Some kids mature faster than others. I was an advanced six-year-old. Even though Jamie could ride his bike with one hand, most of his jokes still revolved around farting or holding me down and sitting on me and farting. He wasn’t very funny.
I came up with plays on words. If the bread on my sandwich was falling apart, I’d tell him, “This is crummy bread.” He’d just stare at me until I explained that the bread had crumbs and it tasted bad. Then I’d say, “Get it?” Or one time I took Jacob’s little hat and put it on my knee. “Look,” I said, “it’s a kneecap.” But then I had to explain that it was a cap on my knee and say, “Get it?” He kind of nodded and said he understood, but he didn’t laugh because he wasn’t as mature as I was.
The week before Easter 1982, Jamie and I played in our Saturday baseball games. We practiced all the time and were pretty good. I was a Royal and Jamie was a Met. My game was before his. Dad, Jean, and Jake came to my game. I hit a double, we won, and then walked over to Jamie’s field.
We watched a little bit of Jamie’s game. It was the last game and most of the people had left the fields. I noticed a car with a big dent pull up and stop. It looked like Mickie’s but was a different color. Micki got out of the passenger side. I waved, but she didn’t see me. Then a man with glasses and wrinkles and a cigarette got out of the other side. He was thin and wore boots. He walked around and kissed Micki. I dropped my snack.
“Dad,” I said, “he just kissed Micki. Stop him!” Dad looked up and kind of smiled.
Micki walked over to us, holding the man’s hand. “Greg,” she said to my dad, “this is the friend I told you about, Verlin.” Dad shook his hand.
Verlin looked down at me. “And you must be Jamie,” he said. He shook my hand. He looked even older up close. “Look at those glasses,” he said. I turned a little red and held up my glove. He turned to Micki, “You didn’t say he wore glasses.”
“That’s Jimmy, not Jamie. Jamie’s over there.” She pointed to Jamie.
Verlin looked toward the field. “Let’s go Jamie,” he shouted. Jamie looked at the man with his mom. He missed the ball hit toward him.
I asked Jean to play catch and we played through the end of Jamie’s game. I ran up to Jamie and waited for him to get his snack. “Good game,” I said, “do you want to play catch?”
“It’s time to go,” dad said. We got in the van, but Micki told Jamie to get in the car with her and Verlin. We waved to each other.
We got home and I waited for Jamie. I played with Jean and then Jake and then Puddles, but he didn’t come home. I played with my baseball cards and went through my Angels cards. I had most the Angels from 1981, but still bought that year’s packs when we went to the baseball card store so I could get a Dave Lemanczyk. It was the only Angel I didn’t have that Jamie did.
Mom got home and made dinner and still Jamie didn’t come home. Jean asked where Jamie and Micki were.
“Well,” dad said, “Jamie and Micki are going to be spending some time with Verlin.”
“Dad, did you know he smokes?”
Jamie didn’t come back until late that evening. I had lots of questions.
He went to Verlin’s house which wasn’t too far away from ours. He liked it because he got to eat McDonald’s and he had his own room. The room had a tv and he watched it until he fell asleep.
The next morning, we went outside and climbed up the tree house. We sat for a long time without saying much. I picked an orange and began to peel it.
“Were there any kids there?”
“Nah,” he said, “just my mom and dad.”
“Dad?” I said, “who’s your dad?”
“He’s Verlin. He’s got three cars. All Pintos and all different colors. He’s rich. Mom and him are getting married.”
“Married? Your mom is too old to get married.”
“No she’s not. She’s a little older than your mom and your mom is married.”
“When is she getting married?”
“On Easter. In Vegas. Mom says it’ll be romantic.”
“Easter? That’s this Sunday. That’s dumb. Where’s Verlin going to sleep? That bed is too crowded for you and your mom and Verlin.”
“Oh, we’re moving into Verlin’s house.”
I felt like I couldn’t breathe. He said it so easily. I looked at him for a second. Stood. And threw my orange at him.
I climbed down the treehouse and gave him the silent treatment.
He followed me down. “Jimmy, it’s not a big deal. We’ll live close. And mom will still take care of Jake.”
I turned to face him, but couldn’t think of anything to say. I ran at him and tackled him. He rolled me over and got on top and held me down.
“Let me up!” I yelled. And he let me up.
I ran inside.
We had the next week off of school for spring break. We played hard together every day. We built a bicycle jump in the backyard, climbed higher than we’d ever climbed on the maple tree, and showed off our mouthwash drinking skills to Jean.
It rained on Wednesday, so Micki helped us make and frost Easter cookies. On Thursday we took a full mud bath in the puddles the rain left. Friday was good because that was the day we dyed the Easter eggs. Dark green and orange and purple. Jamie dyed all of his eggs blue because that was his favorite color.
I interrupted his dying, “I don’t know why you’re dying the eggs.”
He looked at me. “For the same reason that I dye them every year, so I can go find them.”
“You’re leaving for Vegas in the morning. You won’t get to find them.”
He stopped dying them for a second. “You can find them!”
I didn’t know how he could be leaving and not be sad, but I did want to get to find more eggs than Jean and Jake.
The rest of Friday we didn’t talk about his leaving. We just played a little bit rougher and ended up a little dirtier with a couple more scratches than usual.
Verlin came over early the next morning. He drove the orange Pinto. Mom gave Micki some jewelry to wear at her wedding. I gave Jamie some Mets baseball cards and the 1943 steel penny we found together at the park.
I felt like I was about to cry, but Jamie just gave me a high-five and climbed into the car. I waved as they turned the corner. I don’t think he looked back.
Jean came out with the gloves and we played catch for a while. We went to bed early that night. I thought about Easter and the cookies and the chocolate bunnies and the extra eggs I was going to get to find, and about how it would be a little sad to find the blue ones. I drifted off.
I woke up first the next morning and ran down the hall to find my Easter basket.
Dad and mom and Jean got up. Jean and I searched for a while while mom and dad played the ‘Hot/Cold’ game with us.
After five minutes or so, I found the biggest basket I ever had. I sat on the living room floor and took the contents out a little at a time. There were chocolate bunnies and marshmallow bunnies and jelly beans, even the black ones that I hated. I pulled the fake grass out of the basket when I noticed a piece of blue construction paper that was folded in half with my name on it. I knew it was Jamie’s writing.
I smiled, opened, and read it.
“Dear Jimmy, here is your Easter card. Get it?”
Inside the folded up piece of construction paper, I saw…