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The Tape Recorder
ONE THING Tom Kinsella could do that none of my otherdoctors could do was juggle. I found that out one daywhen he came into my room and spotted the three auto-graphed baseballs.
"Now you've got three of them," he said.
"That's right," I said.
"Who's this one from?"
"The team I used to play with in Texas."
"And this one?"
"The team I used to play with in California."
"And this has got to be the local yokels -- Arborville.
I had to smile at his description of them as "local yokels." He was an Arborville boy himself once . . . a long time ago. I guess you always knock what you like best.
"Mat's right," I said.
He picked up the three balls, making them look small just by holding them in one hand. "I suppose you know what three balls are good for?"
And darned if he didn't start juggling, right then and there in my hospital room. And him a doctor! I tried not to laugh. Laughing hurt inside. But to think we bad traveled more than halfway across the country in order for me to be this guy's patient. In California, they said he was a great doctor. Boy, if they only knew how he practiced medicine!
Finally he caught all three balls in one hand, and there he was, just the way he'd begun.
"How'd you learn to juggle, Tom?"
He put the balls back in the glass ashtray. "Someone taught me. One of these days I'll teach you."
But Tom Kinsella didn't teach me tomorrow because tomorrow I wasn't feeling so good. He promised the day after, but the day after wasn't anybetter. Then Dad took the balls out of my room. He said be wanted to show them to the nurses and orderlies at the central desk, but I knew why be did it. Tom Kinsella was annoyed, too. He said he'd get those balls back, but meanwhile he brought me something else. A tape recorder.
"Ever see one of these things before, sport?"
"They're real easy to work. All you do is flip this switch, push in the 'record' button, and start talking."
"Start talking about what?"
"About how you hit two home runs in one inning back in Texas."
"How'd you know about that?"
"Your dad. They must have had terrible pitching in Texas. This is the mike. You just hold it up and talk into it. Maybe talk about the perfect game you pitched in California against the team from Santa Barbara. Your dad didn't tell me about that one, sport. I saw the newspaper clipping on that one. Your little brother showed it to me."
I got a Kleenex and blew my nose. "I don't feel like talking into machines, Tom."
He rubbed my head. "Maybe you will later. Besides, you don't have to talk only about your victories. Tell about your defeats. You did lose once in a while, didn't you?"
This time I did laugh. "Yes, I lost. But that was here in Arborville, and you already know about that one. It got me back in the hospital,"
"Other people don't know, sport. Tell them about it. Tell them about Arborville. Tell them about me."
It's hard to argue with a doctor. I didn't say no; I didn't say yes, but one night when I was having a hard time sleeping, I turned on the, lamp, flipped the "On" switch on the tape recorder, pushed the "Record" button, picked up the microphone, and began talking about Arborville. Arborville was the last stop on a long line, but it was a good stop. It's easier to talk about happy things than unhappy things, so that's why I'm telling you about Arborville.Hang Tough, Paul Mather. Copyright © by Alfred Slote. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.