Luck of the Draw
William Scott Morrison
Peanuts & Crackerjack
October 5th, 1960
In the northeast quarter of America the early weeks of October can be the most vibrant season of the year. Days shorten, pumpkins ripen, and at night Jack Frost paints the mapled landscape in brilliant hues of red and gold, yellow and orange as Mother Nature eases into her rest cycle and the smoky, pungent fragrances of autumn invigorate the air. And sometimes, in the very best years, Indian Summer comes around and warms up early October like it was the middle of May. The opening game of the 1960 World Series, between the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates and the mighty New York Yankees, was to be played such a day, a glorious afternoon filled with cotton-ball clouds that roamed the bright blue Pennsylvania sky like an endless herd of white buffalo.
Neither Jenny nor her brothers nor even their mom suspected anything until that morning when her dad, in his blue terrycloth bathrobe, walked into the kitchen at breakfast and, like a magician doing card tricks, fanned out six tickets and said, “How would you like to skip school today?”
As they rode the crowded trolley to the game her dad, “Sal” to his friends, sat in the middle, an arm around each of “his girls,” Jenny and her mom, Jean. Her obnoxious older brothers, Tony, Jimmy, and Nicky, were making their usual ruckus a few rows back.
Jenny sat next to the window, studying her reflection in the glass, worried that her make-up might smear and then everybody would see the spidery red and purple discolorations on her new nose. Dr. Emery had promised everything would be normal by now, but he lied. It still hurt, especially at night, and she had to sleep on her back and use a special pillow to brace her head. But the worst was sitting and watching everybody else have all the fun playing in the pick-up baseball games down at the corner. At her last check-up she asked, “Dr. Emery, when can I play baseball again?”
“Not for at least another month,” he sternly warned. “The risk of permanent damage to the reconstruction is too great.”
“But baseball will be over and all the boys will be playing football.”
Her mom had been standing off to the side, smiling, like she’d planned the whole thing. “It’s good timing, Jennifer. Now that you’re becoming a young lady, you have to stop being such a tomboy. Baseball is much too rough. It’s not at all ladylike.”
“But I’m really good, Mom. I get a lot of hits, and I’m faster than stupid Nicky or Rusty Limbergh or Joey Corvano. Everybody says I don’t throw like a girl.”
“How good you are isn’t the point. The point is you are a girl. But isn’t it nice Dr. Emery says you can still take your dance lessons?”
“But baseball’s a lot more fun.”
“I took dance lessons when I was your age and I had plenty of fun.”
It was no use arguing. Her mom had never played baseball, not in her whole life, not even once.
The bell clanged and she forgot all about Dr. Emery as the car lurched down the line with the comforting clackety-clack-clack of steel wheels on steel tracks. Newcomers squeezed in, standing up and swaying back and forth to keep their balance as they gripped the silvery poles or the leather hoops dangling from the ceiling. Twenty blocks. Stop. Nineteen. Stop. They’d never get there.
As the trolley clacked down Fifth Avenue past the grand mansions of “Millionaires Row,” she wondered what it would be like to live in a house where butlers served breakfast in bed on silver trays and maids did the ironing. They were still too far away to see Forbes Field, the Pirates’ baseball park, but it was directly across the street from the Cathedral of Learning, “Skyscraper U,” the University of Pittsburgh’s forty-two-story gothic-style classroom campus, which loomed bigger and bigger at every trolley stop. The Cathedral stood guard like a solitary gray giant over the Oakland district, the city’s cultural center, which was filled with museums, two universities, concert halls, and Pitt’s football stadium where both Pitt and the Steelers played.
She was double-checking her reflection for make-up smears on her new nose in her reflection in the trolley’s window when somebody yelled, “Look! The Goodyear blimp!”
Everybody craned their necks to see. She had only seen the blimp on TV, and now there it was, in real life. She watched as it lazily circled the Cathedral, just high enough to keep a pinprick from the needle-sharp lightning rod tip from popping the blimp like a party balloon.
