The young lady was easily the most beautiful woman on the train-station platform, and most of the men that noticed her would have been willing to admit her the most beautiful woman they might have ever seen. Black flats set off an ankle-length and darkly red dress--but her outfit, though striking, was instantly forgotten when one saw her face.
Her deep green eyes were excellently contrasted by long, chestnut brown hair that shifted from one shoulder to the other as she stepped and dodged and even pushed her way down the wooden slats that bordered the train.
It looked as if the beautiful woman had been crying, and most of the men that saw her would have been more than willing to ask her if anything was wrong...but she was searching faces, she was looking for someone in particular, and though her green eyes took in every man there, few even managed a smile before she had moved past. Before she was gone, in a whirl of dark red skirts and a brown suitcase.
The beautiful woman was worried and scared. The wooden platform was very large, but she had searched her way from one end almost to the other and he wasn’t there--every face after face was another face that wasn’t his, and if she couldn’t find him...
Someone else on the platform was searching, but not silently; a tall man with a face the color of her dress, far back the way the beautiful woman had come, was looking over the crowd and calling for someone. He was obviously connected to the beautiful woman, by the way she stiffened when she heard his voice; she knew if she looked back that the man would be wearing horn-rimmed glasses underneath a shock of dark hair streaked with gray--but there was no need to look back.
Rather she looked harder, and moved faster, resisting the urge to scream, to stamp her foot, to hit someone or something out of frustration because she wasn’t like that anymore, the man she searched for, he had said that she didn’t have to do such things...
...and she wanted so badly for him to be right, and for his face to be one of the faces she saw, but he wasn’t there, she couldn’t find him, and the platform was almost finished, the train was about to leave and the horn-rimmed glasses were getting closer and despite being easily the most beautiful woman on the train-station platform she was out of time and beyond hope.
* * *
“Raise you a dollar.”
“A dollar? You must have a lotta faith in that hand, Tripplehorne.”
“Watch and learn, Pickens.” Looking across his cards, Bud dares the man to match him or raise the stakes. Pickens looks at his cards and then lets them fall facedown onto the table, muttering.
Dutch Cattan taps his own cards on the tabletop, looking straight across and meeting Bud’s eyes. “I’m fairly sure you’re bluffing, Mr. Famous Pitcher, so I’ll just see your dollar and take my chances.”
“It’s only money, Dutch, not like you ain’t got any more where that came from,” Bill Pickens jibes, now that he has given up himself.
“Pick on somebody else, Pickens.”
“That wasn’t even funny the first time, and the first time was back in ’29.”
Dutch laughs. “And after two decades you still don’t get it.”
“If I may, gentlemen,” primly, Lefty Baxter tosses his cards down with Bill’s. He catches a look from Tripplehorne.
“You need respectful silence before you toss your hand?”
“I just wanted to make sure you knew where I stood.”
The bigger man laughs. “Whatever you say, Lefty. Guess it’s just you and me, Dutch.”
Bud has no expression on his face as he puts down a pair of eights, his bluff called. The full house Dutch displays, grinning, is more than enough to win the small pot. “You almost had me, Bud, if it helps ease the pain any.”
The starting pitcher for the Boston Braves snorts and gathers the cards as Dutch gathers his winnings. Bill Pickens, shortstop, laughs after taking a drag of his cigarette. “Seems like that famous Tripplehorne luck might be getting a little dim, sonny boy.”
Bud looks up, a dangerous glint in his eye. “Shut yer trap, Pickens.”
“What’d I say?”
Dutch leans back in his chair, keeping an eye on both, hoping nobody will get tossed out the door into the January snow. “Just take it easy, young’uns. We’re all in here in the nice warm clubhouse, our ballteam’s going all the way to the Series this year, and everything’s going to be fine, right?”
Lefty, usually found covering the Braves’ second base, coughs and looks at his cards. “Let’s hope so.”
Bud says a lot because he doesn’t say anything; every man at the table is thinking the same thing and it doesn’t need to be said aloud.
Which doesn’t stop Bill Pickens from saying it because he has to say something. “Gotta wonder what the chances are for the Braves this year, huh? Bud’s still packing heat, for sure, and I didn’t mean anything just now, you know, just fooling. But we haven’t got the hitting power, and I just don’t know, you know?”
Dutch Cattan, third base and a solid hitter to boot, doesn’t look up from his cards. “Shut up, Pickens.”
“Well c’mon, do we really have a chance of even making the pennant? How long has it been since the Braves even went that far?”
Nobody answers. Silence reigns for several hands, until Bud raises his chin, looking Pickens, Cattan and Baxter in the eye in turn. “Which Braves were you mentioning, Bill?
“That one ballteam, the National League Certified Since 1903 Boston Braves?” His gaze is at once strong and steely. “We pull together, we show this league the best baseball anybody’s ever seen, and this year will be like no other.
“World Series, boys. Believe in it.”
They want to, they all want to, but nobody backs up Bud’s courageous words. The men return to their cards and their silence for a while longer.
Until they start talking about the past, about the former years of glory...like always.
“Howzabout that grand slam in 41, huh?”
“Has it been that long?”
“Doesn’t seem like it. Jack Carter it was, used to play shortstop. Didn’t know him for a hitter much, but that day...whew. Amazing hitting, that was.”
“I remember--seems just like yesterday. Raise you a quarter.”
“That’s high stakes again, Bud. I fold.”
“Nothing surprising about that, Pickens. Nothing surprising about that.”
The game goes on.