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The Magic Baseball

i

stared at the glossy image. Six-year-old toothless me holding Mom’s hand as white waves broke on the shore behind
us. A strand of dark hair blew in Mom’s face, hiding what
might have been a small smile.
I turned as Mom appeared in the doorway. “Look at this.
I was so little.” I held up the picture, smiling.
When Mom’s eyes found the box I had opened, confusion
swept across her face. “Where did you find that? I thought
we’d unpacked everything.”
“It . . . was in here,” I said.
She stepped into the spare room of our new apartment.
We’d moved all over San Diego. From 4th Street to 10th Street

Tortilla Sun

The Magic Baseball

and from Mulberry Road to Elm Road. The last place we lived
was on Paradise Place. That had a nice ring to it. Now, we
were living at 1423 M Street. “M” for maybe this will finally
be home.
“I haven’t seen this in ages.” Her eyes danced as she
traced her long fingers over the photo. “I think you had just
lost that front tooth.” She chuckled at the memory.
A soft breeze crawled in through the window, tickling
my face. That’s when I caught sight of something else in
the box.
A baseball.
I took the baseball from the box and rotated it in my hand.
The words because and magic were written across the front.
“Whose is this?”
Mom looked up and yanked the ball from my grasp.
“Wait. I want to look at it. What do those words mean?”
I said.
“I . . . It’s nothing. Help me fold up this box.”
“Is it Dad’s?” I asked barely above a whisper.
Mom turned to me. “I said never mind, Izzy. It’s just an
old nothing.” But I knew it wasn’t a nothing. Dad died before
I was born and Mom never wanted to talk about him. But I
imagined we were just the same. That he hated moving from

place to place, never finding a home. I bet he hated packing
too, unless it was for vacation.
Mom grabbed the box and marched down the hall. I
heard the closet door slam. Then she reappeared and leaned
against the doorframe. “We don’t need to unpack that one.
Just leave it alone. ”
“But . . .”
She put her palm up. “I said leave it alone.”

10

11

That night, I sat at my desk beneath the window to write
down some ideas for a story. “Because magic,” I whispered.
Did my dad write those words? And why was there a gap
between the words like something was missing?
The June moon hung low in the sky like it was attached
to some invisible string. Its brilliant yellow light filtered
through the palms outside, creating dancing shadows on the
bare white walls of my room.
I tapped a pen against my cheek and stared at a blank
index card. I had a whole stack of them with the beginnings
of my unfinished stories. Mrs. Barney, my fifth grade teacher,
had turned me on to them. She said small cards weren’t so
intimidating for “budding writers.” I’d asked her what budding meant; she just laughed and told me I was growing.

Tortilla Sun

The Magic Baseball

and from Mulberry Road to Elm Road. The last place we lived
was on Paradise Place. That had a nice ring to it. Now, we
were living at 1423 M Street. “M” for maybe this will finally
be home.
“I haven’t seen this in ages.” Her eyes danced as she
traced her long fingers over the photo. “I think you had just
lost that front tooth.” She chuckled at the memory.
A soft breeze crawled in through the window, tickling
my face. That’s when I caught sight of something else in
the box.
A baseball.
I took the baseball from the box and rotated it in my hand.
The words because and magic were written across the front.
“Whose is this?”
Mom looked up and yanked the ball from my grasp.
“Wait. I want to look at it. What do those words mean?”
I said.
“I . . . It’s nothing. Help me fold up this box.”
“Is it Dad’s?” I asked barely above a whisper.
Mom turned to me. “I said never mind, Izzy. It’s just an
old nothing.” But I knew it wasn’t a nothing. Dad died before
I was born and Mom never wanted to talk about him. But I
imagined we were just the same. That he hated moving from

place to place, never finding a home. I bet he hated packing
too, unless it was for vacation.
Mom grabbed the box and marched down the hall. I
heard the closet door slam. Then she reappeared and leaned
against the doorframe. “We don’t need to unpack that one.
Just leave it alone. ”
“But . . .”
She put her palm up. “I said leave it alone.”

10

11

That night, I sat at my desk beneath the window to write
down some ideas for a story. “Because magic,” I whispered.
Did my dad write those words? And why was there a gap
between the words like something was missing?
The June moon hung low in the sky like it was attached
to some invisible string. Its brilliant yellow light filtered
through the palms outside, creating dancing shadows on the
bare white walls of my room.
I tapped a pen against my cheek and stared at a blank
index card. I had a whole stack of them with the beginnings
of my unfinished stories. Mrs. Barney, my fifth grade teacher,
had turned me on to them. She said small cards weren’t so
intimidating for “budding writers.” I’d asked her what budding meant; she just laughed and told me I was growing.

