- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Chris Lynch (b. 1962), a Boston native, is an award-winning author of several acclaimed young adult novels, including Freewill (2001), which won the Michael L. Printz Honor, and National Book Award finalist Inexcusable (2005). Lynch holds an MA from the writing program at Emerson College, and teaches in the creative writing MFA program at Lesley University. He mentors aspiring writers and continues to work on new literary projects while splitting time between Boston and Scotland.
In 1975, twelve-year-old Richard befriends Napoleon, a Caribbean newcomer to his Catholic school, hoping that Napoleon will learn to love baseball and the Red Sox, and will win acceptance in the racially polarized Boston school.
SOURCE: VOYA, December 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 5)
Napoleon Charlie Ellis showed up just after Christmas. When he landed here there was almost a foot of snow on the ground. When he took off from Dominica, there probably was not.
That was the first shortchanging he got. The second was that they shoved him back down into seventh grade when he was supposed to be in the eighth. Language problem was what they were talking about. What language did you speak back home in Dominica, I asked him. English, he told me, and told me in some pretty fine English, I must say. So I didn't quite get why they did that. Anyway.
"They announced my name when I came in," he said to me. "So you have the advantage of me."
"What is your name?"
"It ain't half what your name is."
"Ain't?" Napoleon Charlie Ellis asked me, sounding very surprised. My ain't never surprised anybody in the past. Mr. Ellis apparently expected Boston, Massachusetts, USA, Hub of the Solar System, Athens of America, to be an Ain't-Free-Zone. It would be my job to enlighten him.
Richard Riley Moncreif, I told him. Ain't it purdy? I added. I was loaded with confidence that day, and lots of days before then too. Meeting people, talking to people, mixing ... I never had any problem with that the way a lot of people do.
Napoleon Charlie Ellis stuck out his hand, right there in the boys' bathroom, and after a small pause I stuck out mine. My hand.
It was an excellent shake, kind of formal, kind of hard, little bit of challenge, little bit squeezy. I had very little experience with the handshaking bit since it was never really much of a thing in my circle, and I never figured it to be all that crammed with meaning, the way grown men take it so seriously. But if I wanted to try thinking that there was more to it than a couple of guys trying to show each other how firm their grip was, I might have thought, this feels like the hand of somebody I could like.
But I didn't want to try thinking that. Don't make things more complicated than they should be would be my philosophy if I had one. So.
It was a fairly tough grip to match squeeze for squeeze if it came down to it. That was what I thought mattered about the handshake of Napoleon Charlie Ellis.
He was well known before he knew it, his story circulating through our little population before he did. He was not a full year older than me, despite the being kept back thing, which they could call lots of other things but we recognized as being kept back. I was on the old side of seventh and Napoleon was on the young side of eighth, so we were pretty close anyhow. I'm sure he recognized that and that was one reason we became friends so quickly. And I was a little bit taller too, so he could respect me, even if this was only my first run-through of the seventh grade.
"I do wish you wouldn't do that," he said to me.
"Making the jokes. About my getting reversed. I don't care for it. I can forget about it when you don't mention it, since there is nobody here who knew me when I was in eighth grade, but when you bring it up, I am reminded. I don't care to be reminded."
Which was, I guess, the third part of the shortchanging of Napoleon Charlie Ellis. All his people were somewhere else.
"I'll stop," I said. Napoleon had a very smart face. Could make me appreciate things I couldn't manage on my own. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you wanted out of a guy. Mostly, I was happy enough knowing what I knew, and doing what I did. So this was a thing that we'd have to keep an eye on.
But as long as he had me looking, what did I know about being removed from my everything? That was for sure something Napoleon had that I didn't. All my people were right here around me, always were and always would be. I had what and who I needed right here. Mine was that kind of neighborhood, that kind of life. "I'm sorry," I said, mostly just to make the thing go away. "I'll stop."
"Yes, you said that," he said.
See there, he could have said, okay, cool, Richard. Great. He could, and obviously did, notice that I felt bad enough to repeat myself. Could have let me off easier then. So what did he do instead? Pointed it out to me, that I had repeated. Threw a spotlight on it. Cold spot. And that was the way he did things. Letting a guy off was not his way. Like if I made a mistake with him I had to feel it twice, as if I couldn't really get it the first time. Frankly, I didn't understand why a guy should be that tense.
