he police arrive late, as is their habit when parents are crowding emergency lines with gross hyperbole. The strobing lights are an alien presence on these tree-flanked suburban boroughs. People gather on their lawns in clothing not meant for public consumption. Jogging pants with awkwardly situated holes, shirts with questionable stains. It’s a community event to rival any backyard barbecue.
It was the little Weaver kid. Danny with those angelic locks of hair. You’d never suspect him of such wanton violence. You’d think it was one of those downtown kids, sneaking up on the bus to smash a window, steal a bike, uproot the geraniums. Not one of their own. He must play the same videogames those terrorists enjoy. But his parents aren’t talking. They’re huddled in a little circle on their lawn with the sprinklers erupting all around them. The water trickles down the street toward the Johnsons’ place, but it can’t wash the stain from the curb. That cement sucks up the blood and it’s already drying black as the asphalt underneath.
Little Lou Anne, the pride of 19 Butter Crescent, is the victim. Father, a real estate agent with a smile like a china cabinet, is smoking one cigarette after the other, while Mother holds a cloth to her darling girl’s head wound, in between bouts of shrieking for justice. You’d never suspect such a little nick could bleed so much.
The police officers have split up. Hands hitched in belts, one with either family. Nodding and taking notes that look a lot like grocery lists and doodles.
No one has noticed the thing lurking in the shadowed gutter. In between the leaves and the litter. A small ball. But not just any ordinary tennis ball, because this one has a face. A single eye. A horn. A grotesque grin.
When Danny brought his mother the package in the hardware store it had boasted Freaky Fun for Everyone. Mrs. Weaver said, What are you going to do with that awful thing? Danny said, Throw it.
But he didn’t say at what. He didn’t say at whom. He didn’t mention the petition that Concerned Parents of the Americas had mailed in. They were ugly, the petition said, too ugly and the rubber was too hard. Children could not be trusted with rubber. Rubber was the gateway weapon. Rooftops and rifles were next. Their families could not survive the embarrassment.
When Mrs. Weaver took Danny’s toy to the counter, she had no way of knowing the balls were being recalled and new ones manufactured from foam. Soft, harmless foam with happy faces instead of gruesome monsters. She could not know that there was a better way. But little Danny knew. Foam was not fun for anyone.
Remember when you were a minipop, and you saw that film, you know, the one you loved that never had a sequel? Well, let's say it did. And it was just like you imagined it, only a little bit worse.