“Aw, man. The ball’s on the roof again. Guess we’re done for the day.’ Danny took off his baseball mitt and kicked at the dirt with his foot.
‘We told you not to hit it so hard,’ Jerry said to their friend David.
‘Yeah, they told you.’ Anne looked up at her older brother. She thought it might be safe to put in her 7-year-old comment just this once. Wrong! Three faces turned toward her. Three fingers wagged at Anne’s reddening face.
‘You stay out of it!’ The three boys usually just ignored her.
The new ball had joined several others on the flat roof of Washington School. The school’s small playground was the only place the neighborhood children could play a real game of baseball. It was just big enough. Hitting the school meant a home run. So did hitting the roof, but it usually meant the game was over. Just like now.
‘Sorry, guys, OK? I guess I don’t know my own strength.’ David flexed his muscles and grinned.
‘Get outta here.’ Danny shook his head.
‘Anyone got another ball at home?’ David questioned hopefully.
‘Right! You hit most of them up there last week, remember?’ Jerry reminded him. The boys stared at the school. The only way up to the 20-foot-high roof was either a tall ladder or . . .
‘David, no!’ Anne shouted after her brother. ‘Don’t do it, please. Dad’s told you a hundred times. Please . . .’
David wasn’t listening. He quickly walked to the front wall and stared up. It did look kind of high.
‘I don’t know,’ Jerry said. ‘If you fell or something . . .’
But David’s mind was made up.
If you climbed onto the electric meter next to the wall, you could shimmy up the pipes all the way to the top, then push yourself over the roof’s edge.
David was good at climbing up things: trees, poles, rope. And he’d seen another guy, Mike, make the climb many times. Just because Mike was older shouldn’t matter, should it?
David knew his parents had good reasons for forbidding him from climbing up the metal pipes leading toward the roof. They knew what could happen if he fell or made a mistake.
But David wanted to play ball now. ‘I can do it.’
‘Look, Dave,’ Danny started, ‘it’s not worth it. If you fell back on that meter, you could really get hurt. And Anne’s right’you don’t want to disappoint your dad.’
‘I don’t, but I think it will be OK.’ David climbed up on the electric meter and grabbed the nearest pipe, giving it a shake to see if it would hold him. ‘Here I go.’
Anne and the boys watched as Dave slowly edged his way up the pipe. Six feet, seven, 10. Halfway up he paused. ‘See, I told you I was strong.’ He made monkey sounds and continued his climb. In no time he had mounted the roof and was waving from its edge.
‘You should see what’s up here.’ He began tossing things over the edge. Softballs, baseballs, soccer balls. Even a kite came floating gently down.
‘Jackpot,’ Jerry yelled, scooping up all his lost balls. Anne grabbed the kite and began running with it. The boys just shook their heads.
‘That’s it.’ David threw down the last treasure’the brand-new softball he had just lost.
‘Coming down.’ Everyone stopped and looked up at David as he swung his feet over the edge. He grabbed at the pipe. His right hand caught it, but his left somehow missed, and before he knew it David was sliding down the pole, gathering speed as he went.
He hit the electric meter at full speed, straddling it like a carousel horse. The kids all yelled at once, but David’s cry of pain carried over all the other voices. He crumpled to the ground, landing on his stomach. He hardly moved. ‘My leg, my leg,’ David moaned over and over. Blood soaked through his torn jeans and pooled on the ground beside him.
Without a word Anne ran as fast as she could. Crossing the playground in seconds, she finished the half-block to her home.
‘Dad. . . David’s hurt . . . his leg . . . he fell . . .’ Anne shouted as she flew in the front door.
‘The roof?’ her dad questioned, grabbing the car keys. He had hoped the kids would never try the climb. He quickly started the car while Anne grabbed a blanket near the door. They hurried to the playground. Driving over the sidewalk, Mr. Taylor wove around the swings and the slides and parked next to the gathering group.
‘Put the blanket on the back seat,’ Mr. Taylor yelled to Anne. ‘It’s OK, son.’ He checked David over slowly. ‘Can you move?’
‘A little, Dad.’ David was crying. ‘My leg . . . it really hurts. I’m so sorry.’
‘You’ve cut it pretty badly.’ Mr. Taylor slowly picked his son up and gingerly laid him in the back seat. ‘You’ll give the doctor a chance to practice his sewing technique, though.’ He was trying to make David forget the pain for a moment. Climbing into the car, Dad drove as carefully as he could across the bumpy playground and over the steep curb.
The doctor took one look at the cut and knew the injury was serious. He had to clean out the deep wound first. He sent the family out to the waiting room. An hour later a tired doctor found the anxious family.
‘Seventy-two stitches. It might be a record.’ His smile eased the tension. ‘He’ll be fine, but we’re going to have to keep him a few days to guard against infection, and he’ll have to stay off his leg for a while. He tore the back of his leg completely open. You can go in and see him now, before we move him upstairs.’
The first day or so in the hospital David didn’t remember much about anything. The medicine made him sleepy, but at least his leg didn’t hurt so much. He visited with his family, but he forgot most of what they talked about’except for one thing. Chicago!
An older cousin was getting married. The whole family was excited about the trip. They had been planning for months. They were going to stay at a fancy hotel, eat out, and afterward his uncle Red had promised to take them to a real ball game at Wrigley Field. Not now, though. David’s disobedience had ended that for everybody.
David recuperated at home, slowly being able to stand on his leg again. He was thankful, as were his family, for God’s healing that was taking place. ‘Dad,’ David questioned one night, ‘are you going to punish me for disobeying you about the roof?’
‘I don’t know, son. What do you think? Did you learn your lesson?’ ‘Oh, Dad. I’m so sorry. Not only did I get hurt, but it cost the trip to Chicago.’
‘I know. It cost all of us, son. Disobedience sometimes does that. It doesn’t hurt just the one who chooses to disobey. But we all forgive you’you know that.’
‘I know, Dad.’ David looked into his father’s eyes. ‘I’m really sorry, Dad. I’ll listen next time. I promise.’
And David did. He’d learned his lesson the hard way. Disobedience—it certainly wasn’t a ball.
Written by Kimberly Tagert-Paul
Illustrated by Shawn Escott