"Oh right, well I just repeated myself because I know you have that problem with the English and all."
Times like this, a joke at just the right moment can really smooth things ...
"Where are you going, Napoleon? Come back, wouldja please just ..."
Did I ask for this? Was I looking for this? Did I go following anybody into the bathroom to spark up a friendship? No, I did not. I was minding my own business, doing just fine, marking off days on the calendar until baseball season started. Next thing I know I'm chasing a guy out of the bathroom to patch things up. Makes no sense. If I ran things, nobody would have names. We would just have batting averages. Then there would be no misunderstandings.
In the meantime, Napoleon Charlie would not get shortchanged by me at least.
"I'm sorry," I said, catching him at the foot of the yellowed marble steps of the school basement. "I didn't mean anything. I swear."
His face remained rigid, only slowly and slightly softening. Then he nodded.
"So, what's your batting average?" I asked.
He let his face freeze again, then headed up the stairs.
"What?" I said, following. "That one wasn't a joke. That was a real question. Jeez, man, you eat a box of nails for breakfast, or what?"CHAPTER 2
HARD DOWN THE MIDDLE
I am not a scientist.
And I'm not a poet or a bishop or a musician or an architect or a statesman or a television repairman.
Lots of things don't make sense to me. The solar system, for one. God. Evolution, the piano and anyone who plays it, and the Red Sox not winning the World Series even one time since 1918.
These things are unexplainable.
Here's another. A city where the people dislike each other so much that the court had to force the different kinds of kids to sit together in school. Where people throw rocks and try to tip over school buses. Where the mothers of some students show up on the news at night and they are screaming the most horrible things they can think of at the kids on the buses. And then one of those same mothers comes on the interview to say it's not about hating anybody.
I'm fairly certain in that case that I do not understand what it is about. I'm not even close. And it hurts my head to try, so I don't.
"You see this?" I say to Butchie, holding my baseball bat high in the air like Thor with his hammer. "I am going to take this, and I am going to hit that ball, out into that patch of bushes in left."
It is that simple. And it is true. I know it and Butchie knows it. It is a beautiful, simple fact.
"Hard. Down the middle, Butch. That's what I want."
"Anybody can hit that, Richard. Big deal."
"No, anybody cannot hit that. You, for example, can't hit that."
"Can't. I'm talkin' hard. Crank it up and let it go. You can start throwing me your junk in another week or two. I'm not gonna mess myself up trying to hit live balls two months before anybody even wants to play a real game. But you can throw it just as fast as you want. I only want to swing the bat and hit the ball. Hard, and hard. Simple."
I love every bit of it. I love the sound. The sound of the ball approaching, whistling, if it's thrown with the right snap. The sound of my bat whipping around, again, a sort of whistle in there. But above all ... of course. Above all what I love is the sound of my bat hitting his ball. I can hit it. I can hit any one.
I don't do a lot of bragging. But I do my share. It's just part of the game. A fun part. Anything that adds fun to the game is okay anyway, and doesn't do any harm as long as you're not a jerk about it. So I can talk a little, when the opportunity arises.
It doesn't arise all that often when I'm playing basketball. I'm okay at basketball, but just as okay as a zillion other guys. Or football, at which I am better than basketball, but not better than, say, a billion other guys. Or hockey or skeet shooting or Tae Kwan Do, all of which I have tried and none of which I have embarrassed myself at, but neither have I set the world on fire with.
But I can hit a baseball.
Can throw one too.
But I can hit a baseball. I understand hitting a baseball.
"Pitchers are always ahead of hitters in the first weeks, Butchie, so it won't prove anything for you to snap a curve past me in February, will it?"
"Might not prove anything, but it'll sure feel good."
Butchie grins. He's got a good, intimidating pitcher's grin, to go with a very stretched-out body and great wing-span that both give him excellent leverage and the appearance of being even faster than he is. He's tough enough too, in that desperate way pitchers need to be.
I stand in there, scratching hard into the frozen dirt of the petrified batter's box with my spikes. Butchie keeps grinning, leans back, and back and back, then comes over the top, and over and over, and finally reaches his perfect release point and lets go of the first pitch of the 1975 baseball season.
It whistles. It is such a beautiful thing, the sound of it, the east-west spin—which I can pick up easily in the superior clarity of winter's air—that I am almost too excited to react properly to the pitch until ...
