A middle-grade novel based on my son’s journey with leukemia. This story navigates the world of pediatric cancer through the eyes of an eleven-year-old boy. So many kids have no idea how to react to a child with cancer.
My goal with Kyle’s Story? To spread the message: Be a friend. Don’t be afraid. Cancer isn’t catching.
Sweat trickled down Kyle’s face and stung his eyes until they watered. When he wiped them with dusty hands, it made them burn and blurred his teammate’s faces. Maybe playing tic-tac-toe in the dirt with Joe hadn’t been such a great idea.
“Freeland up!” Coach yelled into the dugout.
Kyle’s teammates rushed him. Patted his back. Handed him a helmet. Yanked him off the bench.
“Come on Kyle!”
“Hit a home run!”
“Kick the Bears’ butts!”
“Don’t let Nate scare you!”
He rubbed his eyes against a clean spot on his shirt until the faces swam back into focus and then reached around the bench to grab a bat. It was bottom of the seventh and the huge white scoreboard behind third base read Tiger’s—4, Bears—5.
If he struck out, they would be the Timid Tigers forever—the worst team in Madison—and it would be his fault. His batting average sat bottom of the league and when he did get a hit, he ran too slow. Way too slow.
This game could change all that.
“Let’s go, Kyle!” Dad clapped from the wood bleachers behind the fence, Mom at his side. As usual, his brother and sister played under the bleachers. Alek and Maddy only watched the first inning because Mom bought hot dogs and made them sit on the bleachers to eat.
“One good hit, Kyle!” His friend, Joe, yelled from second, his foot inching off the base.
That fat kid, Jack, who’s batting average was even worse than Kyle’s, crouched so far over third he was about to do a face plant. Like hewas gonna make it. He ran slower than Aunt Jemima syrup. At least he had an excuse—he had to pull two people along when he ran.
Kyle entered the batter’s box and took a practice swing.
On the pitcher’s mound, Nate warmed up his arm. With a wide grin, he tugged on the brim of his cap, pulled it down over his wild red hair, and too quick for Kyle to react, wound up and pitched a fastball.
“Shoot!” Kyle squinted against the bright sun. It didn’t matter they were best friends, Nate wouldn’t go easy on him and give up the Bears’ position as the only undefeated team in Kennedy Little League this season—even if best friendship should count for something.
“Focus!” Dad’s voice boomed from the bleachers.
Kyle concentrated on the ball in Nate’s hand and gripped the bat tighter with his sweaty hands. Come on. Come on! Don’t be a loser! Just hit the ball!
Nate thrust the ball forward.
Straight into the catcher’s mitt.
Kyle shifted his feet and raised the bat, breathing hard. A giant rock weighted the bottom of his stomach. Nate was good. Too good.
“Remember yesterday’s practice!” Dad yelled.
“You can do it, honey! Don’t be nervous.” Mom added.
Thanks, Mom! He groaned and his cheeks burned as Nate’s laughter drifted across the diamond. He would never hear the end of that.Please, God, I need a hit. I can’t walk back to the dugout. Everyone’s gonna laugh at me. He pushed his helmet up and got a better grip on the bat.
Nate stretched, shifted his feet, wound up and let the ball fly.
Kyle held on, to his position and his breath, until the last moment, and then swung.
The bat connected with the ball, driving it over Nate’s head. Kyle’s mouth opened in a round O as the shock of that crack paralyzed him for half a second. Then he took off, flying toward first.
The ball bounced past the center fielder and clanked against the fence. He rounded first. Sprinted toward second. Sucked in air. Move feet! Move! Ahead of him, Joe shot around third, practically pushing Fat Jack across home.
Loud screams of “Go! Go! Go!” rose from the home team bleachers. Mom, Dad, even Maddy and Alek, pressed their faces against the fence. Two runs won the game, but Kyle pushed on. The air grew thick. His side cramped. He soared over second. Focused on home plate. Third base coach waved him on.
“Keep going, Kyle!” Mom’s excitement pulled him forward.
He was going to do it. His first home run. And against Nate, too!
A few feet past third, his vision blurred and his legs stopped. When he tried to move them forward, they wouldn’t work. He dropped to the ground. No time to catch himself with his arms. His head smacked against the dirt. The white line leading him home grew fuzzy and the sun clicked off.
From very far away, he heard Mom scream his name again.