Friday, October 23, 2009

Chapter 30 of 47 The Dreamers

Chapter 30 The Dreamers

The Knights kept on the pressure and defeated the Dragons ninety-two to fifty-seven. No one ever pasted the Dragons like that, ever. The game got a little more physical with some of the dragons trying to take cheap shots at me. I just worked around them and then Coach McKay just took me out and let the Knights finish off the Dragons with their regular team. The Knights never played better.

After the game the players took off as the second game was about to begin. Mookie invited me back to his place. I accepted.

We made our way over to Tremont St. to an old brick tenement. We walked up to the third floor, past graffiti covered walls and apartment doors. Many doors had plastic garbage bags outside their doors. They arrived at apartment 306. The walls surrounding the door were freshly painted, as was the door. Mookie opened the dead bolt and motioned for me to go in.

The apartment was very clean, but you could tell the furniture had passed the one hundred thousand mile mark. It was clean but well worn.

An old console color TV was in the corner with a set of bent rabbit-ears sitting on top. No cable or ESPN here, I thought.

"What ya want to drink," asked Mookie? "Beer? Soda?"

"Soda is fine," I said. "Anything is O.K." I hated to impose. as I knew they didn't have much.

Mookie disappeared into the kitchen and came back, tossing me a can of Coke. He tossed Marvin a can of Bud as he had gone over, turned on the T.V. and was adjusting the antenna to get the Cub game. They were in St. Louis playing the Cardinals. It was the fifth inning, Cubs leading three to nothing.

"Bob," asked Marvin, "spose you play this game as well as you play b-ball,un?" Marvin had pointed to the TV screen with the Cubs at bat.

"Ya," smiled Bob, "I played that game all right I guess." I wasn't sure if he should tell them I was all-state in baseball too.

"What was ya, All World back in Connecticut," asked Mookie?

"No, Just All-State," I answered, sheepishly. "That was enough, I guess." I kept my eyes on the TV.

"Should have known," said Marvin, shaking his head. "Should have known.

"Can I ask you something about this afternoon," I reply?

"Sure," said Mookie.

The white "Beemer" that pulled up to you guys. What was that about," I asked, not sure if I was going to get an answer or be asked to leave.

"You don't want to know," answered Marvin as he remained glued to the TV. "Bad news."

"It just seemed that you guys wanted out of there, but you seemed reluctant just to walk away," I state. "Why?

"Motown IS bad news," chimed in Mookie. "Marvin spent a week in the hospital last spring because of him. Always tryin to recruit "players" to be his runners or pimps. Tell him no, things get a little rough. Some of our boys got rough back after what he did to Marv. We had his black BMW “cubed” and dropped on his door step. Mookie and Marvin started laughing. Looked like a big $40,000 black Ice Cube! He laid low for a couple of weeks not knowing who was responsible."

"You guys cubed his Beemer," I said with a smile on my face? "You guys are nuts."

"You gotta do what you gotta do," said Marvin. "If not, my or Mookie's next trip would have been down to the morgue. These guys don't mess around. They are afraid of dying, though. Put a gun to THEIR head and they scream just like any stuck pig. They just usually get to do the "sticking" first."

"We've been trying to keep our team clean," Mookie went on. "Most of the teams have some players on Motown's payroll, pimping, running drugs, and numbers, whatever. Most these guys ain't college-gradiates, ya know. Money ain't easy to come by for most around here."

"How are you guys makin' it," if I can ask?

"You mean how are we makin it in this luscious, penthouse pad we have created here." said Mookie sarcastically. "Where is that darn butler, anyway?"

Marvin started laughing. "You gave him the day off, don't you remember," he chirped in. "He and the Maid took the bonuses you gave them and went to Atlantic City for the weekend."

"Oh ya," said Mookie. "I forgot."

"I wasn't trying to be rude," I said apologetically. "I didn't want to seem insensitive."

"Don't sweat it, Cracker," said Mookie. "I know you didn't. Just givin ya a little hard time, that's all. You're all right for a white guy. Right Marv?"

Who's white," asked Marvin as he turned, looked at Bob, and jumped five feet out of the chair. "Mookie, there's a white guy in your apartment," shouted Marvin. "Call Orkin, oh, man, this is the worst. You'll never get THAT smell out of the place. Oh, Man!"

Mookie and Marvin waited about ten seconds, which seemed about ten hours to me, and broke out laughing. I didn't know what to think. The shoe was on the other foot, wasn't it. I was in someone else’s world. No matter how I tried to figure it, it was a little disconcerting.

"O.K. you guys," I said, "Give the white guy a break. I just came up here to eat you out of house and home and drink all your soda. So, shut up and bring me another."

"Yes sir, Massa Bob," said Mookie bowing on his knees. "Jus don't hit me no mo, I can't take it no mo."

Marvin is really cracking up, now. Mookie vanished into the kitchen, bringing Bob another Coke.

"Listen, when you guys are finished, how about I spring for a Pizza," I offer. "Do you think someone will deliver to our plantation tonight?"

"Don't see why not," said Marvin. "Mookie, call Peppi's, they don't mind coming here. The only driver he lost he said he didn't like anyway," chuckled Marvin.

Bob heard Mookie dialing Peppi's. Pizza it would be. Just at that moment Esther and Dwight came into the apartment. Dwight peddled his tricycle right through the door, running it into the chair Marvin was sitting in.

"What do you say, honey," said Grandma. "Go ahead."

Dwight's big brown eyes slowly made their way up to my face. A Big grin broke out on Dwight's face.

"Thank you for my bike, Mr. Bob," said Dwight. Did you see how fast I can go?"

"Yes I did," I reply. "Will you promise to be careful and listen to your Grandma about riding and be very careful?"

"Yes, I promise," said Dwight.

"Give me five," I said.

Dwight reached up and gave me a solid high-five. Grandma urged Dwight to say good night to everyone and ushered him down the hall with his tricycle. Half way down the hall he turned his head.

"Mr. Bob," asked Dwight? "You don't have a puppy in your pocket, do you? I've always wanted a little puppy of my own."

"No, not tonight I don't," I said smiling. "I'll see what I can do, though. Sweet dreams, buddy."

Dwight rode his back into a room down the hall and disappeared. It was nice to make a little kid happy I thought. There probably wasn't much of that for many children in this neighborhood. I couldn't help but feel sad for a moment.

"Twenty-five minutes," announced Mookie reentering the room. "What's this I heard about some puppy?"

Chapter 29 of 47 The Dreamers

Chapter 29 The Dreamers

I met Sergeant Jenkins three blocks from Beaupre Park and he gave me the old tricycle he had saved from when his son, Jeremy, was three years old. It was still in excellent condition for something over twenty years old.

"Sergeant Jenkins," I remarked in a surprised tone. "The bike looks almost brand new. This is awfully nice of you to give away your son's tricycle. This must mean a lot to you if you've kept it all these years."

"Bob, it's all right," replied Jenkins. "If some kid can get some use out of it now, that is better than waiting for what might never be. Go ahead, take it, and get to the game. We've got stuff to do."

I took the tricycle and headed off down the street to Beaupre. I hoped that Dwight liked the bike and that no one was offended by the gift. Sometimes pride can be a problem. I put his faith in that all would turn out O.K.

When Dwight saw me coming he took off running in my direction. His eyes were as big as saucers. He must have thought it was Christmas day. I placed in on the asphalt and placed Dwight in the seat. Dwight took off toward his Grandmother as if he was born on the bike. She bent over at the knees to catch him as he forgot to slow down and almost ran her over.

"This was very nice of you" said Esther. "Dwight hasn't been this happy in months. Now he can ride with the other children who have bikes, too."

She reached over and gave me a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you," she said again.

"You're very welcome," I said blushingly. "It's a gift from a friend of mine. I'll tell you about him someday. Maybe you'll even get to meet him. I hope so; I think you would like him."

"I hope so, too," she replied. "I'm sure I will."

"Hey, man, nice wheels for my kid," said Mookie as he walked over to greet me. "You're all right for a cracker," he added as he slapped me on the back. "Come on, we've got a game to play."

They took off and began lay-up warm-up drills with alternating sides shooting and rebounding. This lasted for about twenty minutes with Coach McKay breaking them up with the starting five to begin free-lance shooting while the rest rebounded. The last fifteen minutes everyone was shooting. Coach called them all over with five minutes before game time. The officials were standing across court at center. They were ready to go.

"O.K. men," said McKay. "Could we at least try some of our set plays, if only for the benefit of Mr. Lollar, here, and could we at least TRY and play some defense so that were not totally out of the game by half time? Let's go, give it up."

The players put there right hands into the center of the players circle and gave a "whoop" as they broke out onto the court. McKay looked at me.

I wish for once they would listen and just try some of what I show them. They do have some talent, just not enough to play one-on-one all night."

"Maybe tonight's the night, Coach," I said, trying to keep a positive spin on tonight’s game. "Maybe they will surprise you."

"It would be that," said McKay. "A big surprise."

The game began with the opposing dragons winning the tip, but as they tried to work the ball up court too quickly, Mookie stole a long side line pass and hit Marvin in full stride for an easy two points and the early lead. The crowd leaped to its' feet with excitement.

The dragons missed their first three attempts at baskets as the Knights were perfect, breaking out to early eight to nothing lead and the Dragons coach calling time out, throwing a towel down on the pavement in disgust. The Knights and their fans were reeling from excitement. After all, the Dragons were leading the league at twenty wins and only two losses.

Coach McKay reminded them not to do too much too soon. Keep looking for the open shot. There would be no need to crush anything the rest of the half. Let the Dragons feel the pressure to catch up. He reminded the Knights that defense wins games more than offense.

The Knights continued their assault on the Dragons. I entered the game with eight minutes left in the half and had the crowd and the dragons mesmerized with my passing and ball handling. I caused three Dragon players to loose their dribble and added two steals of inbound passes. I took only one shot, a three-pointer, which I made, but added five assists. The Knights closed out the half on fire with a lead of forty-eight to twenty-six.

The crowd couldn't believe it. Quite frankly neither could coach McKay. He walked over to the team as it cooled down at half-time. He was afraid to say anything, not wanting to jinx the team in any way. He just kind of stood there dumb-founded.

