It is a very specific sound. It is one that would be familiar to anyone who set foot on a playground anytime over the past sixty years. If you were to make an audio dictionary, it would be what you would hear if you looked up "four square." As a kid growing up with plenty of balls of all sizes, colors and varieties, I was always just a little confounded that no matter how many bouncy balls my friends and neighbors acquired, they never had that sound. Or that bounce. At once lugubrious, and then again capable of incredible acceleration when propelled just so. Those big red balls were majestic in their singleness of purpose.
It was odd that I heard that sound as I walked out the front door of my school. The day was over, and the sun was sinking low, but I was sure that I was hearing that rubbery reassuring bounce sound. Not behind me, where the action on our playground had stilled for another day, but in front of me, across the street. I carried my bike down the stairs, and rather than mounting up and riding straight home, something told me I should investigate. Once I had walked my bike to the other side, I rolled it around the fence of the house adjacent to the school. Here I found Eugene and his brother Alex. They were engaged on one of the more polite games of two-square I had seen in years. Not competitive or nasty, just nice high arcing volleys back and forth. Smiles were on both their faces. Brothers playing nicely. Happily.
Eugene noticed me first and held the ball, stopping the game. "Hi, Mister Caven."
"Hey, Eugene." Alex waved a shy wave at me, "Hey Alex."
"Hi Mister Caven."
"What are you guys doing?" Mister Curious.
"Four square," offered Alex.
I chose not to make an issue out of the number of participants, since in essence he was on the money. "That's a nice ball you've got there."
"Yeah," sighed Eugene. The older brother sensed where this was going. "We found it in our yard."
"Lucky you," I replied without the potential sarcasm. I imagined how fortunate they must have felt when they were the recipients of a playground ball that found its way across the street and into their yard. I knew that Eugene and Alex weren't the larcenous types, but hey: Free ball.
For a moment, Eugene held it out to me as if he expected me to take it back to school and lock it up right then and there. Alex looked a little sad. Or was it guilty?
"Do you suppose you could bring that to school with you tomorrow morning? When you're done with it?"
Eugene smiled. Alex smiled. They weren't in trouble, but they were going to get the opportunity to be the rescuers of the missing four square ball. And they had another hour or two of daylight to play in their own driveway.