Play It Again


I saw him again—the little freckle-faced, redheaded kid in the wheelchair—holding a baseball. He couldn’t be more than eight years old, and he was maneuvering that old chair around just like a car. Boy, can he drive that thing!

I wondered if they had taken some blood from him too. I didn’t like it very much when they took it from me, but I didn’t let on. After all, I’m twelve, and I don’t want to act like a baby. Anyway, they made me sit in a wheelchair, and they pushed me into elevators and down long hallways to my room. Our wheelchairs passed each other, and the freckle-faced kid said, “Hi! My name’s Kenny. Do you like baseball?”

I mumbled a quick hello in return, ignoring the question about baseball. I didn’t want to tell him that I loved baseball but that I couldn’t run very fast. I wanted to show him my autographed baseball that was signed by three superstars. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Some of the other guys on our baseball team, especially Bill and Kevin, didn’t want me on the team anymore because I couldn’t run the bases. They said it was my fault we’d lost one of the games. So I quit. But I still have the autographed ball, and I still want to be a famous baseball player someday. I’ll show them!

Anyway, I saw the kid in the wheelchair yesterday, sitting in the TV room watching a major league game. He was still holding a baseball. I went in and sat down on the couch in the back of the room. I wanted to watch the game, too, but I didn’t want to answer any of that little kid’s questions! As soon as I sat down, though, he wheeled that monster of a chair over and started in on me.

“Hi!” he said again. “What’s your name?”

“Luke,” I replied quietly, trying to ignore him. He kept staring at me, and I finally said, “You can call me Lucky. That’s my nickname.”

“That’s neat,” Kenny said. A big grin spread across his face, making his freckles seem to pop out. “Are you really a lucky person? I wish my name was Lucky. Why are you in the hospital? You’re not in a wheelchair, and you can walk.”

Boy, could this kid talk! But he was so friendly that I felt I had to answer.

“It’s something to do with my heart,” I told him. “They had to operate about three weeks ago. They left a big scar straight down my chest.”

I turned away from him, and he started to get excited about the home run scored on TV. I thought about waking up after the operation with the tubes stuck in me. They’d put them everywhere, and they hurt. I didn’t want to tell Kenny about it. After all, he was just a kid and wouldn’t understand. The doctors said that my heart was the reason I couldn’t run fast. Only they said everything would be OK now. But I didn’t believe them. I felt even worse than before. When Bill and Kevin came to see me and told me I could be on the team again when I’m stronger, I told them I didn’t want to be on their old baseball team anymore. I didn’t want them to feel sorry for me.

Kenny suddenly turned toward me and asked, “Do you play baseball?”

I tugged at the back of my hair, my eyes looking down. “A little,” I answered, then added, “I want to be a real baseball player someday, like the guys you’re watching on TV.” I don’t know why I said that. It must’ve just slipped out. Kenny’s face lit up like a Christmas tree, and he pushed his baseball at me.

“Can I have your autograph, please? You’re the only real baseball player I know. Please.”

He seemed almost to plead with me. He thought I was a star. Hesitantly I took his baseball. Kenny grabbed a pen out of his pocket and gave it to me. I looked at the ball, signed it “Lucky Wilson,” and handed it back to him.

“Thanks a lot!” Kenny actually glowed. “Now I have a real autographed baseball!”

I smiled weakly, turned, and walked slowly back to my room. I didn’t want to watch TV anymore. I felt a little mixed-up. In the hall I met the nurse who worked on that floor. “Why is that boy in a wheelchair?” I asked.

“Kenny?” she said. “Oh. His legs are paralyzed. He’s here for more tests and therapy.”

“Will he ever be able to walk?” I asked.

She gave me a long look before she said, “Kenny’s been in that wheelchair for a long time.” Then she added quickly, “He’s a very nice kid, though, don’t you think?”

“He sure is!” I answered and went on to my room.

Today I went back to the TV room. Kenny was there again, sitting all alone. I walked over to him, put my autographed baseball in his lap, and said, “This is for you.” His face sparkled.

“Are you sure you don’t want it?” he asked eagerly.

“I don’t need it,” I answered. “My name’s Lucky, remember?” I don’t think he understood—but I did. I knew someday I would hit a home run. I would hit it for Kenny.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Preston Heiselt