Tears fell from his eyes, fat ones, and hot, Babe assumed. Until, like the ball, he disappeared from view.
Five hundred and seventy nine feet, they told Ruth.
Ruth smiled, picturing his father, not the ball. All gone now. Buried in the saw grass. Buried in Plant Field, Tampa.
Never coming back. chapter twenty-five If Danny could say nothing else positive about the new commissioner, he could at least say the man was true to his word. When the molasses flood tore through the heart of his neighborhood, Danny was spending the week keeping the peace forty miles away at a box factory strike in Haverhill. Once the workers there were brought to heel, he moved on to ten days at a fishery strike in Charlestown. That whimpered to an end when the AFL refused to grant a charter because they didn't deem the workers skilled labor. Danny was loaned out next to the Lawrence PD for a textile workers' strike that had been going on for three months and could already claim two dead, including a labor organiz er who'd been shot through the mouth as he left a barbershop.
Through these strikes and those that followed throughout the late winter and into early spring--at a clock factory in Waltham, among machinists in Roslindale, a mill in Framingham--Danny was spat at, screamed at, called a goon and a whore and a lackey and pus. He was scratched, punched, hit with eggs, hit with sticks, and once, in Framingham, caught a hurled brick with his shoulder. In Roslindale, the machinists got their raise but not their health benefits. In Everett, the shoe workers got half their raise, but no pension. The Framingham strike was crushed by the arrival of truckloads of new workers and the onslaught of police. After they'd made the final push and the scabs had gone through the gates, Danny looked around at the men they'd left in their wake, some still curled on the ground, others sitting up, a few raising ineffectual fists and pointless shouts. They faced a sudden new day with far less than they'd asked for and much less than they'd had. Time to go home to their families and figure out what to do next.
He came upon a Framingham cop he'd never met before kicking a striker who offered no resis tance. The cop wasn't putting much into the kicks anymore, and the striker probably wasn't even conscious. Danny put his hand on the guy's shoulder and the guy raised his nightstick before he recognized the uniform.
"You've made your point," Danny said. "Enough."
"Ain't no enough," the cop said and walked away.
Danny rode back to Boston in a bus with the other city cops. The sky hung low and gray. Scraps of frozen snow gripped the scalp of the earth like crabs.
"Meeting tonight, Dan?" Kenny Trescott asked him.
Danny had almost forgotten. Now that Mark Denton was rarely available to attend a BSC meeting, Danny had become the de facto head of the union. But it wasn't really a union anymore. It was, true to its original roots and its given name, a social club.
"Sure," Danny said, knowing it would be a waste of time. They were powerless again and they knew it, but some child's hope kept them coming back, kept them talking, kept them acting as if they had a voice that mattered.
Either that, or there was no place else to go.
He looked in Trescott's eyes and patted his arm. "Sure," he said again.
One afternoon on K Street, Captain Coughlin returned home early with a cold and sent Luther home.
"I have it from here," he said. "Go enjoy what's left of the day."
It was one of those sneaky days in late winter where spring came along to get a lay of the land. The gutters gurgled with a stream of melted snow; sun prisms and small rainbows formed in windows and on slick black tar. But Luther didn't give himself over to the idle stroll. He walked straightaway into the South End and made it to Nora's shoe factory just as her shift ended. She walked out sharing a cigarette with another girl, and Luther was immediately shocked at how gray she looked. Gray and bony.
"Well, look at himself," she said with a broad smile. "Molly, this is Luther, the one I used to work with."
Molly gave Luther a small wave and took a drag off her cigarette. "How are you?" Nora asked.
"I'm fine, girl." Luther felt desperate to apologize. "I couldn't get here before now. I really couldn't. The shifts, you know? They didn't--"
"And I didn't know where you lived. And I--"
"Luther." This time her hand found his arm. "Sure, it's fine. I understand, I do." She took the cigarette from Molly's hand, a practiced gesture between friends, and took a quick drag before handing it back. "Would you walk me home, Mr. Laurence?"
Luther gave her a small bow. "Be my pleasure, Miss O'Shea."
She didn't live on the worst street in the city, but it was close. Her rooming house was on Green Street in the West End, just off Scollay Square, in a block of buildings that catered primarily to sailors, where rooms could often be rented by the half hour.
When they reached her building, she said, "Go 'round back. It's a green door in the alley. I'll meet you there."
She went inside and Luther cut down the alley, all his wits about him, all senses turned up as high and awake as they got. Only four in the afternoon, but already Scollay Square was banging and bouncing, shouts echoing along the rooflines, a bottle breaking, a sudden burst of cackling followed by off-key piano playing. Luther reached the green door and she was waiting for him. He stepped in quickly, and she shut it behind him and he followed her back down the hallway to her room.
It must have been a closet once. Literally. The only thing that fi t in it was a child's bed and a table fit for holding a single potted plant. In place of a plant, she had an old kerosene lamp and she lit it before closing the door. She sat up at the head of the bed, and Luther took a seat at the foot. Her clothes were neatly folded and placed on the floor across from his feet and he had to be careful not to step on them.
"Ah now," she said, raising her hands to the room as if to a mansion, "we're in the lap of luxury, we are, Luther."
Luther tried to smile, but he couldn't. He'd grown up poor, but this? This was fucking grim. "I heard the factories never pay the women enough to support themselves."
"No," she said. "And they'll be cutting our hours, we hear." "When?"
"Soon." She shrugged.
"What'll you do?"
She chewed a thumbnail and gave him another shrug, her eyes strangely gay, as if this was some lark she was trying out. "Don't know."
Luther looked around for a hot plate. "Where do you cook?"
She shook her head. "We gather at our landlady's table every night--promptly, mind you--at five sharp. Usually it's beets. Sometimes potatoes. Last Tuesday, we even had meat. I don't know what kind of meat it 'twas exactly, but I assure you it was meat."