That was when Mr. Harrison came out of his shop. At first we expected one of his baseball lessons. I thought he should tell Frank to play second and let Larry pitch. Instead, he said in a booming, agitated voice, “All right, all you nigger kids go on home. I don’t want to see you in my back yard again.” Everyone froze.
Mr. Harrison shouted again, this time with a boiling anger in his voice. “Go on now! Jus git outta here!”
It shattered the moment and I yelled, “You can’t do that”, expecting everyone to protest with me. But no one did. The raw glare of hatred and jealousy is too overwhelming. It blinded our still innocent eyes. Already wiser in the ways of the world; Chicken Coop, Gus, and Willy climbed back through the fence without a word.
There weren’t enough players left for sides. Frank tried to start a round robin, but no one had the stomach for it. The game was over.
I ran home where I found my mother at the kitchen window watching us.
“Mother,” I cried, “did you see what Mr. Harrison did?” Why those friends should be singled out for banishment still eluded me but I knew she would not let such outrage stand. “Just get on in the house. It’s none of our business.” “But, you saw what he did, didn’t you?” She had seen it, and I saw in her eyes what I have come to believe was a conflation of anger and despair at her powerlessness before a cruelty she dared not confront. “Go on, take your bath,” she said. “We’ll talk about it when Daddy gets home.” She could still summon the voice that would not tolerate dilly dallying.
We didn’t talk about it when my father got home. He had worked hard that afternoon and discussions prompted by the Presidential visit had upset him. He dismissed my questions with, “It’s Garnet’s yard. We got no right to tell him who he can and can’t let in it. Ain’t none of our business.” Prisoner of a world that brooked no dissent, he would say no more.
Later that night I heard my mother crying in the kitchen while she canned vegetables from the garden. She often prayed as she worked. This time she prayed a different prayer.