"Hey, Coach," said Mookie. "Say something. You look like you've seen a ghost or something," he added, smiling.

"Ghost nothing," said McKay. "Did you see that team out there, and where in the heck have you guys been?"

"Very funny, Coach," said Marvin. "We just decided to close out the season with a bang," he added.

"That sounds about right," I added. "This was nothing. Wait 'til the Dragons see us come out the first three minutes of the second half."

The team all looked at me like he was nuts. They may have thought I was, but I knew better. They were all wondering how they could play any better than they did the first half.

"What you talkin 'bout, cracker," said Marvin. "You been smokin some strange stuff before the game, or what?"

"No, not me," I said. "The way great teams put away their opponents is EARLY. We should put on full court pressure on defense and fast-break our offense for the first three minutes of the second half. Whatever plans they are making for a high percentage, patient offense, they will go out the window."

"If they stay as cold as they were the first half we could reel off another ten points before they know what hit them. If that happens they will be on their heals the rest of the night. They will never catch us as WE become patient and work the clock down," I conclude.

"Coach," said Mookie. "Makes sense to me. What do you say?"

"Sounds good to me to," said McKay. "You must work the press hard and be ready to intercept slopping, court-edge passes like you did to open the game. If they beat us down the court we will be the ones with egg on our faces, not them. O.K. Let's go and get loose for the second half.

Remember, if you don't have a good shot, kick it back out. That's partially how you did so well the first half. You guys shot over eighty percent for the half. Not too shabby," finished McKay.

The crowd cheered as the Knights retook the court for warm-ups. That never happened before. They all smiled at each other. They liked it.

The Dragons were warming up at the other end. They took turns looking at the Knights, most seemed intent on eyeballing Bob. They were probably wondering where this "Cracker" came from, anyway.

The second half began like I hoped with the Dragons unprepared for the full-court pressure they were seeing. The first seven times resulted in with either turn-overs or steals by the Knights. The additional fourteen points put the Knights up Sixty-four to twenty-six and another Dragon time out. The crowd was delirious with joy and amazement. I opened the second half on the court to lead the pressure and sank two three point shot that hit nothing but net and sent the crowd buzzing. One I made with a Dragon player draped all over me, but not foul was called.

I hoped that the second half was not going to find the Dragons taking out their frustration with a physical, nasty second half game. I was hoping to get out of this game with no trouble. That was not to be. I was soon to find out that these games were more than just games, to some.

Chapter 28 of 47 The Dreamers

Chapter 28 The Dreamers

"I want you guys to go through about six set plays," said Coach McKay. "These are the same plays I wish you guys would try running during an actual game. Most of these are only variations of pick and rolls that only required some movement without the ball, something the very few of you seem accustomed to doing. I know most of you only want to play "Street Ball", but if you want to become winners in this league you will have to start playing as a team."

Bob tried to make the most of this short practice session and did his best John Stockton impression, with crisp passes, two of which went off the heads of Knight Players who were not paying close attention. Coach McKay loved it as it reinforced what he had been saying about the Knights not working the ball enough and getting easy baskets, like their opponents seemed to do all the time.

Practice broke up. I noticed that many of the players took a liking to me immediately and respected my playing ability and the fact that I didn’t shoot all the time and was willing to be a part of the team.

"Hey cracker," shouted Mookie, "come on over here a minute. Somebody I want you to meet."

I went over by the bleachers to where he and Marvin had been sitting. There was a much older black women sitting with a child, maybe three or four years old.

"Bob, this is my Mother, Esther, and my son Dwight," said Mookie. "Named him for Doc Gooden, the big league pitcher. We call him Baby-Doc."

"Nice to meet you, maam," I said. I kneeled down to be on the same level as the baby. "Hi, Baby-Doc," I offered while gently touching the child on the knee." The child gave me a big smile and then buried his face in his grandma's chest, faking shyness.

"Never thought I'd be seein that," said Mookie. "Baby Doc being' shy. That's a first."

"Do you come down to most of the practices," I asked of Mookie's Mom?

"I try and bring Dwight down as much as I can," said Esther. "Some times there are other children he can play with here at the park while the boys are playing ball. He just loves it outside."
"The apartment is pretty small and it doesn't take long to get freaked out up there," said Mookie." It's not good to be that cooped up all day."

"I don't blame you one bit.” "Most kids love to be outdoors. Does Baby Doc have a tricycle," I ask?

"No, not yet," answered Mookie. "Can't afford one just yet."

"Let me see what I can do back at school," I offer. "I Might be able to scrounge one up somehow."

"That would be very nice of you," said Esther. I know Dwight would love one."

With that, I take off back to campus to see what I could do about a tricycle for Baby Doc. As I make my way about two blocks away a car honked at me. I finally realized it was Ben who had been watching practice from a distance. He waited so no one would see him pick me up.

"Thanks Ben," I said. "I forgot you were keeping an eye on things this afternoon. We are having a game rescheduled for 7pm tonight. Coach just told the team, that is why practice was so short."

"You better call Jenkins and let him know, Bob," offered Ben. "I just heard on the radio that there was another shooting across town that appeared to be drug related. Two young kids gunned down on a street corner by a drive-by. The report said they got a brief description of the vehicle with two black men inside. You had better be on your toes; Bob, this town is going nuts right before our eyes."

Ben dropped me back at the dorm and I got up and put in a call to Sergeant Jenkins. Jenkins was out so I tried his personal car phone and got through. The voice on the other end said, "Ya".

"Sergeant Jenkins," I ask? "Yes, who's this?" It's Bob Lollar, Sergeant."

"What's going on, Bob?"

"The Knights have a game tonight at seven," I state. "It's a make-up from some time ago. Thought you should know so you have a little time to prepare. Ben also told me about another homicide across town he heard about on the radio. Does it have anything related to what we are working on?"

"Yes, Bob, we believe it could be related," replied Jenkins. "The two kids shot were players in the league. We're trying to interview people who knew them, but everyone in being very tight-lipped about it. Believe most of them are scared to death that they could be next. Knowing what a closed community this is, they are probably smart to be quiet for now and not be seen talking to us."

"Hey, Sarge," I ask? Know where I could pick up a tricycle for a four year old boy? One of the player's kids could use one."

"Think I have one at home," offered Jenkins. "It's in pretty good shape, too. I was keeping it for some grandchildren, but if you can use it that's fine. Meet you about three blocks from the park at 6:15 pm tonight. You can carry it the rest of the way."

"Thanks Sergeant, see you then," I reply as I hang up the phone.

I sat down in the chair at my desk and began pondering all that could happen tonight. Word of the homicide would be everywhere after the 6 o'clock news. It would be interesting how much talk at the play ground was about it, if any.

I put in a call to Father Spencer to fill him in on all that was happening. Father reminded me to be careful and keep him posted. I told him he would.

After I hung up I went off to take a quick shower and get something to eat before the game. I would have to go to the student center where they had a short-order grill. I sat alone and ate my burger and fries. For some reason my thoughts shifted about how many times I had done this very same thing at the diner back home. I thought of Gloria, her folks, and how totally different my and Gloria's lives were now. Different was the understatement of the year.

Chapter 27 of 47 The Dreamers

Chapter 27 The Dreamers

"Hey, Ben," I said, as I had just called to find out if Ben was available this afternoon. Doing anything around four today?"

"What's up," asked Ben.

"I'm in the Knights and have practice at four today," I announce. "Thought it might be good if you could drive over to the court and park in an inconspicuous spot and keep an eye out, you know."

"No problem," replied Ben. "Maybe about fifteen after, though. I've got a lab that usually runs right up to four. I'll get there as soon as I can."

"Thanks," I said. We both hung up.

I made my way over to the cafeteria and sat at a table alone. I quickly ate and went back to his room. The phone was ringing as I entered the room.

"Bob, Sergeant Jenkins here," announced the voice at the other end. "Just wanted to let you know the surveillance team is set up on the third floor, across from Beaupre, the building has the Molina Bakery on the first floor. We have also set up shot-gun microphones on each of the corners of the court fencing. We are having this done right now with our people disguised as a city electrical maintenance crew installing new night illumination poles. We should be able to see and hear just about everything that goes on from now on."

"Isn't that a little extreme," I ask?

"No, the more I thought about Motown Matthews being around, the more I thought we should get into place quicker," stated Jenkins. "We have got to stay one step ahead. This is happening quicker than any of us thought."

"No problem," I said. "I called Ben and he is going to be hanging around the court in a parked car, just for some moral support."

"That's O.K.," approved Jenkins, "but our people will be there to. Take care. Call if you need something." Jenkins hung up.

"That's good," I answer. "I got to get some sleep before practice this afternoon."

I awoke to the alarm I set for 3PM and quickly went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth and dressed in the same clothes I had on this morning. I made the same trek to the court I had made earlier, only briefly stopping at a small grocery store for an apple.

I found Mookie, Marvin, and the rest of the Knights shooting at the far end of the court. They spotted me and motioned for him to come over. I did, bending over to go through the torn chain link fence to enter the court area. I looked around to see if the white BMW was around. I did not see it anywhere.

"Come on, cracker, hurry up," shouted Mookie. "Life expectancy is short around here, get the lead out."

I picked up my pace to a jog and was greeted by smiles by both Mookie and Marvin.

"Here's the guy we were tellin ya about," announced Marvin. sounding like he was introducing the team's "sleeper-selection" in the NBA draft. Mookie waved his hand and bowed with a sweeping motion and announced, "Cracker, the Chicago Knights".

Members of the team began mumbling various greetings with an occasional snide remark reaching my ears.

"Bob, what's your last name, anyway," asked Marvin?

"Lollar, Bob, the crackerman, Lollar," I said. "Anything else you need to know see my agent."

"Ya, like that's real or what," said a voice from the back.

"Shut up, Moochie," said Marvin. "We takin care of our boy here. Save your trash for the court."

"Ooo, somebody call my cardiologist, my heart just skipped a beat I'm so shook up," said Moochie.

"More like your gynecologist," announced Mookie. "He called to say your "late” again." The team gave it up all at once.
"Come on," I said. "I came here to play some ball not go over your medical records."

With that I moved down to the basket and began shooting. The others followed. They all took turns shooting and shagging balls for about fifteen minutes. A tall, thin black man moved onto the court with a whistle draped around his neck.

