The 2nd of October was sunny and cool. It was a perfect day for a baseball game, and the Polo Grounds were packed with devoted fans that came to see Game 2 of the World Series.
Zach and Charlie followed the crowd through the entrance to the stadium. Zach immediately bought souvenirs for himself and Charlie. Zach asked a bystander to take a picture of them with his camera. They smiled as they posed for the picture wearing New York Yankees baseball caps.
When they finally got to their seats, everyone stood for the National Anthem. The Press had a field day with President Roosevelt in attendance. He smiled and waved for the photographers as they snapped pictures. Zach couldn’t resist and snapped a few photographs of the President himself. Zach was excited. For him, it was a dream come true. He was about to watch the New York Yankees in the World Series.
By the bottom of the ninth inning, the Yankees were clobbering the Giants 18 to 2. Yankees center fielder, Joe DiMaggio made a tremendous play. With just two outs left in the inning, Hank Leiber, outfielder for the Giants hit a ball 490 feet dead center and Joe DiMaggio caught the ball running up the steps of the clubhouse. Later, President Roosevelt left the ballpark in a limousine and saluted Joe DiMaggio for his impressive game-ending catch.
It was a glorious day for Zach. It was something he would never forget for the rest of his life. Now they could leave New York City. They’ve had seen everything they came to see and more.
When Zach and Charlie arrived back to the hotel, Zach was still talking about the game. He was so excited to see President Roosevelt and thought his Yankees played amazingly well, especially Joe DiMaggio.
They were walking through the lobby when they heard their names called out. When they stopped and turned, the concierge stepped out from behind his desk and approached them. He asked how their day was going.
That was all the prompting Zach needed to start talking about the game again. He talked so fast, Charlie wondered if the concierge understood a single word he was saying.
The concierge finally found a break and quickly interjected. “I was able to locate two tickets for ya,” he said. “It’s for Game 5 though, if you’re interested. The only thing is they’re a little pricey ... $50 a piece.”
“Game 5 is at Yankee Stadium?” Zach said. “Are you kidding? Of course we’re interested.” He paused for a second and looked at Charlie. He realized that he didn’t include Charlie in his decision. “Do ya wanna go, Charlie?”
“Sure, I had a grand time.”
“Great!” Zach said. He was flying high with excitement. He was going to see his Yankees again, and this time he was going to see them play at Yankee Stadium.
“Okay, I’ll bring the tickets tomorrow,” the concierge said.
“Do ya need the money now?” Zach asked.
“Nah, tomorrow’s fine.”
“Thanks pal,” Zach said. He stuck out his hand. “By the way, we never got your name.”
“It’s Pete Aiello,” the concierge said with a bright smile.
“Well, thanks Pete,” Zach said as he shook his hand.
“I’m Charlie, pleased to meet ya,” Charlie said sticking out his hand.
“Likewise,” Pete said shaking Charlie’s hand.
Zach couldn’t believe his luck. What an amazing day it turned out to be. He watched the Yankees beat the Giants, he saw Joe DiMaggio catch an amazing fly ball, he saw President Roosevelt, and now he had tickets to see the Yankees actually play at Yankee Stadium. Things just couldn’t get any better, so it seemed.
When Charlie woke up the following morning, Zach was already dressed. He was humming as he sat on the sofa reading the morning paper. “What ya doin’ up so early?”
“Couldn’t sleep, too excited,” Zach said. He continued reading the paper while Charlie finished getting ready.
When Charlie finally emerged from his room, Zach sprang to his feet. They headed downstairs together and went directly to the concierge’s desk. As they approached the desk, Pete Aiello was attending to other guests, so they had to wait. A chair near by was vacant, so Charlie sat in it while Zach paced the floor. He was eager to get the tickets and couldn’t sit still. He reminded Charlie of his little brother, Robert. He was also impatient and couldn’t sit still either.
Charlie wondered why he was thinking of his brother all of a sudden. He hadn’t thought of Robert for such a long time. Even though he had thought of his family from time-to-time, it seemed that recently they’ve been on his mind more than usual lately. He began to feel depressed and didn’t understand why. Then suddenly it dawned on him. It was the 3rd of October, and in three more days it would be his 30th birthday. It was also the same day, eighteen years ago that his family had been brutally slain by the Ku Klux Klan.
