"If anyone rolls their eyes or acts out, they get sent to Pluto"
We play on a cul-de-sac with a big grass circle in the center. We call this Earth. When we score, we must slide and crash into a neon-blue cone. This is home, our batter’s box, where we explode every time with arms flailing, mouths spit-flying rockets. My father always drags the bag of mitts and gear to our curb. Before we begin, he give his famous sportsmanship speech that always ends with: this game, not for the feint of heart, is part dodgeball, part baseball, part facts.
“Now, come on, Cosmonauts, batter up!”
If anyone rolls their eyes or acts out, they get sent to Pluto, where they must draw an alien creature with green chalk before coming back. A red cone serves as first base, which is our Mars. As an added twist, when guarding Mars, we get to use a dodgeball called Meaty Meteor. It is easy to avoid Meaty, but if we get tagged we have to fall down like a dying dinosaur roaring into death. Second base is the most fun, an orange bean bag, worn and leaking. This is our Jupiter. Every kid plops down and squirms in, pretends they are royalty. Third base is tough, marked with a blue kiddie pool, slightly filled. This is our Neptune. To get past it, we must answer one of my father's quiz questions about space:
How far is Mars from Earth?
What is the biggest planet in the galaxy?
On which planet does it rain diamonds?
If we get it wrong, we must wait a turn— and then, every kid kicks up a little water at my father. Even me. He shakes his fist and says "why you little human!" Whenever he begins to belt out the lyrics to “Fly Me To The Moon” we get to make rocket-launching sounds and skip a base. Anytime someone asks about missing planets like Saturn or Venus or the one we mispronounce as Your Anus, he points to their distant spot in the sky, and says “Maybe one day you will take us there?”
M. E. Silverman had 2 books of poems published and co-edited Bloomsbury’s Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust, and 101 Jewish Poems for the Third Millennium. @4ME2Silver