Test 3, Day 3

England 353 and 74 for 1 (Jennings 34*, Westley 28*) lead South Africa 175 (Bavuma 52, Roland-Jones 5-57) by 252 runs

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One summer’s day when I was about 10 years old and we were living in upstate New York, my father left to go to the store to get hot dogs and buns and other items so we could grill out for dinner. He was gone a long time. Far longer than he should have been. I was worried — I was always worried about my father when he was out — and I kept bugging my mother, who was obviously worried too, and she kept telling me that everything was fine, he was probably just delayed, or maybe had gotten in to a fender bender. He would be home soon, she said. She was sure of it.

Finally, after being gone for at least two hours, my father pulled into the driveway and I ran out to greet him. I flew open the passenger door of his car and saw that the floor of the car was littered with hotdogs and buns and popsicles (dad loved popsicles, they were his favorite, every time I picture him I picture him opening the freezer and pulling out a popsicle, peeling the wrapper and popping the cool treat into his mouth).

“Where were you!? What happened!?” I demanded.

“I really don’t want to talk about it, Matt.”

I asked again, and he answered again: “I really just don’t want to talk about it.”

He went inside, leaving all the spilled groceries in the car, and went into the kitchen where my mother was. I followed him inside and my mother shepherded my sister and me into the basement, so they could talk.

We sat at the bottom of the stairs and listened. He was crying. My father was crying. I had never heard my father cry before. Not once.

“Was he on a bike?” we heard my mother ask over my father’s choked, horrible sobs.

“Was he chasing a ball?” we heard her ask again.

After a while my mother came downstairs and talked to my sister and me. Dad had hit a kid with his car in the park near our house. It wasn’t his fault, and the kid was going to be okay — just maybe a broken bone or two — but dad was really upset. And we were supposed to leave him alone.

I walked outside and dad was cleaning the groceries out of the car and tossing them into the garbage.

“They spoiled in the heat,” he said, his voice low and quiet.

Later that evening we were playing outside with the neighborhood kids and a police car pulled into our driveway and a police officer got out and talked to my dad, leaning against his car, as the summer sun sat low and fat over what was otherwise one of those perfect, endless days of childhood summer.

“What did your dad do!?” all the kids asked me. I didn’t answer them.

And that was the last we ever spoke of the accident. Save once. When my sister suggested a picnic at the park where the accident had occurred and my mother said, no way, we can’t go to that park again. Not ever. Dad hated that park, and he refused to go there.

But while we didn’t talk about it, the accident darkened the final few years of my father’s life. He didn’t laugh as much, and he was moody and difficult to be around. And he was constantly worried about us kids. He wouldn’t let us out of his sight, and was always refusing our requests to go off somewhere on our own. Every loud noise, every childish scream, sent my father running to us, sure that something had gone horribly wrong, and that we were hurt or maimed.

And so it was a big deal when, two summers later, my parents said it was okay if I rode my bike to the gas station up the road to get a soda (something we weren’t usually allowed to have). I grabbed my backpack and some change and I was off. I bought a root beer and shoved it into my bag and biked home, enjoying the cool, sugary drink on the back stoop of our house.

When my sister learned of what I had been allowed to do, she made a similar request and of course was allowed to go. She took off on her bike with a dollar in her pocket. She came home shortly after, covered in a sticky mess, without a drink. She was in tears, her mood shortly before light and happy, now heavy and sad.

Through her tears we heard the story. She had dropped her drink on the sidewalk while riding home.

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