Okay, for a change of pace, I’m not gonna talk about my comic today.
(But I will include a link to it, just because I can.)
Instead, I wanted to change my tune and talk about one of my other projects. This is my historical/slipstream/baseball book about the first racially integrated baseball team formed before World War I. Here’s a quick description of it:
In his first season as head coach of the All Nations team, former slave George Grunion must contend with racist crowds, flagging team morale, his own loneliness, and even the ghost of the previous head coach. His players are now the only family he has left, ever since his wife left him three decades ago. And if George can’t hold the All Nations together, he loses more than his job and his team. He’ll miss his chance to fulfill the prophecy made by his prescient centerfielder Mack — that George will be reunited with his estranged family before the 1918 season ends. If George doesn’t score this final run, he loses everything.
I’ve been enjoying re-reading this book about my “post-racial” ball club since I started re-reading it earlier this month, adding bits and pieces that set up the new ending I want to give it. The following snippet is from some new stuff I added this morning to The All Nations Team:
I pushed through the crowd, earning some slaps on the back as men recognized me as the All Nations coach, along with a kiss on the cheek from a tipsy female fan. I was having trouble breathing due to the smoke and mass of people.
Before I could make it outside to where I figured Mack was still sitting with his cigars and his too-bright eyes aimed at the sky, I saw her.
Isabel Maria. It was as if she’d magically appeared to cut me off from my centerfielder. She sat at the table next to the exit, talking with a young man who looked so much like my new pitcher Domingo that he had to be her son. I pivoted on my heel, knees twinging with pain, and walked up to Isabel’s table.
Oh, Maddie, I thought, losing my breath suddenly. I’m sorry. I just can’t wait for you any longer. Not now.
“Jorgé,” Isabel said with a smile that cleared my head of all smoke, all guilt. “I’d like you to meet my son Miguel.”
“A pleasure,” I said as the young man stood up to shake hands. Thankfully, I’d caught my wind again and didn’t gasp out my words.
“Nice to meet you,” Miguel said. As soon as he let go of my hand, his gaze traveled over to the table where my team sat, close to the bar.
“Por favor, Mama?” he said to Isabel, nodding in the direction of his brother Domingo, who was leading the team and most of the other people in the restaurant in a fast Cuban song that I couldn’t even begin to comprehend.
“Sí,” Isabel said, and a moment later, I was alone at a table with the woman who’d been on my mind all week. My hand was already itching to reach out to her. The singing and music and talking around us faded away.
“You avoid me, Jorgé,” she said, a statement instead of a question. “I hope to talk more with you, but your games keep you too busy for that?” This time she made her sentence into a question.
I gave a grudging, guilt-laced nod. “I’m sorry. Lo siento.”
“Why what?” I felt like a boy out on his first date, fumbling for comprehension. “Why am I sorry? Or why do I avoid you?”
Isabel Maria sipped at her wine, raised her left eyebrow and said nothing, as if waiting for me to figure out the answer.
I have a wife, I was about to say, but the words stuck in my throat.
“Your penance,” Isabel said at last, “is one Our Father and three dances with me.”