There were lots of black-and-gold Pirate caps and jackets, and kids with ball gloves hoping for a souvenir. She caught two boys staring at her. They quickly glanced away, pretending to be innocent, but she’d caught them all right. It was driving her crazy the way boys were always staring at her now. On her first day of junior high, it was as if her popularity switch had flipped from OFF to ON. Even Rusty Limbergh started being nice. A few girls she thought were her friends tried to convince the boys that her new face didn’t count because it wasn’t natural, but the boys didn’t seem to care.
When the trolley skreeked to a stop, the conductor called, “Forbes Field,” and everybody hurried off. The old ballpark, which had been built in 1909 and for many decades had been famous as the most beautiful park in all of baseball, was dressed up and decked out like an elegant grande dame for her first World Series in thirty-three years. The facade was festooned with pennants and draped with banners, and the very air seemed alive with excitement as the leafy tang of Indian summer mixed with the salty scent of fresh roasted peanuts and the sounds of vendors calling, “Programs, here. Get yer programs, here!” For the next few hours this would be the most enchanted place anywhere on Earth, and she would be a part of it.
All her life both her grandfathers, Papa Carlo and Grampy Jim, had told them tales of the glorious season of 1925, the year the Pirates took the World Series from the Senators. She tried to imagine what it must have been like to be alive in the Roaring Twenties when the whole city went crazy all at once. Her mom hadn’t even been born yet, and her dad was too young to remember much about it. They also told sad tales about the disastrous Series of 1927, the year the Babe set the all-time home-run record, and the Murderers’ Row Yankees crushed the Pirates four games to none. She read in the Post-Gazette that sports writers back then claimed that the Pirates had given up before the Series even started, chickening out before the first game after watching Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig take batting practice. When she asked if it were true, Grampy Jim said it was a New York lie, but Papa Carlo just shrugged and said it didn’t matter because “Nobody could’a beat da bastards anyway.”
This year the smart money was on the Yankees to take the Series in five, maybe even blow the Bucs out four straight, just like in ’27. The Pirates had not been back to a World Series since, while the Yankees seemed to win it every year. It didn’t seem fair that the Yankees got to win so much, but nobody ever did anything about it.
Every year their dad took them to a few games, but they were usually in the cheap seats in the right-field bleachers. Today, their seats were just a few rows behind the Pirate dugout. “What did you pay for these, Sal?” her mom asked as they settled in.
“It’s a bennie from the new job,” he answered with a straight face. He had just been promoted to lieutenant in the fire department and Jenny was certain he wanted her mom to believe the tickets were like the new red Plymouth with a siren and P.F.D. in gold letters on the doors the city of Pittsburgh had given him to use. She would have bet a month’s allowance that the tickets weren’t a bennie at all, that he was fibbing so her mom wouldn’t find out he’d been playing poker down at the Sons of Italy lodge again; Jenny couldn’t help wondering what kind of hand her dad had drawn to win such great seats.
They only had tickets for today’s game, so she was determined to take it in slowly, like a chocolate milkshake she wanted to last forever. She watched the groundskeepers dragging a hose along the edge of the grass by the ivy-covered brick wall in deep center field near the 440 sign, the deepest outfield in baseball, spraying the warning track with a fine mist of water and making a perfect little rainbow.
Everybody looked up as a biplane came along, did a few loop-de-loops, and began skywriting BEAT ’EM BUCS! in flowing streams of black-and-gold smoke across the sky. She borrowed her dad’s U.S. Army binoculars and could see the pilot’s leather helmet and funny goggles, looking just like a World War I fighter ace with his black-and-gold Pirate scarf fluttering in the breeze.
They had come early to see the modern-day Yankees—the Bronx Bombers of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Yogi Berra—take batting practice. She especially wanted to see the most famous athlete in all of sports, Mickey Mantle, “The Mick,” America’s baseball heartthrob. She ooohed and aaahhed with the rest of the crowd as Mickey’s mighty swings sent ball after ball rocketing into the upper-deck bleachers in right, or soaring into the trees beyond the ivy-covered wall in left. She hoped that the Pirates were not watching, so they wouldn’t chicken out before the game even started, like they did back in ’27.
When Mickey’s turn was over, Jenny scanned the stands with the binoculars, looking for anybody famous. Her dad pointed to boxes in the first row. “There, with the governor. That’s Lyndon Johnson.”
