The boy is ten and on his first All Star baseball team. They have completed their first practice in the simmering Corpus Christi heat, and it was nothing like regular Little League practice. Drills were far more intense, they conditioned, and they worked the entire two hours with no time wasted shagging balls or fooling around. At one point, he got light-headed, saw stars, and had to put his head between his knees. At another point, he threw up all the Gatorade he had drunk to that point.
Now he is home lying on the couch, resting up for tomorrow. His mother sits at his feet, pats his legs, and says, “How you feeling?”
“Really tired. Getting better.”
“Make sure you get plenty more to drink all day. And not just water. Get some juice and Gatorade in you. You need the salts and sugars.”
“I will,” he says. “I didn’t know it would be so tough.”
“I guess it’s different being an All Star.”
“I guess so.”
“I might just lie here all day.”
“That’s fine. Whatever you need to do.” She moves to the edge of the couch as if to get up, but she pauses and looks off into space. She smiles wistfully.
“What?” the boy says.
“What’s that?” she says turning back.
“You looked like you were thinking about something or wanting to say something.”
“I was just remembering a time when I was a kid and Ned was a teenager.”
“Yeah, my father was a coal packer and trucker. He would go up into the mountains in Utah and load a truck full of coal, then bring it down from the mountains and sell it.”
“Hard work, I bet,” the boy says.
“And dangerous. Harder than almost anyone can imagine. This one time, he took Ned with him, and they put in a full day loading coal. When he got home, Ned was exhausted, but he had school the next day. He told my mother that he needed to be up no later than 7:30 in the morning and asked if she could make sure he was up. She said sure. He went straight to bed at maybe 7:30 or 8 that evening. When he woke up, it was nearly 10 am. He was really frustrated he hadn’t been awakened for school. He went into my mom and bawled her out, and Mom said to him, ‘Ned, I tried yesterday to wake you up.'”
His mother nods with a wry smile. “Yes. He slept for more than thirty-six hours. She couldn’t wake him up at 7:30 the morning after he went to bed. She couldn’t wake him up later, either, so she figured he needed the rest, gave up, and let him sleep.”
“Yep. That’s the coal business. Get your education. You don’t want to do a job like that your whole life like my dad did.”