Billy Joe spit into his palms and rubbed some fresh dirt in. He was stalling, trying to mess up the pitcher’s rhythm and it was working. He looked up on the mound and saw Lester huffing in frustration. Bottom of the sixth, two out, one on. It might only be the sandlot but with stakes this high it felt like the Series. The top of the sun was just peaking over the fence in right field; in another ten minutes it would be too dark to play.
“Come on, Billy Joe!” Lester’s whine from the mound told Billy Joe it was time to step to the plate.
One pitch, one swing, and the game was over.
His teammates punched his shoulder and patted him on the back with their gloves as they packed up their gear and headed home. But Billy Joe didn’t get to go home to a bowl of Easy Mac and cartoons. He had to head over to the library to meet the tutor Miss Henton had gotten for him. He slung on his backpack, balanced his bat across the handlebars of his bike, and booked to the old house the town had converted into a library.
Billy Joe ran into the library holding his bat like a Viking charging onto the battlefield. Miss Henton told him his tutor would be waiting there at 3:30 but it must be almost 5:00 by now. He took the stairs to the second floor two at a time and skidded across the hardwood floor, coming to a dead stop at the edge of the little study area. It was a cozy spot with a thick rug and comfortable old chairs. They’d all been donated, so none of them matched and they were all a little worn, but it was a nice place to hang out. Billy Joe had spent a lot of rainy Saturdays there reading about his heroes of the diamond. No one ever bothered him because no one really used the library for books anymore. Everyone else was downstairs, crowding into the computer carrels and using the free Internet.
Billy Joe was breathing heavy from racing over but now his heart skipped a beat. Suzy Anderson was sitting Indian-style on an old striped couch. She was wearing a jacket and hugging her heavy backpack and looked really angry.
He never expected she’d be his tutor and stumbled all over himself trying to apologize. “Sorry. Game, um, ran long. Didn’t know how late…so you’re the, um, tutor, huh? Henton, Miss Henton, didn’t…really? How are you, I mean, how long did you, have you…how late am I?”
“You tell me.” Suzy said as she pointed to the big white clock on the wall behind Billy Joe.
He spun and his left foot got caught on the rug. He tumbled over, bouncing off a heavily cushioned chair and rolling to the floor at Suzy’s feet. He could feel his face and ears burning with shame - and knew the blushing was making his freckles shine like tiny little taillights - as he hopped quickly to his feet. He looked at his feet as he answered, “almost two hours. I’m really sorry.”
“Tell you what, sportstar,” Suzy said as she pushed up from the couch, “I’ll meet you here tomorrow at 3:15 IF you can tell me what the angle between the hour and minute hands is at that time.”
She was standing right next to him and Billy Joe’s face felt even hotter. He turned around and looked at the clock again, squinting in concentration.
“Zero. It’s zero degrees at 3:15.”
Suzy smirked and started to walk off. “Nope. Close, though. Thanks for playing. And for wasting my time.”
Billy Joe didn’t want Suzy to leave. He’d never cared so much about geometry.
“Look, I’m really sorry, okay? I’m sorry you waited for me. It’s just that—”
Suzy cut him off. “Working on your ‘athlete apologies’ already, I see. How about you try to just be sorry and not make excuses?”
“That’s better. Now, sit down and I’ll help you figure out the answer to my question. If you get it, I’ll meet you here tomorrow. Otherwise, you’re looking for another tutor.”
Suzy explained that the clock was a circle and could be divided into 360 degrees. That meant that each minute was six degrees and each hour was 30. Billy Joe scratched his head and looked at the drawing of a clock Suzy had made and said, “But if the hour hand’s at the three and so’s the minute hand, there’s no angle between them, right?”
“Does the hour hand just jump from three to four?”
“So is it exactly at three when it’s three fifteen?”
It took him a few more minutes, but Billy Joe figured that if the hour hand had traveled a quarter of the way between the three and four, it had gone seven and a half degrees.
“Good. Now be here tomorrow and don’t be late.”
Suzy glided out of the room, leaving Billy Joe in a wake of papers, hormones, and anticipation. He was going to like geometry.