In 1940's rural Mississippi, identical thirteen-year-old twins Jimmy and Billy McGee will play the most important game of their young lives. Challenged by their cross-town enemies to decide once and for all domain over their neighborhood baseball diamond, the boys and an entertaining crew of unique friends are determined to maintain control over their territory. But there's one unexpected dilemma. Their rivals will not accept that the boys' best friend and the team spark plug is black. And suddenly the twins are faced with a decision that will forever shape their lives and how their friends, family and the entire community perceive them.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.33(d)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
Read an Excerpt
The Diamond Thieves
By B.W. Gibson
AuthorHouse LLCCopyright © 2014 B.W. Gibson
All rights reserved.
Today was their thirteenth birthday.
It was Saturday, June 21, 1947 and summer was off to a great start. Identical twins Jimmy and Billy McGee were upstairs in their spacious, attic bedroom of their parents' three-story home in Eugene, Mississippi. Both boys would have preferred to be outdoors playing baseball with their friends but the McGee family house rule was that birthdays were to be spent at home with the family. This year, however, Billy designed a plan that would allow them to see their friends. In order for it to work he and Jimmy needed to be upstairs in their bedroom. They would have to make enough noise to wake their toddler brother, whose bedroom was downstairs, directly across the hall from the attic door. If this happened, their mother would want them as far away from the house as possible.
Billy stared up from his bed at his five model fighter planes suspended at different lengths from the vaulted ceiling. He then looked over at the clock on his nightstand. It was almost noon. Their friend Skip would soon be showing up to perform his role in Billy's plan. Jimmy was relaxing in his bed reading one of his Detective comics. He was so absorbed in Batman and Robin's confrontation with the Catwoman that he didn't notice Billy's restlessness. But all of a sudden, Billy couldn't tolerate the silence any longer. He grabbed the pillow from behind his head and threw it hard across the room at Jimmy. Jimmy dropped his comic and blocked the shot with both hands and laughed. He returned the pillow with identical force; only his aim wasn't so fortunate. The pillow missed Billy by at least a foot and hit the lamp on the nightstand instead, almost knocking it off. The lamp made a loud rattling noise.
"Oh my gosh," Billy exclaimed. "You are so lucky you didn't hit my signed eight by ten photo of Babe Ruth!"
"Um, it's a copy Billy. He didn't actually sign it."
"It don't matter you knucklehead" Billy started in. "The point is," Billy raised his voice, "you could have broken it."
"Well, even if I had hit it and broken it, you could just as easily pick yourself up another one down at the Delta General."
"Nuh-uh! They sold the last one a week ago Jimmy. Besides, I wouldn't be the one headin' there to buy it since I wouldn't have been the one who broke it."
"I don't know why you're so riled up anyway Billy. If you hadn't thrown the pillow at me in the first place, we wouldn't even be havin' this conversation about your precious little photo."
"It's an eight by ten, Jimmy. It ain't little."
"It's a fake! Who cares if it's as big as Goliath?"
"Who cares?!" Billy was appalled. "Jimmy, you're the biggest Babe Ruth fan I know!"
Jimmy didn't respond.
"Well, anyway, you got horrible aim Jimmy. You couldn't hit me if I was a donkey's ass." Had Billy known their mother was across the hall from their open attic door; he would have chosen to whisper the obscenity.
Ellen McGee had just finished checking on little Jordan, who was still napping, when the profanity exploded. She stopped in her tracks and stuck her head up into the attic stairwell.
Jimmy laughed. "You are a donkey's—" he started to say.
"You both had best be watchin' your tongues," Ellen warned with a firm whisper.
Jimmy and Billy looked wide-eyed at one another.
Mrs. McGee looked young for her age of thirty-eight, especially considering sixteen and a half of those years were spent raising her children. During three and a half of those years (1941-1944), she essentially parented Rose, Jimmy and Billy by herself while Tom McGee had been overseas—first, with the 37th Engineer Battalion and later the 209th Engineer Combat Battalion. Ellen was a poised and gentle woman. She loved all four of her children dearly but she had no patience for foul language.
"And what was that noise all about?" Ellen wanted to know.
A slight pause was the boys' initial response. They looked at each other and then realized she must be talking about the rattling of the lamp. "Nothin'," they answered in unison.
"It was just my Ranger Rifle," Billy said. "It almost fell but I caught it."
"Uh-huh," Ellen doubted. "Just keep hushed. It took me long enough to get your little brother to sleep for the two of you to be makin' all that racket and wakin' him up."
"Yes ma'am," they answered.
"Thank Heavens you know how to fib. I'd be gettin' the switch if I'd have broke that lamp," Jimmy whispered. "Now all's you gotta do is learn how to watch your mouth," he laughed.
"Me?" Billy objected. "You curse all the time."
"Shh! Will you keep it down?"
"Why? The whole point is to make noise."
"Yeah, but not for you to tell the whole house that I curse," Jimmy clarified.
"Oh, sorry," Billy apologized. "I don't know why she's complainin' anyhow? The lamp didn't make that much noise."
