34. Fair Shot

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Frank stepped up beside Coach Taylor as he watched the players catching.

"Morning, Coach."

"Frank." Coach Taylor kept his attention on the players.

Frank allowed a private smile at the curt reply. At times, trying to talk to Coach Taylor was like trying to strike up a conversation with an ornery old mule.

"I want to make sure Henry gets a fair shot," Frank said.

"Shit!" Coach said. "The last thing I need is a token player who can't pull his weight."

"He has potential," Frank insisted. "But I'm going to need you to develop him."

"I'll help him the same way I help the other players," Coach Taylor said. "I'm not giving him any special treatment. You say he has potential, but I'll decide if he's good or not."

"Hey, knock off the tough guy act. He deserves a chance. The same chance I gave you when every other team turned you away."

Frank regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth. It was a sore subject, but Taylor had once coached the Pittsburgh Rebels, a semi-professional ball club known for its dirty tactics, fueled by his aggressive approach to the game.

During a heated playoff run with the Baltimore Blackhawks, a perennial rival, Taylor went berserk when opposing pitcher Buddy Olsen beaned the third Rebel in the final game of the series with the score tied 1 – 1. He charged the mound, shoulder-tackled Olsen to the ground, and rammed fist after fist against Olsen's face.

It took three of his players to pull Taylor from the Blackhawks pitcher who laid crumpled up on the mound, blood mixed with dirt, oozing from his nose and mouth. The umpire ejected Taylor from the game and the Rebels eventually lost 12 – 1. The next day, Taylor was fired, and his name was placed on a blacklist.

Coach Taylor grumbled under his breath before saying, "You knew the boys would be upset about signing a black player. What's so special about this kid anyway?"

Frank stepped in front of Coach Taylor and met his blue eyes. At fifty-nine, the silver-haired captain of the Pioneers looked more like a professional wrestler in a Pioneers uniform, his husky forearm tattooed with a huge anchor in recognition of his service in the Navy.

Frank said, "What's special is he fits my plan. Negroes account for forty percent of the mill's workforce. They ought to have one of their own on the company team. More importantly, that boy will serve as a distraction so those black workers stop complaining about the work conditions. And maybe, just maybe, tensions will ease up in the mill. But the plan won't work if the other players don't accept him."

"I've already told the boys to play nice," Coach Taylor said. "But you know it's not going to be easy. I can't stop the locker room banter or what those boys are thinking. The more I try to control them on this, the more they'll lash out. The only way is to let them work it out on their own."

Frank drew in a deep breath. He watched Henry gun the ball to Dale. If he could only play ball again, he would trade in every last suit and tie for a uniform in a heartbeat. "You just can't let Jake and his boys take things too far."

Coach raised his eyebrows. "And you don't think I know that?"

Frank gave a slight smile. "One thing's for sure. You got your work cut out for you. We both do."

"Thanks, Mr. Obvious," Coach Taylor said jokingly before his expression turned serious. "Listen, I get what you're trying to do. But there's a chance this could go south in a hurry."

Frank swallowed the lump in his throat. "If I can do anything to help, you let me know."

"Thanks, Frankie." He said it with a warm smile.

Frank grinned and gave Coach Taylor a cheerful pat on the shoulder.

"Don't mention it," Frank said.

Frank crossed the grass towards the field's exit. His expression filled with worry.

A broad stretch of clouds passed in front of the sun, snuffing out the light. Frank felt goose flesh rising on his arms as a cool wind picked up. He had to get back to Union Steel.

Frank was concerned things would get worse for the Pioneers before they got better. If so, the same might hold true for the black and white workers at the mill. And perhaps even for racially divided Hester.

Frank peered at a distant patch of dark clouds, suddenly set ablaze by lightning, and he wondered, what was coming?

Race riots? Race wars? Or possibly something far worse.

Frank hastened his pace, heart sinking.

Unsure if he could stop the coming storm.


Author's Note

Recently, a loyal Wattpad reader asked me why my chapters are getting shorter. I responded I had always intended to write shorter chapters. Like scenes from a movie.

I plan to continue this "short chapter style" of writing. I think it gives me better control over the story flow. That doesn't mean I won't ever write a longer chapter.

Who knows?

When I write, I don't tell myself that I'm going to write a chapter to be a certain length. I just write the chapter until it reaches a logical conclusion.

And on that note, I think I'm done for now.

Thanks again for reading, voting, and commenting.

All the best,

Tom

P.S. Testing out my new avatar here ...

Hey guys, a BIG thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to read COLOR!

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Hey guys, a BIG thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to read COLOR!

Hope to see you again real soon.  :)

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