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Authors: Andrea Davis Pinkney

With the Might of Angels (6 page)

BOOK: With the Might of Angels
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Monday, July 26, 1954
Diary Book,

Tonight after supper I asked Mama and Daddy if we could buy a TV.

They both answered at the same time:
“No.”

“Televisions cost money,” Mama said.

“Money we don’t have,” said Daddy.

I don’t know much about money, except that when you have a nickel, you can buy five pretzel sticks from Woolworth’s. When you have a penny, you can buy a sucking candy. When you have a dime, you can buy a root beer. Last Christmastime, I got a penny, two nickels, and even some dimes. I didn’t spend none of that money. Since I’ve been old enough to hold a penny, I’ve been saving to buy a new pogo stick, an Ace Flyer.

I also know this: When you don’t spend money on things like Peach Melba dresses that are too tight and shiny shoes you don’t wear much, you have more money in your pocket for a TV.

We were sitting out on our porch watching Goober chase fireflies.

The radio was on. We were listening to a commentary about an upcoming game between the Dodgers and the Red Sox when the program was interrupted.

The man on the radio said, “U.S. senator Harry F. Byrd vows to stop integration in Virginia schools.”

“Get the baseball commentary back on!” I insisted.

For the second time, Mama and Daddy spoke together:
“Shhhh!”

The man on the radio was talking about school, and I did not want to hear it! It’s summer, right? Can we please not think about school?

Even Goober agreed. He’d caught a firefly in a jar, and ran to show me.

“Baseball back on!” he sang. “Baseball back on!”

Wednesday, July 28, 1954
Diary Book,

Yolanda and I played our favorite game today. A game we call “Tell the Truth or Die Tryin’.”

Yolanda always starts truth tellin’ by making an X over her heart with her pointer finger. “Cross my heart, hope to die. Stick a needle in my eye. If I’m lyin’, watch me cryin’. ’Cause I know I will be dyin’.”

Then we press our foreheads together to see if either one of us has shed a “lyin’ cryin’ dyin’” tear, and to seal the truth between us.

Today Yolanda said she wouldn’t be coming to Prettyman with me. Her parents don’t believe in integration, especially her father. “My pa says why go to a place where you’re not wanted.”

I didn’t believe Yolanda at first. She said, “Cross my heart, hope to die. Stick a needle in my eye. If I’m lyin’, watch me cryin’. ’Cause I know I will be dyin’.”

She had to be lyin’. This could not be true.

“Are you telling me a story, Yolanda Graves? ’Cause if you are, cut it out.”

Yolanda shook her head. “I’m telling the truth, Dawnie, I swear.”

Yolanda didn’t need to cross her heart to show me she
wasn’t
lying. Her down-in-the-mouth expression told me she was being real.

Then I remembered the paper Mama and Daddy had signed. I’d been so flabbergasted by seeing their names, that I’d forgotten to look to see if Yolanda’s parents had signed the form, too. I guess they hadn’t.

“Well, if
you’re
not going to Prettyman,
I’m
not going, neither,” I said.

But I didn’t mean that, and Yolanda knew it, too.

“You gotta do it, Dawnie,” she said. “How will
we ever know what it looks like inside that school if you don’t go?”

“Roger Wilkes can tell us.” Yolanda said, “Roger Wilkes’s glasses have more smudge on them than a windshield stuck with mosquitoes. I’m surprised he can see his own feet.”

Yolanda wouldn’t look at me. “Besides,” she said quietly, “Roger’s not going to Prettyman, either. His daddy and ma wouldn’t even open the door for those NAACP people.”

“So it’s just me?” I asked.

Yolanda kicked at the gravel under her feet. She nodded. “It’s just
you
going to Prettyman, Dawnie.”

Just
me?

If a balloon could feel what it was like to be sat on at a birthday party, it would know what I felt right then —
pop!

Saturday, July 31, 1954
Diary Book,

This weekend, Reverend Collier is hosting folks from Calvary, a visiting congregation from Reston. To welcome them, we held a church-wide picnic at Orem’s Pasture.

I don’t know who does the naming of places in Hadley. Orem’s Pasture isn’t really a
pasture,
like where cows gather. Orem’s is a raggedy patch of crabgrass that separates Ivoryton from Crow’s Nest. It is the closest we come to the white part of town. The grass is more brown than green, but the
pasture
is wide, and offers plenty of open space, and is closed in by a chain-link fence.

