While me and Lucas were playing baseball with Chuy’s team last Saturday afternoon, since there was a bunch of Mexican kids hanging out in the park, a soccer game developed. It was an all-ages kinda game: there were a few kids Jacob’s age and Eric was playing as well as Abelito. I was involved in the ballgame, but, when Los Cervezeros were batting, I kept an eye on the futbol. Soccer was never my thing, but I know it’s one of the sports Jacob likes to play, and he was clearly having a good time out there. He even scored a goal. I guess I wasn’t too surprised to discover it, but Jacob plays pretty dang hard, even against bigger kids. I already knew he could run, but he can pass and shoot as well…and, more importantly, play on a team. That was good to discover: working a kid one-on-one, it’s hard to tell if he’s a good sportsman.
Jacob also provided the day’s main drama. That happened after the ballgame was over. The soccer game took a break so everyone could watch the last inning, then they went over and picked up the game while I changed out of my ice-water soaked jersey into a Dodgers tshirt I had along with me. (I was pretty sweaty and dirty by the end of the game, but, if you ask me, that’s how you’re supposed to be at the end of a good ballgame.) One of the guys on the team broke out the cooler of cerveza and everyone grabbed one…except me. I wasn’t going to drink before driving the boys back home. I’m sure one beer wouldn’t have made a difference, but I didn’t want to take any risks where kids are concerned. (Or where the Mercedes SUV is concerned…). Aracely also produced a bunch of those Mexican sandwiches (the ones they call tortas) and some bottles of those bright-colored Mexican cokes that taste awesome (the one I got was strawberry.) I sat down with Aracely and Chuy and Lucas and then lay down in the grass for a few minutes, just to enjoy the sun. (Don’t worry…both me and the boys had a shit ton of sunblock on. I even made sure we all reapplied it after the 5th inning.)
Then there was a commotion from over on the soccer field. And I could tell something had happened to Jacob. Jared told me that you can always tell when your kid is the one crying, and, believe it or not, I could tell that the kid in trouble was Jacob.
I was over on the soccer field like I was trying to score from 1st.
Jacob was lying on his back on the grass, clearly in a shit ton of pain, and crying. There were a few other people who were standing around, including Chuy, Aracely, and Eric (who was playing and saw the whole thing.) Aracely was busy worrying, while Chuy was giving Jacob a very stern speech about how he’s too old to cry, no matter how bad the pain was. Eric came over to tell me what had happened.
“He was running after a ball, slipped on the grass, and fell on his side. I think his shoulder popped out.”
That came as a relief. A dislocated shoulder is a lot easier to fix than a broken leg, and for a few moments there I was scared shitless that Jacob was in serious trouble.
“How’re you doing, cowboy?,” I asked, kneeling down on the grass next to him.
I could tell he really was trying hard not to cry after what Chuy said. It kinda occurred to me that thinking about that might be taking his mind off the pain: I dislocated my shoulder on the football field, and, trust me, it hurts like a motherfucker.
“Is it your shoulder?”
“Yes…ow…,” he said, before adding “fuck!” I was a little surprised – I knew he knows the word, but he’s never used it in front of me. I couldn’t help but smile, and, well, I reckon I’d rather he say ‘fuck’ than cry in front of a whole bunch of Mexican dudes.
“Anything else get hurt?”
“Isn’t that enough?,” Jacob asked, pretty snarkily. Sometimes I forget that he and Matteo are brothers and have similar senses of humor. It was good that he was trying to make jokes. If I remember my dislocated shoulder properly, you kinda get used to the pain. I think Jacob had gotten to that point.
Matteo came over with Lucas, and looked more worried than everyone else, including Jacob. He got down on his knees in the grass and took hold of Jacob’s good hand. It was pretty touching. Then they both looked at me.
Ok, so there I was, trying to figure out what to do with a kid I was responsible for lying on the ground with a popped-out shoulder. I figured I could get him to the ER without calling the paramedics (remember how comfortable the back seat is in the SUV)…although I was obviously going to have to call Maya too.
“Do you think you can get to the car?,” I asked Jacob.
“Wait a second,” said Chuy. “I think I have a solution. Eh, Mizael, vete por aka,” he said, calling to the bigass dude who’d played 1st. He was 5’10” and 220, and built solid, pretty much like a wrestler.
Which is what he turned out to be. Chuy explained that Mizael’s a high school wrestling coach when he’s not playing ball…and when schools are open.
When I popped out my shoulder, it was our assistant coach who came over and popped it back in again. I gotta confess I don’t know how to do it, but it’s the kind of thing that any wrestling coach can do in his sleep. Mizael was no exception.
“Puedo?,” he asked me when he got down on the ground next to Jacob.
“Si,” I said. Part of me felt we should go to the ER, but my inner jock told me that this was the kind of thing we could fix jock-to-jock-to-jock. I knew Mizael only as a 1st baseman, but I trust Chuy. I’m not forgetting the night Eric broke his arm getting it stuck in the car wash anytime soon, although, looking back, it’s kinda funny comparing how hysterical the whole family was about Eric and how calm Chuy was when he got Mizael over to pop Jacob’s shoulder back in.
Jacob looked pretty scared when Mizael came up to him. And looked at me.
“What’s he gonna do?,” Matteo asked.
“Just relax, hombrecito,” Mizael said. Then he looked at me, and I got that I was supposed to distract Jacob.
