The World Series played on three TVs mounted from the ceiling in a lounge at Logan airport. El Tiant was throwing well. His pitches were going down faster and better than the two scotches Jack already had. His third was on deck. The bartender wiped a spot near his glass.
“Louie is pitching good, huh.”
Jack looked at him and then glanced at the screen. He saw the catcher give the sign. “He’s going to throw a curve and Joe Morgan is going to whack it.” Seconds later Morgan swung and hit the ball squarely. The camera followed the ball. Curt Gowdy’s started to yell the drive had homerun distance and the game was scoreless. The ball went to the right of the foul pole. The bar noise that had quieted exploded in relief.
“That was close,” the bartender said, as if he was describing an incoming missile. “Say, how did you know, wait a minute. Aren’t you? What are you doing here?”
“Emergency back home.”
“Sorry pal—must be rough. Hey, the round is on me. Here’s to the Red Sox.”
“Thanks- to the Red Sox.” Jack gulped the drink and started to cough. “Went down too fast,” he sputtered and grabbed a glass of water. People looked in his direction. After a few seconds he regained his voice.
“It’s all right,” he said and held up his hand. “I’m okay, really.” He slid from his seat and dropped a twenty on the bar. “Boston will win,” he said, “we’ve got the players this year.” He didn’t stay around to discuss it.
His flight to Chicago was out of C-15---the last gate in the terminal. People were crowded around TVs that airport management brought out in honor of the Red Sox. When you’re in Boston everyone is a fan. Still, the strangeness of trotting down a cement corridor instead of the dirt and grass of a ball field wasn’t lost on him. Going home would be hard enough, but this… He reached C-15 and plopped down in a chair facing the window. Planes bearing the United logo were on either side of his gate. He watched like a kid planes disengage from the ramps and rumble toward the runway. He never got tired of the magic.
Going to the airport with his father had been like a trip to Disneyland. It didn’t matter that he was forced to wear a tie and a jacket. To his father this was a formal occasion. For Jack the noise of the propellers, and the crowds of people waiting made up for the enforced dressed code.
“Come on Yankaleh, “ his father would say, “The plane is here.” They would race down the corridors of Midway airport. Their gate was always the last one. His dad walked fast; he had to run to keep up. His father was tall with long legs but he was a little boy. It must have been a sight. At the gate he dodged and wiggled his way to the front and waited by the ramp door. After what seemed a long time, he heard the whine of an engine and then moments later a click. The door opened. People streamed through. His aunt from Toronto was a tiny woman who was easy to miss. He kept his eyes peeled. Within minutes, everyone seemed to have exited the plane. The crowd thinned.
He saw his dad take a step or two. His father had a big smile. Yankeleh turned toward the door. There she was---his only aunt, Dvorah. She was all smiles despite her heart problems and the past. She didn’t have to sweep him up in her arms; they were almost the same height.
“So how’s by you?” His father asked.
“Good,” she replied.
He came to learn that bad was over there, in Europe, where everything had been lost. It was always good, here.
Jack rubbed his face. It wasn’t that many years ago. Now his father was in the hospital, and he was coming home.