“May I be permitted to see the items in question, Counselor?” asked Noel and directed his question at TJ. Tyler looked at his son, who was clearly frowning and upset, and nodded his approval. “I guess so, my Dad has them in the back of his car over there,” answered a rather skeptical TJ, who kind of liked the “counselor” title but didn’t want to let on that he did. Tyler motioned his son and Noel with a “come on” wave and began walking towards the car. They walked in silence past the playground area and into the parking lot, which was empty except for Tyler’s car. Tyler clicked the trunk opener on his keychain and the door began to open slowly after a few beeps. Tyler moved the box out of the trunk and placed it on one of the fence posts which was about waist high. “Open it up Noel and take a look.”
One by one, Noel removed the trophies from the cardboard box. He paused to read the inscriptions on the plaques, looked over the trophies condition wise, and read some of the names on the signed baseball. “This guy is a fire chief in Richmond. And Matt is a school teacher. And Eric is coaching in your league TJ. We lost Tommy in Afghanistan, he was an Army Ranger, bless his soul. And Mr. Williams, rest his soul, was the toughest manager I ever had. He taught me a lot about not getting caught up in the hoopla of your last game.” Noel’s face lit up as if he were receiving the trophies for the first time. “Thank you for this Tyler. And TJ, for you to find value in these trophies that meant nothing to you, other than the sharp pain of falling on them. To think of another person, a stranger, someone who might have a ton of value in them, thank you.” Noel took one more look at the trophies and then asked, “can you show me the leaf pile where you found these?”
Tyler, TJ, and Noel walked through the grassy path between the two baseball fields at Signal Rock, back to the area of the leaf pile. “There, back behind the pile. That’s where I found them. They were just thrown over there, like someone had tossed them in the garbage,” muttered TJ, still a little skeptical but definitely feeling good about his good deed. Noel looked around. “So this is where they ended up. By any chance, did you find anything else. Baseball related or not? Any photos or albums or electronics like little TV’s? Any other personal items?” TJ thought for a moment because he had only looked for baseball stuff in his previous searches. “Not that I remember, why?” asked counselor TJ, still looking for the answers to his previous line of questions. Noel took a few steps back from the leaf pile and turned away from Tyler and TJ. “When I was about your age, my home was robbed.”
“I have an older brother,” started Noel “and he and I used to share a small room in the house I grew up in. My parents decided to renovate our room on the second floor and turn it into a larger bedroom/rec room for us. So, we packed up all our trophies, albums, our little TV that used to only have 4 channels of viewing, and a bunch of magazines, posters, and other stuff. I loved that little TV. I used to watch blurry Red Sox games on it. We put all of our stuff in our barn while the workers demoed our room and rebuilt it. The stuff we packed up wasn’t part of our daily lives and weren’t necessities like clothes or school books, so we didn’t really think to check on them on a daily or even weekly basis.” Noel paused for a moment, sadly pulling memories out of a closet that had been locked for over 3 decades.
“I remember going to Maine with my family for 2 weeks in August in the summer of 1985.” Noel started up again as Tyler and TJ stood silently in total concentration listening to his story. “We had such a blast. I don’t fish at all because I am a hyper-kinetic person. Meaning I can’t sit still for more than 2 seconds. But I fished with my brother and actually caught a fish. I kept it with me in my tent for like 3 days until my parents made me throw it back in the ocean. I was devastated. To cheer me up, my Grandfather took me golfing with him at nearby Kebo Valley Golf Course. I remember going reluctantly but my Grandfather promised it would cheer me up. We were going to play golf with a buddy of his from Yale. My grandfather worked at Yale University in their chemistry department. His buddy turned out to be A Bartlett Giamatti, who would later become Major League baseball commissioner. Mr Giamatti was a huge baseball fan and we had a blast that day on the golf course talking baseball. It totally made me forget the fishing nightmare from the day before.” Noel started walking towards the parking lot and Tyler motioned his son to follow along with him.
Noel stopped and turned to face Tyler and TJ. “When we returned, the barn door was open. It was a big, red barn door that was really heavy to maneuver so we mostly kept it shut. It had this antique wheel track that was nearly impossible for one person, so my brother and I used to tag team up and open it. Surprisingly, as we pulled into our driveway, we noticed it was open wide enough for a person or persons to enter. After we unpacked the car, my brother and I went out to the barn to check it out. The boxes of our stuff, our TV, our bedroom posters and bookcase were gone. All of my Dad’s surfboards were gone. My brothers’ pellet gun and his BB gun and his compound bow were gone. We got cleaned out. All that was left were the floorboards, which I found out later were worth like a zillion dollars.” Tyler spoke for the first time in about 15 minutes. “Wow, man, I am so sorry.” TJ, feeling bad that he had wrongly accused Noel of throwing his stuff away, also commented, “wow that really sucks, I mean sorry.” Noel nodded his appreciation to the both of them and took a deep breathe and exhaled. “Yeah, we lived in a town with no crime. North Kingstown was and still is a really safe place for families. I mean all of my friends, my sister’s friends, my brother’s friends knew where the spare key was to my house. We never locked doors, let alone the barn. We didn’t understand why someone would rob us. It was really sad and we were just clueless how to react.” Noel started walking again, a sort of therapeutic way of getting through this difficult memory. “We contacted the police. They came by the house, did some investigative work, but ultimately found no evidence to who may be responsible. Our parents just told us to be more vigilant with our stuff going forward. To this day, our family has no idea who robbed us.”
As if struck by a lightning bolt of an idea, Noel suddenly stopped walking and looked up at the sky. Tyler put his hand on his shoulder and said “Are you okay? Do you need a few moments?” Noel turned again to face TJ and Tyler. “Holy cow, holy cow. Can I see those trophies again?” With that Noel began to run over to Tyler’s car saying “holy cow” over and over again. TJ sprinted past the two older men and made it to the box of trophies first. Noel and Tyler slowed down to a brisk walk and then met TJ who was holding the box. Tyler asked inquisitively, “what is it, what is the matter?” Noel removed the trophy with the baseball encased in a plastic cover and turned it over. He looked at Tyler and TJ with a really big grin. On the bottom of the trophy had a wooden base with a hole cut out in the middle. The decal from the trophy company was still attached. Noel’s mouth was open in anticipation of what was to happen. “Tyler, do you have any tools, like a small screwdriver?” Tyler nodded and went to his car to fetch a screwdriver. He returned, handed it to Noel. Noel looked back up to the sky and said quietly, “well, here goes nothing,” and began to unscrew a tiny screw on the bottom of the trophy case.
To be continued…