I drop to the ground, flopping hard on my back an instant before the ball nails me in the head.
"If you can't stand the heat ..." Butchie says, blowing warm steaming air through his pitching hand.
Could've told you he was going to do that.
I do love this game.CHAPTER 3
According to Napoleon, his mother chose to send him to St. Colmcille's for the sense of community.
I squinted. "Community," I repeated, in a way that was not a question, exactly, but did communicate confusion.
"Catholic community," he pointed out.
"Catholic," I said. "So you're Catholic? Huh. Go figure."
Napoleon shook his head at me. Already not an unusual reaction. "Yes," he said, "go figure."
I should have been getting used to imports of new types to the school by now. Up until my sixth grade year it was nearly unheard of for anybody to come to this school by any other method besides on foot. Neighborhood school, and all. It was a nice school, comfortable old building, big playground, couple of trees splashed around, Garcia's Superette, which sold everything smaller than a car, right on the corner. But it was probably not unlike loads of other parochial schools all over the place. Same uniforms, same Pledge of Allegiance, same boring subjects, same Jesus. So there was never any reason for folks to go to any great trouble to send their kids across the city any distance to get here.
Until the busing thing. Kids crisscrossing the city to go to public schools. In other neighborhoods.
Other people's public schools.
And that's when the "community" thing got big. It was all over the papers. People were defending their "community schools" as something sacred. So lots of people bailed out and started sending their kids to Catholic schools. For the community. No matter how far away the community happened to be. I had to wonder if I just didn't know what the C word meant, or if somebody was changing it.
"What time is it, boys?"
"Oh no, please, not this."
"Come on, Manny, what time is it?"
Manny sighed. Glen stared at me very serious, like a teacher. "Can't you talk about anything else?" Glen asked. Glen was about the sharpest guy we had. Knew all kinds of things. Most of which I figure a person doesn't really need to know. "There are lots of other things worth thinking about."
I gave him back the look. "No there ain't."
Manny lifted the top of his flip-top desk and made like he was disappearing into it. Glen just shook his head and returned to reading.
Napoleon Charlie Ellis entered the room and sat in an empty seat behind me. "Hello," he said to me.
"Hey," I said. "I'll ask you, then. What time is it?"
Napoleon looked deeply puzzled. He peered up at the very big and obvious white moon-face clock hanging at the front of the room.
"Aw," I said, "if you have to look at the clock, you're lost."
"I do not understand ..." Napoleon started.
But Manny couldn't take it anymore. "It's freakin' Freddie time!" he blurted from inside his messy desk.
"Yesssss!" I said.
Gold Dust time.
We had been waiting for this for a long time. Since 1918, to be exact. The arrival of Fred Lynn and Jim Rice to the Red Sox major league club. Everyone who knew the game knew that Lynn was going to be the best, ever. And that Rice was probably going to be the second best. The papers had already been calling them the Gold Dust Twins, the best pair of rookies ever to come along to one team in the same year. I had been charting their progress through the minor leagues since the Sox signed them, and finally, this was their year. And today. Today was the glorious first day, the ritual, where the huge eighteen-wheeler equipment trucks were packed up and dispatched to Winter Haven, Florida. Spring training. Every newscast in town showed footage of the trucks heading off. It was breathtaking.
Fred Lynn. My man. Breathtaking.
Jim Rice. Breathtaking.
"Excuse me?" Napoleon asked.
I ran through the whole scenario again. Happily. I half-hoped he would ask me to do it again.
"Oh," he said instead. "Baseball. I'm sorry, I don't follow baseball. I play cricket."
My turn. "Excuse me?"
I had never even heard of this condition before.
"Everybody likes baseball," I pointed out.
"No, actually," he said politely but firmly. "Everybody does not."
Both Manny and Glen started laughing at this. Not loud mocking laughter, but the low, teasing, challenging kind. "So," Manny said in his exaggerated accent, "Meester Beisbol, whatchu gonna do about thees?"
I looked at Napoleon behind me, then over to Manny, then back to Napoleon. "I'm going to help him," I said calmly. "He needs help."
"I need no help, thank you."
"You'll be happier...."
He scowled at me. "I am quite happy."