Seeing as there were so many people needing to picnic, I guess Reverend Collier chose Orem’s to give us all enough room for spreading our blankets.

There was a boy from Calvary who’d brought two baseballs, a bat, a bunch of mitts, and even an umpire’s mask. I’d brought my bat, too. And my mitt.

The kid’s name was Lonnie. He called together a baseball game soon after everyone from both congregations had gathered.

All the boys from Calvary came to the center of the pasture. So did the boys from Shepherd’s Way. So did I.

Lonnie looked at me sidelong. “This ain’t softy ball,” he said. “It’s a baseball game.”

What Lonnie didn’t know is that I can knock
the jelly out of any ball that comes at me, and that I’m no softy.

Freddy Melvin spoke up quick. “Let her play,” he said.

Lonnie wasn’t having it. “No girls.”

Freddy made a sour face like he was being forced to eat okra. But he was faking. “We’ll put up with her.”

Fake sour face and all, Freddy wanted me on his team. “We can stick her in the outfield,” he told Lonnie.

Now I was the one making a sour face. “The
outfield
?” I protested. Everybody in Hadley knows I’m a second baser, just like Jackie Robinson.

“You wanna play, or not?” Freddy asked.

“Yeah, I
wanna play.
But I
wanna play
where I
can
play, not dawdle with the butterflies.”

“Dawnie, when it’s time to bat, you’ll play, ’kay?”

“Not
okay
,” I huffed.

But Lonnie was already assigning his players and the game was starting.

It was Shepherd’s Way against Calvary.

Roger was quick to join our team. Goober, too.

“They playin’?” Lonnie asked.

There’s only one thing I hate about baseball —
losing. I couldn’t tell Roger not to play, but I had some control over Goober.

Before I could think of a way of gently encouraging Goober
not
to play, Mama was at centerfield volunteering him.

“Goober can set up,” she said, and she started helping Goober make bases from whatever was nearby.

Together Mama and Goober drove the nose of a pop bottle into the dirt to mark first base. Second base was a box top. Third, a snatch of tire rubber. Home plate was a sock Goober had found and stuffed with newspaper. This seemed to satisfy Goober’s wanting to be on the Shepherd’s Way team.

Mama, Daddy, Goober, the Reverend, and a whole mess of people from Shepherd’s Way pulled their picnic blankets closer to the game. Yolanda was there, too. “Make it happen, Dawnie!” she shouted. “Show ‘em you mean business, girl!”

The Calvary team was up first. That Lonnie kid, he sure knew his way around swinging a bat. He met Freddy’s fastest pitch with a mean
crrrrack,
giving me some play way out in the pasture. I scooped the ball, hurled it. But by the time Roger stumbled over his feet, Lonnie
was home free — and home-run happy.

When it was our turn up, Freddy let me bat first. Lonnie was pitching.

“Bring it home, Dawnie!” Daddy shouted. “Don’t just swing. Use your noggin. Think, child.
Meet
the ball.”

“Home, Dawnie!” Goober cheered.

I had a good grip on the bat. Hiked it high over my shoulder. I was ready. Feeling confident. Feeling fine.

When I surveyed the pasture, there was rattling coming from the fence. All three Hatches had shown up, and were watching from the spot closest to Ivoryton, where the fence separates Orem’s Pasture from the road. They didn’t dare pipe up or misbehave. There were only three of them, but lots more of us, including grown-ups. Just having the Hatches around bothered me, though. I tried my best to ignore them, but it was hard doin’.

It helped having Daddy coaching me from the sidelines.

“Chin up, Dawnie!”

Lonnie slammed in a pitch. Man sakes — there was fire on the stitches of his ball!

“Strike one!”

Lonnie craned his knee high up, brought the ball back —
flam!
That pitch was hotter than the last. It could have melted the fenders on Reverend Collier’s Pontiac.

The two words every batter hates shot up from behind me: “Strike two!”

I released my bat for a moment. Did the thing that riles Mama most — spit in both my palms. “Choke the bat!” Daddy coached. “Choke it, Dawnie!”

Lonnie’s teammates cheered him. “Put it down the middle, Lonnie-man! Show her this ain’t no place for a girl.”

Lonnie bombed me with his pitch. As slammin’ as it was, I never lost sight of its power. I didn’t hit the ball, I
laced
it — high and far, all the way to St. Peter’s post at the pearly gates.

