"George Herman Ruth. Age 52. Held various odd jobs over the years. Hmmmm...don't stay too long at one place, do you? No skills listed...Unmarried...attitude..."
"Excuse me?" The proper woman in her proper pant suit looked over her half-lens glasses at the slovenly subject sitting beside her prim and proper desk.
"Incorrigible," he repeated more strongly. "That's the word they used."
"And who might "they" be?"
"Reform school. That's what they all said about me."
"Yes, I see you were placed at St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys when you were seven. Says here it was also an orphanage. Did your parents die?"
"No...they just dumped me there."
"Do you know the reason why?"
"Well, you know..."
"No, sir, I do not."
"I guess they figured I was good for nothin'."
"Could you please speak up?"
"They was right. Just good for nothin', I guess." The very rotund man tucked in his shirt in a hopeless attempt at looking more fit. "Guess they'd been real bad parents if I'd turned out to be somethin', huh?"
"And have you been looking for gainful employment?"
"At least I didn't make them feel bad, my parents. They really are dead now, but I made sure I did they like they expected of me. I think my mom loved me some before she died."
"I'm sure you were an excellent son. What I need from you today is a list of the places where you've applied or we'll have to cut off your stipend."
"Oh, I been applyin'! But, man, you turn 50 and it's hell out there. Nobody wants ya. They either think you won't stick around or are too good for the job or just plain too old."
"We live in the greatest nation on earth, Mr. Ruth. Opportunity is there for one and all. If you're not happy in these positions of janitor, driver or dock worker, then tell me what you do like."
"Nothin' really suits me. Only time I'm happy is playing softball in the evenings. I wanted to be a ballplayer once."
"The odds of being a successful ballplayer are almost beyond reckoning. Better to be mopping floors than chasing impossible dreams." She strained not to point his weight out to him she was so disgusted by the idea of his wanting to be an athlete. Same conversation she was having with her spoiled, musical son.
"I didn't want the other guys to know."
"What guys know what?" the woman exasperated.
"On the team. I didn't want them to know I was no good like my saintly parents thought. Other boys called me Niggerlips. Nothing I can do about the way I look, is there? Nothing I can do about who I am at all!"
"I'm sorry. I don't see what this has to do with finding you employment."
"It's why I had to quit baseball. I didn't just do like whatever I wanted so I wouldn't be called a bad person. I did like everyone said I ought. My parents hated me so I been hatin' myself too so not to disappoint them. I been fighting my whole life trying to get baseball out of my head. I know it's silly but it's like every time I relaxed baseball kept coming back in!"
"I'm sorry to hear that. But even if you'd been the greatest player in history - " she almost choked on the words -" you're 52 now and can never have a career in baseball, regardless. Have you ever thought of being a dog groomer?"
"I know I can't play now. I had a big nervous breakdown in my 40's when I knew was past the age forever. I don't even know why I was born. It all seems like such a waste. My parents wanted nothin' to do with me guess they knew from the start I was cursed. I feel like the most cursed man ever!"
"I can see why you were labelled "incorrigible". You need to work on your attitude and stop this talk you've wasted your life. You have many productive years ahead of you. You just need to find your niche. Please have an open mind, sir, and, frankly, learn to be responsible and stop blaming your parents. Is it not time to grow up and live in the real world? It's 1947 and the world is changing fast!"
Seeing his money threatened frightened the life out of Ruth. But he also felt something else for the first time in his life: Why? What was he fighting for? What could he hope to accomplish? Say nothing! She'll say it's your bad attitude again if you say how you really feel. Keep it inside like always! Bad as ever!
"I understand, ma'am. I'll try, I promise." Ruth felt his heart shattering into a thousand pieces with the lie - even as he dare not let a soul know.
"Good! Glad to hear it. Now here I have a list of some very promising jobs: Forklift driver (license required which I'm sure you can get); Concrete crewman (construction is a fantastic industry); chef trainee (a choice I think could be highly suited to you!). The future is looking up, Mr. Ruth!"
Ruth pained her a smile as he shuffled off with the papers and their addresses and contacts to see. The world went black.
EPILOGUE: Ruth missed next month's appointment. He was dead: heart attack in the night. He knew that anything that had ever meant anything was gone forever. In mercy he was taken, though haunted for eternity by what might have been, disbelieving in himself to the end.