The is the last part of the first draft. Sarah recommended further exploration of Eugene’s character, Fiona’s & Skinner’s past, as well as more descriptions of ‘Mahalia’. The original story is around 6,500 words but is already at 8,000 after editing. The ending hasn’t changed but, hopefully, the reader will have a clearer picture of the characters when it’s finally done-done-done.

Skinner watched the teams take the field as their names were called. He fought the lump in his throat each year on opening ceremonies.
“This is my favorite part.” his wife would say.
“You gonna take my picture Daddy?” his son would say.
Skinner stood by the left field corner. Near the World Series sign. The coaches always waved at him when they looked in his direction. Sometimes, he waved back.
Skinner’s tired heart jumped when he saw Eugene’s red hair from across the field. A smile creased his face when he noticed the long, almost black bat on Eugene’s shoulder.
Eugene and Delores McCabe watched as the player’s names were called one at a time.
“Jes a minute” Eugene said as Delores looked at her watch. “They’ll come off in a minute and I’ll show ‘em my bat and then, I guess, we go to Okrafolk.”

The Mayor gave a short speech on sportsmanship that went unnoticed by most. The little league commissioner led the audience in Prayer after the National Anthem.
Chipper Hunt’s team, the Lions, weren’t playing the first game. Eugene ran over to Chipper as he came off the field. Delores didn’t notice Eugene take off. When she did, she followed.
“Hey look Chipper. I gotta bat now. A good bat. Hit a Grand Slam at the World Series.”
“Pumpkin Boy.” the cadre of boys around Chipper smirked. “Well, that’s really nice bat you got there. Where’d you get it? A store for crappy bats?”
“It’s a good bat. Best bat ‘round. Mr. Skinner–”
“I heard old Skinner was screwing your fat momma to death.”
Laughter.
Eugene gripped the bat. He heard Delores McCabe coming up behind.
“Shut up Chipper. This is the best bat ever. Ain’t the bat no how, Skinner said, it’s the batter.”
Chipper pushed Eugene.
“You couldn’t hit the broad side of barn with that old bat. Probably made for the old man to use as a cane anyhow.”
Laughter.
Eugene pushed Chipper back. Knocking himself and Chipper on the ground. Eugene straddled Chipper’s torso as the other boys began to pull him and smack him in the head.
“You can’t talk to me like that. You hear me. I can hit. I’m the son of strong man. My momma was prettier than all ya’lls ugly mommas.”
“Get off me”
The boys pulled Eugene off.
Eugene grabbed a ball out of a boy’s hand and ran.

Delores came up.
“Where is he going?” Deloris asked the boys.
“We don’t know ma’am.” Chipper replied. “We was just telling him what a great bat he had and how sorry we was ‘bout his momma when he took off.”
Eugene ran through the crowd until he reached the gate leading out to the field. Without thinking, he burst through the gate and ran towards home plate. The field was empty.
The crowd focused on the fat kid with stained elbows who had just ran on the field. A coach came on the field.
“Son, you can’t just come out here.”
Eugene swung the bat at him. He missed.
“I’m the son of a strong man…momma…I can hit like everyone else.”
The coach saw the tears on Eugene’s angry face. Skinner was coming down the left field fence line.
What in the hell is that boy doing?
“Ok son. Don’t swing that bat at people. I’m sure you upset.”
A murmur went through the crowd. Someone yelled.
“Get off the field Pumpkin Boy.”
Sporadic laughter.
The coach moved in.
Eugene swung at the man’s head.
“Ok fine boy. Come off the field in two minutes or I’ll call the sheriff out here. You hear me boy. You hear me pumpkin boy?” the coach said.
Eugene watched the man walk off.
The crowd began to call out and laugh.
“Get off the field.”
“Go home.”

For what seemed the millionth time in his twelve years Eugene Klumpkin threw the ball into the air. He swung level and hard.
The ball thumped on home plate.
Skinner had reached the dugout when the second ball went up.
“Eugene!” he called out. Eugene didn’t turn to look at Skinner.
His focus was on the center field fence.
“Strike one” someone called.
Chipper Hunt’s voice hollered, “Red Head Pumpkin loser can’t hit.”
From the sidelines a strong black woman’s voice cried.
“You go ‘head honey. You show all dem what a big Red-Headed Hammer can do. You show ‘em honey.”
Eugene threw the ball into the air and swung.
Thud.
“Eugene, come on boy. This ain’t no time.” Skinner said, hoping Eugene would just touch the ball once.
Eugene picked up the ball quickly, threw it up, swung and missed again. Then again.
The crowd clapped politely as children still laughed.
The Coach walked back on the field.
No, Eugene thought. No. This ain’t what they’ll ‘member. It can’t be.Eugene threw the ball up and swung.

The sound echoed around the park. The ball disappeared into the blue sky and finally came back to earth 314 feet away. The crowd cheered and applauded. Eugene heard the coach say, “Ho-lee Shit.” Skinner laughed louder than he’d laughed in thirty years.
Then Eugene Klumpkin tossed another ball in the air, swung level, and sent another ball flying. He left Mahalia one last homerun to talk about. And they did, long after Red Hammer left for Okrafolk Orphanage.

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