Henry's first few hours working on the docks had been grueling.
He lifted crate after heavy crate and loaded them onto the delivery trucks. A few times, he shoveled piles of spilled pig iron, heaving the gray ore into large wheelbarrows to feed the blast furnaces inside the mill. Henry found himself zoning out, falling into a mindless routine as he toiled under the blistering sun.
Henry was part of a three-man crew. The other two fellas were closer to Albert's age, their movements slow and easy. They didn't seem to recognize him wearing a work cap and sunglasses, and that suited Henry just fine. He had wanted to keep a low profile and avoid the embarrassment of having to explain what had happened.
Henry was taking a break in the shade, leaning against the outer wall of the mill, when another colored worker approached him. He was a young man, maybe a couple of years younger than Henry.
"Mr. Louis?" he said, his expression tentative.
Henry gave him a nod and as much of a smile as he could muster. "Hey there. How're you?"
"I'm good. My name's James. I just wanted to come and tell you what a big fan I am of yours. I've been to all of your Pioneer games. I even saw a bunch back when you were still playing for the Rooks."
"Thanks," Henry said. "I appreciate that."
"I heard what happened?" James said. "It's too bad."
Henry raised a brow. He wondered how Mr. Bell had announced his quitting to the rest of the company. "What exactly did you hear?"
James's eyes widened, and he wiped his hands on his overalls. "Oh, well, there was a company letter that said you decided to leave the Pioneers to pursue other interests. This must be your idea of other interests?"
Henry looked down, grinning, and shook his head.
"I guess that's not what happened?" James said.
"It's a long story. Let's just say, management wanted to bench me and Big Willy before the playoffs. We didn't like that idea, so we decided to leave on our own terms."
"What?" James threw up his hands. "A black man just can't ever get a break. I never thought I'd see the day, but white folks were actually cheering for you. Because of you, we were finally starting to get some respect from the whites in Hester. Coloreds look up to you, 'cause you've given us poor Negroes some hope." James shook his head. "I can't believe they tried to bench you. It's not right!"
Henry nodded. "Maybe not, but there isn't anything I can do about it."
"It's just not fair," James said. "You should still be playing for the Pioneers." And then he turned and wandered away, still mumbling under his breath.
Henry frowned and rubbed the tight knot between his eyebrows. He watched James make his way across the dock.
A feeling of helplessness overcame Henry, but what could he do? He felt bad about letting down the colored folk in Hester. He'd finally been a part of a special group of men with a good chance in the playoffs. A good chance to make it to the championship game. But now, all he had was a shattered dream.
A whistle blew!
Henry wished he could turn things around.
But right now, he had to get back to work.
I hope you enjoyed this short character. It's a little break in the action designed to show Henry is missing baseball. More importantly, he's missing playing baseball as a Pioneer.
The next chapter promises to be explosive!
See ya soon!!
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Color (Completed)Historical Fiction
WATTYS SHORTLISTED! During World War I, a black baseball player gets a second chance to play ball on an all-white steel mill baseball team, an action that shocks and divides an entire town. Targeted by opponents, his own team, and mysterious vigilan...