As she focused the binoculars Nicky asked, “Who’s he, Dad?”
Jenny knew. “He’s Kennedy’s running mate.”
“Who’s Kennedy?” Nicky asked. “And what’s a running mate?”
Nicky was a whole year older than she was, but he didn’t know anything. What an idiot.
“Look,” her mom said, pointing to men coming on to the field from the Pirate dugout. “There’s Bing Crosby!”
Jenny wasn’t surprised. Everybody in Pittsburgh knew that the world’s most famous singer owned twenty-five percent of the Pirates and came all the way from Hollywood every year to see a few games. She wondered how many other famous people were here today?
Just then a boy carrying a bag of peanuts and a ball glove came rushing down the steps, stopped two rows in front of them, checked his ticket stubs, backed up, looked at the numbers on the seats, and screamed, “Dad! Grampa! I found them. Hurry!”
A man wearing the same kind of fedora hat that Grampy Jim always wore yelled, “We’ll be there in a minute, Arthur. You get in first, then your father. I need to be on the end to use my new Polaroid.”
The boy rushed in, flipped down the upright wooden seat next to hers with a BANG, plopped himself down, looked at her and said, “Hi.”
He was kind of cute, and about her age, but much too immature. “Hello,” she said, polite and ladylike, careful not to encourage him.
Suddenly she felt her mom’s hand shake her by the shoulder. “Jenny, look—with Bing. Isn’t that Bob Hope?”
She cried out, “Bob Hope!” Nobody but nobody could make her laugh like Bob Hope. She loved his hilarious “road” movies with Bing Crosby almost as much as her mom did, and his monthly comedy special was her favorite TV show, better than I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners or Lassie.
She had just focused the binoculars on Hope when a group of men came along in the row in front and blocked her view as they made their way to their seats. She jumped to her feet, but still couldn’t see, so she hopped up on her wooden seat, stood on her tip-toes, and at last was able to see over the men and focus on the world’s most famous comedian. Who could believe it—Bob Hope, right here in Pittsburgh!
She watched for a minute or two until Hope and Crosby disappeared into the dugout, and as she went to climb down she saw that the boy was scrunched down low, in his own seat, his eyes just inches from her knees—peeking up her skirt!
She pulled it tight to her legs, jumped down and demanded in a fierce whisper, “Just what do you think you’re doing?”
She leaned in close, right in his face. “You were looking up my skirt.”
He slumped back, stammering, “I…I…I was not.”
He was guilty all right. “You’re lying. I caught you.”
“You…you…jumped up…and I…I couldn’t help it. But I hardly saw anything. Honest.”
Hardly saw anything? Couldn’t help it! Of all the nerve. She had never been so completely mortified. She sat down in a huff, furious. She must try to be what sophisticated people called “nonchalant,” and calmly ran her fingers through her hair.
After that, she ignored him completely…only checking him out with quick sideways glances when she was certain he wasn’t looking. He was dressed okay, in a plaid Madras shirt. But when he took a NIXON-LODGE button out of his pants and pinned it on his shirt she almost broke out laughing. How could anybody be for Nixon? Then she noticed the ugliest things she’d ever seen in her whole life—red suede loafers, and an uncontrollable giggle leaked out. He looked at her funny, but she stared straight ahead and pretended the giggle had nothing to do with him or his corny red shoes or his stupid Nixon button. What a goof!
“What grade you in?” the goof asked.
“Hey, me too. Where you from?”
“You don’t know? Where are you from?”
“About an hour. You going steady with anybody?”
She was too flabbergasted at his audacity to even know if she should answer.
He said, “I am…want to see?” and before she could say no he whipped out his wallet and was showing off a school photo, the kind classmates trade every year. “Nobody’s as pretty as Cindy Seymour. Not even Annette Funicello in the Mouseketeers.”
The girl in the photo was cute, but she didn’t care about that. She was curious why any girl would go steady with a goof with red shoes and a Nixon button. He was lying. She could feel it. Maybe she could trip him up, like Perry Mason on TV, and said, “Take it out and let me see.”
