Chapter Three - New Beginnings and the Start of a New Season

This nurse helps Jake learn to love and learn to love the game again.Jake regained consciousness to the sight of a blurry figure standing over him and a warm hand on his wrist taking his pulse. His vision gradually came into focus until he could make out a gorgeous African American woman standing next to him in a nurse's uniform. He was lying on his back in a hospital bed, much of his body covered in bandages. He tried to move and the woman grimaced.

"Stay still," she said in a cool and sensual voice, "the doctor bandaged you up just a few minutes ago, we don't want them coming off now do we?"

There was a note of hostility in her voice.

"Why are you mad at me?" Jake managed to say around a mouthful of gauze.

"Oh," she said with a mock smile, "I ain't mad at you, but I just don't necessarily like a guy who comes in with a hunk of wood that says 'Nigger Lover' on it."

The nurse hurried out of the room, leaving Jake embarrassed. Over the coming weeks of rehabilitation and splinter-removal operations Jake saw more and more of the nurse, whose name turned out to be Margaret "Marge" Washington. He explained the name on the bat and his racist ghost father and the wall between them was gradually torn down. It felt strange given his upbringing, but as she cared for him and assisted him in his physical therapy he could not deny the attraction he felt towards her.

When Jake was finally released he asked Marge out and she agreed. Their romance soon bloomed and as the season was scheduled to begin, with Jake fully recovered, Marge and Jake finally consummated their relationship. It was not without some rockiness, as this was like the 70s or 15 years after when he was nine or whatever, so people would hurl rotten fruit at them in public sometimes.

The morning of his first game of the season Jake was shaving in the locker room, as he looked into the steam-soaked mirror he caught a strange glowing blue reflection. He spun to be greeted by the glowering spectral face of his still drunken ghost dad.

"You sumbitch," slurred his father, "shackin' up with a Negroid, I told you not to mix vanilla and chocolate."

"No you didn't," responded Jake indignantly.

"Shut up you aren't the boss of me," groaned his father. "Now listen good boy, you best not mess up this season because this is the big time. If you screw up and your contract doesn't get renewed I am going to fulfill my promise of hauntin' you."

Jake went out to the first game of the season, the coach and the other players inquired about his recovery, then he proceeded to strike out three times. The next game he struck out each time at the plate as well. This continued on and on, and by the half way point of the season Jake had only earned a single run and only gotten on base three times. He was becoming the worst player on the team, one of the worst in all of professional baseball. The team owners were beginning to grumble about him to the manager and coach and some of this trickled down to Jake. The coach blamed a weak arm, a bad back-swing, a need for "more hustle". Jake knew it was his loss of Nigger Lover and the power it contained.

One evening towards the end of the season the coach called him into his office.

"Jake," said the coach with a grim expression, "have a seat."

Jake took off his hat and sat down.

"What is it coach?" Jake asked with more than a little anxiety.

"I'm going to give you one last chance tomorrow Jake," explained the coach. "The owners want to cut you loose, but I told them to give you one more shot at proving yourself. We're up against the Kansas City Brewer Rascals for a chance to go to the World Series. It's an important game, but I'm going to give you this one final opportunity to shine."

Jake swallowed.

"You've got a lot of heart kid," said the coach. "Now go home, get some sleep, and come back tomorrow ready for a fresh start."

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