"I think she just likes complainin'," concluded Jimmy.
"I think all moms do."
Jimmy got up and walked over to pick up Billy's pillow. Throughout their entire lives these identical twin brothers had always had one another's back. Even in their crib days, if one was hungry or thirsty or needed a change of diapers, it was often the other who made the announcement. Appearance-wise, there was not even a birthmark of a difference to distinguish the two boys, so Jimmy took it upon himself to make life easier for everyone by never leaving home without wearing his blue Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cap. They each stood five feet tall, an average height for their age, and weighed one hundred pounds. They had their father's bright blue eyes and their mother's silky brown hair. Their faces were tan from spending most of their free time outdoors.
Personality-wise, James Thomas McGee and William Jefferson McGee were clearly individuals. Jimmy was named after his Great Uncle Jim, a decorated WWI veteran. The twins adored Uncle Jim because he had always treated them as adults. He also had an exceptional memory for details so story-telling time with Great Uncle Jim was always a treat!
Jimmy was exactly eleven minutes older than his brother and anyone who knew them, knew that. In his mind, that made him smarter than Billy, and so Jimmy was determined to show others how he used judgment and logic in everything he did. Jimmy was the quieter of the two. He was a thinker and always gave careful thought before making choices. Every day the twins had chores and Jimmy made sure his were done correctly the first time around to avoid being scolded and forced to do them again.
Named after nobody in particular, Billy was dynamically carefree and constantly craved adventure. Risk and spontaneity drove his persona. Once, when Billy was seven, and going through his "I wonder what would happen if I ..." stage, he nearly killed himself while testing out his envisioned flying abilities by jumping off the kitchen porch roof. He figured if the man from the comic book could do it, then why not give it a shot. So he painted a big red "S" on the front of one of his white T-shirts, tied a red tablecloth around his neck and jumped. Thank Heavens Mrs. McCrosky, from next door, was such a nosey neighbor. Eight weeks and zero chores later, Billy had fifty or more autographs on his cast and had come to the conclusion that the bragging rights he had reaped from his leap had been well worth its failed execution. Mrs. McCrosky had also been the first to witness flames coming out of the twins' older sister Rose's bedroom window one hot summer afternoon when Billy decided to get even with Rose for her tattling addiction by taunting her with a lit match held beneath her curtains. Much to his surprise, the tiny flame jumped up into the fabric and began engulfing the entire left side of the window. That little stunt earned Billy ten lashes from their daddy's switch.
"Hey Jimmy. Come over here and look at this! Quick!" A tiny drip of clear snot had crept to the edge of Billy's right nostril. It was dangling there, free as could be.
Jimmy looked up from beyond the pages of his Detective comic. "What?"
"I've had this little drip of snot hangin' from my nose for almost a whole minute now. Come look!"
Jimmy rolled his eyes. "You better not be gettin' sick. We need you to play baseball."
"I ain't gettin' sick Jimmy," Billy assured him. "I never get sick."
"Are you gonna wipe it off? It can't hang there forever."
"What if it did? What if I managed to keep this single drop here on my nose all day long? Imagine what people would say!"
"They'd say you're disgustin'. Now wipe it off!"
Billy sighed and wiped it away with his right hand. "You're no fun, Jimmy."
Billy then felt all around his neck and jawline. He was expecting to discover facial hair. After weeks of anticipation, the twins were looking in earnest for signs that would prove to the world they were finally becoming men. Their active imaginations had convinced them that becoming a teenager was magically accompanied by a host of overnight physical transformations that would catapult their bodies into a fledging display of manhood. So far, these dreams were turning out to be nothing but disappointments.
"Hey Jimmy, you got any stubble yet?"
Jimmy felt his face. "No, not yet," he said with a disappointed sigh. "Maybe tomorrow."
"To heck with that, I'm ready to slap some Palmolive on my face and get to shavin' today! All the other older boys in school are doin' it. What about zits? You got any zits?"
"I hope not, I don't want no zits."
"Well, I don't either but at least it'd be something." Billy laid there restless and then continued, "How tall you think we're gonna get? We should measure ourselves."
Just then, a single black Ked tennis shoe came flying through their wide-open, east bedroom window and onto the attic floorboards.
"Skip!" Billy announced with a huge smile and jumped up from his bed. He knew their friend Skip would come through with his part in the plan for them to get out of the house. Billy had hoped Skip's shoe landing on the attic floorboards might wake Jordan. But it didn't.
Skip Jones was fourteen and in charge. Although old enough to drive, but not old enough to smoke, Skip enjoyed the occasional indulgence of both. His birth name was Denny Jones, but he only responded to Skip and his wisdom on life made him the envy of all his friends. They thought it was neat how Skip got to do adult things like not have a curfew and cook his own meals and miss church. He even read the Sunday morning paper! Life was Skip's playground and no adult was ever going to convince him otherwise.