He looked at her like he didn’t trust her, so she gave him an innocent smile and said, “I’m not going to hurt it. I just want to look.”
“Uh, well, I guess it’s okay,” and he slipped the photo out of the wallet’s plastic sleeve and handed it to her.
When her girlfriends gave their pictures to their boyfriends they always wrote something on the back to make them special. She flipped the photo over. There was nothing special on the back; in fact, there was nothing on it at all. She had him. “If you’re going steady, how come she doesn’t say how much she likes you?”
His face reddened as he took the photo back from her. “Uh…it’s from last year. She didn’t like me then.”
“You’re lying. I can tell.” She almost always could tell, having learned from her stupid brothers that boys lied and made things up all the time. Grown-up men too, especially her dad, but even Papa Carlo and Grampy Jim. They all did it.
He said sheepishly, “I am not,” lying again—now she was absolutely sure. He slipped the photo back in his wallet and offered her his bag of peanuts. “Want some? They’re still hot.”
She liked hot roasted peanuts, so she took a few, but not so many as to be unladylike, and remembering to be polite, said, “Thank you.”
“Arthur, look,” said the boy’s father, pointing to the very best seats in the very front row. “That’s the Mellon’s box. Looks like it’s just their kids here today.”
“Who are they?” the boy asked.
“You’ve never heard of the Mellons?” the grandfather asked.
“Are they famous?” asked the boy.
“They’re just about the richest family in the whole world,” the grandfather said with admiration, “and that’s better than famous. They control Gulf Oil, Alcoa Aluminum, Mellon Bank, half the coal mines in America and not even God knows what else.”
The boy was confused. “You mean those kids own our bank?”
“Their family controls it,” his grandfather explained, “and that’s almost the same thing. The Milltowne branch finances the floor-plan that puts the new cars in our showroom. They gave us our tickets today.”
The boy cocked his head, perplexed. “You mean the Mellon kids gave us our tickets?”
“Not exactly,” the grandfather said. “Their bank gave them to us because they can write it off.”
“What’s write-it-off mean, Grampa? And what’s a floor-plan?”
The father laughed as the grandfather said, “It’s a line-of-credit to put new cars on our showroom floor.”
“Huh?” said the boy.
“You’ll understand when you’re older, Arthur,” said the father.
Jenny’s dad had also noticed the activity in the Mellon’s box, and he didn’t trust Mellons one bit, no matter how young they were. “Look, Jean—Mellon kids,” he said to her mom in a wary undertone. “The adults must be at their fancy races. Serves ’em right to miss the game.”
As luck would have it, the World Series conflicted with the annual Rolling Rock Races, which were being held that very afternoon at the Mellons’ exclusive Rolling Rock Club in the Ligonier Valley in the mountains east of Pittsburgh. The featured race was the King of Spain Gold Cup, the most prestigious steeplechase in America. The Pittsburgh Press and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette society pages were filled with stories about the week of races and black-tie parties that the Mellons hosted every year for a few hundred horse-breeding friends with names like DuPont, Rockefeller, Whitney, Harriman, DeWolfe, Biddle, Morgan and Vanderbilt. The Rolling Rock Races were the social event of the year for Pittsburgh’s high-society, as well as for the horsey set from all over America and Europe. The Rolling Rock races could not be postponed, not even for the World Series.
The grandfather took a picture of the boy and the father with his Polaroid, then pulled a strip of paper out of the back of the camera and held it gingerly while he checked his old-fashioned pocket watch. When he said, “That’s sixty seconds,” he pulled the paper apart and watched with his son and grandson peered over his shoulder as the photo materialized like magic.
Jenny’s father held up their Kodak Brownie and said to the boy’s grandfather, “Hey, mister, you look like you know cameras. Would you take a picture of us?”
“Sure,” said the grandfather, and he took the Brownie from her dad. “It’s just like my old one.”
He stood up and put the viewer up to his eye. “Now everybody smile and say ‘cheese.’”
The Abruzzis cheesed on cue, the shutter snapped, and as he handed the Brownie back to her dad he said, “Want me to take one of your family with the Polaroid, so you don’t have to wait to see it?”
