No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

By Jane Greensmith
www.janegs.com

Copyright © 2004.
 All rights reserved.

Chapter 5

 

The Riverdale Boys and Girls Club was easily the ugliest building Kathleen had ever seen. It was a concrete bunker, only larger. Tall, narrow slits cut in the pre-cast concrete served as windows. Kathleen half expected to see men in tights aiming arrows at them through the slits as if the bunker were a medieval fortress and Harry's SUV was a battering ram.

Harry patted Kathleen's arm, acknowledging the look of horror on her face.

"Do kids really come here to play?" she asked him incredulously.

"It's all they've got. Come inside, and I'll show you around."

Inside was better. Juvenile artwork decorated the corridors, and juvenile noises bounced off the concrete walls. Kathleen's nostrils flared as her senses encountered the unique combination of sweat, acrylic paint, peanut butter, and plastic that characterized closed spaces occupied by children.

"Hey, Coach, think fast." Kathleen ducked to avoid the football that whizzed past her head on its way to Harry. He leaped up and caught it, then backhanded it the boy who had greeted him.

"Hey Luis. What's happening, man? You got the equipment out yet?"

Luis replied that he did, so Harry tossed the boy the keys to his car. "Go get Manuel and unload the boxes of jerseys out of the back of my car."

" Jerseys ! Awesome!" And with that Luis ran down the hall yelling for Manuel, while Harry led Kathleen over to the reception desk.

"Hey Connie! How's tonight's turnout?"

Connie, a fifty-something woman with a bright smile and a brighter blouse, threw up her hands. "We're busting at the seams, Coach. You got all the kids to come here, but I've got no teachers. I've got no supplies. You're full of ideas, but I'm no magician. You've gotta do something!"

"I'm working on it, Connie. I'm working on it. Now get over here and meet my good friend, Kathleen Kavenaugh." Connie came around from behind the reception desk to shake Kathleen's hand while Harry continued, "Kathleen's going to take Rosa 's class tonight. Kathleen, meet Consuela Inez Martinez, but she'll hit you if you call her anything but Connie."

Connie put her hands on her hips and scowled lovingly at Harry. Then she took Kathleen's hands in hers and patted them protectively. "It's nice to meet you, Kathleen. And welcome. I really mean it." 

Looking into Connie's black eyes that were fairly sparking with energy, Kathleen instinctively knew that Connie was a straight shooter and a force to be reckoned with.

Connie gave Harry a sidelong glance. "This big lug here has got a mouth on him that just won't quit."

Kathleen agreed with Connie so heartily that the older woman threw back her head and laughed. "We're going to get along just fine, honey." Then she nodded to Harry, "Now get your rear outside and play ball with those boys before they tear down the building. I'll show your girlfriend around and get her set up."

Kathleen's protest that she wasn't Harry's girlfriend was undermined when Harry gave her a peck on the cheek, told her she was in good hands, and then jogged down one of the corridors.

I'm going to strangle the man with my bare hands!

"He gets your goat, doesn't he," Connie smirked. "It's the aggravating ones you have to watch yourself with, honey. They can steal your heart without you even noticing."

Kathleen didn't trust herself to say anything. She just shook her crimson face and ground her teeth.

Mercifully, Connie didn't need Kathleen to keep up her end of the conversation. As they toured the complex, Connie told Kathleen the history of the Riverdale Boys and Girls Club.

Connie had met Harry two years ago at a multicultural workshop hosted by the state's governor. 

"Bless his heart, he had 'liberal white boy with a guilt complex' written all over him. This is the gym--we've got a karate class going on. Oh, do you know Maggie Obermann," she asked as Maggie recognized Kathleen and bowed to her when they peeked in one of the rooms.  "She's another of Harry's friends--she's so good with the kids, makes them bow to her, really teaches them respect. Now Kathleen, I don't mind exploiting people who want to be exploited, and your friend Harry wanted to be exploited in the worst way."

Connie took a break from her tour and history lesson to referee a dispute over whose turn it was at one of the computers in the Club's library.

