when he was directly in front of me, motioned me closer. I walked over and he bent down, talking in a whisper. “I left something for Teddy…don’t tell nobody it was me. It’s a surprise for him, after what happened with his Daddy.”
“Ok, I won’t tell.” Bubby nodded his head and winked, then headed out on his usual route.
Teddy found the box later that night. After being scrubbed clean and put into pajamas, Mamaw gave us a plate of oatmeal cookies and told us we could sit on the porch and listen to the cicadas with her for a while. In the yellow, buzzing glow of the porch light, Teddy saw the box and nearly flipped his lawn chair over diving for it. “Daddy came!” He tore the newspaper out of the box, crumpled pieces flying to the sides. He stopped and stared into the box, nearly crying at the sight of its contents. He reached in and held up a brand-new baseball glove, shiny and slick in the porch light, with the sales tag still hanging from it. He turned it in the light, marveling at its magnificence, wearing it on one hand and running his other hand over the braided leather seams. He bounded down the porch steps yelling “I gotta go find my baseball!”
I turned to my grandma, suddenly stricken with guilt. “Mamaw …I wanna tell you something.” She turned her head toward me, her eyes making their way to my face after the rest of her head – she seemed to struggle to break her confused stare from the box. I hated to break my promise of silence to Bubby, but it seemed wrong to lie to Mamaw or to give Uncle Kenneth credit for something so nice. “Uncle Kenneth didn’t bring that glove…it was Bubby. I caught him on the porch earlier, but he made me promise not to tell. Said it was a shame that Teddy was crying over his daddy. It was real nice of him, wasn’t it?”
Mamaw’s face softened and her eyebrows untangled. “It sure was.” After a long pause, she went on. “I’m glad you told me baby, but don’t say nothin’ to Teddy. He’s had a rough way to go and I don’t want him thinkin’ any more bad things about his daddy or gettin’ his feelings hurt. Promise me?”
“Yes, Mamaw, I won’t say nothin’.”
“Good. Now come give me some sugar.” I went to her, and she hugged me tight and kissed my forehead, told me I was her baby doll, and sent me off to throw the ball to Teddy in the backyard. For once, she didn’t make a fuss about us playing outside after bathin’ up or worry about Annalee Deaton seeing us outside in our pajamas.
Bubby was back the next day, coasting up and down Third Street at his usual time. Aunt T pulled in from Burger Chef like clockwork. “Hey T, how ya doin?”
“Fine Bubby, just fine.” She flashed him a big smile and walked toward the street, meeting him at the end of our driveway. “How are you?”
Bubby gulped and stayed silent, staring at Aunt T like she was a stranger.
“Well…how ‘bout a ride?” Before Bubby could answer, she was grabbing the handlebars and climbing up.