Scott gets the call in the evening, when he’s about to head to a bar to meet up with that guy from his journalism class whose name he keeps forgetting, who keeps looking at him in a way that makes him kind of uncomfortable. He’s not quite sure why he’s going to meet him – his mom would say the more friends the better, and Benny would laugh at him and say that if the guy’s weird, why would you want to hang out with him? But then Benny would probably go try to get to know the guy himself, so that’s what Scott does.
But then the phone rings. Mom’s voice is shaking, but she’s not crying, so he knows even before she says it that they’re all okay.
“It started in the garage,” she tells him, and good, that’s good. Probably didn’t do much damage to the house, then. “Some old newspapers and… well we’re not sure exactly what happened, the firemen are still working it out.”
He gets in his car – Benny’s pickup, actually, but his for as long as Benny’s out of the country – and drives home and doesn’t even think about the classmate he’s standing up at the bar until he’s turning onto his block.
Mom’s standing outside with Johnny and a couple of the neighbors, Benny’s dad standing shoulder-to-shoulder with her as they talk to a couple of firemen. Johnny’s face slits into a grin as soon as he sees Scott, like this is the best thing that’s happened just because it’s made Scott come home from school for a bit, and pulls away from Mom to run up to the car as Scott gets out.
“There was a fire,” he informs Scott with a serious nod.
Scott picks him up and carries him back to Mom, noting how big he’s getting, and smiles lightly even though his nerves feel a little frayed. “And you look like you had fun,” he says to Johnny as he puts him back on the ground.
“Yup!” Johnny chirps, and points to one of the fire trucks. “I got to sit in the front seat!”
Scott laughs, but stops as soon as he sees his mother’s face, looking grave.
“What, what happened?” Scott says, immediately worried. “You said everyone was okay.”
“Yeah,” she says, and then he notices that she’s holding something. “Yeah, the fire’s out and everyone’s okay, it didn’t really even do much damage, just. Honey, the firemen pulled out some of the boxes we’d been storing in there, what got burnt.”
He frowns, not sure where she’s going with this, but his heart starts beating faster.
She hands over the dark lump she’s been holding, and that’s when Scott realizes what it is.
His mitt. The one that Benny gave him way back when, back when Benny invited him to play with then at The Sandlot the first time. Scott sucks in a breath and takes the mitt out of Mom’s hands, runs his fingers over the charred and melted leather.
He could kill himself for this. He’ll hate himself forever for leaving it at home instead of taking it with him to school. It’s been a little too small for a while now and he’d finally decided to get a new one when he was packing up to head back to school last semester. It’s still his most prized possession, even more so than the Babe Ruth ball or his Dodgers jersey, and he’d totally forgotten that it was in a box of stuff in the garage, and why did he leave it there instead of in his room??
Tears fall without his really noticing at first, and he can’t stop them. He feels crushed and heartbroken, like someone has died. The glove is cracking with flakes of hard ash, and he can’t even get his fingers inside of it, let alone his whole hand. It’s lost forever, destroyed, and it feels like he’s lost a friend.
He leaves his mom and Benny’s dad and Johnny standing outside, all giving him sympathetic looks, as if they know exactly how heartbroken he is, and he heads for Benny’s parents’ house.
Benny’s phone number is taped to the refrigerator in the kitchen, and he dials it even though he’s sure Benny’s probably out somewhere, there’s no way he’ll answer, and he knows he’s being stupid about this anyway. It’s just a baseball mitt. Benny probably won’t even care.
“‘lo?” Benny slurs into the other end of the phone. He sounds like he was asleep a moment ago.
“There was a fire,” Scott says by way of greeting.
“A what?” Benny’s definitely awake now. “A fire? Are you okay?”
“Yeah, no, it was – my parents’ garage…” Scott struggles to get the words out. Benny waits patiently on the other end of the line for Scott to continue. “My – my glove got burned. The one you gave me? It’s…” he can’t say it out loud, and he bits the inside of his cheek.
“Oh,” Benny says quietly, and Scott knows that Benny won’t laugh at him, but he kind of waits for it anyway. “Scott, man,” Benny sighs. He almost never calls Scott by his first name, except when it’s something really, intensely serious.
“Scott,” Benny says again, and Scott wishes desperately that Benny was here in the room with him right now. “I’m so sorry, I… god, I don’t know what to say. I wish… I’m sorry I’m not there.”
And that’s all Scott really needed to hear, actually. There’s nothing that can really be done. The mitt’s gone and Benny’s off in another country, but it helps just to hear his voice.
“It’s okay,” Scott says as he regains himself. “It’s not that big a deal, really.”
“It’s a big deal, Smalls,” Benny says, which makes Scott smile for some reason.
“Thanks.” He changes topics. “Am I gonna see you anytime soon?”
“Soon,” Benny promises.
“Good.” He feels better.
It was just a glove, after all.