establish or strengthen as with new evidence or facts
The mother came lumbering over, nodding, as if to
confirm: “A kid.”
move from one place to another by lifting
The old man gathered his own bones and muscles as best he could and managed to
hoist the kid and get him into the pickup.
having authority or sanction
He knew he should take the kid straight to the hospital, or a doctor, someplace
official, someplace right.
lacking in strength, firmness, or resilience
With trembling, dusty fingers, he touched the kid’s
limp, scrawny hand.
a brief indulgence of your impulses
An hour later, after a minor shopping
spree, Maniac had clothes of his own.
performed with little or no delay
Maniac’s answer was
prompt: “The baseball room. It’s perfect.”
move away from each other
So all the other kids would be heading for their homes, their night homes, each of them, hundreds, flocking from school like birds from a tree,
scattering across town, each breaking off to his or her own place, each knowing exactly where to land.
an odd or fanciful or capricious idea
And the brushing little worm of a
notion was beginning to tickle him now.
as if rendered speechless with astonishment and surprise
Dumbfounded, the old man drove back out of the park to the nearest diner, where he sat with a cup of coffee while the boy wolfed down meatloaf and gravy, mashed potatoes, zucchini, salad, and coconut custard pie.
quickly and without warning
Grayson had a way of jumping into a subject without warning; it was during Maniac’s dessert that he
abruptly said, “Them black people, they eat mashed potatoes, too?”
restless or short-tempered under delay or opposition
“I know that,” said Grayson,
impatient, “but is theirs the same? As ours?”
a position or opinion reached after consideration
Neither could Maniac explain that the bad luck he always seemed to have with parents had led him to the
conclusion that he’d better stick to himself.
urge on; cause to act
“Sure you do,” Maniac
prodded. “About yourself. You know about you. Everybody has a story.”
temporary loss of strength and energy from hard work
There was a frayed
weariness in the old man’s words, as though they had long since worn out.
sturdy and strong in form, constitution, or construction
This word, unlike the others, was not worn at all, but fresh and
assert to be true
All the while Grayson told baseball stories (
insisting, all along, “I ain’t got no stories”).
a distinctive odor that is pleasant
Sniffing the scuffed horsehide
aroma of the ball, rippling the fingertips over the red stitching — it’s hard to say how these things can make the listening better, but they do, and, for Maniac, they did.
grip or seize, as in a wrestling match
Stiff, crooked fingers that
grappled clumsily with Krimpet wrappers curled naturally around the shape of a baseball.
the range of skills in a particular field or occupation
Except for one pitch, the only one left in his
repertoire from the old days.
Unlike most pitches, the stopball involved no element of surprise. On the
contrary, the old man would always announce it.
beyond or deviating from the usual or expected
There sure didn’t seem to be anything unusual about it, not at first, anyway; but as the ball came closer, it did somehow seem to get more and more
peculiar; and by the time it reached the plate, it might just as well have stopped, because Maniac never knew if he was swinging at the old man’s pitch or at his speech.
And every night, as the old man left for his room at the Y, he would
grouse, “You oughta go to school.”
destroy or injure severely
Ancient, back-broken math books, flaking travel books, warped spellers,
mangled mysteries, biographies, music books, astronomy books, cookbooks.
a special way of doing something
The old man showed an early
knack for consonants.
handgrip formed by the raised front part of a saddle
He would saddle up that c, climb aboard and grip the
pommel for dear life, and ol’ c, more often than not, it would throw him. Whenever that happened, he’d just climb right back on and ride ’er some more.
having a difficult and contrary disposition
But even at their orneriest, consonants were fun.
The kid used different words, but in his ears the old Minor Leaguer heard: “Keep your eye on it. .. Hold your swing . .. Watch it all the way in . . . Don’t be
anxious ... Just make contact.”
imagine to be the case or true or probable
And suddenly the kid was hugging him, squeezing with a power you never
suspected was in that little body, unless you had seen him pole a baseball almost to the trees in dead center field.
While he groused about so
preposterous an idea, the kid laid down the mat he never used, bulldogged him down to it, pulled off his shoes and draped a blanket over him.
an alert cognitive state in which you are aware of yourself
Something deep in his heart, unmeasured by his own
consciousness, soared unburdened for the first time in thirty-seven years, since the time he had so disgraced himself before the Mud Hens’ scout and named himself thereafter a failure.
press tightly together or cram
But that didn’t stop the old man and the boy from joining the ten thousand who
thronged to the stadium on the boulevard to see the traditional high school football game.
break down due to fatigue, an illness, or a sudden attack
They stuffed themselves silly, then
collapsed and listened to polka music.
state or announce
“One oh one,” he
proclaimed. “One oh one Band Shell Boulevard.”
blessed with special advantages
Thanks to his long acquaintanceship with the locker room attendant, he and Maniac were
privileged to continue using the Y’s shower facilities at their pleasure.
without an occupant or incumbent
Wherever there were a few
vacant square inches, something Christmassy appeared: a matchbox creche, a porcelain Santa, a partridge in a pear tree.
By the time the two of them finished trimming it — their tree-trimming instincts having
languished for so many Christmases — hardly a pine needle could be seen under the tinsel and balls and whatnot.
move forward by leaping
Within an hour or two, the holiday would come
bounding down the stairs and squealing ’round the tinseled trees of Two Mills.
move or cause to move in a winding or curving course
They walked the creek woods all the way to the zoo,
meandering wordlessly throughout the snowy enchantment.
look with amazement
Maniac tore it open — and
gaped helplessly when he saw what it was.
seeming unaffected by pleasure or pain; impassive
He held the cold, limp hand that had thrown the pitch that had struck out Willie Mays, that had betrayed the old man’s
stoic ways by giving him a squeeze.