Last Ball Game


“That’s one!” Dee shouted, sending her Nerf ball into the basket balanced on the arm of the couch. The normal contents of the basket, assorted remotes and living room junk lay scattered on, around, and under the couch cushions nearby.

“Doesn’t count,” Brad said, rising up on his toes to make his shot from his place across the room. It hit the floor a good foot short of the couch, nowhere near the basket.

“Sure it counts, don’t be such a spoilsport.” Dee dashed forward and scooped her ball out of the basket and kicked Brad’s back to him.

“Doesn’t, you stepped over the line.” Brad shrugged and bent down to pick up his ball, brushing cat hair from its foam surface.

“Bah, you always say that,” Dee poised for another throw and took a step forward as she let it fly, her entire foot over the line.

“That’s because you always do.” Brad tossed his ball underhanded this time and it flew over the basket and bounced off the waiting paws of the family’s black cat, George, and into the basket. “That’s one for me.”

“No way. That’s one for George!” Dee laughed and danced over to the couch and ruffled George’s fur. “He’s a better ball player than either of us.”

“Whatever.” Brad knuckled George’s head and pulled his ball out of the basket. “Hey, is that the mail truck or…”

“Is it?” Dee darted for the front window and stared down the street. “Not yet. Do you think it’s ever going to get here?”

“Bound to, isn’t it?” Brad lined up for another shot and this time bounced his ball off of the rim.

“You really suck at this, don’t you, Bro? What would the pep squad say about the school’s basketball star if they could see you now?” Dee laughed up at her lanky brother and tossed her ball over her shoulder, coming nowhere near the couch, let alone the basket.

“Don’t know, don’t care,” Brad flopped down on the couch, sending random bits flying. “Stupid game anyway.”

“This one or basketball?” Dee picked up the worst of the mess and tossed it into the basket, missing as much as she got in.

“Both, I guess.” Brad tossed his Nerf ball into the air and caught it, lounging back on the couch. “Seems a bit pointless, either way.

“You won’t get an argument with me, Bro. Not now, anyway.” Dee folded her feet under her and started picking at her Nerf ball, pulling black hairs from it. Now that they were stationary, George ambled over and settled between them, purring and beginning to knead the couch cushions.

Dee eyed her brother. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Nah, no point, really.” Brad caught his ball and began teasing George with it, rolling it back and forth on the cushion in front of the cat’s nose.

“Where are you going to go?” Dee ran her fingers through George’s fur.

“I don’t know. Depends on my letter.” Brad shrugged, not looking up.

“Same here, I guess” Dee promised, her voice catching in her throat. “You’re all I’ve got now. Are you sure you don’t want to go together?”

“Nah.”

“It’s not the end of the world,” Dee said, then laughed. “I mean, I guess it is, in a way. But you know what I mean.”

“Yah, the world is ending, but at least we get to relocate. Very big of them.” Brad’s tone flattened even more.

“Do you think George is going to be okay? I’m worried about him.” Dee stroked the cat’s head and he leaned into her hand with a purr.

“They said the pets would be taken care of,” Brad repeated the reassurance everyone had been given more than once.

“Taken care of as in fed and loved or taken care of as in gotten rid of?” Dee asked, not for the first time. “I can’t help think of the old Twilight Zone episode, “Serving Man is a cookbook!”

Brad sighed and just looked at her.

“Okay, I get it, they’re wonderful aliens, not evil, people-eating aliens, but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry and not just about George, either. You’re my bro and the only family I have left, now that Mom and Dad are gone. I still wonder why they took the older people first. Doesn’t that worry you at all?”

“Don’t matter,” Brad said, “Can’t change it, why fight it, right?”

Now it was Dee’s turn to sigh. “I just hope they send us somewhere cool. Dagobah would be fun.”

“Nerd.”

“Jock!”

“Whatever.”

“Wait! I hear it for real this time!” Dee ran to the front door and almost danced to the mailbox, waiting for the letters that would tell the siblings where in the galaxy they were to be sent. Behind them, George licked his paw and wiped it over his face, neither knowing nor caring.

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