"O.K. boys circle up for a minute," said the husky voice. "Move in close for some announcements."

The team move into the center half-court circle around their coach. He looked around then finally fixing his eyes on me.

"You must be the guy Mookie called me about this morning," announced Dave McKay, the Knight's coach. "This team can use all the help it can get. This team of gunners and no defense could use a little talent and discipline for a change. You might even bring a little "divine inspiration" to this group of misfits, as well. God knows we may need more of that."

"Nice to be here, coach," I said. "Just want to play a little ball."

"That's about all this team does is play a little ball, once in a blue moon," replied McKay. Glad to have you aboard. "Now, listen up. Our game rained out last Friday is rescheduled for tonight at 7pm, right here."

A moan goes up from the group. Obviously, this was not great news to some.

"Coach, I can't make it tonight, I have night classes to finish my diploma," said one team member.

"No problem, Martinez," replied McKay. "That's more important. Does any body else need to beg off tonight?"

No one else responded to Dave's question. The game would be on at seven.

"We're only going to walk through our offense for Mr. Lollar here to get accustomed to our system before tonight," announced McKay. "Since we very rarely seem to actually RUN any of these plays during an actual game, they may be NEW to some of you as well. Mookie take the point. Gentlemen get the lead out".

Chapter 26 of 47 The Dreamers

Chapter 26 The Dreamers

Mookie, Marvin, and I shot around for a little while longer. "I've got to get back to campus," I state. "I see you guys wearing sweat-shirts with a Knight on it. Is that some club or team you're on?"

"Ya," said Marvin, "we play for the Chicago Knights hoop team. Ya know, one of those teams that play in a late night league."

"You guys need some coaching help," I ask? I might be interested in helping if you needed some help.

"If you coach and you can also play, but not for more than ten minutes total of the games forty minute length," announced Marvin. "That way the teams cannot "sand-bag" a good player as coach and not take up a place on the ten-man roster. You still interested?"

I couldn't help thinking this was too good to be true. A spot opening up so quickly. Maybe these guys weren't so bad after all I thought.

"You've got a deal, I accept," I replied. "What time do you need me to come around for your next practice?"

"Practice is at four today," said Mookie. "Can you hang?"

"No problem," I said. "I'll be here. I hope the rest of the team will have no problem with you guys bringing a “cracker” along for the ride?"

Marvin smiled, "Once they see you shoot, they’ll think you must be Kunta Kinte's long lost son." We all started laughing. "See ya cracker," said Marvin as they headed to the other end of the court.

I grabbed my ball and started to head off down the street. As I got about one hundred feet past the court a white BMW 735 slowly pulled past and parked at the court. Mookie and Marvin slowly walked over to the car. Both boys stood back and seemed careful not to get too close or even touch the vehicle. Mookie glanced up to see me watching. He turned his back to me and put his hand behind his back, shielding it from the passengers. He motioned as best he could for me to get moving. I did just that.

As I got back to my dorm room I found the door opened and Father Spencer and Sergeant Jenkins inside with a man in some blue overalls, a leather tool belt, kneeling on the floor in the corner by the bed.

"Bob," said Fr. Spencer, "sorry about the intrusion. Phone Company, that’s all. Thought we had better get you a phone as soon as possible. Sergeant Jenkins took care of the speedy delivery. He’s almost done."

"Hey Bob," said Jenkins, noticing Bob's outfit. "Play a little ball today, did we?"

"Ya, I did, a little," I smiled, wanting so badly to announce my immediate success to everyone. "We'll talk in a moment." I pointed at the phone man.

"O.K. Father," said the phone man, "you're on the air," he announced. He quickly cleaned up his mess and left.

I looked out passed the door to make sure the coast was clear. Father Spencer and Sergeant Jenkins looked at each other.

"Bob, what is going on," asked Jenkins. "You are losing it already?"

"No, I'm in," I announce.

"In what," asked Fr. Spencer?

"The Chicago Knights," I beam. "I just went to shoot around over at Beaupre and two black kids were there, Mookie and Marvin, and they want me to assistant coach or something and even play part-time."

"You're kidding," said Jenkins with a look of amazement on his face. "How in the heck did you pull that off?"

"Don't ask me," I said. "All I know is I'm in and we have practice today at four. Sergeant, as I was leaving the court a white BMW pulls up and was talking to the boys. Mookie definitely wanted me out of there. Know why?"

"Yeah," sighed Jenkins, "Motown Matthews must be back. Big pusher in the area. We've arrested him dozens of times, he makes bail, locked up for a while each time, but is always back. Got more lives than any cat I know. Big trouble that one."

"Think Mookie or Marvin is working for him," I ask?

"Hope not," answered Jenkins. "We think he may be responsible for at least three of the homicides I mentioned yesterday."

"Sergeant, I got the impression they were being super-cautious," I offer. "They stood way back from the car, not too eager to get too close. Their motioning me away seemed to indicate they knew what kind of trouble had just pulled up. I'll try and find out more this afternoon."

"Bob, just be careful," stated Fr. Spencer. "We don't need to solve this case in one day, remember."

"I know Father, but I have to take advantage of every open door that comes along," I state. "I'll be careful."

"He's right, Father," chimed in Jenkins. "Just don't sound too nosey or ask too many questions at first. Let Mookie and Marvin do the offering. Most of these guys love to talk, anyway. They're like a gaggle of geese at a quilting bee. Each one's story has got to top the next. Don't worry, the info will flow."

Father Spencer and Sergeant Jenkins excused themselves to let me shower. Before he left, Jenkins gave me three special phone numbers to Jenkins' home, office, and private car phone. Jenkins pulled a small, hand-held portable phone.

"Bob, this is for you," said Jenkins as he handed me the phone. Carry this with you all the time in some short of gym bag or something. If you need me or Father, use it."

I took the phone, thanked him and closed the door. I moved toward the bathroom, placing the phone on the dining table. I go into the shower, sliding the curtain back and adjusting the water temp. I step in and let the stream hit me directly on top of the head. I made the water a little warmer and laid my hands against the front shower wall and just stood there half a sleep, half thinking about the white BMW. Were Mookie and Marvin peddling drugs? How much were they involved? I would find out soon enough.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chapter 25 of 47 The Dreamers

Chapter 25 The Dreamers

I woke up to the sound of footsteps outside his dorm room. As I laid there the noise level increased as voices were added to the mix. I rolled over to look at his mechanical alarm clock and noticed that it was nearly 7am.

I pulled the covers off my body and plunked my feet to the floor below. I wrested my elbows on my knees and ran both hands straight through my hair from front to the back of my neck. I noticed that the sun cast a shadow through the vertical rungs that made up the back of one of the chairs at the table. I realized that I needed to get moving.

I quickly showered, dressed in shorts, a gray athletic t-shirt, tennis shoes and pulled my old high school basketball warm-up pants to my waist. I grabbed the new ball Jenkins had given me the day before and headed out Beaupre where I was to try and get into a pick up game.

I worked my way off campus and walked the route through the older section of town. The streets were lined with the older, run-down store fronts of cleaners, pawn-shops, deli's, ethnic specialty shops, bakeries, and the like. The smells and the sounds could be found in any distressed municipality from Gary, Indiana to Detroit. The streets were lined with many old cars with multi-colored spray painted finishes, most of which never should be allow on the open road. Many of the cars had their owners sitting on the hoods or trucks conversing with the friends and neighbors.

I turned onto Smith Place where Beaupre was located. The courts were occupied at only one end with a couple of black players taking turns shooting free throws. The courts were encased in an old 10 foot tall very rusty chain-link fence. Many of the supporting cross-bars were missing with a number of tears in the fencing. One area had a 5-foot diameter section torn out. Each length of the court has old aluminum bleachers spray-painted a rainbow of colors. Underneath the bleachers were mounds of trash and garbage from the previous game. Neither of the rims on the backboards were quite level, feeling the negative effects of nine foot 10 inch slam-dunks from Michael Jordan wanna-bees.

The two black players saw me making my way onto the court, paused to give me the once over, then went back to their personal little free-throw contest. I did a little stretching and began banking lay-ups with alternating hands, working my way further out, and then shooting jump-shot from the free throw line. I never missed a shot.

I moved out passed the top of the key into three-point land and began sinking shot after shot. Each shot never touched the rim making a clanking noise as it rocketed into the chain-link netting that was standard black-top court issue complements of the City. The two players began taking notice of my strange luck of not missing one shot, stopping their own little match.

"Nice shooting "Whitey"," shouted one of the boys. "Spose we're sposed to be impressed or sumpin'," said the other. I just kept shooting, not responding to what they had said.

"Now we know you ain't Helen Keller," said one of the boys again. "We can tell by ya shootin you can see, you juz must be deef, or somethin," chimed in the other. "Or didn't your Momma teach you no manners to speak when you was spoken to?"

I turned but was very afraid that this conversation was never going to go in any positive direction. I was not sure how to respond. No one else was around but the three of us, as far as I knew. I decided to take a chance and be brave.

"No, I can hear all right," I answered. "And you're right, I can see, too. My name is not Helen, have never worn a dress. How about either of you?"

"Ooo, Whitey got a mouth," said one boy. "Too bad no brain."

The two boys started making their way down to my end of the court. The taller one was dribbling the ball about every third step. This looked like trouble. I turned and held my ball on my right hip watching as the boys got closer.

"I'm not looking for any trouble," I made clear. "I'm not walking away from any either. I came down here to shoot around a little, that's all."

The two boys began sizing me up as they got closer with each step. It became obvious to them that I was five inches taller than Mookie, the biggest boy, and that I was also well built, not just some tall "white-drink-of-water".

"You think you can just come into our "hood", shoot around, be rude to us, ignore us talkin to you, and that's all there is to it," said Marvin, the smaller boy? "Not this week, Homey," he added.

"I wasn't being rude," I replied. "I'm just not looking for trouble. You sound like you are," as I looked Marvin right in the eyes, never blinking and beginning to make Marvin nervous."

Mookie enters the conversation. "Listen, man, me and Marv want no trouble, just we don't see many "albinos" down this way. You a cop or somethin'? Been a lot of them 'round lately."

