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The Red Glove
By William Patton
Danny trailed his father into Sears. They had not spoken a word in the station wagon on the way to the mall, and Danny didn't mind the opportunity to put a little space between them. Ordinarily, Danny and his father did not talk much when they were alone, but to Danny this silence had seemed different. Danny could not remember ever going to the mall without his mother along, certainly never at night after dinner. His father had not looked over at him during the drive, not even at the long stoplight on Route 19, and he had seemed to be holding himself tight, the muscles in his cheeks slightly clenched, the way he always looked when there was a Job to be Done.
Earlier that day Danny and his father had gone to a Pirates game. The Pirates, World Champions last year in 1971, had lost to the New York Mets, 42. On the way to the car after the game, Danny realized he had left his most prized possession, his baseball glove autographed by Pittsburgh's star right fielder, Roberto Clemente, under his seat. They went back for it, but it was gone. Danny was devastated. His father reported the glove to the stadium Lost and Found, and his mother called the stadium when they got home, but no one had turned it in. The glove was gone. As Danny's mother hung up the kitchen phone, Danny heard his father say, "He should have been more careful."
Danny was short for a ten-year-old, and skinny, and he had a tiny red scar on his chin from when he had tripped over a kickball in second grade gym class and fell face first on the asphalt in front of Suzie MacNamara. He played Little League baseball for the township's Little Cubs, and was known to his teammates as "Klutzo." Still, Danny loved baseball. He loved going to Pirates games with his father. And no matter what anyone said, Danny had always thought to himself, I have a glove autographed by Roberto Clemente. No one else he knew did. He actually used the glove, too; he never gave serious thought to keeping it safe and clean in his bedroom. To Danny it was a sort of good luck charm, and even though he could never point to anything wonderful that happened because of the glove, it was something to be proud of. It was old and authentically scarred, and had been used by Danny's father when he was young. Danny wanted people to see it. And right there, on the outside of the thumb, was proof that he had actually met Roberto Clemente.
His father had helped him get the autograph. One Sunday afternoon the previous season Danny had been standing at the railing in Three Rivers Stadium on the first base side with his father watching the Pirates take batting practice. As the team trotted in to the dugout before the game, his father called out to Roberto Clemente, "Hey, Roberto," like his father and the Puerto Rican athlete were old friends. Clemente walked right over to Danny and his father and smiled. No one else was near. Roberto Clemente shook Danny's hand, then his father's. Danny could still remember the feel of the cool, brown, calloused hand, could still see the stitching of the letters on his uniform. Just as Roberto Clemente was about to turn away, Danny's father asked him to sign the glove. Roberto Clemente looked at Danny holding the glove and smiled again. Danny's father gave him a pen from his shirt pocket as Danny, wide-eyed, handed him the glove. Roberto Clemente signed it with a flourish and handed the glove back to Danny and winked. Now the glove was gone, and his father thought it was his fault.
They had come to Sears to buy a new glove. Danny watched the legs of his father's trousers snapping above his brown socks and cushioned loafers as they crossed the parking lot and entered the store. Inside, there were not many customers. His father's blue plastic windbreaker made a rhythmic swooshing sound as they passed through the aisles. His father led the way past the cosmetics counter and the racks of women's clothing to the sporting goods department in the back of the store. There were camping tents and wading pools, golf clubs and fishing boats set up in the broad central walkway. His father headed straight for the row of baseball equipment. Danny noticed that shopping with his father was nothing like shopping with his mother. His father moved with a singleness of purpose; he was not distracted by the mannequins in bright floral dresses or bellbottom pants, or any of the other colorful displays beckoning you first down one row and then the next. By the time Danny turned down the baseball aisle, his father was already sizing up the gloves hanging from the long wall, taking them down from their hooks, flexing them and slapping his fist in the webbings.
Danny stood at the end of the row, scuffing his red tennis shoes against the shiny linoleum floor, watching his father. His father had his back turned to him, but at the far end of the aisle Danny could see his father's face reflected in a display case of knives and hunting rifles mounted on the wall. His father had his head tilted to one side, giving serious consideration to the merits of each glove he took down from the wall. Danny picked up a glove next to him and tried to look at it the way his father did, but he could not fix the same expression on his face. He did not want a new glove. He wanted his old one back. None of these gloves would matter.
His father suddenly turned and marched down the aisle toward him carrying a small outfielder's glove. Danny watched him approach. "Here you go, how about this one," his father declared. It was not a question. Danny couldn't believe his father was serious. The glove he was holding didn't even look like a baseball glove. It was bright red. A pinkish red, the color of a baboon's butt on Wild Kingdom. Would any of his Little League teammateswould the great Roberto Clementeever be caught dead with a glove like that? "Try it on," his father said. He held out the glove to Danny.
"But Dad, it's red," was all Danny could say.
To read the rest of this story, click here to order a copy of the Summer 2003 issue.
WILLIAM PATTON is a writer living in Brookeville, Maryland.
© 2003 William Patton
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