You were supposed to say two things or people, or a thing and a person, and make someone pick who or what they’d save in a burning building.
I said your socks or your shoes and we laughed so hard. Your shirt or your shorts, your toes or the dog. Kerry, the one Tommy thinks is the prettiest, or Katie, who lets him touch her in the back of the bus. You had to know someone’s preferences beforehand if you wanted to win. And winning was really only stumping the other person for a minute.
By the time we could save whoever it was only their heart would exist. Like you probably weren’t touching Kerry or Katie after you saved them from the fire, because of the burns. And all the trauma.
Tommy said, “Mom or God,” with a look in his eyes like he knew he was cheating. I was paralyzed.
He sang Mom or God Mom or God, and Mom saw me crying, and we had to fully explain Burning Building.
Mom said God invented fire so God can’t die in a fire. She was convincing me to pick her, it was sad. She said, “The heart of the thing can’t be the only part of it that exists.” As if she might be more well-rounded than God.
Tommy said, “Don’t we have baseball practice in like five minutes.”
In our league we aren’t allowed to throw curveballs because they don’t want us to do long-term damage to our wrists or elbows, so he throws a slow, sinking slider. He understands the concept of a changeup better than anyone. And he looks real mean on the mound like you’re supposed to.
The baseball field was at Saint Leo’s, the Catholic school down the street. When we got there, the church part of the school was on fire. Tommy jumped out of the car before Mom even parked it.
He screamed, “God?” And took his shirt off and tied it around his face, and ran into the church. I screamed, “Mom’s right here. It doesn’t count.” But he was gone.
Mom parked the car and started texting someone. She said they had it under control. I ran halfway following him then ran a few steps back, like I was in a pickle. Everyone else’s parents said, “Chapel,” into their phones, and I remembered that’s what it was called.
Tommy came running out of the chapel with a candle in each of his hands. He ran straight back to Mom’s car and put them on the ground and took the shirt down and fainted.
The baseball team calls him names now, for saving candles from the fire. Mom had to talk to our coach about it. Tommy said everything else was either too heavy or made of paper.
He’s learning how to play fair. But it’s gonna take some time. He gave up six runs in three innings last game.