Kathleen had never, in the twenty-two years she had known Harry Kinsley, thought of him as someone who wanted to be exploited. A tiny thought began to form in the back of her brain that perhaps she didn't know him as well as she thought she did. She certainly had no idea how he spent his time away from K-B-K.  She had no idea that he had been coaching the Club's baseball and softball teams.  And she definitely had no idea that he was in league with a woman with a Dolly Parton figure and a penchant for pink lipstick.

Connie went back to the history lesson. She explained that when she met Harry she had been working for the state. Her department was responsible for handing out tax relief to businesses that funneled two percent of their profits into community-based initiatives. "I made sure that I sat next to Harry at lunch and I talked to him non-stop about how Riverdale needed a place where the kids of the people who work the weekend conventions could go and be safe. Riverdale has lots of day care, but nothing for kids to do when their parents are working Friday and Saturday nights. I told him that the only way to keep these dirt-poor kids out of gangs was to give them something to do other than hang out in game rooms and parking lots."

Kathleen learned that Harry had spearheaded the entire effort. He had talked the major hotel chains into co-funding the bulk of the expense to start up the Club since two percent of K-B-K 's profits didn't go nearly far enough.  Then he set up a non-profit corporation and recruited a board of directors to oversee the Club. Connie quit her job with the state and ran the operation, while Harry kept their allies happy and the corporation afloat.

By the time Connie had finished her narrative, she had shown Kathleen the whole complex, ending with the arts and crafts room. There she thanked Kathleen again for helping out and asked her what she was going to teach.

"What would you like me to teach?"

"Honey, you're the teacher."

"Actually, I'm not. Until we got to the parking lot, Harry didn't even tell me where we were going tonight."

"Either you trust him a lot more than you should, or you let him push you around more than is healthy. Either way, you seem like a bright girl. I'm sure you can teach five little girls something worthwhile."

Kathleen fought back the wave of panic that was threatening to paralyze her. "What was Rosa going to teach tonight," she managed to mutter.

Before Connie could answer, they heard a shout from the library and the noise of scuffling.  Connie took off to sort things out, leaving Kathleen standing in the doorway feeling almost as foolish as she looked. Fortunately the five girls playing a clapping game on the floor didn't bother to look up, so Kathleen had time to compose herself and take in the lay of the land. Arts and crafts room! More like paper and glue hell, Kathleen thought. The urge to maim Harry returned in full force--I'll deal with him later! 

Kathleen closed the door and took a quick inventory. Judging by the supplies and finished artwork it seemed to Kathleen that Rosa, the regular teacher, basically didn't do much beyond having the kids draw with markers. Kathleen was pretty sure that she could do better than that. Of course, origami.

Kathleen's roommate during her sophomore year at Western State was an exchange student from Japan . Kathleen taught Reiko English, and Reiko taught Kathleen origami. In the beginning was the square. Kathleen fervently hoped that she could remember how to make some of the models.

Deep breath. "Hi girls."

No response. Okay, try again.

"Hi. I'm Kathleen. I'm substituting for..."

"We know," said a girl of about nine. She picked up the long, glossy braid that stretched down her back and twirled it insolently. "You're another one of Coach's chicks who he conned into substituting for Rosa because she's hung over again. Right?"

Another one of...? Kathleen choked down a hot retort, remembering that she was there as a role model. And then a wicked thought found expression. "Actually, I'm his bodyguard. I'm a black belt in martial arts with names you can't even pronounce and my job is to keep the chicks at bay."

At this all the girls except the one with the braid giggled.

"But, you see, being a bodyguard is mostly boring--not totally, because the body must actually be guarded--but mostly boring. So...do you want to know what I do when I'm not keeping Harry, er Coach, chick-free?"

Four of the five girls nodded. The fifth yawned.

"I drive his car--which is sort of like the Batmobile, only faster. And..." Kathleen paused, looked around suspiciously, tiptoed to the door, opened it and peered down the hallway, closed the door, then said in a whisper, "I fold. I experience paper in a very Zen way." She held up her hands, rotating them. "These hands are licensed. I use them to create magical animals that Harry, er Coach, and I use to ward off evil groupie babes." Named Joanna.

