115. Rebirth

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The next morning, Henry awoke early and decided to go for a run. He would run all the way to Albert's house, and give him both of those Championship tickets.

Henry stuffed the envelope of tickets into his pocket and left his house, a new bounce in his step. He jogged in place, breathing in the crisp air and blowing it out like plumes of fire. He couldn't believe how fresh the air smelled. It livened all his senses, and he noticed the birds singing as the morning light started to spread over the neighborhood.

Henry took off running. It would feel good to get his body moving again ... the blood and energy flowing. He was going to run off all that negative steam that had collected inside his body and his heart.

From his house, Henry jogged up his street. At the corner, he picked up the pace and continued to the Black Market District, which was starting to show its character as the vendors were beginning to set up their street stands.

Henry couldn't believe his eyes! There were several small crews, blacks and whites, picking up the litter and cleaning up the graffiti on the store fronts.

On the corner, a paperboy had set up shop and was shouting to the few pedestrians shuffling around. "Read all about it! Hester police arrest Vigilantes leader and Edward Benedict. More arrests to follow!"

Rounding a corner, Henry passed by a group of black and white police officers watching over the cleanup efforts, and they were chatting it up like old chums. A white officer smiled at Henry and sent a wave his way. Henry waved back and continued running along.

Five minutes later, Henry was passing Union Steel. Several employees were about to head inside for the start of the morning shift. As Henry ran past, the men shouted out to him and pumped their fists in the air.

"Hey, Henry," one of the men shouted. "You playing in the big game?!"

With a snicker, Henry just shrugged and veered into the woods.

Henry ran along the path that led to the bunkhouses. He came up to the sign that read, "Negroes No Trespassing!" Except now those words had a bold red X painted through them.

Henry decided to take another lap through the woods. Henry ran back along the path and through the black bunkhouse section. Only now, many of the black workers were awake and leaving their houses for the day.

As Henry ran through the clearing that separated the houses, the colored workers began to call out and cheer. Henry smiled and waved, and a slow clap began. Henry ran out of the clearing with the crowd of workers applauding and calling out to him. He felt a heartwarming sense of pride emerging, taking over the sadness. These were good, hardworking people, and Henry was glad that he had made them proud.

Several minutes passed, and Henry found himself approaching Jim Crow Bridge. But several colored and white workers had torn down the old sign, and were putting up the new one that read:

Unity Bridge

Henry arrived at Albert's house with a grin on his face. He knocked briskly on the front door.

Moments later, Albert opened the door with a yawn. "Oh, morning, Henry. You're up mighty early. I'm brewing up a pot of coffee. Why don't you come on in?"

Henry followed Albert inside, and they headed for the kitchen.

Albert lifted the pot from the stove, poured two cups of black coffee, and handed one to Henry.

"Thanks," Henry said, inhaling the steamy wisps of aroma.

The two of them sat down at the kitchen table across from one another.

"I have something I need to give you," Henry said. He removed the envelope from his shirt pocket and slid it across the table.

Albert gave a curious look and picked up the envelope. Lifting the flap, he pulled out the two slips of paper. "Tickets to the Championship game?" Albert said in disbelief. "Why'd you get me these?"

"I didn't," Henry said. "Your niece did. I found them last night ... with Sarah's belongings. I think she was going to surprise you and ask you to go with her."

"I ... I can't take these," Albert said. "I told you what happened and why I don't go to games anymore." He put the tickets back into the envelope and slid it back across the table.

Henry stared at the envelope and then met Albert's eyes. "You know, I thought about what you said last night. I've decided to play in the Championship. You're the first person I've told. Mr Bell, Coach, the team ... they don't even know yet. I'm going to play that game and give it everything I've got. And I'd love to see your cranky face in the stands."

A expectant grin bloomed in Henry's expression.

Albert took a sip of his coffee. "I support you Henry, and I support what you're doing, but I'm not ready to go down to the ballpark myself."

"Come on, Albert. Remember what you said to me yesterday? You told me that I need to keep playing baseball, because it's what Sarah would have wanted me to do. But this, going to the game, this is what Sarah would have wanted you to do. She knew you loved baseball. She would have wanted you to go to the Championship and enjoy the game ... the way you used to."

Albert shook his head, "Sorry, Henry, but you're wasting your time."

"Alright," Henry said, looking around, and then he got an idea. He slid the envelope across the table again. "I'm leaving these tickets here. They're yours from Sarah. If you don't want to go, you have to get rid of them yourself."

Albert didn't respond.

For a while, they sipped their coffees in silence.

Then Albert opened his mouth, and Henry thought he was going to give in.

But the old man had something else in mind.

"Before you leave, Henry, I've got something for you too."

Henry lifted an eyebrow. "You do?"

Albert pointed to the wall slightly behind Henry. "I thought you might need a new bat."

Henry looked over his shoulder, and his jaw dropped.

Sweet baby Jesus!

There it was, leaning against the corner of the wall.

The one thing he'd wanted since he was a little kid.

... a shiny, black Louisville Slugger.


Author's Note

This was Henry's rebirth.

That's why this chapter is set on a refreshingly cold morning. It's a fresh beginning for Henry.

In a sense, Henry's run represents a metaphorical tunnel to a better place. And as he jogs through Hester, all of those positive changes are because of him.

Now, what are we going to do about Albert? You'll find out very soon!

And the countdown continues ... only five more chapters to go.

Thanks,
Tom

P.S. The next chapter is one my top three favorites of the entire story. It represents the essence of what Color is all about: HOPE!

I hope you enjoy it!

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