"No, I'm no cop,” I said, "just a student over at Moody. Decided to take a walk through the neighborhood and shoot some hoop. I didn't realize I needed ticket or a library card from Marvin, here, to play? Do I?"

"No," said Mookie, " We're juz careful who hangs around, that's all."

"Ya," said Marvin in a more normal tone of voice, "we just don't letter any "cracker" play here ya know. You don't play like no "cracker", though. Where yuz from?"

"Connecticut," I answer as I began shooting again, "and I have played some ball, was All-State four years ago, before the military service. Now, I'm going back to school to become a priest.

Mookie and Marvin look at each other for a moment and start laughing. I stop shooting and look at them.

"Listen, cracker," said Mookie, "unless you have some insane desire to meet Jesus real soon, don't come on to other "brothers" like you did to us. They will TAKE-YOU OUT in a New York minute. Just some friendly advise, cracker."

"Thanks, I'll think I'll take it under advisement," I reply.

"You can take it," said Marvin, "or you'll be takin it to the morgue, your choice. We're just tryin to be neighborly, ya know."

"O.K.", I said, "since you put it that way." I allowed a small grin to creep across my face. "Maybe the safest thing for now."

"Smart move, Exlax," said Mookie. "Guess we're going to have to take you under our wing before you need some pall-bearers. See the headlines? Cracker slam-dunked at Beaupre, details at eleven." They all start laughing.

I stop laughing. Mookie and Marvin do as well. I finally realize that's not that funny and they WEREN'T kidding.

Chapter 24 of 47 The Dreamers

Chapter 24 The Dreamers

Sergeant Jenkins finished his presentation including the mapping out of their "infiltration strategy" in which I was to be a major player. The goal was to get me involved as a player on the Chicago Knights team, do my best to become one of the "guys" and see how much the players begin to "talk" and get as much intelligence as I can. If I am able to be-friend a couple of the newer players and determine if they trying to be "recruited" for any illegal activity, it would be a start.

Jenkins reminded everyone, "this could possibly take some time and that it is important that everyone was careful about what they said about the operation and who they said it to. It was important that, you Bob, maintain your cover as just a "Moody Student" looking to play some organized basketball and wanting to work with wayward youth. Nothing more and nothing less was to be the appearance."

Sergeant Jenkins closed out the presentation, "Bob, I hope your athletic skill is as good as everyone says they are. These kids may not be academically gifted, but they can play some mean street ball. In the "paint" it will be a war. Make no mistakes. For many of these kids, this IS their life, their fame, maybe even their fortune, we’ll have to find that out," he concluded.

"Where and when do you want me to start," I ask?

"Here is a new ball for you to carry to the "yard" tomorrow," said Jenkins as he tossed a brand new NBA synthetic covered ball to me. He also handed me a map of the area with the courts highlighted in yellow.

"Show up at Beaupre Center tomorrow just like you were going to shoot around," added Jenkins. "You should have no trouble getting into a game at first. Just take it slow. Things will happen fast enough."

The meeting broke up with Fr. Spencer asking Ben and I to come over to his office. We walked slowly over to the Admin. Building rehashing all that was said. Ben offered that he had some contacts with the Chicago Bulls as one of his high school teammates was now a player and could possibly get some tickets we could use help me become more "popular".

We made our way into Father's office and took seats in front of his desk. Fr. Spencer sat quietly in his chair for a moment, kind of starring off into space out the window to his right. He kind of startled himself back to reality, realizing he had guests, me and Ben.

"Sorry fells," apologized Fr. Spencer, "Didn't mean to go off like that. I was just thinking about the seven homicides Jenkins talked about and how such a seemingly good idea of Midnight Basketball can be turned into something bad by the devil himself. Bob, you must promise that you will be as careful as you can and don't pull some "Starsky & Hutch" stunt trying to save somebody. We need information, not heroes."

"Don't worry," I respond. "I am not looking for some posthumous medal or award. I would like to be around for a while. Besides, Ben here is going to keep me out of trouble. One look at him will make them think twice, I hope."

"Come on, Uncle," added Ben, "Bob will be O.K. Let's pray right now and ask God to take care of it right now."

Father Spencer led a very heartfelt prayer asking God to protect me and give me the spiritual guidance I would need to make the right decisions and keep me safe from all harm. He also asked for God's help for Sergeant Jenkins and his team and seeks a spiritual revival for all young people, especially for an opening of the hearts of the youth involved in this basketball league.

After the prayer, Ben and I left Father and when down the hall and got the rest of my schedule of classes and times. Western Philosophy-3 hours-8am-M/W/F: B. Applegate; Sociology 1 - 3 hours-9am-M/W/F: S. Miller; and New Testament 1 -2 hours-M/W: B. Close. I got the campus locator map so I would know where to go for class. Classes started next week.

Ben had class himself, and left me to head over to the Campus Book Store to get my books and the study supplies I would need. I made his my back to the room and got myself situated.

Other students were making their way in the dorm and greeted me. The campus was beginning to bustle with activity of the new school semester. As I went into my room I thought how sheltered college students were. Safe and secure, their parents spending tens of thousands of dollars for school, or partying, which ever was the case, totally oblivious to what was happening for all too many of the inner-city youth. They would take their liberal political philosophy and cry how the government should be doing more, but never get their hands dirty or really be involved themselves.

Spending a few tax dollars of other people's money would take away their "guilt" I thought. They didn't mind getting involved as long as it meant using someone else’s money or the time it took to earn it. I realized that what I was about to do should and could make more of an impact. It didn't make sense to spend millions subsidizing midnight basketball only to loose more youth than we save. There must be a better way. I hoped that I could part of making it work.

Chapter 23 of 47 The Dreamers

Chapter 23 The Dreamers

Ben picked me up at 7:30am the next morning and we rushed down to breakfast. The menu was much like the ala-cart menu I was used to in the service. I took a large glass of orange juice, two eggs over easy on a piece of wheat toast, two slices of French Toast, and a cup of coffee with sugar.
Ben’s breakfast was considerably larger considering the personal “engine” he had to fuel. We sat at a small round table alone. “You going to eat all that yourself, or is your immediately family inside you coat,” I asked with a smile on my face?
“No this is just for me,” quipped Ben.
I had slept like a rock and felt invigorated and ready to tackle what was going to be the beginning of a great challenge and adventure. Ben began the conversation.

“My Uncle has been so looking forward to you getting here,” said Ben. “This idea of trying to help these inner-city kids has been driving him crazy. He thought he had a number of “candidates” for your task, but none of them ever seems to be the “right” one for him. It is hard to say why, though my Uncle is a great judge of character. He can be very demanding, but also very compassionate. As long a people give 100% he’ll walk through fire for them. Lazy people drive him crazy. Unfortunately, many of the people you are going to try and help are just that, lazy, and are followers not leaders.”
Ben continued. “Most of the instigators who form this core of this negative sphere of influence are just users and can only be defined a maliciously lazy,” added Ben. “I don’t mean to sound too judgmental, but there are realities about this you must accept. The trouble makers are more than just evil. People get hurt moving in on their “turf”. Make no mistake about that.”
“Ben,” I said, “I appreciate your concern. I don’t think I have some pie-in-the-sky notion about this program. I will keep a reasonable level of concern, but I can’t become afraid of my own shadow about this project. If I do, the paranoia will drive me nuts. I have to trust the Lord to keep me safe and go on from there.”
“Bob,” added Ben, “I just want you to succeed and stay alive while doing it, that’s all. This will be no walk in the park at times. I have asked my Uncle to let me help you if you want, and he has agreed. But, he did say that would be up to you, though. He is not going to tell you what to do or how to get the job done. Who you work with is up to you. He made that clear.”

“I will take all the help I can get, Ben,” I accepted. “Let’s eat and get to our first meeting. The sun has already beaten us to the punch.”
With that said Ben and I finish our breakfast and made our way across campus. Father Spencer and Sergeant Jenkins were already there, standing at the far end of the room in the sunshine, talking. Three priests were seated at a large nine-foot wooden conference table; one was sipping a cup of coffee poured from a white carafe.
As soon as Ben and I arrive Fr. Spencer brought Sergeant Jenkins across the room to be introduced. The room appeared to be some sort of multi-purpose room with twelve-foot ceilings, about thirty feet by forty feet in size.
“Bob,” announced Father Spencer, “I’d like for you to meet Jim Jenkins, Sergeant heading up the Youth division of the Metro Police. Jim, this is Bob Lollar, the young fellow I have be telling you about.”
We shook each other’s hand as we exchanged smiles.
“Good to meet you Bob,” said Sergeant Jenkins. “Father, here, has been driving me crazy to get on with this project, just waiting for Mr. Right to show up. I guess you are HIM,” as Jenkins warmly slapped him on the back of the shoulder.
“I’m not so sure about that,” I reply, but it is good to finally be here at Moody. I wasn’t quiet expecting to be spending half of my classroom time in the field, so to speak, but as long as you are my personal bodyguard, I feel better already.”
“In your dreams, preacher boy,” shot back Jenkins. “It’s much too dangerous out there in the playground these days. A pair of Air-Jordan’s and a 9 mm are all too available today. When they tell you that you need to be tough to “play-in-the-paint”, around here, they are not kidding.”
“All right Jim,” chimed in Father Spencer, “let’s not give the guy a heart attack his first day. What do you say?”
“I suppose you’re right,” softened Jenkins. “No need to send him off on the first flight out of Chicago, I guess.” Jenkins smiled as he motioned for everyone to head to the large conference table. “What do you say we get started?”
We all moved to the table and took seats. A three inch black binder with the City Seal and the circular wording, “Youth Division: Metro Police” was centered on the cover. Across the bottom it said: Confidential.

