Said, obviously, of clothing or fabric. The idea behind this is that if you get a tear in your best trousers, by repairing the hole when it is small, it can be fixed with little effort, while if you procrastinate the hole will enlarge, required more stitches and thread to mend.

A longer-winded expigated version would be "If you fix a problem now when it is small it will not take much to fix. But if you wait, the problem will get more out of hand and require more work to repair."

"...antha lan duvthaaaaa free"

A cheer went up from the hundred or so fans at Riglee as the last strains died out and our Sox took the field. I was so excited to be a part of them for the first time; opening day and my birthday. I was only seven when the team got started the year before, and my folks wouldn't let me make the trip to the big city to see this new baseball craze everyone was talking about. But a traveler had stayed with us for a spell and told us all about it: the spectacle, the odd rules, the rivalry that had sprung up among the five teams that had been formed in the larger towns near Chy Town.

Mr. Ott had actually been in the capital when the annual Time Vault opening had occurred. After the odd assortment of amazingly useful and amazingly trivial (at least as far as anyone could tell) gifts that had come out in the preceding years, no one speculated anymore about what might be next. The small balls, asymmetric sticks and the rest of the paraphernalia had everybody baffled. There were some small pictures of people carrying such a stick on their shoulder, or wearing one of the huge gloves (on only one hand), that didn't help, and the year's puzzle probably would have been relegated to the trivial pile, were it not for Vic's realization that the big black disc with the hole in the middle appeared to match the mysterious machine from the previous year's Vault.

He found that cranking the handle with the disk mounted on the machine's spindle was much more productive. Sound poured forth from the horn, and the lucky few who were crowded around Vic and The Mayor were the first to hear the voices from the long dead past: the description of the First Half of a Twinight Double Header. Of course, they couldn't make left or right of it at the time.

Fortunately, by the time Mr. Ott left town, they'd pretty much figured out the game (we think) and, just as luckily for me, (forgive me, Mennon) his wagon broke a wheel as he was passing through town, and he was stuck for four days until he could get another one. He spent the time telling us about baseball, pantomimed the roles of the pitcher and batter, and I memorized the ritual chant that was performed before the game.

We had a spare room, and he was paying with gold nuggets, so he was welcome to stay as long as he wanted. I noticed a hole in the elbow of his jerkin and patched it up. I told him it wasn't necessary, but he insisted on giving me a small ancient coin. It said "2nd United States" and "10 grams Ag". Wow! I darned some of his socks too, but stuffed them in the bottom of his bag so he wouldn't see.

And now, here I was! On Opening Day! While I'd been in my reverie, the visiting Tigers had gone down in order, and Casey was at the bat for the home team. They'd given that name to their best hitter from the inaugural season, but he opened the second with a weak grounder to first. That was followed by a pop-up caught by the catcher who tagged the batter for a double play, and that was that.

Mr. Ott had told us that innings could be unexciting, and sometimes whole games, but not too often. Hopefully it would pick up, but regardless I was enjoying my day at the park!

Peanuts! Dropcorn!

There was the vendor! But I knew what I wanted. "Gimme a dog!" All the ceremony surrounding the pastime from the past had even brought forth some new foods. The stands weren't holding the tens of thousands of people that supposedly their namesake had, and he easily could have walked over and handed it to me, but he tossed me my food as the record indicated it was sometimes done.

The next three innings saw two singles and a double for us, and one single for the Tigers. The first Tiger up in the top of the fifth was struck out. While the doctor was attending to him, a young man wearing a Sox hat approached. My friend Samuel seemed to be trying to suppress a smile. The man asked me, "Are you Nonny?" I admitted as much. "Would you please accompany me?"

He ushered me to the raised shack located right behind home plate. He opened the door and motioned me in, and then left.

There, watching the game, was the biggest man I'd ever seen; at his side was an elegant woman dressed in shimmering silks. The man stood and stretched out his hand toward me, while his voice boomed "Nonny! I hear it's your birthday, and your first baseball game. Come sit and watch the game with us. I'm Ted, owner of the White Sox, and this is my wife, Alice."

I curtsied and stammered out a "Very nice to meet you." I sat on the stool next to Alice and gawked at the most luxurious surroundings I'd seen in my life. I caught myself and closed my gaping mouth, then was helped back to earth by a foul ball hitting the screen in front of us. Alice and I both flinched, and it helped me to remember that they were just regular folks. Well, almost.

Alice caught me peering at the corsage sticking to her breast through no apparent means. "Do you like the flower?"

"Oh, yes, ma'am. But what's really intriguing me is how it stays on your dress. I don't see any…"

"Let me show you, dear." She fussed with it for a moment, then it came away in her left hand. She held her right up and I could see the delicate, almost invisible needle she held.

