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How to Survive a Line Drive playing baseball
“Let’s do this, Dani,” Sam shouted, eyes twinkling with delight

Ever wish you were smaller than a grain of sand? Ever wish you could become invisible? Ever wish you could rewind your day? Well, that’s what I wished on my eleventh birthday.

“Happy birthday to Dani, happy birthday to you,” they sang as I blew out my candles and made a wish. Then I heard my mother and brother singing, “Skip around the room, we won’t stop ’til you skip around the room.”

How embarrassing, I thought to myself. But instead of skipping around and making a complete fool of myself, I simply asked, “Mom, can I get the biggest slice of cake?”

The cake looked so good. It was from Buttercup Bakery and was called a Hummingbird Cake. I think it is a cross between carrot and banana cake with some nuts and amazing frosting. I was very excited to have this cake because I hadn’t had it in so long. I had been away at sleep-away camp for four weeks, and let’s just say the food there is not really memorable in a good kind of way.

“Dani, will you play baseball with me?” Sam (a pesky seven-year-old boy) pleaded with me, tugging at my sleeve. I was thinking about my favorite cake and then I heard this little kid. Sam loved to play baseball and really looked up to me. To Sam I was a cool, sporty big kid. I, well, I did not look at him the same way at all. I was turning eleven and he was just seven. That can be a pretty big four-year difference. Not to mention that I have been hesitant playing with him since he hit my face with a basketball. Sure, he didn’t intend to hit me. It was an accident, but I’m the type of person who can forgive but not forget. Sam really seemed to like me though. Every time I wanted to do something, Sam wanted to do it, too. I worried that he would never play a game unless I said it was important to me, and that if I said no to baseball, Sam would stop playing baseball. Maybe I was making too much of it, but I felt like if I said no, I would crush a little part of him and I didn’t want to do that. It’s my birthday though! I thought to myself. I should make myself happy today, not him, said the voice inside my head. The choice was clear, me or Sam? I was thinking. I mean, it was classic villain against hero, The Joker against Batman. Which one did I want to be?

Flash forward. Could I deal with crushing Sam? Nope. Rewind. Batman it was.

“Dani... Dani.” Sam’s loud but tiny voice snapped me out of my conscience games. “Dani, will you play baseball with me,” Sam asked in the sweetest, most innocent voice. “Please...”

He gave me the puppy-dog eyes, too. I mean, that’s not fair! I always fall for that. It’s my kryptonite. Don’t do it, I thought. Say no. No, no, NO, I thought.

“Yeah, sure, Sam, let’s go play.”

*          *          *

“Batter up,” I cried, mounting the high pile of sand also known as the pitcher’s mound.

“Let’s do this, Dani,” Sam shouted, eyes twinkling with delight, “we all know who’s going to win here.” He was relaxed around me, but he was always trying to impress me.

“Right,” I said, winding my arm up like a windmill. Sam was clearly happy, but he certainly wasn’t smiling. Instead, there was a thin red line, pursed tightly together with a tiny curve upward at the end. I sighed. I was really doing this. Besides, Sam had his game face on. There was no going back now.

Whoosh! My pitch flew right past his head. I was being a little harsh. Well, I thought, if I’m doing this, I’m not just going to let him win. No. I never just “phone it in.” I always give it my best.

“Ugghh.” Sam kicked home plate in disgust. “Go again, Dani,” he growled.

Whoosh! He missed and kicked poor home plate again. Whoosh! Oh, boy. I’m glad I’m not home plate. I would be in shambles. Gone was the little boy who loved me. Here, instead, was the competitive boy who kicks—no, destroys— things. “Um, let’s switch it up, Sam,” I suggested nervously. Without a word, we switched places.

I’d like to say it was a cloudy, rainy day, but it wasn’t. It was a beautiful, sunny day. It was my birthday. “Batter up,” Sam shouted. “I didn’t get a run so you won’t either!”

How to Survive a Line Drive birthday cake

“Let’s do this,” I replied. Whoosh! I heard the ball whistling towards me. Crack! I heard the connection of my bat and the ball. I felt my arm surging in the air. I heard Sam cry out, but it wasn’t like before. When I looked over, as I was running towards first base, I saw him lying on the ground, in agony. Just like that, I became the villain.

*          *          *

“Sam, are you OK?” I shouted as I turned and immediately started sprinting toward the pitcher’s mound. I, of course, feared the worst. What did I do? How would I get though this?

“Owww,” Sam groaned as he lay on the ground, with one hand pressed against his eye.

“Sam, are you OK, kiddo?” I kept repeating.

“It hurts, Dani,” he wailed.

“I’m really sorry, Sam. I didn’t mean to,” I said, feeling so bad. I felt my face go a deep shade of pink.

“It’ll be OK,” Sam said, removing his hand to reveal a bright red welt that would surely bruise terribly. “Can we keep playing?” he asked. It was so funny and confusing I almost laughed. He was OK... and he forgave me! Sam wanted to play again. Sam, with his flat, dark brown hair and warm affable eyes, wanted to play again. I was about to jump up and down like a little kid. My face lit up like I had just won the lottery. This little kid was showing me something. This little kid had guts!

His eye stayed that same red color the rest of the day. I was joyful, though, just because Sam forgave me, and I was happy. Just because Sam forgave me, my birthday was great. That’s how I remember my eleventh birthday, how Sam had saved it from being a total disaster. That day, I learned that just because someone hurts you, doesn’t mean he or she is a bad person. I didn’t mean to hurt Sam, but he ended up getting hurt anyway. Now, since he forgave me, we’re still baseball buddies to this very day. Just because a seven-year-old boy gave me, an eleven-year-old girl, a second chance, I have a great friend.

Ever since my birthday, I’ve stopped thinking (and acting like) little kids can only be annoying. I thought I had it all figured out. Boy, was I wrong. Sometimes, they can be more mature than much older kids, and more fun, too. Maybe I’ll give my six-year-old sister a second chance. Nah!

How to Survive a Line Drive Dani Bergman Chudnow
Dani Bergman Chudnow, 11
New York, New York

How to Survive a Line Drive Hannah Phillips
Hannah Phillips, 13
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania