10. The Old Man

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Author's Note

The image above is my picture of Uncle Albert in happier times.

"Nothing's going on here," Sarah said, trying to contain her emotions. "This is Henry and Willy. They're ball players. Henry here got a bad cut on his head and I just finished bandaging him up."

She turned to Henry and Willy. "This is my Uncle Albert. He owns the shop, and taught me everything I know about fixing cars." Her mouth posed a nervous little smile.

Henry rose from the chair and extended his hand to Albert. "It's nice to meet you. You have an impressive lot of cars here."

Albert glanced down at Henry's hand for a heartbeat before fixing him with a deadly glare. Henry lowered his hand to his side.

"Sarah, why are these boys on my property?" His voice was as tense as a steel coil holding a one ton wrecking ball.

"I just told you. Uncle Albert ..." Her words faltered. "Henry's hurt and I'm helping him out."

"How many times have I told you not to talk to complete strangers?" he said, exasperated. "You can't just bring any stray dog into my place of business, especially with all the commotion that was going on outside."

"When you see someone hurt, you should always help," she said.

"Who knows how he even got that injury," Albert said. "Could have been out there fighting for all you know. Unless you hurt him, it ain't your business, and with a man the size of him around –" Albert poked a finger at Willy and then at Henry. " – he ought to be just fine."

"Listen, we didn't mean no harm," Willy said.

"And we're awfully grateful for the help," Henry said. "If it wasn't for Sarah, I might –"

Albert snapped, stabbing an accusatory finger. "You and you, don't speak unless you're spoken to, you hear me?"

Willy and Henry stood in stunned silence as Albert stepped forward and began examining their uniforms.

"Baseball players, are you?" he said.

"Yes sir," Henry said, and Willy nodded.

"You're too big for baseball," he said, staring up at Willy. "I reckon bigger guys might swing harder, but they don't have nearly as much control over the bat."

Willy's face scrunched into a frown, unable to hide his annoyance.

"And what team, may I ask, do you boys play for?"

"The Rooks," Henry replied, pride welling in his chest.

"The Rooks?" Albert looked surprised. "Never even heard of 'em."

"Are you kidding me?" Henry said. "We're the biggest Negro team in town."

"Is that right?" Albert said dismissively. "So tell me this? How many Negroes are playing professional ball now?"

Henry and Willy exchanged glances, their mouths unhitched for a breath.

Henry's brows knitted as he met Albert's intense maroon eyes. "Sir, Negroes haven't played professional ball for over twenty-eight years."

Albert's face flushed with red, lips quivering, eyes darting about.

He turned to his niece. "Sarah," he said. "These gentlemen are leaving."

Sarah looked across to Henry and Willy. Henry could see a stew of emotions in her glistening brown eyes. Concern. Embarrassment. Anxiety. He felt a strange protectiveness overcome him. He didn't know this girl, but there was something about her that made him want to whisk her away from any pain or distress that might be troubling her. Maybe he did have a head injury after all.

"I just want to make sure Henry doesn't have a concussion," Sarah said, as if she'd been able to hear Henry's thoughts.

"Concussion?" Albert snapped. "He's fine. I know a concussion when I see it. If he can talk, then he can walk. Probably just a little scrape on the head, that's all. Now, I want them out."

"Uncle," she said softly, her eyes moistening. "They haven't caused any trouble. Let them stay."

"Sarah!" he shouted. "My word on this is final. This is my property and these boys need to leave immediately."

Henry watched as Albert's face tensed, the vein in side of his neck twitching.

"You boys heard me!" he shouted. "Get on your way!"


Author's Note:

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Author's Note:

Thanks for all your votes and kind feedback! Your support has been overwhelming and so very much appreciated. If you enjoyed this chapter, please consider leaving a vote or a comment. I add a new chapter, sometimes two, every Sunday. I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania so that's EST.

This week I wrote the previous chapter and this one together so be sure to check them both out. The two chapters go hand-in-hand so it made sense to release them together. This chapter represents a nice breaking point in the story, and soon Henry will be faced with a very difficult fork in the road.

Also if you notice any time period discrepancies, please let me know. That said, I've tried really hard to make sure every word, reference and fact is accurate for a story set in 1918. Obviously, I may take some reasonable liberties from time to time. For example, the word "concussion" originated around 1350 - 1400 AD, but how much was that word actually used in the early 1900s? I'm not sure but it makes sense to use it here. ;)

Thanks all,

Tom

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