27. One Out of Many

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Frank felt the tension lines in his face when he returned to Richard's office thirty minutes later. His father sat in a leather-and-oak executive chair, and he had been going through invoices stacked atop his mahogany desk when he looked up and studied his son through reading glasses almost as narrow as his eyes.

"What's going on out there?" Richard asked hoarsely. "The blacks causing problems again?"

Frank set his hands on his hips and returned his father's gaze.

Richard leaned back in his chair. The stub of a cigar smoldered in a crystal ashtray near the edge of his desk. Behind him on the wall, certificates and accolades rose three-quarters of the way to the ceiling, each one rimmed in a gold or silver frame.

Frank sighed. "It's the foreman, Clayton. He's antagonizing the workers again. The black workers."

"Clayton's missing a few screws," Richard said. "But he has a way of keeping those Negroids in line. If it wasn't for Clayton, the blacks would be running buck wild all over the mill."

Frank shook his head, trying to erase that image. He settled into the guest chair and regarded his father for a moment.

"The situation between the whites and blacks is getting out of hand," Frank said.

"Tell me something I don't already know," Richard said, sounding slightly annoyed. He gripped his pen, removed an invoice from the pile, and started to review it. Without looking up, he said, "That's why you have one week to fix this mess." He signed the paper and set it on top of a second pile.

Frank cleared his throat. "Do you know why every community has its own baseball team?"

"What?" Richard met his son's eyes. "No, and I don't really care."

Frank stood up abruptly, dipped his hand into his right pocket, and tossed a quarter on his father's desk. "E Pluribus Unum. Do you know what that means?"

Richard raised his eyebrows, set the pen down, and said, "It must mean, you've gone crazy."

Frank ignored the comment, waggling his index finger. "It means, one out of many. It's our nation's motto." He pointed at the coin on the desk, Lady Liberty standing on the front. "And it's on the backside of that twenty-five cent piece."

Richard picked up the quarter and examined the back before casting a dubious look at his son.

Frank continued. "Just like that motto, baseball brings people together ... people with different ideals and traditions, and it gives them the chance to become a part of a greater community ... one community."

Richard sent a cold, level gaze Frank's way. "What exactly is your point?"

"I want to unite our workforce," Frank said, "and give them the opportunity to cheer a common team." Frank set his hands on his father's desk and leaned forward.

Lips pursed, Richard sent a hard gaze Frank's way.

"By signing a black player to the Pioneers!" Frank said.

"Absolutely not!" Richard slammed his hand on the top of the desk. His piles of papers and assortment of pens quivered from the force.

"Father!" Frank insisted. "Don't let pride keep you from doing the smart thing."

Richard's face turned crimson. "How is putting a goddamn black baboon on the team the smart thing?!"

"We sign a black player and the colored workers will have something, or in this case someone, to cheer for – the perfect distraction to take their attention away from all the talk over unfair pay and hours."

Richard's scowl remained in place, his lips a tense line of disapproval.

Frank continued. "At first, I wasn't sure I wanted a black player on the team any more than you do. But right now, the country is at war. The mill can't afford to have a war raging here too!"

Richard shook his head. "No! I am not going to have you tarnish Union Steel's good reputation by hiring a colored player onto our baseball team! We are a good American company. There is no reason for us to have a black representing us. I've done more than enough for those savages by giving them jobs. Now you want to turn over a spot on our baseball team to a black player? There are still plenty of good white men that could take that slot. It will look like we are favoring blacks over whites! I won't allow that!"

Frank inhaled a deep breath through his nostrils.

"One black player!" he said, firmness in his voice. "His name is Henry Louis. We haven't made it past the first round of the playoffs since we joined the mill league five years ago. That boy Henry is really good. Maybe one of the best. Now, we can let him join another team. One that could play against us and beat us. Or we could use his talent to our advantage." Frank looked down at the floor, and chuckled. "If we start winning, the Pioneers might actually turn a profit again."

Richard scowled, eyebrows furrowed. His lips curled into a sneer. He picked up the invoices and began flipping through them before setting the stack back down. The next words he spoke, he did so without eye contact, and his voice was low and nearly monotone.

"A black player will just be a token to keep the black workers happy until the war is over. Any agreement we make with a black player must give us absolute control. We pay them mill rates. We can bench them as we want. We can tear up their contract and toss them off the team at a moment's notice. And we won't owe them anything."

Frank couldn't believe it. "Are you saying, yes?"

"I'm going to agree to do this for one reason only," Richard said, clasping his fingers together over his belly. "You're going to take over Union Steel one day. You need to learn how to make decisions, because I'm not always going to be around to decide what happens here. You think it's a good idea to hire a Negro for the Pioneers. Well, I disagree. I'll let you make this call. But believe me son, if this goes wrong, the consequences will be severe. You understand?"


Author's Note

I always find it interesting how ideas can come to you at the last minute

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I always find it interesting how ideas can come to you at the last minute. Like the whole thing with E Pluribus Unum. Yep, that was a a last minute brainstorm. I wasn't even looking for a quirky connection like that. It just kinda just popped in my head while I was writing.

As I revise each first-draft chapter, it first goes through a major revision which could be a serious overhaul or restructuring, then I take the chapter through two to four smaller revisions.

When I publish a chapter here on Wattpad, it's not necessarily perfect. I may have a bunch of revision notes, and things to sync back up, but that's okay. My goal is to give you an entertaining, quality read. I hope I've been delivering! If not, please let me know.

In the next chapter, Clayton reveals his scheme to rid blacks from the mill.  :(

Thanks for reading! Thanks for voting!! And thanks for commenting!!!

Later,

Tom


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