Compared to that, the needles I used at home were crude. They had been laboriously tapered and polished from obsidian by my grandfather and handed down from his wife to my mother and would some day be mine. Whenever I used them, I had to show my mother my proposed work, which had to be done in the same room where the needles were stored in a rough oak box with an otter pelt lining inside. They were one of my family's treasures and a part of our livelihood, but Alice handled that magnificent silver instrument with the ignorant casualness of a dog picking up a rib of the finest elk fallen from the barbeque.

Alice looked a bit miffed that it was the needle that held my gaze, rather than the flower it held to the dress, or the dress itself, so I explained my interest.

"My mother is the seamstress of our village, and I'm her apprentice. My mind boggles at the work we could do with such tools."

"Really? I didn't realize they were that special. They were in last year's Time Vault, along with this dress, in fact. Ted, why don't we give Nonny those needles for her birthday? It sounds like she could put them to fine use."

Ted, who'd been listening with only half an ear while watching the game, appeared to be playing back the last few moments of conversation in his head. "Oh, sure! Great idea."

We all returned to the game. It was the end of the seventh inning, the Tigers with eight runs and us one behind. Ted got up and motioned me to accompany him. "Let's go down and you can meet the players." Apparently it was routine for the owner to walk down and greet the players at this point.

They were all very friendly, except the pitcher, who was sitting on the far end of the bench. Ted took the game ball from Coach Bunting and examined it. He didn't look too happy.

The umpire called "Play ball!" and we returned to the luxury box, where Alice met us with some delicious finger sandwiches that she had made while we were out.

The eighth inning saw one single for each team, but no runs. The Tigers did nothing in the top of the ninth.

The Sox apparently just had a group vision of how they felt finishing last the previous year. The leadoff hitter doubled on a grounder through the heretofore unrecognized hole in the third baseman's glove, and was advanced to third by the next batter, who didn't beat the throw to first.

Casey was up next. He swung with all his might at the fresh reliever's fastball. The crowd came to their feet roaring, as the ball meteored off to right field. It looked like the game was over. But the first base referee was waving his arms from right field. He trotted in to home plate carrying the ball, and showed the ball to the umpire. Casey, standing at the plate, was sent back to third, the play being ruled a ground rule triple. The opposing coaches were walking out to the plate. Ted got up to go join them, angrily saying "I told him not to hit like that" followed by some other words I pretended not to hear.

I asked Alice what was going on. She explained.

"The baseballs they use in official games come from the Time Vault. They're far superior to the ones we make ourselves, but if you hit them really hard and catch one just right, the seam can split and the leather shell can come off. They stopped the play because the right fielder claimed the ball was too damaged to throw. The umpire agreed and called a timeout. The problem is, each team got twelve balls from the Vault, and the home team has to supply the balls for each game. If they can't, the game is forfeit.

"Last year, Ted decided to use a maximum of two balls each season, and here we are on opening day with one damaged already. Ted won't want to bring out another one, but — well, here we are with the winning run on third; after that season we had last year, it sure would be good to start this one with a win."

"I'll bet I could —" I blurted out, then remembered my manners. "I mean, I think I may be able to help, Ma'am, if you'll lend me that needle." "Oh, certainly, child." While she stepped to the screen and called down to Ted to wait for me, I was running down toward the gate onto the field, all the more awkwardly for holding the marvelous tool clasped in both hands. Time seemed to have slowed, as I watched one foot after the other slowly sink to the ground, and feeling my hair brush my neck as it slowly bounced from side to side. The sounds of the crowd had decayed to silence.

Somehow I finally reached home plate. Ted handed me the ball, and I sat on my heels, cradled it in my lap and inspected it. I had not had the opportunity to see an undamaged one, but it was clear what needed to be done. I stuffed the batting back in and massaged it around until it looked spherical again, then pulled the leather closed. I worried a bit of yarn from my sock and tore it off about two fingers from the end, and with ten loose loops repaired the rent. A quite serviceable job, I thought to myself, and returned the ball to Ted. He looked amazed. He handed the ball over to the White Sox coach with a threatening-sounding "Be careful with it" and nodded to the umpire. "Let's continue" he told him, then took my hand in his and walked me back to his box. This time I could definitely hear the cheers and applause of the crowd.

As the coach returned to the bench, he waylaid the batter walking to the plate and whispered something to him. The batter looked puzzled and the coach whispered again, then resumed his trek off the field.

Play resumed and the crowd settled down. There were murmurs as the batter watched one pitch, then another, go by. With two strikes, he liked the look of the next pitch, but instead of swinging, he held the bat at both ends out in front of him and just let the ball hit it. It bounced off, hit the ground about six feet out and rolled slowly toward the dumbfounded pitcher. The catcher finally got his wits about him, waddled out to pick it up, and threw to first. The batter was tagged out, but not before Casey crossed the plate from third and scored the winning run!

The fans went wild; Ted and Alice both hugged me. After the commotion died down and Ted had gone down to congratulate his team, he and Alice took me and Samuel to dinner. There, Ted mused about having me move to the City and join the team. Mother certainly wouldn't allow that, but regardless, it was a birthday to remember!

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