“Sure, that’d be great,” said her dad.
The grandfather put his Polaroid up to his eye and said, “Let’s see those smiles again.”
The Abruzzis cheesed again, the shutter clicked, and the grandfather yanked a paper out the back and checked his watch. “We have to wait sixty seconds.”
This was exciting. When a minute was up, the grandfather peeled off the backing, and holding the photo very gingerly by pinching the edges, passed it to her. “It has to finish developing, so don’t touch the front until it’s dry or you’ll leave fingerprints.”
At first she saw only brown blobs, then shapes began to materialize, like ghosts, becoming clearer and clearer as the seconds ticked by. As soon as she could recognize herself she checked the make-up on her nose. Oh my God, could the girl in the photo really be her? It was the first picture of herself she had seen since getting her new nose. If it was true that a camera didn’t lie, she was pretty, and not just a little bit pretty—really pretty.
Her most obnoxious brother, Jimmy, yelled, “Pass it down, dum-dum.” She ignored him as always, but as she stared at the picture an icy chill crept over her as she caught herself in the deadly sin of vanity old Father Zyhowski was always preaching about. She took a last, sinful look, tingling with fear and excitement, and passed it down.
Out on the field, sportscaster Howard Cosell was by the pitcher’s mound with a TV camera crew. Suddenly Bob Hope and Bing Crosby walked out. She watched through the binoculars as Cosell interviewed them. When it was over, to her great surprise, Hope and Crosby came into the stands and started up the aisle—right towards them!
The boy’s father saw them coming and got all excited. He stood up, and as they came close he stepped into the aisle, stuck out his hand and said, “Bob, remember me? I was your liaison officer on the ’44 Christmas tour.”
Hope stared for a moment, then his face lit up. “Captain McGill?”
“Yes. It’s great to see you again.”
“No, it’s great to see you again,” Hope said as he pumped the boy’s father’s hand like he’d found a long-lost brother. “What a tour that was.”
The boy’s father said, “Remember that time we lost an engine over the Channel?”
“Ha ha, yes,” Hope laughed. “And Dorothy Lamour panicked and inflated a lifeboat right there in the cabin and got pinned between the seats. Ha ha.”
The two of them cracked up in belly laughs as Crosby watched, a puzzled look on his face.
“Wait a minute,” Crosby said. “I was on that tour, and I don’t recall anything like that.”
“You and Ethel Merman had gone on in the plane ahead of us,” the boy’s father said.
Hope dead-panned like he did on TV, “Bing was already liberating Paris,” and everybody in earshot laughed.
The boy’s father was radiating with pride—Bob Hope had remembered him—by name!
“Bob,” the boy’s father said, “I’d like to introduce my father, Art Senior, and my eldest boy, Arthur. Say, could we get a picture? My wife will be thrilled.”
“Sure,” Hope said. “Bing, you get in here too.”
Jenny’s dad stood up and volunteered. “Want me to take it for you?”
“Thanks,” said the boy’s grandfather, and handed her dad the Polaroid. “It’s all set. Just aim and press the button.”
Her dad snapped the shot, and as he passed the camera back, Jenny knew he was about to tell one of his own war stories. Nobody ever mentioned the war without him getting in at least one war story.
“I was a sergeant in the Ninth Armored Division with Patton,” he began, “and you two did a show for us that was the best thing I ever saw in my entire life. It’s an honor to meet you. I’d like to introduce my wife, Jean, my daughter, Jennifer, and my sons, Anthony, James, and Nicholas.”
Crosby smiled and gave a little wave, but Hope bugged out his eyes in feigned amazement, touched his finger to the tip of his famous ski-jump nose, and joked, “I’ve never seen so many honkers in one place before. Almost makes me feel normal.”
Hope was famous for having the second-biggest nose in all of show business, behind only comedian Jimmy Durante’s gigantic snozzola, and self-deprecating nose-jokes were a staple of Hope’s comic schtick. The Abruzzis laughed along with everybody else, flattered that the world’s most famous comedian would share a nose-joke with them. What a day!
Then Hope looked right at Jenny, beamed and said, “You have a beautiful daughter. It’s a lucky thing for her she takes after her equally beautiful mother.”
