55. Father And Son

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Frank strolled along the straight promenade with his father at his side. Dozens of people around them. Walking. Chatting. The men wore derbies and straw boaters to shade their clean-cut faces from the sun. The women showcased big hats with big flowers or bows. Not a single colored person in sight. They were all white, at least on this end of Grandview Boulevard.

Several blocks ahead, Union Steel Ballpark looked like a toy miniature – a pale one-tier structure with thousands of ant-sized people waiting to get in. Frank was glad that Richard had decided to join him for the first game of the season, despite all of the bad press the team had received on account of Henry.

Richard was still less than pleased about the new black ball player. And he had said on a number of occasions that he wasn't sure he could stand to sit through a Pioneers game now that a Negro would be playing alongside white players.

"Is Peter meeting us at the ball park?" Richard asked in a leathered-lung voice.

Frank frowned. He couldn't understand how his father could show such concern for his grandson when he found it so difficult to speak with his own son. He had always gotten the sense that Richard was vaguely uncomfortable around him. As if he didn't quite know what to make of Frank. And for that reason, Frank hadn't ever been able to really open up to his father.

Still, it was nice to see Richard show such worry over his grandson. Frank knew that his father was probably more upset than anyone to see Peter ship off to Europe to fight in the Great War. Sure, Richard was proud. They both were. Who wouldn't be proud to have a son going off to fight to protect America's freedom? But they would worry. They would miss him. And they would pray for his safe return.

"I'm not sure that he'll be joining us," Frank said. "Baseball is probably the last thing on his mind right now. He's shipping off soon. I think he's still getting used to the idea of not having any contact with his family or friends."

Richard's expression grew rigid. "The boy could write."

Frank's eyes narrowed. Richard was covering up the way he really felt. The hard furrow in his brow gave that away.

"It's not the same," Frank said, "and you know it."

"The service will do Peter some good," Richard said. "Take it from my experience, it will teach him the importance of discipline and leadership. Make him into the right kind of man for Union Steel. As Peter's father, you need to make sure he sees his future with the company."

Frank rolled his eyes. Richard was always getting on his case to steer Peter to work for the company. But Peter hadn't committed to the family business. He was more interested in drawing and painting than forging steel, and that didn't sit well with Richard. A career in the arts wasn't a proper profession for the grandson of Union Steel's founder.

Union Steel Ballpark loomed ahead. They could have taken a car, but Frank had insisted on walking. It was such a nice, warm day, Richard hadn't argued the point.

Frank cleared his throat, breaking the silence that stretched between them. "Are you attending Peter's farewell party tonight?"

Richard gave his head a small shake. "I think having a farewell party before you send a boy off to war is a bit strange."

"Linda's been planning it for a while."

"Of course she has," Richard said, shaking his head.

Frank's eyebrows knitted together. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Richard met his son's eyes. "It means, everyone in town is talking about your wife. About how she socializes with Negroes. Did you know she's been seen entering that shady establishment in the Black District? The Diamond Club. Is that acceptable to you?"

Frank sighed, trying to release some of the frustration. "Yes, I know she spends time at the Diamond Club. You might not think it's okay, but some white folks are perfectly fine socializing with colored people who happen to be citizens in all forty-eight states. So, yes. It's perfectly acceptable to me. Times are changing. Whites can't keep ten million colored people apart from the rest of society."

Richard stopped walking. "And why not? Darwin said it best ... survival of the fittest."

Frank stared at his father's tight expression. "Actually, Herbert Spencer coined the phrase 'survival of the fittest' after reading Darwin's work, 'On the Origin of Species.' Darwin came to a different conclusion – that it's not the strongest or most intelligent of a species that survives. It's the one that's most adaptable to change."

Frank continued walking, a sliver of a smile spreading across his lips.


Author's Note

Be forewarned! Beast mode has been activated. No fanfare. I'm just going to crank out chapters as fast as I can this weekend.

Warning: Beast Mode Activated!

Warning: Beast Mode Activated!

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