“How come you don’t play baseball, Harry?”
“I dunno. I guess I don’t like it much.”
Jimmy nodded to himself even though he didn’t understand how any boy could not like baseball. Throwing the ball high into the air, he forgot Harry for the moment and raced across the yard just as the ball came down; he caught it smoothly, the supple leather glove folded around the battered baseball like a second skin.
Harry sat on the porch, reading like he always did when he watched Jimmy after school. He would sit outside, reading, until Mother woke up and then he would disappear upstairs, lock his bedroom door and be alone. Free from the looks his mother gave him; far away from questions like ‘Why don’t you play ball?’
“They have a team at your school.” Jimmy was saying. He had no idea how annoying it was talking to someone who was reading. Jimmy thought books were dumb; why read when you could be outside playing ball or down at the beach throwing rocks at the seagulls. “My friend Danny’s brother is on it. Why dontcha play on that team?”
“I said I don’t know, Jimmy!” Harry snapped. “Why don’t you leave me alone until Mother gets up.”
“Danny’s brother says it’s cuz you’re a sissy.”
Harry’s face reddened, though he kept his eyes in his book.
“Are you Harry? Are you a sissy?”
“Shut your mouth Jimmy….”
“Or what?” He said snidely, knowing he’d struck a nerve; even at six-years-old, he could tell. His lower lip shot out in an artificial pout. “What’re you gonna do Harry? Slap me? Ooh, I’m so scared of the sissy.”
Harry slammed the book shut and dropped it off the porch. Trying so hard not to let Jimmy get the best of him, he ran his hands down his thighs, grabbing the thick denim of his jeans and bunching the fabric between his fingers. It was bad enough that school was torture, a dirty look or a shove when he least expected it, but now his own brother was calling him names. Sissy. Why can’t I be like everyone else? Harry thought. Why can’t I play baseball or climb the rope in gym? Another torture. ‘What’s the matter, Seaton? Too hard for you, faggot?’ Why can’t everyone just leave me alone?
“Come on sissy,” Jimmy taunted. “Play ball, sissy.”
That was enough. Harry scooped up a handful of pebbles from alongside the porch and threw them at his little brother. His aim was off and the stones scattered all over the front yard, landing everywhere but near Jimmy. Perfect fag throw. He heard the kids from school in his head, although he tried convincing himself that he deliberately missed Jimmy, that he didn’t want to hurt his brother; but that wasn’t the truth. He wanted to hurt Jimmy; he wanted them all to hurt like he hurt. Every last one.
“Aw, man!” Jimmy laughed viciously and ran around the yard like a rabid dog, howling. “You even throw like a girl. Danny was right! You are a sissy! SISSY!”
Squirming, Harry wanted to tell Jimmy to fuck off. Shove it up your ass, you little fucker! But Jimmy would tell Mother as soon as she awoke and Harry felt his skin burn from the slap she would give him for cursing. So, rather than call Jimmy names—which might make him feel better, for a moment—Harry grabbed his book and stood up; he raced through the front door, pushing it so hard it crashed into the oak coat tree. Even from the front yard, Jimmy heard Harry’s bedroom door slam; it was so loud it might have disturbed the neighbors, had there been any neighbors that far down Skeleton Road. Jimmy stayed outside, throwing the ball and shouting,
“Sissy. Sissy. Sissy. Sissy….”
At the window, the big one facing the sea, Harry pressed his forehead to the cool glass and listened to his brother’s hissing. He felt like a foreigner in that house.