Kathleen picked up a piece of pink paper. "Do you know how to make a square?"

Their nods indicated they did, but Kathleen showed them how to make a perfect square anyway, an origami square, by using diagonals.

"Now, I want you guys to follow along, so get a sheet of paper and create a square."

Incredibly, they did what Kathleen told them to do. Now for the hard part. I haven't actually folded in years.

"Now fold your square in half four different ways--long ways and diagonally. Think of the world as rectangles and triangles. Good, that's right. Now fold along all four creases at once, and then hold like so..." She held her two thumbs on either side of the point.  "And press together. Voila. That's an old Japanese term, meaning Eureka ."

The girls, all five this time, laughed again. Kathleen seized the opportunity to ask them their names.

"You're funny," said Maria, a sweet-lipped tiny girl who seemed to Kathleen to be as fragile as a morning glory.

"You ain't seen nothing yet, kid," was Kathleen's blithe reply. Truth was, she really couldn't remember how to make the model she had started. But, in for a nickel, in for a dime. What was it Harry had told her on her first day of work at K-B-K? What you don't know, fake. Nine times out of ten, you'll hit it close enough to count.

"Let's see, you fold two edges in, to form a kite-shape. I dunno if this is right--looks more like an ice cream cone to me. Oops, I think it's supposed to open on bottom, or is it on top?"

"What are you making," asked Carly, the girl with the braid. Her curiosity was rapidly overpowering her earlier hostility, and she was peering down on the table where Kathleen was unfolding what she had done and was starting over with mock seriousness.

"A crane. Actually, I thought we might make a thousand cranes, but I'm beginning to think that I'll settle for just one."

"Why would we want to make a thousand?" a girl named Shondra asked.

"Well, Connie was telling me that you kids don't have any grass to play on here and that there's no money to turn that field by the parking lot into a playground. Lots of people believe that cranes bring good luck and folding cranes brings luck as well. There are even some people who will fold a thousand paper cranes for a wedding, to bring the bride and groom happiness and lots of kids. Sometimes they fold a thousand cranes to help them focus on doing something hard or something good."

"And you think we ought to fold cranes so that we can get a playground with grass?" Carly looked skeptical, and out of habit picked up her braid and twirled it. "My mama would say you're loco."

"Maybe so. But while we're folding cranes we'll have plenty of time to think up ways to help get a playground, right."

Maria frowned and said softly, "I don't think Rosa will let us fold cranes. She'll just give us stupid coloring books and then sneak outside to smoke."

"Will you come back next week?" Shondra's eyes were eager tinged with a wariness that spoke of disappointed hopes.  Kathleen was surprised to realize that she hadn't minded spending a Friday night folding cranes with five little girls whose mothers were working for minimum wage and who didn't have any grass to play on. Maybe Connie would label her a liberal white girl who carried a load of guilt, but Kathleen didn't particularly care. Little girls should have something to do other than color, and kids should play on grass.

"If Connie and Harry want me to come back every Friday and help you guys fold cranes and do other artsy craftsy stuff, I will." Then she added, "If you want me to come back, I will."

"We want to learn to dance." Mandy declared. The other girls clamored their agreement.

Kathleen's eyes twinkled mischievously. "I practically invented salsa."

"Oh, teach us, teach us, teach us" was the chorus that answered both her teasing boast and her query regarding her future presence at the Club. They agreed, she'd be back.

The arts and crafts class was about to commence folding their third set of cranes, which would have brought the grand total to eighteen for the night and only nine hundred and eighty-two to go, when the door was flung open and Luis yelled, "Dodge ball in the gym. Boys against girls."

Kathleen found herself abandoned as pigtails went flying out the door after Luis. Carly stuck her head back in the door, "Come on Kathleen, with you and Maggie on our side we'll clobber the boys."

#

The ride back to Juniper Hills had been tense. By the time Harry pulled up to Kathleen's house, they still hadn't made peace. Kathleen was being uncharacteristically stubborn, and Harry was running out of patience. He parked the car and followed her up the steps. She turned to sweetly thank him for driving her home, but he would have none of it. They were going to finish their discussion, and Kathleen wasn't going to bed until they did. She smiled serenely.