He tried to suppress the feeling and the memory of that horrific night, but he just couldn’t shake it. He tried thinking of something else, something pleasant, but it didn’t help. He felt as though he was helplessly falling into a deep dark pit. It became difficult for him to breathe and his chest felt tight. He began to sweat profusely. He became dizzy and felt as though he needed to go outside to get some fresh air. When he rose from his chair, his legs felt weak. Then he noticed that the guests had wrapped up their business with the concierge and were walking away. Zach didn’t waste any time and rushed over to greet Pete.
Charlie went to join Zach and Pete. He was finally able to shake off his dizzy spell, but the anxiety remained. For Zach’s sake, he didn’t want to spoil things, so he kept quiet and took a few deep breaths. He tried to calm his mind. It seemed to work, and slowly he started to feel a little better.
Zach was in a good mood and wore a smile that stretched across his face. “Morning, Pete.”
“Good morning, Mr. Mullins, I bet you’re excited about the tickets, huh?”
“Ya bet,” Zach said. His eyes were wide, and his face was glowing. He handed Pete an envelope with a hundred dollars inside, and Pete handed Zach an envelope with tickets to Game 5.
“Thank you, Mr. Mullins.”
“Thank you, Mr. Aiello,” Zach said as they shook hands.
“Enjoy the game.”
“Thanks, we certainly will,” Zach said.
Zach was in an upbeat mood the entire day. He was too excited to stay in their room, and suggested that they go see a movie to help pass some time and get his mind off the game. Charlie thought it was a good idea. He thought it might help him take his mind off his family ... for a little while anyway.
The film they went to see was a new Alfred Hitchcock thriller called Sabotage. After the movie, Zach and Charlie walked up Park Avenue. It was a lovely day, and the afternoon sun was already on an angle, which made it comfortable for walking. While walking, they did some window-shopping and then had a late lunch.
After they had eaten, they decided to walk off their lunch. They decided to go through Central Park.
Charlie liked Central Park. It was peaceful, and there were plenty of trees and grass that reminded him of home. With all the cement in the big city, it was the only place that came close to home, and he missed it.
They walked until they found a bench to sit on. Zach needed to rest for a while; his knees were starting to ache. As they sat, they watched people enjoying the beautiful day in the park.
Charlie noticed a man playing with a dog. There was a flat grassy area with a few trees. The dog was fetching a ball when the man threw it. It reminded him of the way he used to play with Max. Then he bowed his head and began to cry. He tried to hide his tears, but Zach was onto him.
“Ya don’t have to hide, it’s only me,” Zach said. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing, I’ll be okay,” Charlie said as he wiped his tears away with his hands.
Zach reached in his pocket and handed him a handkerchief.
“Thanks,” Charlie said using the handkerchief to wipe his tears and nose. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I feel like a fool.”
“Don’t, I’m the fool,” Zach said. “I’ve been spending all this time preoccupied with getting tickets, and it’s obvious something’s bothering ya. What is it?” Then he noticed the man playing with his dog. Suddenly it dawned on him. “He reminds ya of Max, doesn’t he?” Charlie’s tears began to flow again. “I’m sorry, do ya wanna go?”
“No, it’s not just the dog,” Charlie replied. “In three days it’ll be my birthday. It’s also the day my family was murdered.”
Zach’s jaw dropped slightly. He didn’t know what to say. He placed his hand on Charlie’s shoulder.
“Not all of your family are gone, Charlie. Ya still got me.”
Charlie managed to smile slightly. “Thanks. Have I ever told you how sometimes ya remind me of my brother?” He began to tell Zach about the time they went fishing one day after church. “Robert was fidgeting as usual and fell in the pond with his church clothes on, and I had to go in after him. When we got home, our mama was so mad. She scolded us good for ruining our church clothes. Boy did we get it.” He rubbed his backside as though it still hurt.
For nearly an hour, Charlie told stories to Zach. He even managed to laugh a few times when he talked about his family. He found that talking about his family seemed to bring them back to life again, even if it were just for a little while, and that brought him joy.