“Tatte!” shouted Mr. Hello. That wasn’t his real name, of course, but since the only things he’d say to anyone were ‘hello’ in Japanese, that’s what they called him. “Tatte! Tattekudasai!” The veins on his neck were standing out.

“Even when you’re asking for something, you’re rude,” said the Nature kook. Alex didn’t like her. She had her hoodie up, even though it wasn’t raining and wasn’t cold. Probably to make her seem more mysterious. “Nature doesn’t like that.”

“Can I try?” Alex asked, his hand out for the wand. It wasn’t much of a wand, just a piece of stick Redbook had found on the ground and turned over in his hands and said would do, but it worked, more or less. They all took turns using it, or trying to.

Mr. Hello gave the wand up with poor grace. He did everything with poor grace.

Alex sang, accenting the words with the will behind his eyes,

Take me out to the ballgame
Take me out to the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjack
I don’t care if I ever get back…

The balls all pressed up against the barrier, kind of sickly-looking inside the poison gas. The Nature kook tucked her hands inside her sleeves and snatched the ball they wanted. It was an irregular, oversized football, studded with spiky black things like angry blackberries.

“Hooray!” shouted Alex.

“Konnichiwa,” growled Mr. Hello.