40. Surprise

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Several minutes later, Sarah entered her uncle's living room and took a deep breath.

"Hey, Uncle Albert!" she called out.

Albert lowered the newspaper, eyebrows arched in surprise. He was dressed in a tan flannel shirt and old blue jeans, sitting in a shabby armchair with brown corduroy cushions that had seen better times.

"What are you doing in here, Sarah? Is something wrong?" Albert folded the newspaper once and set it on his lap.

Sarah shook her head. "No, nothing's wrong. I just wanted to give you your money."

She laid the two dollar bills on the side table next to her uncle's chair. Then she watched as he glanced down at the money with a slight frown. She waited for him to ask her where his third dollar was. When he didn't, Sarah pressed on.

"I've got something else for you too," she said, her voice brimming with nervous excitement.

Sarah pulled the Pioneers tickets from her shirt pocket and handed them to her uncle.

Albert took the two slips of paper and held them up to read them. His frown became more pronounced. "What are these for?"

"They're tickets to the Pioneers game," Sarah said.

Albert crumpled his face like a wad of paper. "I can see that. But what are you doing with them?"

"I thought it would be nice to go together," Sarah said. "The Pioneers just signed their first colored player. It's not often we get a chance to see a bit of history –"

Sarah wanted to say more. Wanted to mention that the colored player was Henry, the ballplayer who'd come by hurt a few weeks ago with his big friend, Willy. But her heart was falling apart as Albert began to shake his head. He tossed the tickets next to the dollar bills on the side table.

"Not a chance!" Albert said. "I've got no reason to go to a ball game. It's crowded. It's hot. And it's dangerous! You saw what happened to those two young men. They were all banged up. Paper says the whole ballpark broke out in a riot. All the men were fighting on the field. In the bleachers. The ruckus even spilled into the streets. Thirty-nine blacks arrested. Dozens injured. Even some of the women got hurt, just by being in the thick of that mess. You think I want you going out to a ball game knowing you might get hurt? You're just a girl, and you're a black girl at that! How do you think I'd feel if something happened to you? And while you're living under my roof ... under my care no less!"

"Uncle Albert, I'm hardly under your care." Sarah sighed. "I'm a grown woman. I'm under my own care."

"Then make good choices!" Albert snapped. "Going out to a baseball game after our town just saw a game break out in a race riot, that's not a good choice! That's a damned foolish choice. How do you think a lot of those white folks are gonna feel about a black player joining a white team? They'll be angry, and there's a good chance they'll take it out on the black people who come out to watch the game."

Sarah felt her jaw tighten in frustration. "Uncle Albert, you can't always worry about what might happen! Yes, sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes people hurt each other. But I just don't think it's right to spend your life in hiding because something bad might happen. You can't live your life being such a hermit!"

Sarah didn't mean to yell. She lowered her gaze to a crisscross pattern of gouges in the hardwood floor.

"The heck I can't!" Albert said. "Going to that game is just asking for trouble. Are you forgetting what happened to your folks?"

Sarah felt the strings tug at her heart. Felt a key trying to unlock that terrible memory of what happened to her parents. She didn't want to go there. Couldn't go there now. Not yet. Sarah inhaled a calming breath and met her uncle's eyes. "I just thought we could have a nice day out."

"We can have a fine day right here," Albert said.

"That's not the same! Don't you want to go to the ball game? Sit up in the stands, look at the scoreboard, and watch the pitcher wind up? Or smell the hotdogs? Slurp a soda? You must miss that atmosphere ... just a little bit."

Albert shook his head stubbornly.

"I don't!" he said, nostrils flaring. "Don't miss it. Not at all. I'm fine right here, and you should be too!"

"But Uncle Albert –"

"No!" he snapped. "That's it! I've said my peace. You have my answer, and my answer is final!"

Sarah felt her lower jaw quiver. She gathered the tickets from the side table and hurried out of the house, fighting back tears. She just didn't understand why her uncle insisted on hiding himself from the rest of the world. He used to love baseball. What had happened to cause him to feel this way? What had hardened his heart to make him so defensive?

Staring at her uncle's lonely house, Sarah remembered when she was small, her parents would take her to visit Uncle Albert down in Birmingham. She'd seen him pitch a double-header. Heck, she'd seen him pitch a no-hitter not once but on three separate occasions. He'd been so vibrant and full of life. Always smiling and telling silly jokes. He'd been younger back then, sure, but age didn't explain why Albert had quit baseball so suddenly. And he'd never given anyone the true reason for leaving the game he once cherished.

Sarah was sure something had happened to Uncle Albert. She just wished she knew what that something was.

No, she knew something else.

Sarah knew she was going to find out the truth.



Author's Note

Sometimes, you just have to cut a chapter loose and say you're done with it for now. That's how I feel about this one.

This is a tough one for Sarah, for sure. But don't worry, she's going to bounce back.

When I'm writing, I try to put myself in character, and this time I got a little surprise. I didn't expect that very last line about finding out the truth. That's from Sarah, so to speak. And honestly, I don't know how that plays out later. Will there be a big confrontation between Sarah and Albert? Or will Albert come forward with the truth on his own.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this chapter. As always, your votes and feedback are greatly appreciated.

And I have one question: Do you think I need to provide more description of the inside of the house, or of the outside at the end?

Hey, thanks again for reading!!! :)

Best Regards,

Tom

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