It was the most exciting moment of her entire life, and it lasted exactly one-tenth of a second, vanishing like a dream when her brother Jimmy shouted out, “She just had a secret nose-job, Mr. Hope!”
She wanted to die, to melt away, to disappear. She hung her head, closed her eyes, and heard Hope crack a joke, “A secret nose-job? Where can I get one of those?”
Everybody was laughing—ha, ha, ha—everybody but Jenny. She kept her face down, totally crushed. There was an awkward silence that seemed to last forever, until she felt a gentle finger under her chin, tilting her head up. She opened her eyes and saw the comforting face of Bing Crosby, trustworthy and wise, like in the movies, when he played a priest or was singing “White Christmas.” He smiled kindly and told her, “Try to be gentle on the boys, young lady. You’re going to break a lot of hearts before you’re through,” and with an spiraling flourish of his other hand he crooned to her in his famous baritone, “Vaa vaaa vaaaa vooom.”
She heard a camera shutter click, and just then the loudspeaker boomed out, “Ladies and gentleman, the New York Yankees….”
“C’mon, Bing,” Hope said, beckoning in mock desperation as he started up the steps. “We’ve got to see a man about a horse or they’ll be out of the gate without us.”
Hope and Crosby waved good-bye, and as she watched them bounding up the steps she asked, “Dad, why do they want to see a man about a horse when the World Series was about to start?”
“They need to go to the men’s room, Jen,” said her father.
A minute after they left, the boy’s grandfather leaned over and said to her, “Here young lady, this is for you,” then peeled the backing off a Polaroid and handed it to her. “Remember, don’t touch it until it’s dry.”
Her mom peered over as they watched the image come to life. “Oh my, Jeniffer, look, oh, it’s you and Bing—and he’s singing to you! Oh, what a wonderful picture. Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
The grandfather smiled. “My pleasure.”
After the excitement of meeting Hollywood’s two biggest celebrities died down, and her mom had tucked the photo safely in her purse, Jenny felt a nudge on her arm as the boy whispered in her ear, “What’s a nose-job, and how come it’s a secret?”
She wanted to die all over again and whispered back, “It’s none of your business.”
“Did they chop some off and not tell anybody?”
“I said it’s none of your business. And quit looking at me like that.”
The loudspeakers blared, “Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for our national anthem.”
Jenny sang with her hand over her heart, all the while sensing the boy’s eyes were examining her nose as if it were under a microscope, a million times worse than looking up her skirt.
The Pirates took the field and the first Yankee came up to bat. The Buc’s ace pitcher, Vernon Law, nicknamed “The Deacon,” got the Yankees to make two quick outs. Then the loudspeakers sent a buzz through the stands as the announcer said, “Batting third and playing center field, number seven, Mickey…Mantle!”
Mickey might be a Yankee, but he was awfully cute in his pinstriped uniform. She leaned over and said, “Daddy, can I see the program?”
Her dad passed it as Mickey settled into the batter’s box and took some warm-up swings. She was leafing through to find his page when she heard a loud CRAAACK—
The next thing she knew, she was flat on her back, her ears ringing like cathedral bells, with hundreds of colored lights shooting around her head like sparklers on the Fourth of July. Her dad was crouched over her, and everything was in s-l-o-w motion.
Her mom was yelling, “My baby! My baby! Jennifer!”
A voice was calling, “I’m a doctor. Let me through!”
The boy was screaming, “It was an accident! It was an accident!”
She couldn’t move, couldn’t feel a thing. Her dad moved aside and the doctor bent over, lifted up one of her eyelids, then stuck something horrible under her nose. She gagged and pushed the awful stuff away.
“That’s a good girl,” said the doctor. “What’s you’re name?”
“Jennifer,” she answered in a squeaky voice, surprised at how hard it was to speak.
“Now you just lie still, Jennifer,” the doctor said. He took a flashlight from his bag and gently lifted each of her eyelids with his thumb, and shined the light in for a better look. When he finished, he put the light away and said, “Now tell me how many fingers you see.”
He stuck his hand in front of her and popped up some fingers. She counted and said, “Three.”