Skip's unexpected road to independence began on a dreadful Sunday evening at the age of nine when his parents were both killed in a horrible car wreck driving home from a Sunday company picnic. If Skip hadn't been invited to spend the afternoon at a friend's house, he'd be dead too. Grandpa Jones was Skip's only relative in town and what he knew about raising kids could be inscribed upon the tip of one of his Black and Mild cigars. Knowing this, Mrs. McCrosky offered to take guardianship immediately after the car accident, but Skip's proud grandfather thought she was too meddling and wouldn't allow it.
Billy hurried over to the east window. He stuck his head out and waved at Skip and returned his shoe. Skip stood five inches taller than the twins with a slight build. He had blue eyes with brown lashes. His short, sandy-blonde hair, which curled at its ends, was never combed.
Billy grabbed both he and Jimmy's baseball mitts from their desk beside the east window and hurried over to the stairwell. On his way, he tossed over Jimmy's mitt and Jimmy caught it.
"Mama," Billy called out so his voice would carry downstairs. He turned and winked at Jimmy and then leaned over the railing and called for her a second time and then a third. That's when their little brother Jordan began to stir awake.
Ellen was downstairs when she suddenly heard Billy's third call followed by the sounds of Jordan waking up. Now she was mad. She came upstairs to the attic door and whispered loud and clear, "Didn't I just tell you two to hush up."
"Um, yeah, but we're bored."
"And why is Skip standin' in our yard?"
"I reckon he's bored too. Can he please come in?"
"No," Ellen objected. She started to head downstairs hoping Jordan would fall back to sleep but instead he started wailing. He was now awake. Ellen gave out a long sigh of defeat. At this point, she just wanted the twins out of the house so she could try and get Jordan back to his nap. "Fine, the two of you's quietly tip-toe yourselves out of this house but I want you both home no less than a half hour before supper. Is that understood?"
Billy turned and gave his brother a big smile. "See Jimmy, I told you if we made enough noise during Jordan's nap she'd kick us out! Now come on! Let's go!"CHAPTER 2
With Mississippi Delta temperatures like these, there wasn't much else for a body to do but sit on the ol' front porch and wait for that afternoon breeze. Lyrics and news from Philco radios drifted along wrap-around porches and out into a wandering maze of giant oak tree branches draped with grey Spanish moss among the chandeliering tassels of the weeping willows. Winston Churchill's declaration of a "cold war" was all the nation's talk but on this Southern God-fearing afternoon it was the only reference to any sort of chill. In fact, the fevered air was so drenched with humidity that Lucifer himself would have prayed for rain.
Jimmy, Billy, and their friend Skip cut through wide and well-shaded front and back yards to where Whitey Greenburg lived. The Greenburg's house was the only single story home in town, except for those in the nearby all-Negro community of "Slytown." Mr. Greenburg lost his job with National Harvester last year, due to some structural setbacks. Because this forced the family to cut back expenses, they sold their huge plantation home on Bellflower and moved to Green Valley Drive.
Whitey, a bright-eyed towhead, mirrored the same enthusiasm for adventure as Billy. His favorite memory of their collaborated mischief was on the night of a fifth grade spelling bee in Mrs. Kinch's class when Billy slipped Whitey a frog from his pants pocket, that he subsequently placed on Alice Foster's shoulder while she was busy butchering the word "lieutenant." It wasn't but a moment before poor Alice noticed her new companion and erupted with panic. Both boys were taken straight home by their daddies and rendered a few lashes with the switch.
Whitey was doing nothing on the front porch when the boys came by. As soon as he was okay'd to leave, he hurried off with the boys to their next stop: Phillip Tupper's house. The fastest way there was to cut through Widow Hayes's yard. Pearl Hayes was a chatterbox whose husband had died of pneumonia two years prior. With her son and daughter-in-law living behind her and her three sisters Ruby, Opal and Sapphire one street away, the boys could never comprehend what fueled the widow's inclination to pay them so much attention. Nonetheless, she was a caring, elderly woman who perhaps knew the Bible better than any pastor in town.
As the boys stepped onto the green grass they could hear the Widow Hayes's voice welcoming them from the front porch of her antebellum home.
"How'do boys!" Mrs. Hayes was sitting in her wicker rocking chair and looking quite "art deco" in her old flower print summer dress while waving a fan about her face.
"Hi there, Mrs. Hayes!" they responded cordially.
"Does she ever leave that chair?" Billy whispered.
When the Widow Hayes asked where the boys were off to, she was appalled to hear they'd even consider such activities on a hot day like this. As she rambled on she revealed that "Phillip" was "inside her parlor right now fixin' a loose leg of one of my sittin' chairs. I'd fix it myself, of course, but these bones of mine are gettin' so's I can't do much of nothing like that no more. I'm just not as able as I use to be," she explained.
Even though she carried on listing her incapacities, followed by a random tangent about considering herself a "Mississippian" above an American, the boys heard no further than the part about Phillip Tupper working.
Excerpted from Extra Innings by B.W. Gibson. Copyright © 2014 B.W. Gibson. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse LLC.
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.