"Look," I said. Napoleon was turning out to be a kind of challenge, like a sneaky tough pitcher who kept making me hit fouls, and I had to figure him out. "These guys here were new once. They listened to me, and look at them now."
Glen gave a little embarrassed wave, and Manny a big, smiley one. It would be hard to notice now, but they really were raw material when the two of them moved in over on Fortuna Avenue five years ago. They didn't need a whole lot of work since they came from Cuba, where Louis Tiant came from, so baseball was already wired into them. But that didn't mean they hadn't come a long way, although I might have stretched it to say they did it by listening to me. Stretched it only a little, though.
As long as you have baseball on your side, you can overcome anything.
I just sort of hung there, turned around in my seat, smiling very friendly at Napoleon, like I was some kind of ambassador or something. He did not smile back. He did not do anything that I could tell. He was flunking.
"So then, the goal is to be like you? That is the key to happiness?"
I hadn't thought of it exactly that way before. Not in those very words. But hearing them now ... I didn't know. A guy could do a lot worse.
I apparently had dwelled on this for a while without answering. "Turn around please," Napoleon said coolly.
"Call me when you need me," I said.
My concentration had been broken for too long now anyway. This was not like me, in late winter, sitting at my desk in school, before the start of lessons. I had to focus.
Fred Lynn....CHAPTER 4
SNAP CRACKLE POP
The temptation is to say that it's a sound like nothing else in the world. But that wouldn't be true. There are variations on the sound that I make when I hit a ball with my bat just right, and all those variations have relatives out there in the non-baseball world.
There is the crack. It sounds so much like the sound a tree trunk makes when an old maple goes down that you have to take cover just in case. Jim Rice is already getting famous for the crack. They say that even coaches who have been in the game for forty years flinch when Rice cracks the ball like he does. When I hit a ball and it goes crack, that is as good as I can hit it. It might not be a home run because maybe I didn't get under it enough and it's a line drive, or maybe I got under it too much and it's a sky-high fly ball, but whether the thing gets out or not I am one happy and satisfied ballplayer because here is a secret I can share: I don't care a ton about scoring runs or winning games. What I care about is hitting a baseball.
Baseball is not about teamwork, no matter what anybody says. It is about pitching and catching and hitting a ball. Especially about hitting a ball. And all of those things get done by one guy alone. Baseball is a selfish game. I don't mind that. That's why it works.
Excerpted from Gold Dust by Chris Lynch. Copyright © 2000 Chris Lynch. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted October 25, 2004
Gold Dust was a good book. I recommend it to grades 6-9. It was entertaining and enjoyable. Chris Lynch did an exceptional job.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 26, 2003
Posted March 4, 2001
Posted November 16, 2013
((I want her family to be in it too and can she own the wwe too?)) Name:Anabel Maria Enderson call me that and die age:20 persona:She is love with Jeff when she entered the wwe she won the '06 divas search contest with her sister Katy she is brothers with Kane and Undertaker looks:6'0 tan skined woman who can run at the speed of light she has a tatoo on her neck that says I am A beliver in god has black hair but always dyes a differnt color like Jeff other:has magic healing powers and is a vampire/werewolf hybrid they are in a prophecy i anit telling you till part 4 ring name:Dragon tag team:Ice((Katy)) sig:Dragon&psi ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Name:Kathleen Darcy Enderson I like Katy better age:same as Ebony persona:She is the exact oppiste of Ebony and she is the famous singer known as Katy Perry and is the dicetor of operationsshe lives a quiet life at home and she wants to be with her sister all the time looks:Ebony's twin sister! Sig:Ice&hearts Ring name:Ice family:Ebony Daniel Joesph other:ask me+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Name:Daniel Quincy Enderson age:35 persona:like Kane but when he is not in the buliding he is always at home as the new co-dierector of operations Ebony is looking into firing him or have demoted to wrestler ring name:Kane(duh!) Other:ask me sig:Kane&Psi ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Name:Joesph Mark Endrson age:37 persona:like undertaker but not in the ring he rasies 3 kids along with his wife their names are:Faith Marucs and Gina ring name:Undertaker(obvious!) Other:ask me sig:Undertaker&Psi((thanks for reading!!!!!))
Posted November 15, 2013
Posted February 6, 2009
No text was provided for this review.
Posted March 24, 2009
No text was provided for this review.