The continuation of the discussion was delayed slightly because Kathleen and Harry had to greet her father, chat with his Friday-night poker mates, namely Lettie and Gramma Bridges and Sam Goddard, proprietor and specimen extraordinaire of the body-building magic possible at Goddard's Gym. Then, they had to sample the tofu ice-cream Byron Kavenaugh had whipped up for the evening's festivities.

"Almost good," Kathleen complimented her father after she swallowed her first spoonful of iced bean curd flavored with peach bits. He glowed. His last batch had been totally inedible. Progress!

After the pleasantries were beginning to wan and the poker players were exhibiting an eagerness to commence another round, Harry caught Kathleen's eye and nodded his head and jerked his thumb, indicating that Kathleen's presence was required on the back deck. Apparently the tofu ice cream hadn't softened his resolve to continue to try to give her a piece of his mind.

Once they were settled in lounge chairs on the deck and Harry had popped off the lid of a Corona and Kathleen had flicked off the lights so that she could enjoy the moon rays bouncing off her flower-pot garden, Harry picked up where he had laid off in the car. "One time. You come to the Club one time, and you turn it upside down. I don't know why Connie agreed to let you do this."

"Oh, be a sport, Harry. We're just going to rotate for one week. My little girls want to learn to salsa dance..."

"And you're going to teach them," Harry drawled, his raised eyebrows reflecting the smugness in his voice.

"I practically invented salsa."

"So I've heard."

Kathleen practiced her Princess Grace smile again, eliciting a groan from the depths of Harry's soul.

"I've created a monster," he said. "If you want Maggie's room for a dance lesson why don't you just have Maggie teach her karate kids arts and crafts for one week and leave the ball team out of it?"

"Because we want the team and its fearless leader, as well as Maggie and her kids to help fold cranes, and next week is a good time for you all to learn. I'll teach you and you'll teach the others. Believe me, it's going to take more than five little girls to fold a thousand cranes..."

"It's going to take more than a thousand cranes to get a grassy playground." Harry said in his best professorial tone.  "Kathleen, I fear you've raised hopes and expectations that cannot be met. There's no money in this year's budget for such a project. I applaud your enthusiasm. I never expected you to really cotton to the Club so completely. But, Kath, I've never pictured you as the Lady Bountiful type."

"You don't fool me, Harry Kinsley, so you can get off your high horse. I think you're just scared to do anything non-sports related."

"This has nothing to do with sports..."

"My point exactly."

"Kathleen..." He tried for a parting shot, but she had aced him. He knew with all the certainty in the world that he was going to be folding cranes next Friday night. His manhood depended on it.

"I'm just ‘leveling the playing field,' as you like to say."

While Harry rolled his eyes at her, Kathleen felt a tiny pang of guilt that victory should taste so sweet.

"Okay, okay. And you can wipe that silly smirk off your face, Kathleen Kavenaugh, or I'll force-feed you frozen peach gunk. Now, tell me about your date tomorrow night."

"We're not going there, Harry." Kathleen shook her head to dissuade him, but Harry, having lost one battle, was not about to be dissuaded.

"Where's 'God's gift to women' taking you?"

"I presume by that crack you mean Phil Van Demeer. We're going to the Flagstaff House."

Harry whistled. "You made a good impression on Phil, I'd say. And then...?"

"'And then what?"

"My point exactly. Dinner takes no more than two hours, even at the Flagstaff House. What else are you doing?" Kathleen looked perplexed by the question, so he took the advantage. "You have been on a date before, Kathleen?"

"I'm not going to answer that question."

"Call me if you need to."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"Call me." He paused. "If you need to..." He paused again. "What are you wearing?"

At this stage of the third-degree, Kathleen smiled seductively. "My little black dress."

"Not the one you wore to Jack and Colleen's anniversary party? Good God girl, there was an appalling lack of material consumed in the making of that dress."

"My point exactly."

"Kathleen, the cranes are depending on you," he whispered into the darkness.

 

Back to JaneGS.com or Jump to Chapter:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  Epilogue