by Max Reif                    


     Edward Loorie was a geek! A jerk, a creep! He couldn't run. He was so fat you could hardly tell if he was standing up or lying on his side. If you hit a ball his way, it was as likely to fracture his skull as he was to catch it! 
      What I always liked best was to slide straight into him when he was playing second base. You should have seen his face! Fear city! Man, I'd laugh for five minutes after that!      
      Especially when my friends Mike and Bradley were around, I liked to think of endless new ways to make Edward cry. I'd laugh at him when he struck out, or say "Hey, Edward!" and when he'd turn around toward me, throw the ball at him as hard as I could.      
      I should tell you—unless you've already figured it out—that I, Jason Bell, am probably the best athlete in my third grade class at Forest Day School. Jimmy Peters is up there with me, or close, but there's nobody else.      
      It comes easy to me. I can run the fastest, throw and hit and kick the farthest! I'm always chosen first or second for games—usually first.      Edward Loorie is always chosen last, and sometimes the game even starts late because neither team wants to take him. Usually a teacher says one team has to.      
      I've been making fun of Edward since we were both in preschool. We've been in the same class all that time. Nothing happened to change any of that all those years—until one day last week.     
e were on the softball field at lunch. Edward was the catcher this time. At bat, I hit a long drive over the center fielder's head. I knew I'd probably make a home run out of it.
      I rounded third base just as the center fielder let go of the ball, throwing it to Edward to try and get me out. Anybody else but Edward might have had a chance. But with him, I knew I was home safe, and that there was time for a little fun.      
      Half way between third and home, I shouted "Hey, Edward, here I come!" and started screaming like a banshee. Edward looked up at me with that terror in his eyes—a sitting duck.      
      It was almost too easy. I threw myself at Edward, screaming even louder. I crashed into his chest as he totally forgot about the ball and it sailed past him.  

     But all of a sudden, I wasn't on the playing field anymore! Or not our school blacktop playing field, at least! I was on some beautiful, grassy field in the center of a huge,empty stadium, and in front of me was someone who may have been fifteen feet tall, dressed in a white flannel baseball uniform and holding about a dozen bats against his rightshoulder.      
      "Know who I am, kid?" he asked, looking at me in a nonchalant way. His cheek bulged with a huge wad of gum as he talked.      
      "N-n-n-n-o-o-s-s-i-r," I mumbled.      
      "I'm the Spirit of Baseball," he said very impressively, his voice echoing off the stadium walls. "I keep watch over all baseball players—young and old, big leaguers and schoolboys—all the time." He said it like the voice of eternity was speaking.     
       “And you know what?" the Spirit of Basebal went on. "There’s one thing I’ve noticed. Some players are really good at sports. They can hit and run and throw with the best. But when it comes to being good sports"—he looked straight at me when he said that, with a look on his face like he’d eaten a whole lemon—"they have a few things to learn!"      
      "Some day,” he continued—and as he said this last, the expression on his face softened to one of great kindness—“every one of em thanks me."        

      And then he was gone. Or I was gone! I was back on the school field. I'd hit Edward pretty hard! We were both lying on the ground in a cloud of dust.      "Get up and play ball, sissy!" I heard a voice say.      "Ooooooooohhhhhhh," groaned another voice, close to tears. "Why do you keep picking on me?"      
      And then I realized it. The voice close to tears was coming out of my mouth! The other, bullying voice was the one from the other kid!      
      I'd had my eyes closed all this time, but now I opened them. The first thing I saw, looking out from them, was my own body stretched out there on the ground—with a gigantic belly protruding from under my t-shirt!
      I'd always been completely fit! How was this possible? I looked up. Standing above me, taunting me, was—me! I mean, someone who looked just like me, Jason Bell. Somehow, during the time I had been standing in front of the Spirit of Baseball, someone had switched me into Edward's body, and Edward into mine!

"Jason Bell's Lesson" continued on page 2

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