If you look closely at my face you can see a scar that runs from just above my nostril down my cheek ending roughly parallel to the corner of my mouth. When I smile it disappears into a dimple. For a three inch scar it is practically invisible. Once it is pointed out to you it will be obvious but if I don't call attention to it you'd never see it at all.
Our house on Paul Ave. was a beautiful little Cape Cod. Which might not mean anything to folks not from New England but the term Cape Cod refers to a very specific type of house, one that looks like it could be a beach house, natural shingles darkened by harsh winters and hot summers, with a sharply raked roof to allow the elements to slide off.
It sat in the middle of a rectangle of land, front yard slightly smaller than back, black bulkhead jutting out into the gently sloped backyard. There were two large glacier rocks on the property, one bulbous round one in the front yard and one square squat one in the back. The bulbous one was perfect for climbing on and the squat one perfect for picnics.
A swing-set rested at the very back of the back yard, up against the row of bushes that separated our property from the gulch behind it. For the first several years we lived there the gulch was merely the beginning of a sparse patch of woods. But then houses began to be built and the gulch became a border between back yards. My teddy bear spent a long hard winter out in a snow covered tree before the bulldozers came and tamed the underbrush.
The back right corner of the yard was divided by a short encroachment of rhododendron which created a little courtyard of sorts. This area was always where whispered strategy took place, where schemes were hatched, where imaginary kingdoms were plotted against and toppled. The open section of the yard was where all the action played out.
And it was also where whiffle ball happened.
Now, the shape of our yard was perfect for baseball. A square. Running along the left border was a tall row of chrysanthemum bushes that stood in for Fenway's Green Monster. Directly behind the bushes was a utility shed on our next door neighbor's property.
Two short digressions involving this shed.
First, in another infamous whiffle ball game, Billy Hodge went through the hedge to retrieve a whiffle ball from inside the canoe hung on the back of the shed. But he also disturbed a beehive and he came screaming back into my yard enveloped in a yellow and black cloud. We all started shouting "Run! Run!" as they stung him over one hundred times. He spent the next two weeks like a mummy, encased in baking soda.
Second, our cat had a litter of cute black kittens. My favorite we named Oliver. He went missing. A whiffle ball under the shed led me to his tiny curled up body. For one second I thought he was alive and petted his cold body while my feet poked back through the hedge.
Which would later carve the three inch line into my cheek.
I was six. Maybe seven. I was playing left field, already obsessed with replacing Yaz on the Red Sox roster. Brian Quinn was pitching to Billy Hodge. Billy took Brian deep over the yellow flowered hedge. I squeezed through the branches and found the ball. I remember that I was laughing in appreciation of the magnitude of the hit. As I came back through, a stray branch slid into the notch that my smiling cheek made. It swung through the groove like a bullwhip.
I came back through still laughing and threw the ball to Brian. Although this probably isn't accurate, I remember Billy and Brian staring at me like I had two heads. My face felt wet. I wiped my hand across my cheek and it came away covered in blood.
Only then did I begin to cry! I ran inside where my mum probably cleaned it with iodine and put a cold compress on it. The game was over for the day.
Looking at the scar now, seeing the length of it, I can only imagine how big it looked on a face half the size. Like my memory of my youth it has faded but if I look hard enough it will always be there.