“You dislocated your shoulder when you fell, cowboy,” I said. “Hurts like heck, doesn’t it? Happened to me during football practice once. It was worse than when I broke my arm falling out a tree one summer.”
“You fell out of a tree?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Dad and me built a treehouse and I fell out of it. Lucky it was after the end of baseball season or I’d really have been upset. I was in a cast for like six weeks, well after school started. And of course I broke my right arm, so I couldn’t write. I got a lot of sympathy from some of my teachers…and didn’t get a lot from others…”
I made sure not to break eye contact with Jacob and kept talking, although Mizael moved pretty quickly.
“….I broke my leg when I was younger, too. Playing lameass kickball. Maybe that’s why I hate kickball so much and don’t think kids should play it. There I was getting ready to show off, gave a huge kick, missed the ball and…”
It was dang loud (I think everyone in the park heard it and thought we were torturing a kid), but it broke off as fast as it started, and I knew that the shoulder was back where it belonged by the look on Jacob’s face.
It was like he couldn’t believe that something that hurt that much could be fixed so easily.
Matteo looked even more shocked than Jacob, who was already on his feet and following Mizael’s instructions that he check out the full range of motion.
“What did he do?,” Matteo asked, coming up to me. I could tell he was rattled and pretty close to crying himself.
“Your brother dislocated his shoulder and Mizael popped it in. It happens a lot, especially with wrestlers. Mizael’s a wrestling coach, so he knows exactly what to do.”
“Just like that…it pops back in?” He hunched and unhunched his shoulders, trying to figure out the mechanics.
“Yep, pops back in as easily as it pops out, dude,” I said. “See? Your brother’s fine.”.
“Does he need to go the hospital?”
“Naah,” said Mizael, who, it turns out, speaks a whole lot more English than I thought. He waved it off and said, “he’ll be fine. Tough kid you’ve got there,” he said to me.
Jacob heard it. I think hearing a dude like that say he was tough made his day.
“I only take care of him,” I explained, this time feeling that I was ruining my macho cred by basically saying I was a nanny.
I think I may have looked like I needed something, since someone came up with a beer for me. I actually did feel like I really needed it, but it was out of the question.
“Kids get hurt all the time,” Aracely said. “You were there when Eric broke his arm. You have to expect it…especially when they’re as athletic as this one is.”
“You help him with soccer too, Hunter?,” Eric asked. “He’s good.”
Two compliments from older dudes in one afternoon. That was making up for falling and crying for Jacob, I could tell.
“I can’t take credit for that,” I said.
“You helped me with running,” Jacob said. “I didn’t use to be this fast.”
“Thanks, cowboy,” I said.
Chuy put his arm around my shoulder and said:
“Now you know what it’s going to feel like when you get to be a parent, Cazador. Just relax, man. We’ve all been through scares like that. But it is pretty fuckin scary when it happens. Aracely, if he’s not going to have a beer, at least get him another soda.”
So Aracely got me one of the tamarind flavor (I like the strawberry a lot more, but it was all she had left) and they sat me down. Jacob was already up and running around again, I reckon showing off what a tough kid he was.
Matteo came to sit down with me.
“Are we gonna tell Mom?,” Matteo asked.
I honestly thought for a minute when Jacob was lying on the ground that we’d keep it to ourselves and not tell Maya…but that I realized how dishonest that would be. The challenge was gonna be how to tell her so that she didn’t freak out – y’all know how, well, overprotective she was with the boys about COVID. I was pretty dang worried about that as well as relieved that Jacob was ok.
The soccer game broke up about ten minutes later – Jacob and Eric’s team won – and Jacob came over just as I was finishing my coke.
“See, Hunter?,” he said, “I’m totally fine. No big deal…although how are we gonna tell Mom?”
So we were all worried about the same thing.
“We’ll just tell her the truth,” I said. “No big deal.” Right…I had a feeling it was gonna be a very big deal.
“Accidents happen,” said Chuy.
“And kids are…how do you say in English?,” Aracely asked.“resistentes.”
“Resilient?,” I asked, guessing from context.
“Si,” she said. “Remember when Eric broke his arm…”
“How can I forget?,” I asked. I didn’t mention that the whole family had gotten totally hysterical when it happened and ran off leaving a pair of total strangers in charge of the family business.
“And I was fine in six weeks,” Eric said. “Jacob looks like he’s totally back to normal already.”
“Yeah,” I said, “it happened to me once too. Two guys sacked the fuck outta me at football practice once. It hurt like a motherfucker, but our assistant coach popped it back in. That hurt like a motherfucker too,” I said…and then I realized that the boys were listening. I try to watch my tongue around them, but, hey, it’s not like they don’t know those words. And I got the feeling that Jacob was gonna use ‘hurt like a motherfucker’ when telling the story of his own dislocated shoulder to his friends lol. “And then it was alright the second it was back in place. It’s pretty weird how easy it is to fix, given how bad it hurts.”
“So just tell your jefa that,” Aracely said. “She’ll understand.”
I hoped she would. I didn’t think I was gonna get in huge trouble for what was a total accident, but I was pretty sure there was gonna be some fuss. But it was kinda to be expected that Jacob would be running a little wild on the soccer field, since it was his first time in 16 months to run around with other kids. He’s an active kid. And active kids get banged up. It comes with the territory.
Still, I wasn’t sure that Maya was going to accept so simple an explanation.