“Good, good. Now follow my finger with your eyes. Don’t move your head, just use your eyes.” She did her best to follow his moving finger, and when he was finished he said, “Let’s sit you up.”
He put his hand behind her back to help, and as she sat up she began to feel something very bad. Oh, it hurt so much, like her face had caught on fire. When she was upright, she saw everybody staring at her. My God, she was on TV, and she burst out crying.
The doctor put the tip of his middle finger to the tip of his thumb, making the OK circle sign, and held it up high for all to see, and a huge cheer went up throughout the ballpark.
“It’s going to be all right, sweetheart,” her dad assured her. “That’s you they’re cheering for. You had everybody worried.”
She felt like heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano had punched her out with his bare knuckles. But she must stop crying. She hated anybody to see her cry. She wiped her eyes and took a deep breath, like her singing teacher taught for stage fright. “Daddy, what…happened?”
“Mickey Mantle almost took your head off with a foul ball. You’re lucky to be alive, but you’re going to be all right.”
Her dad was a fireman and knew just about everything, but he lied a lot, so it was hard to tell when to believe him. Just then her mom shouted, “Doctor, she just had a rhinoplasty!”
Why couldn’t she just have died?
“Oh my,” said the doctor in a grave tone, and he felt all around her face for a minute. “She’s lucky it caught her on the cheekbone. I see no signs of a concussion, or of any damage to her nose.”
Her mom crossed herself and prayed, “Oh thank God, thank God.”
“She’s going to have one heck of a shiner, though, there’s no doubt about that,” said the doctor. “Let’s get some ice on it,” and he gave her dad two pills, one white, one blue. “These will get her through the game, but talk to her surgeon right away and have her X-rayed, just to be sure.” He put a few more pills in an envelope, handed it to her dad, and wrote out a prescription on a pad.
A pop vendor called over, “What’s she like?”
“Orange,” said her dad, and the vendor passed him a cup, which he held to her lips as she washed down the pills with two little sips. Then the vendor gave her mom another cup filled to the brim with ice, and a souvenir vendor handed her mom a gold Pirate towel to wrap it in.
As they helped her back into her seat she heard the boy say, “Honest, mister, I just tried to catch it.”
“Don’t worry about it,” her dad told him. “It could have been a lot worse if it had hit her head on. You might have even saved her life.” Then her dad leaned over and said something she couldn’t hear to the boy’s father and grandfather, and they all shook hands.
Her stupid brothers were shouting at her all at once about how the ball came screaming off Mickey’s bat so fast the boy barely snagged it in his webbing as the momentum carried it smashing into her face and that he made a great catch and it was her own fault she hadn’t ducked.
Throughout the rest of the game, the boy kept turning his prize over in his hands, working it into the pocket of his glove, showing it off. Twice, between innings, he let her hold it.
She kept the ice-towel on her face, and even with the ice and the pills it hurt too much to cheer very loud when Bill Mazeroski hit a two-run homer to give the Bucs the lead, or when Roberto Clemente made a diving catch to snuff out a Yankee rally. When the Bucs’ relief ace, Elroy Face, got the last Yankee out in the top of the ninth inning, she jumped up and down and cheered along with everybody no matter how much it hurt. For the first time in history, the Pittsburgh Pirates had defeated the mighty New York Yankees, six to four, and she had been there. What a game!
The boy’s father was in a hurry. “Come on, Arthur, we’ve got to get a move on to beat the traffic.”
The boy looked over to her. “Bye.”
“Bye,” she said in a whisper, trying to smile through the pain.
A few minutes later she was shuffling along behind her mom on the exit ramp when she heard the boy’s father calling, “Arthur! Where’d you go? Come back here! Arthur!”
She felt a tug at her elbow, and turned to see the boy, looking like he was about to burst into tears. “Here,” and he grabbed her wrist, pulled it toward him, and slapped the prized Mickey Mantle foul ball into her hand. “You deserve it more than me.”
He zoomed off, like he was trying get away before he could change his mind. As he was about to disappear in the rushing crowd, he spun around, cupped his hands to his mouth and yelled, “I hope your secret nose-job’s okay.”