I do not own The Sandlot
Linda Vasquez was not a girl that had been best friends with Benny Rodriguez. In fact, for as long as she had known him, she practically expected him to still think girls were icky, and stick to strictly playing ball with the Sandlot gang. Of course, as they aged, he grew into his looks. Slim from lots of running, but strong. Not to mention the cutest baby face ever. So, all the girls ogled him. Linda, of course, agreed on the subject. Unlike all the others, she didn't bother. He was way out of her league, and she barely knew him personally anyway.
Everyone was talking about the big game between their high school's team and the Sandlot. Linda knew nothing of baseball, but she knew what the entire town knew: Benny Rodriguez was a legend. He was so fast and so good at the game. Linda wouldn't know. Joseph and Jaime talked about the town legend, because they were athletic types. Linda was an academic. Benny sat two seats in front of her, talking to some Sandlot kids, while girls silently ogled him. Linda stuck her nose in a book, occasionally glancing to him. He caught her once, and she quickly looked back down.
It was the last day of freshman year. Linda felt lost without school. She spent her summers volunteering in the library, to avoid having to stay at home. The bell rang and kids ran out of class as fast as possible. She stayed behind to avoid the crowd of kids. Mr. Faulkner noticed her, and stood up from his desk. She looked up to her English teacher.
"Linda, what are you doing here?"
"Just waiting out the crowd, sir." He chuckled.
"Linda, you're the top of the class. The first girl this school has ever had at the top."
"Thank you, sir."
"I need you to do me a favor over the summer, Linda." She picked her head up to look at him. "You know Benny?"
"I've seen him around."
"Well, he's great at baseball, I figure you're aware of, but he's at risk of not passing the next grade. He was barely sliding by this year. I need you to tutor him over the summer." Linda froze. She had no comprehensible thought. It was all jumbled.
"What?" Linda finally sputtered, exasperated.
"Just twice a week or so, whatever you work out with him. He's aware of the situation. I'll be checking in once in a while." Linda was silent. She was upset about it, but not sure why. She always found the Sandlot kids, or any athletes in general, intimidating. Probably because she was uncoordinated, and her horn rimmed glasses were only a disadvantage. Gym was the worst.
"Yes, sir," she replied. She gathered her books, and stood. She held them to her chest, and began to walk out.
"Also," Mr. Faulkner stopped her. "Here's his number. Please arrange it as soon as possible."
Linda stalled going home. She did simple errands just to avoid walking home. Eventually, she began to walk back to her house. She passed the Sandlot, catching a glimpse of the boys. She saw the Michael "Squints" boy toss the ball to Allen "Yeah-yeah". She realized then that she would have to talk to one of the Sandlot boys. Linda passed the Sandlot, and ran to her house.
She came in, and saw her mom in the kitchen with Martha. Gloria Vasquez had her son Joseph when she was fourteen, and Theresa when she was 18. When she turned 22 she married Robert Vasquez, who had a son named Jaime. Together, over 14 years, they have respectively had Linda, Thomas, Daniel, Martha, Raymond, Maria, and Rita. Joseph went off into the military when he turned 18, and Theresa was already engaged. Jaime lived at home. He had a bad injury from years ago and had been in and out of ICU since. Thomas and Daniel were pranksters; Martha cooked; Raymond was the whiny Mama's boy; and Maria and Rita weren't even in school yet. Linda was just quiet and smart. Nothing very special about her. Just #4 in a lineup of 10.
"Mija, where have you been?" her mother said.
"Sorry, Mama. I was just helping some teachers." Her mother let out an exasperated sigh, as she stirred rice. She said something in Spanish to Martha, and Linda went into her shared bedroom. Rita and Maria were asleep in their cradles. She envied Jaime for having his own room. The rest of the day passed slowly as the nine people living in the house made there way home. Linda spent the first weekend of her summer babysitting.
On Monday she finally made the call to Benny. She dialed the phone, holding 2 year-old Rita in her lap. The phone rang, and she bit her lip, twirling the cord around her finger. It was before 8, and she knew that the boys didn't start until then because Hamilton Porter lived next door.
"Hello?" a woman answered.
"Hi," Linda said. "I... Uh..." She went silent for a minute.
"Hi, I... I'm calling for Benny?"
"He didn't hit a baseball through your window, did he?" She heard the faint protest in the background.
"No, I'm jus supposed to be tutoring him, and I um... Wanted to arrange something."
"Benny! Your tutor's on the phone." Linda heard some shuffling and then the voice of Benny Rodriguez.
"Um... I was just... I..."
"You wanna get this tutoring thing figured out?" he finished for her. She scowled. She hated it when people finished her sentences. Especially, if their tone was condescending. Benny's, however, was nonchalance and patience.
"Yes! Um, when is convenient for-"
"Are the weekends good?"
"I... Uh... Sure, okay. So... See you Saturday."
On Saturday, Linda walked down the street to Benny's house, books in hand. They had lived on the same street since they were both 9, when she moved to the neighborhood. Linda knocked on the door of the Rodriguez house. She stood there for a few minutes before a Hispanic woman, holding a dishrag and a glass, opened the door. She leaned against the frame.
"Can I help you?"
"Hi, I'd like to see Benny." Her eyebrows were raised.
"What is a pretty young girl doing her for my son? What's your name?" Linda stumbled force second. She never thought herself pretty, besides pretty average. She looked like a normal Hispanic girl. Regardless, she cleared her throat and pushed up her glasses.
"I'm Linda Anita Vasquez. I'm, um, Benny's tutor." The woman scanned her, slowly.
"I am Evelyn Anna Rodriguez," she said, half mockingly to Linda. She gave her a small smile to show Linda she was joking. Linda returned it for half a second. "I'm Benny's mother. Unfortunately, he's not here right now. He should be back before dinner." Linda looked up to her.
"He told me he would be here!" she said.
"I'm sorry for the inconvenience. He's probably down at the Sandlot or whatever you kids call it. I can tell him you stopped by." Linda, in complete shock, stumbled over her words, but instead of nervously, this time it was angrily.
"No thanks I think I'll talk to him myself." Mrs. Rodriguez nodded, an closed the door as Linda stomped off, leaving her books on the ground of the entry walk. She walked down to the Sandlot, dirtying her feet as she walked through outfield. Missing a ball by a few feet.
"Who's the skirt?" 'Squints' yelled.
"Hey, Linda, this is a man's game!" Ham yelled. Linda ignored him and went straight to home plate where Benny was leaning on the bat like a cane. She approached him then froze. What was she doing? She was making a fool of herself. He walked in front of the dugout, leaving the bat. The game continued.
"You, um, you..." Linda said, then looked down, avoiding his eyes.
"I'm sorry," he said, same nonchalant, but patient tone. "I forgot about this tutoring gig."
"I, uh, well," she continued. He waited, patiently before finishing her sentence.
"I'll be there tomorrow. You're like top of the class, right?"
"I... Yes." she said. She was a mouse, and when she peered up, he had a small smile on his face.
"Alright, well, I'll see you tomorrow then, Smarty." He began to walk back to home plate.
"My name is Linda!" she yelled back. He looked at her, and she stumbled again. He smiled again, and then she stalked off from the field, quietly squeaking about how much of an idiot she is to herself. Smalls turned to Benny.
"Isn't that Linda? I have most of my classes with her." Benny laughed
"Smalls, I'm not surprised."