There he was. Sure as summer, certain as dusk. Luther Laurence. Same light smattering of scars on his face. Same hooded, sullen eyes, and those eyes looking right at Ruth as a smile appeared in them, a tiny, knowing glint, and Luther raised his fingers to the brim of his hat, and tipped it at Ruth.
Ruth tried to smile back, but the muscles in his face wouldn't comply as Scott popped out to shallow right. He heard the announcer call his name. He walked to the batter's box, feeling Luther's knowing eyes on his back the whole way. He stepped up to the plate and hit the first pitch he saw straight back into the pitcher's glove.
So this Clayton Tomes was a friend of yours, wasn't he?" Danny caught the eye of the peanut vendor and held up two fi ngers. Luther nodded. "He was. Musta had jackrabbit in him, though. Didn't say a word to me, just picked up and left."
"Huh," Danny said. "I met him a few times. He didn't strike me that way. Struck me more as a sweet kid, a boy really."
The oily brown bags came sailing through the air and Danny caught the first but let the second pass by, and it glanced off Luther's forehead and landed in his lap.
"Thought you were some kind of baseball player." Danny handed a nickel down the row of fans and the last man handed it to the peanut vendor.
"Gotta lot on my mind." Luther took the first warm peanut from his bag and flicked his wrist and it bounced off Danny's Adam's apple and fell into his shirt. "What Mrs. Wagenfeld say about it?"
"Just chalked it up to something you darker folk do," Danny said, reaching into his shirt. "Hired herself another houseman straightaway." "Colored?"
"No. I guess the new prevailing theory on the east side after you and Clayton didn't work out is to keep it whiter up there."
"Like this here park, uh?"
Danny chuckled. Maybe twenty-five thousand faces in Fenway that day, and not a one besides Luther's any darker than the ball. The teams were changing sides after Ruth's line- out to the pitcher, and the round man trotted out to left on his ballerina toes, his shoulders hunched like he was expecting a blow from behind. Luther knew Ruth had seen him, and that the seeing had rattled him. Shame had filled the man's face like it had come from a hose. Luther almost pitied him, but then he remembered the game in Ohio, the way those white boys had soiled its simple beauty and he thought: You don't want to feel shame? Don't do shameful things, white boy.
Danny said, "Anything I can do to help you?"
"With what?" Luther said.
"With whatever's been eating you up all summer. I ain't the only one noticed. Nora's worried, too."
Luther shrugged. "Nothing to tell."
"I am a cop, you know." He tossed his shells at Luther.
Luther swept the shells off his thighs. "For now."
Danny gave that a dark chuckle. "That's a fact, isn't it?"
The Detroit batter banged a cloud-climber toward left and it made a loud clang off the scoreboard. Ruth mistimed the carom and the ball hopped over his glove and he had to go stutter-stepping after it in the grass. By the time he came up with it and threw it into the infi eld, a simple single had turned into a triple and a run had scored.
"You really play him?" Danny said.
"Think I imagined it?" Luther said.
"No, I'm just wondering if it's like them cactuses you're always going on about."
Luther looked out to left, watched Ruth wipe some sweat off his face with his tunic. "Yeah, I played him. Him and some of them others out there and some Cubs, too."
Luther shook his head. "Can't win against that type. If they say the sky's green and get their buddies to agree with them, say it a few more times until they believe it, how you going to fight that?" He shrugged. "Sky's green from then on."
"Sounds like you're talking about the police commissioner, the mayor's offi ce."
"Whole city thinks you're going to strike. Calling you Bolshies." "We're not striking. We're just trying to get a fair shake." Luther chuckled. "In this world?"
"World's changing, Luther. The little man ain't lying down like he used to."
"World ain't changing," Luther said. "Ain't ever going to, neither. They tell you the sky's green until you finally say, 'Okay, the sky's green'? Then they own the sky, Danny, and everything underneath it."
"And I thought I was cynical."
Luther said, "Ain't cynical, just open-eyed. Chicago? They stoned that colored kid 'cuz he drifted over to their side of the water. The water, Danny. Whole city's like to burn to the ground now because they think they own water. And they're right. They do."
"Coloreds are fighting back, though," Danny said.
"And what's that going to do?" Luther said. "Yesterday, those four white men got shot to pieces on the Black Belt by six coloreds. You hear that?"
Danny nodded. "I did."
"All anybody's talking about is how those six coloreds massacred four white men. Those white boys had a goddamned machine gun in that car. A machine gun, and they were firing it at colored folk. People ain't talking about that, though. They just talking about white blood running 'cuz of crazed niggers. They own the water, Danny, and the sky is green. And that's that."
"I can't accept that."
"That's why you're a good man. But being good ain't enough."
"You sound like my father."
"Better than sounding like mine." Luther looked at Danny, the big, strong cop who probably couldn't remember the last time the world didn't work out for him. "You say you're not going to strike. Well, good. But the whole city, including the colored sections, think you are. Those boys you're trying to get a fair shake from? They're already two steps ahead of you, and it ain't about money to them. It's about you forgetting your place and stepping out of line. They won't allow it."
"They might not have a choice," Danny said.
"Ain't about choice to them," Luther said. "Ain't about rights or a fair shake or any of that shit. You think you're calling their bluff. Problem is, they ain't bluffi ng."
Luther sat back and Danny did, too, and they ate the rest of their peanuts and in the fifth they had a couple beers and a couple hot dogs and waited to see if Ruth would break the AL home run record. He didn't, though. He went zero for four and made two errors. An uncharacteristic game for him all around, and some fans wondered aloud if he'd come down with something, or if he was just hungover.