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Wally Hatford took two baseball cards from his dresser--Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez--and stuck them in a jacket pocket. Jake had given them to him a month before just because he had duplicates, but Wally was going to trade them at school for a magic trick--a box that took a quarter and turned it into a fifty-cent piece.
When he got downstairs and hung his jacket over a chair, he found his mother moving about the kitchen and talking to herself in a state of great agitation.
"I must have been clear out of my mind!" she said, lifting the teakettle off the stove and plunking it right back down again. "I don't know what in the world possessed me to say yes last year, when I had no idea what I'd be doing a year from then."
When Mrs. Hatford talked like this, Wally and his older brothers knew to lie low. Even their father knew that as long as breakfast was on the table, it was better to sit down and butter a biscuit than to ask what she was talking about.
But Peter, who was in second grade, hadn't learned that yet. He licked the grape jelly off his fingers and asked, "What did you say yes to?"
Everyone else at the table gave him a silent shake of the head. When Mrs. Hatford started talking, it was sometimes hard to get her to stop, and the boys would be lucky to make it to school on time. But it was too late.
"The Women's Auxiliary of the Buckman Fire Department's Treats and Treasures yard sale," she said, and immediately sank down in her chair at the end of the table and rested her chin in her hands.
"Now, that's a mouthful," Mr. Hatford said, hiding a smile behind his mug as he finished the last of his coffee. "Did you promise to clean out our attic and look for things to give to the sale?"
"I promised to run the sale!" Mrs. Hatford moaned.
"At the firehouse?"
"Right here in our yard! Right out there on the driveway! Right up on our front porch!" Mrs. Hatford cried.
Now all the Hatfords were staring.
"Well, Ellen, that shouldn't be so hard," said her husband. "I'm sure the boys will help, and I'll do what I can."
"No, you won't, because the sale happens to be the last Saturday in May, and you know what that is!"
Wally tried to think, and then he remembered. That would be the day of the final game in the district elementary school baseball championships. And Jake, his brother, was on the Buckman Badgers.
"If the Badgers make it that far, you know we'll all want to be there rooting for Jake!" Mrs. Hatford said in distress. "I'm certainly going to be taking half days off from work each Saturday in May that he's playing."
Now it was a family emergency! Wally saw Jake's eyes open wide. Even Josh, Jake's twin, looked startled that his mother might have to be anywhere else on that fateful day. Jake had wanted to play for the Buckman Badgers ever since he was six years old. This was the year, and May was the month, and the twenty-ninth was the day of the championship game.
But it just so happened, Mrs. Hatford continued, that in the window of every store in town there was a poster about the Treats or Treasures yard sale, which would be held from noon till four on May twenty-ninth at the home of Tom and Ellen Hatford on College Avenue, rain or shine. So there was no getting out of it. On that particular day, she would need to take a whole day off from her job at the hardware store, but how could she be in two places at once?
There was silence around the kitchen table as sausage gravy congealed on plates and biscuits grew cold.
"Well, after all the practice I've put in pitching balls to Jake for the last five years, I've got to be at that game," said Mr. Hatford. "If I have to take four vacation days off for baseball, that's okay with me. We hadn't planned on going anywhere this summer."
"He's my twin brother! I'm going to be there!" said Josh.
"I've been watching Jake practice ever since I was born!" Peter declared. "I'm going to go sit in the very first row and I'll yell the loudest of all."
"Well, I'm Jake's mother!" Mrs. Hatford said. "How could I not be at the championship game when my very own son is one of the pitchers? At least, we hope the Badgers will be playing that game."
Jake scraped up some sausage gravy with his fork and put it in his mouth, looking very smug and important.
Wally knew what was coming. He knew it before the first word was spoken. He had felt that something was up the moment he'd stepped into the kitchen that morning, in fact. He wondered if he'd sensed it even before he got out of bed. And now the whole family had turned their heads and were looking down the table at him.
"No," said Wally.
"Now, Wally," said his father. "There are times when every member of a family has to stand up and be counted."
"You can count me, but I don't want to do it," said Wally.
"There are times you have to make sacrifices for the good of the family," said his mother. "And you have to admit that baseball isn't your favorite thing."
Wally didn't see that this made any difference. Maybe he did think baseball was sort of boring, and maybe he did like to lie back in the bleachers and study the clouds instead of watching the team practice. But did that mean he wanted to stand out on the driveway surrounded by old lamps and curtain rods and picnic hampers, arguing about prices and missing the game? The game that was going to decide the sixth-grade champion of the district?
From the Hardcover edition.