I drove over to the diner after the game. This was a day filled with just too much change and disappointment. Bob's murder seemed to overshadow everything else. It seemed to make everything else insignificant.
I sensed that something was wrong, or certainly strange about the funeral. Too many people seemed to be holding back too many tears. Mary, Gus, Gloria, Becky, and Gloria's Mom all seemed to fight back any release of pain and loss. It was almost eerie the lack of emotion showed at the funeral. Had Bob's being gone for so long in the service and now his being off at school in Chicago kind of placed him out of sight, out of mind? Had these people emotionally disengaged themselves from Bob along time ago? His personal career choices had clearly disengaged himself from his family and hometown friends. I wondered why? At some point these people were going to explode with emotion.
I had arrived at the diner and went inside. I found Gloria sitting at a booth by herself, but in her regular clothes. It was clear she had not been working. I went down and sat across from her. She looked up as I moved into the seat and gave me a big smile.
"Listened to the game on the radio," said Gloria. "Just didn't feel much like going to the park tonight. Team is still playing well."
"Ya," I replied, "I don't think many of us felt like playing tonight. Maybe it was best we did, but it was hard to keep focused, our minds on just the game. This has been a strange day."
"I know," said Gloria. "I still can't believe we were at Bob's funeral. Here he is, a great guy, wanting to go in the ministry and help these kids and two months later he dead in some stupid shooting that no one understands. If this is God's idea of some kind of sign he sure needs to explain it to a lot of people."
"My grandmother used to read us Old Testament stories about how mad God would get and wipe out entire nations," I stated. "She also liked the story of Job who had a very happy and wealthy existence until God was challenged by the devil, whose opinion was that Job was only loyal to God because he blessed him with riches. God challenged the devil back, but no matter what evil the devil heaped on Job he still remained faithful."
"I really don't know," I continued. "Maybe sometimes WE put too much importance on what happens here on earth instead of dealing with eternity, what God wants of us, how we treat others, and how much leadership we provide in our little corner of the world. In Bob's case, maybe there is no message, except that the devil does have dominion over THIS earth. That much I know is Scriptural. Maybe Bob was going to make a difference, we won't know now. His dreams are certainly gone by this senseless shooting. Maybe now Chicago will get all these thugs off the streets and in prison where they belong."
"I always wondered how different things might have been had Bob accepted that athletic scholarship and stayed in school," thought Gloria out loud. "His emotions seemed to take over his head, leaving that dream behind. He seemed to have no regrets, though. Maybe his success as an Army pilot made up for his lost college athletic career. Bob was the type that created success where ever he went what he did would have probably made little difference. If he had done tidily-winks he would have most likely been All-World. At least he would still be alive. Maybe for many of us Bob died a long time ago. He walked out on us, left us behind. I think it hurt more back them because we loved him so. His new life choices made us start again, too. Some strange twist of fate, though."
Mel brought over two cups and a thermal pitcher full of coffee and set it down in the middle of the table.
"You kids want something to eat before I shut the griddle down," he asked? "I know it's late, but I don't mind. Bill, you must be hungry?
"No thanks, Mel," I answer. "Don't feel much like eating tonight. Thanks anyway."
"O.K.," replied Mel. "Take your time, I’ve got plenty of cleaning up to do. Just gonna turned down some of the lights and shut the sign off."
"How are Mary and your Mom holding up," I ask?
"She seems all right," replied Gloria. "Mom is going to stay close to Mary for a while. Mom remembered how depressed she was after Dad died, didn't realize it, though. She had just a sense of carelessness, like not wanting to do anything or go anywhere. She was just content to sit around doing nothing. That wasn't like Mom and is certainly not like Mary. In Mom's case it just seemed to take time. With Mary, I just don't know."
"Gloria, we have another problem," I stat. "It really compounds things, I think."
"Bill, what is it," asked Gloria with much concern in her voice?
"George has decided to shake up the New York Monarchs," I continue. "He has fired the manager and replaced him with Red. He is also taking three players from Madison with him...I am one of them."
"Oh, Bill," said Gloria excitedly. "That is great news for you. I am so happy for you. You are going to get to realize your dream after all.
Gloria paused. She sensed my lack of excitement.
"Bill, what is wrong," she asked? "How can you not be excited about this chance?"
"I just don't think that leaving Gus and Mary right now is a good thing for them," I state sincerely. "Becky spends more time off with Dave Bolton. They're getting married in less than three months and it just doesn't seem like a good time to leave the house so empty right now."
"Bill, you listen to me," snapped Gloria. "This is not about Gus and Mary; it's about you, period. Have you forgotten that you gave up on your dream once already? Most people don't get second chances, Bill. You got one. Don't say no, this time too. No one is going to think badly of you for thinking about yourself first, this time. Please do this for yourself, for me, for Gus and Mary. Quite frankly, we don't need any more guilt right now. Please go and do this."
"O.K., I'm going," I said with a small smile on my face. "You don't need to have a liter of kittens right here in the diner over this." I laughed. Gloria did too.
"I'm not going to have a liter of kittens," said Gloria. "I still haven't found the right TomCat yet, or, maybe I have, but he just doesn't know it yet."
My face became a little flushed. I was caught off guard and wasn't sure what to say. I sure had strong feeling for Gloria, I really loved her. It was the first time she had even made so much of a hint of her true feelings for me.
"Look at your face, Mr. Alan," said Gloria smiling. "First time I ever made a Big Leaguer blush."
"I hope it's not the last," I reply. "I sure hope it is not the last."
I reached across the table and took both of her hands in mine. Gloria responded by squeezing mine very tightly. We sat there quietly and finished our coffee. There was not much more that needed to be said tonight.