“Gentlemen, let’s get started,” began Sergeant Jenkins with a very business-like tone in his voice. The binders before you are for your eyes only. You are to share none of the information within this binder no one, not even friends, roommates, no one. Everyone in the Department who has access to this information has a security clearance and accepts the fact that this is sensitive information that “the street” would love to have. They do not need to know how much we know about them. We know considerably more than they would like. Plea bargaining does serve us well with intelligence. Most of it pans out to be true and verifiable.
Turn to page six.”
We all open our binders and did as Jenkins instructed. The page was headed: “Operation B-Ball”.
“What we have learned over the last few months,” Jenkins continued, “is that a number of key drug dealers and bookies have infiltrated the city-sponsored midnight basketball league. Twenty-four teams compete and it has become a web of gambling and drug trafficking. The pages marked ten through sixteen give bios on the kingpins of this activity along with the most recent photos of each.”
“We are not sure at this point how much the league’s players are involved, but we do know that much of the “action” is spectator-related and we have begun video-tape surveillance of every game over the last month,” continued Jenkins. “I need to also tell you that there have been 7 known homicides we believe can be directly traced to this activity. We know more are to follow. The money is now into the tens of millions of dollars. This is not going away.”
I sat almost stupefied as Jenkins continued his presentation. What had I gotten into I began thinking. Just listening to Jenkins made me all too aware of what this really was all about. This was organized crime all right, just missing the spaghetti sauce and a different and much younger set of players. There were no “fronts” like garbage or food service; this was all cash and small bills. Just lots of them.

I took a deep breath and decided that I was still committed to try and make a difference. I would surely find out just how much faith I really had.

Chapter 22 of 47 The Dreamers

Chapter 22 The Dreamers

"I know that all that you have said, Fr. Spencer, has been heart-felt," I began, "but, I know that this IS where I'm supposed to be. My chance to work with kids in some way means a great deal to me. If this was the way God has intended to use me, so be it."

"I realize that I may be over matched in trying to save some small corner of the world. I have no degree in psychology or sociology. I've never worked in any kind of setting where behavior modification was the goal or concern, and in this situation you have so many issues working against you including some very negative business interests with drug trafficking and a powerful negative sphere of influence, I know it is going to be difficult, or someone else would have solved it by now," I state.

"I know this may seem over-whelming at first thought," added Fr. Spencer, "but I believe your tremendous athletic ability will be the ticket to acceptance in the black-top world most of these kids live in. It will be a challenge for you to fit in and for them to accept you, some or many may not, but we have to start by trying to save some of them, even one of them, at first. Every journey Jesus took began with that first step. This will be yours and mine. I promise to be with you every step of the way, “Father Spencer concluded.

"Father, I am most excited about this opportunity you have offered me. I don't expect it to be easy, but this is exactly the kind of challenge I have been looking for. This may be my chance to really make a difference somewhere, somehow. I hope it is. I have no delusions about my abilities or how difficult this task might be. It may be even better not to know how insurmountable it really is. If God has led YOU to this point, and the fact that I am even sitting here talking to you about it has moved the Holy Spirit in a remarkable way. I say let the pieces of this puzzle fall into place. I will be part of the way, not get in the way," I reply."

"That's great," beamed Fr. Spencer. "We will begin tomorrow with our first meeting with two of my associates and Sergeant Jenkins of the Metro Police Youth Division. He will give us an overview of the "projects" we intend to target first. These are rough neighborhoods Bob, nothing like what we are used to. Danger and the potential for trouble exist all the time. For many of these kids help is always too late where the police are involved. They can't help but arrive at the scene of the accident. I believe only we can be there BEFORE there is trouble. Sergeant Jenkins can be a big help to give us background on the "players" in the "hood", so to speak, and he can help us spot the preliminary signs of potential trouble."

Father Spencer continues. "Jenkins has photos of the "trouble makers" in the area that can help you be on guard a little more when you see them around, that sort of thing. He has also been given all the support he needs from the Mayor's Office to assist us in any way he can. The Mayor has been a big help up to this point and totally supportive. This plan has been kept under wraps for the most part up to this point. We don't need a nosey Press blowing any chance we may have for success just for them to get some scoop or story line. These problems are beyond hype and who gets credit. It is time for someone to start coming up with some solutions not just fund another government program. Twenty-five plus years of that is enough."

Father Spencer rose from his chair behind the desk. I rise to meet him sensing that our meeting was over.

"Plan on meeting back here at 8am tomorrow morning and we'll walk over to the meeting together," Said Fr. Spencer as we moved toward the office door. "Another student, Ben Murphy, is waiting outside to show you over to Miles Hall where you'll live. You should be very comfortable there. Good central location and probably the best food on campus. Ben will be graduating this year... one of the best students we have had. I don't want you to get the impression that I am prejudice or anything, just because he IS my nephew," beamed Father. You could sense there was great love and pride here.

In the reception area was this big strapping man, all 6 foot-five inches and easily 260 pounds. He could have passed for the late Dan Blocker from Bonanza fame. A big broad grin stretched across his face as he saw his "Uncle" Spencer. They hugged as Ben was nearly a foot taller then his "Uncle". This was going to take some getting-use-to, for sure.

Ben took me over to Miles Hall to get settled in. There was no problem with Ben able to carry more than his share of my bags into my assigned room. The room was much bigger than I could have hoped for. The room measured ten feet by 16 feet and was nicely appointed with walnut furniture, single bed with a bookcase built into the headboard, a large 7 drawer desk and two large leather overstuffed chairs. A refrigerator was tucked into the corner along with a small apartment-size electric range. A round 48 inch pedestal table was centered among 4 chairs. A small sink was found to the left of the stove. Little did I know that the most useful of these items were going to be the "frig" and the bed. I was going to be much to busy to think of entertaining, let alone do any.

Chapter 21 of 47 The Dreamers BOB LOLLAR

Chapter 21 The Dreamers BOB LOLLAR

I arrive in Chicago, rented a car, and drive out to the campus for my 10AM interview on Wednesday. I have always been a confident person, but I still felt a little fear and trepidation as I realized that rejection could be just as well at hand as acceptance. I know that this was quite different from sports and athletic reputation. I know I will need all the Divine Intervention that is available.

As I make my way along the sidewalks of the campus I am most impressed with the impeccable care taken of the stately, ivy-covered brick buildings, tastefully flowered grounds, and the cleanly cut grass. It was clear that no one took short-cuts off the sidewalks here. This was a special place. I could not help but notice that everyone who was walking the campus walked at a calm but business-like pace. Certainly not running like a normal college campus with numerous students late for class. This was indeed, different.

I climbed the steps to the administration building for my appointment with the Dean, Father Spencer. Father Spencer has been the Dean at Moody for over 23 years. Most people could not tell you who his predecessor was; he had been there so long. “Father” was the title he affectionately earned.

Father Spencer came out of his office as I had been announced by telephone by the receptionist, Ms. Miller. Father Spencer was a short man, but well built, not the least of which portly or seemingly out of shape. He was well tanned with shortly cut hair in the old Princeton style. He came up to me with his hand extended and a warm smile. As I rose to greet Father Spencer he extended his hand to shake. Father Spencer took his left hand and clasped it warmly on the outside of mine.

"Bob", said Father Spencer, "it is so nice to finally get to meet you. I feel like I know you well already after going over all of the glowing recommendations sent to me on your behalf. I don't believe that I have ever had someone come here as highly recommended as you."

"Father," I returned, "it is very nice to meet you and finally be given the opportunity to attend your school. It is a great honor and privilege that I hope I can live up to."

"Bob, come into the office and have a seat," said Fr. Spencer. "Ms. Miller, hold all of my calls."

I preceded Fr. Spencer into a beautiful old office. The walls were all old mahogany inlay with columns and columns of built-in bookcases all the way to the nine foot ceilings. I thought to myself that this place could qualify for a mini-library in any small town, USA. I was kind of frozen in place as I scanned the entire room. I felt a presence in the room that was uncommon to me. I could only describe it as warmness, peacefulness, a comforting calmness that was most comfortable. It felt good to be in such an environment I thought.

Fr. Spencer and I exchanged thoughts on my life experiences, what the Moody experience would be like, and what my expectations might be. Then Fr. Spencer made a startling offer that took me quite by surprise.

"Bob," said Fr. Spencer with a most serious look on his face and tone in his voice. "As you are well aware all cities and towns across America are having a terrible problem with youth unrest. In many locations the term unrest is an understatement, to say the least," he continued. "Gangs, violence, drugs, and even murder are all too familiar to too many of these young people. They appear to be trapped by their own foolishness, laziness, greed, lack of respect for goals, adults, academic pursuits, themselves, and the church. There lack of respectable adult supervision and available positive role models only make the problems grow quicker and more become even more destructive."

Father Spencer became pensive for a brief minute as he collected his thoughts. He knew the task he was about to present to me was precedent setting for the Institute, but he had prayed long and hard about it for over a year. He was only waiting for God to supply the right vessel that might be the key to possible success.

I was not sure what was about to come but I had no special apprehension about Fr. Spencer or what he might be leading up to. He sat calmly with his legs crossed and his hands resting comfortably in his lap.

"Bob", continued Fr. Spencer, I want you to head up a special "Youth-Gang-Outreach-Program through the Institute. It will account for 8-credit hours each semester you participate out of the sixteen total hours you will carry. There will be no set curriculum that we will be adhering to. The beginning will be a visitation/outreach program with the cornerstone a "blacktop-ministry" initiative. Our initial goals are:

1. Establish an open line of communication between any of the youths that will let us in.

2. Profile them, their families, and determine what personal needs they have.

3.) Determine any level of danger they might be in either at home or at school.

4.) Identify any negative influences in their lives and work to eliminate them with the assistance of the office of Catholic Family Services, State Department of Youth, Youth Division of the Metro Police, and others.

5.) Help establish a positive home environment or assistance in re-location to a "positive" family unit."

"I know this is very brief and some what sketchy at this point," continued Fr. Spencer, "but you get the main idea. I have felt strongly for a long time that the failure here is not the government or necessarily the public schools, but the family and us heading up the Church. We in the Church may be the biggest failure of all. We, like the teacher's union have become too political and self-serving."

Father Spencer continued, "The teachers have taken care of themselves financially, but in reality done nothing to improve the quality of education or raise the students academic standards. Their liberal social agenda of condoms in the schools may be the most damaging of all. And, we in the Church have done little of the church's original mission of taking care of the widows and orphans. This may not be the original definition of orphans, but it sure qualifies in the "90's," he concluded.

Chapter 20 of 47 The Dreamers

Chapter 20 The Dreamers

Friday was here, the day Bob Lollar was coming home for a 2-week visit. The team had started out the season with all wins and was higher than a kite. The Tavys were back together, Gloria and I were getting along well, to say the least. We were all beginning to wonder about the Becky/Bolton connection.