I put some smooth peanut butter on that jelly doughnut.

Flung my bat, and breaknecked like heck toward the pop bottle in the dirt — to first base.

It sure helps being big-legged. A box top never looked as good as when I was landing on its second-base square.

Soon that rubber tire patch was calling my name — third base!

Now
I
was bombing forward, blowing through puffed cheeks, working my way to the stuffed sock, to home base. My ball had soared so far and high that it took the Calvarys a good two minutes to get it back. Still, every baseball player knows you’re not safe till you hear the ump make the call.

As I watched that stuffed sock get closer, I could hear Lonnie hollering to his outfielders, “Get the ball. She’s near to home!”

Daddy must have kept Mama from fainting at what came next. I didn’t just
slide
into home base, I
sliiiiiid
on my belly, mopping the land with the front of my shirt.

I’m not one for eating dirt, but dirt from
sliiiiiiding
into home base tastes sweeter than brown sugar. Never mind that it stung my eyes. I was nose-to-the-ground, smelling that musty sock, smelling home.

“Safe!” came the call.

I got to my feet, danced a happy kick-step. Brushed the brown sugar from my front.

Our game continued through the afternoon. I hit a double and two more homers.

Shepherd’s Way beat Calvary, but only by a little.

It wasn’t until the game was over that the
Hatch boys left. They’d hung tight to the fence, fingers laced to its chains, watching me play.

Sunday, August 1, 1954
Diary Book,

Calvary’s minister, our guest speaker, delivered today’s sermon. “The Lord doesn’t take sides,” he said. “But he does know good baseball when he sees it. Yesterday, the players from Shepherd’s Way gave the Lord a front-row seat to some lively ball playing.”

Wednesday, August 4, 1954
Diary Book,

Today was hotter than the hinges on the devil’s front door. Daddy and Mama took me on a practice walk to Prettyman Coburn so that we could see how long it would take to get there from home, and to make sure I’m clear about the directions on foot. Mama and Daddy don’t know anything about the shortcuts Yolanda and I have found, so we walked the main streets, the longest way to get there.

Two miles is no fun in the heat. I’d started out on my pogo stick, but took to hoisting it across my shoulders after just a short time. Goober noted
the streets and avenues, calling out their names as we walked.

Mama and Daddy peppered me with rules about what to do and not do when I attend my new school.

Mama’s rules were about being polite and not making trouble. Daddy was strict about safety.

All the rules started the same way:

“Always remember …” and

“Don’t forget …” and

“Make sure you …”

“Always remember—you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

“Don’t forget to smile.”

“Make sure you greet your new teacher courteously.”

Daddy gave a warning.

“Rule number one,” he said, “keep your hands to yourself.”

Even Goober had rules — polite ones and safety ones:

“Give nice people a peanut,” he said. And, “Give mean people three peanuts.”

Monday, August 9, 1954
Diary Book,

Goober’s not allowed to come out of our fence without first asking me or Mama or Daddy. Today he wanted a pogo lesson, but we had to stay in our small front yard to do it, which is not enough room for jumping, and not enough concrete for pumping good on the pogo stick.

I tried showing Goober how to pogo on grass, but my pogo kept sticking in the dirt. This made Goober cry, then wail. “I want to fly like you, Dawnie!”

He kept saying it over and over, louder and louder. Screeching like he does when he’s upset. Then he slammed the pogo stick hard on the grass, and cried more. I sat him down on our back steps until he calmed down.

“Let’s play airplane,” I said softly.

Goober spread his arms wide. He ran in zigzags around our yard.

“Watch out for the other planes, Dawnie, okay?”

“Okay, Goober.”

“Do you see the other planes flying, Dawnie? Do you see them flying?”

“Yes, Goober, I see them.”

Monday, August 16, 1954
Diary Book,

Daddy brought home a new magazine today. It’s called
Sports Illustrated.
A whole magazine about sports! Its pages were shiny, and felt so good touching up against the skin on my fingers as I turned them. And the pictures — I couldn’t stop staring.

Wednesday, August 18, 1954
Diary Book,

Without asking me, Goober played with my pogo stick. I don’t like him touching my things, but the worst part is that he left the pogo stick out in the rain. The stick is already rusty enough!

BOOK: With the Might of Angels
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