33. Broken Circle

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Ten minutes later, Henry stepped out of the dugout and stopped at the edge of the field, marveling at the bases, gleaming white against the tan dirt of the infield. Beyond the baseball diamond, the grass looked like an emerald field, manicured to perfection, swaying in harmony with the alternating breeze.

Henry jogged over to second base, joining the other players as they circled up with Coach Taylor. There were also two assistant coaches. One with salt-gray hair, taking inventory of the players. The other a short bulldog of a fella with dark bristly eyebrows.  Including himself, Henry counted twelve players. He slid into an empty space between two white players. A heartbeat later, one of those whites stepped out of the circle, away from Henry, and moved into a spot beside Jake.

Henry met Jake's fiery glare. In fact, he felt the heat of the stares from all the white players. They didn't want him here. He wasn't one of them,  and he wasn't part of their circle.

Coach Taylor looked around at the other players. "In case you haven't noticed, we have a new player trying out for the team ... Henry Louis. Go ahead and introduce yourselves, boys."

Henry gave a quick nod.

Jake started, setting the tone. "You can call me Mr. Westin. I take extra starch in my white shirts." He said it with a crude grin that Henry wanted to knock off his face.

The other men chuckled, but even Henry could tell the Cowboy had a loyal posse based on the smug on the faces of three men. There was Rusty, who Henry had the unfortunate pleasure to meet already. The catcher didn't seem too happy about having to introduce himself, his Irish brogue thick with agitation. Garrett Hayes growled his name as he plowed his fingers through wavy blond curls and emphasized that he was the starting second baseman. A third man with pomaded hair that didn't move said in a flat voice, "Name's Marshall Young."

The rest of the players grumbled and mumbled their names as if in protest.

From the look on Coach Taylor's face, the players didn't exactly follow his greeting instructions, but he wasn't about to raise a stink now.

"Season's coming up fast," Coach said, almost shouting. "We got a lot of work cut out for us. In case you haven't heard, some of the teams we're going up against this season are signing professional players trying to avoid the draft. We will not sink to their low level here. We will win with our good bats, our untiring defense, and our commitment to one another. So take a good look at the men around you."

The white players cast their gazes at everyone except Henry, finding reasons to look up to the sky or down at the ground. Except for one player. The man with the lanky arms from the exhibition game. The lanky man met Henry's puzzled gaze until Coach Taylor resumed.

"This is our team!" he said. "Starting today, I'm going to evaluate every one of you at different positions. Positions you're not comfortable playing. Positions you haven't played before. Get used to it. Based on what you do, I will decide where you play. Every decision I make will be according to what's best for the team. And to give us the best chance to win." Coach surveyed the team for a moment. "Any questions before we start?"

Everyone remained quiet.

Henry couldn't help but notice most of the white players looked like they were biting their tongues. He was sure Coach Taylor was behind this. To make sure they didn't stir up any trouble. At least not while he was watching them.

"Okay then," Coach said. "Pair yourselves up. Start catching and get warmed up."

Henry looked around as the other players paired up quickly and started jogging to the outfield. He felt his stomach clench.

Who was he going to get stuck with?

When the last of the whites cleared out, Henry found himself staring at ...

Mr. Lanky Arms.


Author's Note

Henry is just starting his adventure in a new world. A white world. Imagine how hard it must be for him. Maybe Mr. Lanky Arms will be a friend? Or could he be an enemy? This and more will be revealed in the next chapter.

Originally, the title of this chapter was simply "Circle." But the night before publishing, I realized "Broken Circle" makes much more sense. It really fits the theme of this chapter and the overall theme of the story of becoming complete.  :)

Take care!

Tom

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