The Lollars, including Becky, were so looking forward to seeing Bob again. Hoping to find out just exactly WHAT his plans are for the near future. Bob was being flown in by Flight School friend, Jake Murphy, who was originally from Boston. He was commandeering a military jet for some needed air time and was putting it to good use bringing Bob home to Hartford.

Bob and Jake drove down in a rental car so Jake could get back to Bradley Airport and Boston later that afternoon after lunch. Mary and Gus kept going to the front door what seemed like every five minutes since 10 AM. It was now 11:45 and the rented Lincoln pulled in the driveway. They ran to the car as the screen storm door banged against the frame.

"Bobby, Bobby,” shouted Mary with Gus trailing right behind her. She threw her arms around his neck as he barely made it out to the passenger seat and seemed to squeeze the life out of him.

"Mom, Mom," said Bob laughing. "I'm going to be home for two weeks...if you let me breathe, that is."

Mary started laughing as tear streamed down her face as she caressed Bob's cheeks with her thin little fingers. God, I thought, does she love that boy or what? Gus moved in giving Bob a firm pat on the back, then squeezing the top-back of his shoulder blades. "It's good to have you home son," said Gus. "We sure miss you around here."

I moved slowly down to the car while this as a going on. "You must be Bill," said Bob as he extended his hand and gave me a firm welcome. "It's good to finally meet you," Bob added. "I'd like for you all to meet Jake Murphy."

Jake moved around the car removing Bob's luggage and placing part of it on the driveway. "How ya doin," said Jake to everyone, and no one in particular. "Guess you happy to see this lug of a Pilot, or what," said Jake? That was the understatement of the year.

"Let's go inside," said Mary. "Lunch is already and we can talk as we eat. Bill and Gus need to get to the ball park soon, anyway," she added, taking charge.

We moved into the house and kitchen began positioning ourselves around the table. It immediately became apparent the for the next two weeks this table was going to be about 3 feet too short with all the company about to descend upon the Lollar house hold to experience the "great return" of Bob Lollar, star athlete/officer pilot. As if the events of this last week had not been enough, already.

Bolton and Becky came into the kitchen with Becky giving her brother a big hug. "Oh, Bob, it is so good to have you home,” said Becky warmly. "Seems like I haven't seen you in years, not just the 9 months it has been," she added.

"Nice to see you to, Sis," said Bob right back. "It is so good to be home again."

We all sat down and began filling the room with small talk, Gus next to Bob, constantly rubbing his shoulder, his way of showing the deep affection he had for his son. You could sense the love and how much he truly missed Bob being gone.

Mary finished putting items for lunch on the table as we began to eat. "Bob, would you say Grace for us," asked Mary?

"Sure Mom," said Bob. "Dear Lord, thank you for bringing us all together again today. Bless this food and all who partake of it. Give us strength to face our futures and the opportunities ahead. Help us care for one another and remember how important family and friends are to all of us. We ask for you blessing in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, AMEN," concluded Bob.

Wow, I thought to myself. I never heard any young person pray like that with such conviction and sincerity. I knew then that Bob Lollar was a complicated person, not just some Bible-thumping loony. He looked at me from across the table and gave me a broad, warm grin. I was thinking of him like he as an older brother who had always totally mesmerized a younger sibling. This WAS going to be very interesting, very much so.

Bob filled in everyone as to his plans over lunch. "I've already enrolled at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for September and am definitely headed for a career in the Ministry," stated Bob.

"Mom and Dad," continued Bob, "I know this may be of some surprise to you, but I never felt more positive about anything in my life. The Lord seems to be telling that he wants me to work with kids somehow, those in trouble at school and with the law. I don't know. I'm not sure what the Master Plan is, but it just feels so right," he concluded.

"Son, were proud of you," said Mary. "You have always succeeded at what you did and were totally committed to it all. If you feel that God has called you to do this, you HAVE to do it. You can always count on our support. The Family will always be here. Remember that."

"That's right, Son," said Gus. "We'll be here if you need us. We'll miss you, but you can be sure we'll be out to "Cub-Land", won't we Bill," said Gus as he was trying to secure me as his Chicago Tour Guide well in advance. That Tour Guide was definitely ME.

"No problem," I chirped in. "Couldn't have you Connecticut Crackers getting lost in the Windy City, now could I. I might even take you to see Wrigley Field, the most beautiful ball park God ever built." Bob smiled at my weak attempt at religious humor.

Geez, I thought, maybe God doesn't even like baseball. Maybe HE thinks it is just another stupid, time wasting, man-made human experience. Maybe HE has Bob doing what is important and gave us this game to keep us somewhat preoccupied so as not to do more damage to ourselves than we already have. What do I know? Such philosophical thought is well beyond me at this point.

"I suppose you think there is Ivy on the walls of heaven as well?" asked Bob with a big grin. "Maybe God prefers the Beautiful Facade of Monarch Stadium. They’ve have certainly won more World Series than the Cubs, I believe. I might be lead to think that maybe God as spent MORE time in Monarch Stadium than in Wrigley Field, or at the very least, sent a lot of Angels to look out for the Yanks. God knows they have had some characters playing for them who need some Devine Intervention."

Don't ask me if God cares who really wins the games, though," said Bob. "I am really curious about the issue of "free will" and trying to understand just how much the great theological scholars believe God manipulates our live for his purposes. I'm not convinced he is a manipulative God. The devil, on the other hand, is quite another story," added Bob with great conviction.

The room had grown sullen and quite and the conversation took this serious turn. Bob could tell we were all being taken aback by his remarks.

"I'm sorry," said Bob sheepishly as he looked around the table at everyone. "I didn't mean to go off the deep end. It is just that the intellectual side to this issue is as interesting as the spiritual side, to me anyway, I won't bore you any more," he added.

"It's O.K., Son," said Gus, breaking the ice for all of us. "Don't mind us; it will just take us some time to get used to having Preacher in the house, that's all. We could probably all use it."

Gus was right about that statement I thought. No truer words were ever spoken.

"O.K.,” said Bob. "What does everyone have planned for today? What would you like for me to do?"

The room began to start buzzing again with chatter. Back to normal, at last.

Plans were made for Bob and Jake to come to the 5 O’clock game tonight, but Jake had to be in the air by 9PM, meaning he might get to see 5 or 6 innings before he left for Hartford and Boston. Bob insisted he take Jake back to Bradley. Jake tried to talk him out of it get him to stay with the family, but Bob insisted that after all Jake had done to get Bob home it was the least he could do. Bob, as usual, won the argument.

"Bill, let's you and I go for a walk," announced Bob. "I want to go down and see old man Bolling’s at the Sports Locker and say Hi. What do you say?"

"Sure, that’s fine with me," I reply. "I hear he is a great guy, older that some of the dirt around here."

"Mom, Dad, Bill and I will be back in about an hour, O.K., asked Bob seeking approval more that permission?

"Go ahead Son,” replied Gus. "Take your time. George will be glad to see you, I know."

Bob and I head out as Jake moves into a lawn chair in the front yard with a glass of Mary's lemonade and the New York Times. "I'll guard the fort while you’re gone Bob, if I can stay awake that long," added Jake.

"No problem," said Bob. "You've got to be exhausted after this past week you put in."

As we began our walk Bob told me about Jake. "He has flown over 60 hours this past week with training and some classified air time," said Bob. I don’t know what it was about only that my "Secret" security clearance was not enough to let me know what Jake's "Top Secret" missions had been.

"Jake is as close to a "Top Gun" as I will ever meet," added Bob. "It must be somewhat exciting for Jake, but Jake had made it clear that he couldn't and wouldn't start a family until THIS part of his career was over. Jake didn't want a wife and his kids to go fatherless and husband-less some day. He had seen enough of that. Jake is a real Class act. Most people would be more selfish than that."

We moved done the driveway and hit the sidewalk. Bob continued the conversation.

"I talked to Mom last night," began Bob. "I wanted to talk to you about Gloria now that Mom has told me the two of you are getting along pretty well, getting close and all."

I couldn't tell right away if this conversation was headed for trouble or not. Was he going to be mad at me for moving in on HIS territory and HIS girl? Or, did he not care? I was feeling somewhat uneasy and very apprehensive.

Bob continued. "I want you to know that I am very happy you and Gloria are together. I hope it works out for you."

Thank God, I thought to myself, trying not to let my relief be noticeable. Dodged a potential Scud Missile there I knew.

"I care for Gloria very much," added Bob "but, it just never seemed to be in the cards for us. I don't know why. I never really understood how we just could never make that final push or commitment to each other. I know it is probably my fault. I have never been real good at showing real affection in a man/woman relationship sort of way. I know I care, it is just that the physical part is hard for me."

You could tell Bob was very serious and sincere in what he said.

"I began to guess that maybe that is what God really intended for me, anyway," stated Bob matter-of-factly. "The scripture states that he knows us in the womb. Seems unbelievable doesn't it. That someone could know you before you are even born, take a breath, open you eyes. That seems far-fetched to a lot of people.

Bob continues, "The real truth is that this country has truly lost it spiritual and moral conscience, convictions, and most all its' leadership. That is the legacy we must all live with," concluded Bob with much sadness in his voice. "The truth is," added Bob, "that there are a lot of Church-Goers in this country, but a very low percentage of real Christians. How sad is that?"

You could tell how much he was hurt by America’s lack of spirituality and how deeply moved he was to talk about it and do something about it, if he could. This guy was certainly wiser that his years would indicate. Bob was a most interesting person. Being a friend to him would be a challenge for sure.

Here was a guy truly wanting to tackle the issues of today and I'm more worried about going 2 for 5 tonight's game. Boy, did I have some priorities to rearrange in my life. It would just have to be later.

For what ever reasons Bob Lollar had, he seemed to have a handle on where be believed his life direction was supposed to be. Whether he was feeling the true "Devine Inspiration" that seems to be the motivating force in one's choosing the ministry as a career, or more as a way of life, only Bob can know for sure. There was no doubt he was committed.

I felt happy for him in that he was now at peace with himself about it and seemed to put his recruiting nightmare behind him. He seemed to have made that conscience decision to turn a negative into a positive.