Tortilla Sun

The Magic Baseball

But what did me being tall have to do with writing? I doodled
little hearts on the card while I thought about a new story.
One day, a girl named Sara . . . No, not Sara. Something more
interesting.
Pushing my long dark hair from my face, I grazed my
silver hoop earring and stared at the empty moving boxes on
the floor. Gypsy. Yes, a girl named Gypsy.
I scribbled the beginning of the story.
One day Gypsy opened a secret box. Inside she found a ball.
And . . . And what? With my pen in hand, I leaned back and
spun my swivel chair in slow circles. “That’s it!” I said.
And it was magic. It . . .
I scratched out the word it and wrote:
But her mother said the ball was worthless and buried it.
“Where would she bury it,” I whispered. “Maybe in the
backyard?” No, Gypsy lived somewhere amazing, like a castle.
Her mother buried it in an orchard outside the castle walls. But
why would her mother bury the ball? What was she hiding?
Frustrated, I laid my head on the desk. I was good at starting a story. It was the finishing that was hard. Like trying to
finish a puzzle without all the pieces.
When the phone rang, I snapped upright. Mom answered
before the second ring like she was expecting the call. I
tiptoed toward the closed bedroom door. Who could be

calling this late? I quietly opened my door and pressed my
ear to the crack. Mom’s voice, coming from the living room,
was hushed.
“No I haven’t told her yet. I will.”
Silence.
“Maybe this will be good for her. I just worry . . . she is
bound to find the truth and—”
Mom sighed at this point, and I pictured her rubbing her
hand back and forth across her forehead. “I know. Maybe it’s
the best way. Do you think she’ll forgive me?”
Can’t talk about what? Forgive her for what?
“If she asks, take it slow.” Mom paused for a long minute
then whispered something into the phone I didn’t catch
because a car horn honked right outside my window. The
last thing I heard was, “Thanks, Mama.”
Nana? Why was she talking to Nana? She hardly ever
talked to her. All of a sudden the night felt heavy.
I glanced back at my story card and imagined Gypsy
sneaking into the orchard to unbury the ball while her
mother slept. I told myself if I could get the ball without
waking Mom, it would be a sign that it was meant to be
mine. And if I didn’t, it would stay locked away.
Finally after half an hour, I heard Mom close her bedroom door.

12

13

Tortilla Sun

The Magic Baseball

But what did me being tall have to do with writing? I doodled
little hearts on the card while I thought about a new story.
One day, a girl named Sara . . . No, not Sara. Something more
interesting.
Pushing my long dark hair from my face, I grazed my
silver hoop earring and stared at the empty moving boxes on
the floor. Gypsy. Yes, a girl named Gypsy.
I scribbled the beginning of the story.
One day Gypsy opened a secret box. Inside she found a ball.
And . . . And what? With my pen in hand, I leaned back and
spun my swivel chair in slow circles. “That’s it!” I said.
And it was magic. It . . .
I scratched out the word it and wrote:
But her mother said the ball was worthless and buried it.
“Where would she bury it,” I whispered. “Maybe in the
backyard?” No, Gypsy lived somewhere amazing, like a castle.
Her mother buried it in an orchard outside the castle walls. But
why would her mother bury the ball? What was she hiding?
Frustrated, I laid my head on the desk. I was good at starting a story. It was the finishing that was hard. Like trying to
finish a puzzle without all the pieces.
When the phone rang, I snapped upright. Mom answered
before the second ring like she was expecting the call. I
tiptoed toward the closed bedroom door. Who could be

calling this late? I quietly opened my door and pressed my
ear to the crack. Mom’s voice, coming from the living room,
was hushed.
“No I haven’t told her yet. I will.”
Silence.
“Maybe this will be good for her. I just worry . . . she is
bound to find the truth and—”
Mom sighed at this point, and I pictured her rubbing her
hand back and forth across her forehead. “I know. Maybe it’s
the best way. Do you think she’ll forgive me?”
Can’t talk about what? Forgive her for what?
“If she asks, take it slow.” Mom paused for a long minute
then whispered something into the phone I didn’t catch
because a car horn honked right outside my window. The
last thing I heard was, “Thanks, Mama.”
Nana? Why was she talking to Nana? She hardly ever
talked to her. All of a sudden the night felt heavy.
I glanced back at my story card and imagined Gypsy
sneaking into the orchard to unbury the ball while her
mother slept. I told myself if I could get the ball without
waking Mom, it would be a sign that it was meant to be
mine. And if I didn’t, it would stay locked away.
Finally after half an hour, I heard Mom close her bedroom door.

12

13

Tortilla Sun

I inched toward my bedroom door and slowly pressed it
open. I could hear the low hum of distant traffic as I stood
waiting in my doorway. I counted to one hundred slowly,
achingly, then crept into the hall.
The wind outside pushed against the walls, making them
creak and groan. I opened the closet door directly across
from Mom’s bedroom and quietly climbed onto the bottom
shelf to reach the box at the top. Reaching my arm inside,
I pushed through stacks of paper until my fingers brushed
the long, bumpy stitches of the baseball.

2
One Wish

c

lang cla-clang, clang clang. The next morning, I found Mom
in the kitchen with a chisel and hammer, chipping away at the
kitchen counter. Little flecks of white flew through the air like
ceramic snow, landing softly on her olive-colored cheeks.
I ducked as a piece of tile flew at me. “Hey!”
She turned toward me with a look of surprise. “Morning,
Izzy. I didn’t see you standing there.”
“Wha . . . what are you doing?” I asked.
She stepped back and surveyed the half-demolished
counter the way someone stands back to study a newly
hung photo­graph. Wiping her cheek with the back of her
hand she said, “There was this”—she searched the mess on
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