Sam Reiser's bed was pushed against a second-floor window that overlooked a stand of cherry trees. The trees on this June morning were filled with birds, chirping like lunatic alarm clocks.
Sam's first thought: Shut-up, birds. I'm trying to sleep. Second thought: Big game today. The championship game. Earl Grubb's Pool Supplies vs. Northeast Gas & Electric. Jeez, Sam thought, couldn't they give better names to these Little League teams? Why didn't they have real names, like the Cubs or the Pirates?
Three weeks short of thirteen, Sam had already played on teams called Adirondack Wood Floors, Huck Finn's Warehouse, and Dahlia's Dance Studio--with turquoise-trimmed jerseys, no less. That was about as uncool as you could get. But once the games started, Sam conceded, the names didn't matter. It would take more than a bad name to ruin a good thing like baseball.
Sam wasn't playing in today's championship game, but he would be the announcer. That had become his thing this difficult season; he was the boy in the booth, the voice in the sky, and no one dared say "boo" to him. The digital clock read 6:37. Sam had to pee. That's why he awoke, he guessed, pressure on the bladder; that, or the lousy birds who wouldn't shut-up about the brand-new day. The sun comes up, like it does every day, and those featherheads act like it's the most amazing thing in the world.
Chirp, chirp, chirp.
There was a buzzer rigged to Sam's headboard, one of his dad's proud contraptions, designed to make life a little easier. Just push the button and a bell sounded in three rooms of the house. Then his mother or father would come bounding into the room: "Are you all right? How can we help?!" And if Sam didn't look into their eyes--didn't really look--then it would be okay.
Sam made a point not to look in anyone's eyes.