"Hey, Bill, " shot Bob, "what about you? You are still some kind of a mystery man to most of us. Tell me about your family and how you made your way to the Nutmeg state."

"Not too much to tell," I responded. Grew up in a medium sized town west of Chicago called Hastings Mills, Illinois. The town was mostly a blue collar community with the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad having a terminal and a Round House there for heavy maintenance work. The town had about 50,000 people in, but now it has more than doubled that number. It now has the same serious problems any large city in the country has," I added.

“My Dad suffered from the complications of Polio when I was seven. He spent the last year at home in a rocking-bed since there was no more they could do with a prolonged hospital stay. He had spent a long time in an Iron Lung to help him breathe," I began. "I remember spending hours and hours at the hospital when I was four or five just visiting my Dad. I know I couldn't understand what had happened or what was wrong with my Dad. I remember sitting at the head of his Iron Lung just stroking his hair and listening to music with him, kind of like a D.J. would play records on the radio. Dad was a big Jazz fan. I have kept a number of his of 78's he had in his collection. Many of the area radio stations who heard of my Dad being one of the first totally paralyzed polio victims would send him free copies of albums they got from record labels. Those, a black and white Admiral 17" T.V. and some Friday night Pinochle games were his only sources of entertainment."

"I don't ever remember my Dad being depressed or overly sad about his situation," I added. "I remember as a kid trying to convince him that he "could move" if he would just "try a little harder". He would always try for me because he knew it was impossible for a young boy to understand anything like this. He seemed to be a very positive person. He spent time in Korea during the war in the Army. Was working in a gas station and worked learning to repair television when he was stricken."

"It must have been difficult for your Mom," offered Bob, "a young family now with no real Father. How did your Mom do it?"

"She couldn't," I responded. "Mom never finished High School so her income/job opportunities were severely limited. She never earned more than a dollar an hour and I remember one job she had washing dishes at a small manufacturing company around the corner from our house in which she earned fifty-cents an hour. Her parents moved in with us and took care of all of the financial obligations while Mom just became a full time house wife again.

Vyra and Joe helped us keep a small, manufacturing business that did fairly well and kept us all very comfortable. Many other family members worked in the business as well, so the business was important to a lot of us related to the Alcorn family. Without the business things would have been quite different for me and my two sisters, that’s for sure."

"My senior year in high school my dad, mom, and my two sisters were killed by a drunk driver. One of those times life seems to make no sense…no sense at all. Even though I had some bonus offers to play baseball I had to stay home and do my best to keep the family business going. There were many middle class families counting on our company. I was lucky, though, in that I was given a "second chance" this time with the Monarchs as they spotted me at one of their open try-out camps. I was afraid I was never going to get to see if I had what it took to play in "the Show". I am not about to blow THIS opportunity," I concluded with great conviction.

"I'm sure you'll do it, Bill," said Bob with a convincing smile. "You seem like the kind of person who is committed and gets the job done. You'll make it. I'm sure of that. Dad thinks you're the real thing. He has never been wrong about a ball player that I know of. He spots the flakes right away. I don't know what he "sees", but he does have a sense about talent. But, in your case, not many people give up "their" dream and make the potential sacrifice you did for your family. I'm impressed. People like you deserve a "second chance".

Bob continued. "I just wanted to tell you that I am fine with you and Gloria. I am real happy for you and want only for Gloria to be happy, have a family, and have her dreams fulfilled by some guy who will love her and treat her right. You could be that guy, if you wanted to...if she wants you to. I just hope it works out for you two. Besides, it then gets me off the hook for some to the dumber stuff I did and the smarter stuff I failed to do," added Bob with a big grin and smile that broke in to a laugh. God knows I will always feel a little bit remorseful about our relationship. But, that is history."

We had made our way to Bolling’s Sporting Good and stopped out front as Bob just gazed a the store-front for a moment. he remarked at how, as a small boy, how big the store seemed to him and how many hours he had spent choosing balls, wooden baseball bats, and trying on ever Rawlings, Wilson, McGregor, and Spaulding glove at least a hundred times. They almost got worn out just sitting on the shelf he thought. What a charmed childhood he realized he had.

"I've made plans to go out to Moody Bible next week," said Bob. "My previous post Chaplain, Father Malone, has made arrangements and sent a letter of recommendation on my behalf. It is not going to be easy to get accepted since I am going about it in a rather unorthodox manner, but a positive result is all that ultimately matters to me. I hope that the people making the decisions have an open mind and an open heart."

Chapter 19 of 47 The Dreamers

Chapter 19 The Dreamers

I wish you luck,” I say to Chris as she sits quietly in the car seat. We were sitting in the player’s lot at the ball bark. It was about 5:15pm and we could see Jon’s car in the lot. I told Jocko who was with me so Chris would have not problem getting through the player’s entrance.

She gets out of the car and turns to look at me through the passenger window. “What are you waiting for,” she asks?

“Maybe I should just wait here,” I offer sheepishly? Chris sports a big grin.

“I don’t’ think so slugger,” she adds with a smile. “If I need a ride to the morgue you can help carry the body out, unless it is your body and I’ll help the players carry YOU out.”

“Very funny,” I add. “Now you’re a comedian?”

“Yes, a very nervous comedian!” “Come on let’s go,” she adds.

We made our way up the corridor leading into the lounge before the locker room. As we get there I see Beth Mason standing there almost like she was waiting for us. She tells us Dave called her and told her what was going on. She gave Chris a warm hung and reaffirmed that she and Jon were just friends, nothing more, and that Beth was so glad she decided to come. She told us to wait here and she would go get Jon, jut telling him someone was here to see him. She left and went into the locker room, whether she embarrassed anyone or not. I guessed everyone was dressed as not major noised came out form behind the doors.

We waited a few minutes and heard steps coming toward the double-spring loaded doors. Jon comes through. Chris is sitting off to the side and Jon sees me first. He looks at me and I look at him. I then motion over to the arm chair where Chris is sitting. He stands their dumbfounded for a moment. Chris rises from the chair. He stands there like he is frozen, but I can tell he is not as tears begin rolling down his face. Chris smiles at him and rushes over to him and throws her arms around his neck as they embrace and kiss like a sailor just getting off his ship with his best girl waiting for him. They stop as he puts both of his huge hands on the side of her face, tears still evident as he looks into her eyes. Her eyes are now filled with tears as well. They kiss warmly again.

I leave them there as it was clear they didn’t need my help anymore. Whew, not trip to the morgue. What a relief.

When I finally show up for the game, Jon just smiles at me in the locker room. That was a major accomplishment. I guess Jon was really a man of few words.

We win our 7th game in a row. 6 to 4 and the New Bedford Owls make us work a little harder. Jon goes 2 for 4 with 2 doubles, one to right and one to left. I go 3 for 5 with another 2-run homer, and Reggie Bonds hit one homerun and is intentionally walked 3 times, but Jon made them pay for two of them, so who cared. Jon was constantly looking into the stands all night. I guess he thought it might have been a dream or a mirage. Chris’s being here was certainly not. Bolton kept giving me this goofy grin all game long. Man, was he wacked.

I woke up the next morning to the sound of happy conversation coming from the kitchen. Mary had made up the study for me as my new bedroom since Bob would be home. It would take me a week to get over this week I thought. We had another game tonight at 7:30pm. Gus told me Dick would be at the ballpark before 3pm if I wanted some extra hitting. I told him I was passing today. I mistakenly walk right into the bath room with out knocking and a screech comes out like I’ve never heard before. It was Becky and I apologized for my lack of manners, profusely. She was a pretty little thing, just like I’ll bet Mary was when she was young. Perfect skin, dark brown hair cut short, gently curving around her face. She needed no makeup for sure.

“Listen, Bill,” she said, matter of factly. “Honestly you are just like Bob and Gus, just barging in to the bath room with out knocking. You men are all alike she said with a sweet smile and ear-to-ear grin. Now get out and let me get beautiful, will you?”

I try and save myself by telling her she already is, but she isn’t buying it, I don’t think. She gives me a kiss on the cheek and pushes me back out the door, locking it this time.

I finally get to shower and shave, dress and head out to the kitchen, finally.

“Good morning, Bill,” says Mary. How is our world traveler today?”

“I’m doing well today,” I reply. “My last recollection is that all went well last night at the game and with Chris and Jon. Bolton comes in the back door, much to my surprise.

Dave, what are you doing here,” I ask? He doesn’t even see me and goes right over to Becky and give her a kiss on the cheek.

“Well, I’ll be,” I state in total shock. “How long as this been going on,” as Becky has her arms around him and her cheek resting in his chest?

“Not long enough,” said Dave with great determination.

“Enough you two, sit down and have some breakfast,” which Dave does immediately as he takes a place right next to me and jabs my right arm with his left, pretty hard. He has a smile as wide as a football field and he just stole the other team’s playbook. What a piece of work I thought.

Becky poured everyone some juice as Mary bought pancakes to the table. Dave, of course, was the first to dig in. Becky came and sat right next to him at the table. Gus just shook his head, but we all knew that he really like Bolton. There was a lot of Gus Lollar in Dave Bolton. Maybe that was what Becky saw in Dave. I realized that I was happy for them. Becky might be just the thing for Dave, a real grounding influence. Maybe opposites do attract after all. I thought.

I told everyone that I had put Chris and Jon up at the Marriott last night and had a limo at their disposal for last night and today, but I was drawing the line after that. It was strictly going to be Dutch treat for them from now on.

I know I got a decent signing bonus, but enough was enough.

Chapter 18 of 47 The Dreamers

Chapter 18 The Dreamers

“Come on in, Mom,” said Chris trying to hold back as much surprise as she could. “What are you doing out so early?” Her Mom came in and set down two, tall, but slender boxes on the floor.

Liz Milton moved toward her daughter and grabbed each the other with their hands at the upper arms and faked kisses by brushing each side of their cheeks against one another. How’s Rodeo Drive I thought.

“I could be asking the same of you,” questioned Liz. “Oh, I didn’t realize you had company.”

“Mom, this is Bill Alan and Gloria James from Connecticut,” said Chris. “They’ve come out to see me from Connecticut.

“That’s nice,” answered Liz half heartedly. “Where’s Doug?”

