The wind whipped and howled around her as she grabbed a bag of groceries from the trunk. One strong gust of wind, although failing to take the door off the car, did manage to rip the folder out her hands. As her reflexes made a desperate bid to catch the folder, the paper bag went crashing to the ground, and somehow, almost as if Winter himself was taunting her, the wind stopped blowing for just a moment allowing her to hear the sickening crush of pickle jar and eggshells. Winter’s choreography was perfect, as another gust of wind swept through and caught the splash of pickle juice and turned it into a fine mist that coated her suit skirt and then proceeded to sweep the papers that were once secure within the folder, and scatter them in trees, gutters and rooftops. She barely reacted…she knew it was the perfect cap to the day.
Fridays shouldn’t be full of meetings, layoff announcements and phone battles with insurance companies…then again, no day should be like that. She was still employed, but close friends for many years went home with boxes today, instead of folders. She was grateful, but her nerves were shot. She needed some time for herself.
She gathered the papers she could and salvaged a few groceries and headed into the house. She brought the groceries into the kitchen, grabbed the mail and headed into the living room, where she was greeted with by a mess of dusty boxes and what seemed like the entire contents of the attic. She mumbled a curse to herself as she remembered that her two older sons had volunteered to clean out the attic for her over the weekend. She appreciated the effort, but this was the last thing she needed.
As she was about to turn around and head back to the kitchen, she noticed the black truck in the corner of the living room. A smile quickly crossed her lips and the day instantly melted away. Monday was Opening Day.
After changing into sweatpants and a long-sleeved t-shirt, eating dinner and grabbing a glass of wine, she pulled the trunk over to her lounge chair and sat down. The top of the trunk was covered with what seemed like every Bird related sticker ever created. There were so many, the trunk seemed more orange than black. Many of the stickers had been customized with crayon. Her father was so angry the day he came home to find her sitting at the trunk with the crayons. He eventually would cherish the drawings and scribbles of he five-year old daughter on the trunk.
She slowly opened the lid, and on top was her Number 6 jersey. Every year, she would take the jersey out of the trunk just before Opening Day and would put it back into the trunk after the team had played it’s last game of the season. She had that jersey for what seemed like forever. She smiled because after 10 years of being away from the team, Number 6 was signed to a minor-league contract this past off season. She was hoping he would make the team.
She put the jersey aside and looked through the rest of the contents. There were what seemed like five hundred ticket stubs from every game her father and her had gone to. There was a peculiar assortment of odd giveaways from different games, along with pennants and other Bird related gifts her and her father had received through the years. There were some old programs and a couple of autographed baseballs, as well. Her father tried to fit all his baseball souvenirs in that trunk, but it wasn’t a magic trunk. Eventually some stuff found their way into other boxes, but the important stuff went in that trunk. After her father had died, she continued to put more stuff in the trunk. She shook her head trying to figure out how exactly it had survived the fire. It had been so many years now, but she still cannot figure out how that trunk only suffered a little bit of scalding while everything else was lost. Almost everything.
The trunk had a couple of media guides from the championship seasons. She had another box full of media guides somewhere else. A friend of hers was the HR Director for the team. She would ofter give her the guides every spring. They had met in the aftermath of the fire. She thought it weird the good that could sometimes come out of such things. She hadn’t talked to her since September or October when they had met for lunch by the harbor. They were having a nice lunch when her friend suddenly let out a gasp and realized she had a meeting that she needed to rush off to with the director of marketing or public relations or something like that and that she was already late. Her friend had walked off into the drizzly day mumbling something about how now her whole day was going to be thrown off. She laughed out loud about how her fried was always late from one meeting and into another. She needed to call her.
In the bottom of the trunk were two scrapbooks that her father had meticulously kept. Those scrapbooks were so important to him. Her grandfather would grab the afternoon papers on the way home from work and would put them into her father’s eager little hands. The books were true treasures and she did all she could to preserve them. Next to the books were a small pile of newspapers from different years. Her father had tried to get her to keep a scrapbook, but she wasn’t as meticulous as he was. She found it easier to just save the whole paper.
She shuffled through the stack, reading headlines about great games of the past. Clinching games. A couple of no-hitters. A couple of the heartbreaks. She still curses that team from the Big Apple to this day. Towards the middle of the pile, her eyes met the headline from true heartbreak. The real heartbreak that a baseball diamond rarely sees. It was the story of a fire and a small two story house. A fire that would take the life of the brother of Number 6. He had gone into the burning house for a little girl…her little girl…who was trapped on the second floor. He had managed to get her daughter out a window to another fireman on a ladder, but the floor under him had collapsed before he could make it to safety. Tears rolled down her cheek as she read the story. Her daughter was in college now and has such little memory of that night…she thought that was lucky. She still thinks of the family of that poor man…that hero.
She knew it was time to pack the trunk back up. It was dark now and she had other stuff to do. She gently replaced everything back into the trunk except for the jersey and closed the lid. She picked up the jersey and stared at it. On the Number 6 was a little soot. She looked at her hand and realized it had come from her fingers. Even after all these years, soot was still on that trunk in different spots. No matter how much she tried to clean it, it was always hiding some where. She brushed the jersey off and took it to her bedroom. She was going to wear it tomorrow for the exhibition game. As she passed by her bedroom window, she noticed the lights at the stadium flickering. They must be testing the scoreboard, she thought. She clutched the jersey close to her and stood there watching the lights for a little while.