“He’s off to work already. Some important meeting or something,” Chris continued.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming out to see Doug and you could have made this trip for me,” asked her Mom? “I hate getting up this early.”

“You are a very handsome couple,” compliments Liz Milton. “Have you been married long?”

“We’re not married,” Mrs. Milton. “Just very close friends,” I add.

“Chris, you should have called me,” said Chris’s Mom, still upset at having to get up so early.

“I didn’t know until yesterday,” said Chris. “Bill and Gloria came to talk to me a about Jon.”

“What about Jon?” “Is he alright,” asks Mrs. Milton?

“Yes, Maam, he is fine. I play with Jon on the Monarchs team in Connecticut,” I add.

“Oh, another ball player,” she adds. “I’ll bet you’re good too, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” chirped in Gloria right a way. “He is and has really made a difference on the team already, they are 6 and 0.” Gloria is beaming.

“That’s nice,” said Liz Milton. “I’ve never been one much for sports. Too sweaty I think. Too barbaric for me.”

“Mother, listen, this whole thing with Jon is just a big mistake. I should have believed him,” stated Chris. “Bill and Gloria came out to tell me that the phone calls and letters were all lies about Jon just to get back at him for that college prank thing with his sister Cheryl. He was telling me the truth all the time. He was not going out with that Beth girl at all.”

“You’re kidding,” said Liz Milton with a real tone of amazement in her voice. “Well I have to admit I believed it all along myself. I guess I wasn’t being very fair either. I wanted Chris to marry some lawyer not traveling baseball player, although some of them do make quite good money, don’t they,” asked Liz?

“Yes Maam, we can,” I add, “but you can’t think about the money while you’re playing. It will make you crazy. You just need to play and the money will take care of itself.”

“I guess that makes sense,” said Liz. “How long are you out here for?”

“We need to get to the airport for a 6:40am flight back as I have a game tonight,” I add.

“You came out here all this way for one day just for Chris and Jon’s sake,” Liz said quite amazed. “Well, I am impressed.”

“Thanks,” said Gloria knowing that Chris had just saved her a ton of embarrassment by not spilling all the beans. “It was important for this to be done and fixed. I…we were glad to do it, weren’t be Bill?”

“Yes we were,” I add with a big smile to Gloria.

“Well, what are your plans now,” asks Liz?

“We need a ride to the Airport and I guess Chris needs to make some plans to come out to Connecticut as soon as she can, I guess,” I offer. “Don’t you think, Chris? Can you give us a lift?”

“I wish I could come today,” she said with great excitement. “Mom, could you watch the baby for me?”

“Sure I could,” offered Liz Milton. “But I have a better idea if I can convince Gloria?”

“What is that Mrs. Milton,” asks Gloria with great curiosity?

“Gloria why don’t you stay our here for a couple of days, we can do girl stuff together. Have you been to California before,” Liz asks?

“No,” said Gloria wondering what she was about to get into?

“Chris why don’t you fly back with Bill and I’ll be happy to buy Gloria a ticket and send her back on, say, Friday.” She turns to Gloria. “I’ll take you downtown and show you where all the upper-crust shops and I know some swell easting places. You can stay out at our house. It will be fun. What do you say,” she asks as if this is the plan of the century?

“Would you be willing to do that for me, Gloria,” asks Chris? “It would really mean a lot to me.”

“Yes, why not,” said Gloria knowing that was the least she could do for all the trouble she had caused. “It would be fun to stay out here for a couple of days.”

“Gloria, thank you,” said Chris and she when over and they embraced warmly. “Thank you so much. I hope we get to be great friends.”

“Me to,” replied Gloria. “Me to.”

“Well that’s settled,” said Mrs. Milton. “Move those lamp boxes over to the plants over there, will you Bill,” she asks? Doug can deal with them when he gets home. Now you two go get your things as we have stuff to go, and Chris, you and bill have a plane to catch.”

With that Gloria and I go fetch our things. I reach into my wallet and take out 10-one hundred dollar bills and give them to Gloria. She is shocked and refuses them at first. I remind her that she just might need some money traveling with “Mrs. Rockefeller” and that I did not feel right leaving her here with little or no money, and besides I said it is really a bribe to make sure she came back to Connecticut. She kisses me warmly and puts the money in her purses.

“Billy, thanks,” Gloria offers warmly. “I do love you, ya know.”

She head out with Liz and puts her bag in the trunk as Chris grabs mine and throws it in the back seat of her Saab. I go over to Gloria and give her a warm, tender kiss, reminding her to have a nice vacation. I told her to take advantage of her good fortune, but I expected to see her on Friday or Saturday at the latest. She agreed and kissed me warmly again.

“Have fun at the Lollars and have a great rest of the week,” she adds. “Tell Dave Bolton thanks for me, will you,” she asks?

“No problem,” I reply. “See you soon.”

With that Chris checks Doug’s front door and make sure it is locked and we follow Liz Martin’s Mercedes down the drive and out onto the road. We can see she and Gloria are just chatting away. Chris said that Mom would have Gloria knowing where all the stars lived and show her the time of her life. I just might not see Gloria again she kidded. That I assured her would not be funny. I think she already knew that.

Chris said that they would probably end up back here at Doug’s place for part of one the days to help him decorate. Liz seems to think that most men are decorating-challenged. I think most are I thought.

Chris called the University and told someone about her plans and asked them to reschedule her events through Friday. They seemingly agreed as she hung-up quickly.

This whole trip was turning out better than I could have ever hoped. We still had a big hurdle with Jon, but how could he ever be mad over this turn of events? I thought to myself that I would be glad when today’s over and I know Gloria and I are finally in the clear. I would know by the time tonight’s game started, that was for sure.

Chris called Doug on his cell phone and told him of the remarkable change in plans. She also let him know about the lamps Mom had brought out to the house and how all ended well with her, surprisingly. He was surprised as well.
He said he would try and make sure Mom didn’t drive Gloria totally crazy. I was more worried abut the look Doug gave Gloria at the airport. Who needs all these complications and worries, I thought. Don’t these people know I’ve go ball games to win? Really important stuff! Really!

The ride to the airport was one of the most excruciating trips I had known. Just when Gloria and I had come to an understanding of our true feelings about each other, we were separated. I was disappointed to say the least, even though I knew it was for a good cause. If I had been driving I would have probably chased Gloria and Liz down and called the whole thing off. It is a good think I was the passenger.

“Bill, are you alright,” asked Chris? “It’s you and Gloria, isn’t it?”

“It’s OK,” I reply in a somewhat rejected tone. “It’s just that…well…we…we’ve just begun to be totally honest with each other. With all the Lollar baggage that has come with this relationship I guess were doing quite well for knowing each other for all of less than a month.”

“Getting Gloria to come out here was a big step for her,” I add. “I hope you know that.” “It was important for you and Jon, and just as important for Gloria to make this right, own up to her mistake.”

“Bill, do you want to go get her,” Chris offers? “I can turn this Swedish machine on and we can catch them, if you want?”

“No, Chris,” I offer emphatically, “that is not necessary. This is your day, Jon’s day. It is important for this to be done now. I’ll see Gloria on Friday or Saturday. I’m fine.”

Chris is quiet for a moment. I can’t imagine all the things going on in her head, Jon, the baby, her Mom and Dad, school? This had to be tough on her too, but a very exciting time a well to put all of their lives back together.

“Bill, I do love Jon very much,” she started. “I never really stopped loving him. Not seeing him seemed like the right thing to do, but it still hurt. The baby is his too, you know. I jumped back into school so fast, mostly to fill my time and try and help me forget about it. How could I? Baseball kept him captive so there was not much he could do about coming out here to see me, either. Maybe he thought it was futile coming out here after how I talked to him. I don’t know?”

“I wish I knew how he was going to react when he sees the two of us when we get back,” I asked? “I know he has no clue what Gloria and I have been up to. He might have been very mad at me sticking my nose in his business.”

“Bill, the worst thing that can happen is that he can tell me to catch the next plane back to California,” said Chris as a point of fact. “If he did we wouldn’t be any worse off than we are right now. I really don’t see that happening. He was really hurt by want I did and by what Gloria did. I think he stills loves me and wants to be a part of our lives, me and the baby. It would be worse to sit here and wonder, what if?”

We arrived at the airport with little time to spare and rush through the terminal to our gate. We had just 10 minutes to spare. That was cutting it way to close. We did make it. That was all that mattered.

As we sat in our seats I called the Lollar’s home to check in.

“Hello,” said the voice at the other end. It was Mary.

“Mary, this is Bill, I’m calling from California!”

“Billy, what are you doing in California,” with great surprise in her voice? “You’ve got a game tonight, you know! Bill, what’s going on?”

“I’ll fill you in when I get back. Is Dave there by any chance?”

“Why yes he is. He and Becky are sitting right here at the kitchen table having breakfast,” she added. I forgot it was 9am there.

“Can I talk to Dave, Mary,” I ask? She agrees and hands the phone to Dave.

Dave answers, “Billy you better get back here on time. Is everything alright?”

“Everything is great. I have Chris Tavy with me right now; she is flying back with me on Gloria’s ticket. So far so good. Is Ben still on to pick us up at LaGuardia,” I ask?

“Ya, I talked to him already today. I’ll call him again when were done just to reconfirm with him your still on time. That was nice you giving him a little something for his trouble, too bad he lost most of it to me in the card game.”

“I told him not to do that,” I said laughing. “You guys.”

“Listen, I’ve go to go as we are about to taxi out for take off. Find out where Jon is going to be about 5-6 tonight so we can drop this bomb on him when we get back, OK?”

“No problem,” says Dave. “See you soon.”

With that we both hang up. Chris asks if everything is OK and I assure her it is. I apologize to Chris for being so tired after spending a night in Doug’s recliner listening to music. She understands and tells me to sleep as much as I need. She brought the nicest leather attaché I had ever seen and began looking at some paper she brought with her. I felt relaxed and relieved at how this had worked out. As we got airborne I fell fast asleep and didn’t wake up until we were two hours from NYC. I slept through the noon meal and everything. The flight attendant came back when she saw I was awake and asked me if I would like my meal now. I thanked her and said that would be very nice as I was starving. Chris just smiled at me. She just went back to her papers. We had about three hours until D Day.