The boy had brought them in a two-decker metal container from the Terrace. The two sets of knives and forks and spoons were in his pocket with a paper napkin wrapped around each set.
“Who gave this to you?”
“Martin. The owner.”
“I must thank him.”
“I thanked him already,” the boy said. “You don’t need to thank him.”
“I’ll give him the belly meat of a big fish,” the old man said. “Has he done this for us more than once?”
“I think so.”
“I must give him something more than the belly meat then. He is very thoughtful for us.”
“He sent two beers.”
“I like the beer in cans best.”
“I know. But this is in bottles, Hatuey beer, and I take back the bottles.”
“That’s very kind of you,” the old man said. “Should we eat?”
“I’ve been asking you to,” the boy told him gently. “I have not wished to open the container until you were ready.”
“I’m ready now,” the old man said. “I only needed time to wash.”
Where did you wash? the boy thought. The village water supply was two streets down the road. I must have water here for him, the boy thought, and soap and a good towel. Why am I so thoughtless? I must get him another shirt and a jacket for the winter and some sort of shoes and another blanket.
“Your stew is excellent,” the old man said.
“Tell me about the baseball,” the boy asked him.
“In the American League it is the Yankees as I said,” the old man said happily.”
“They lost today,” the boy told him.
“That means nothing. The great DiMaggio is himself again.”
“They have other men on the team.”
“Naturally. But he makes the difference. In the other league, between Brooklyn and Philadelphia I must take Brooklyn. But then I think of Dick Sisler and those great drives in the old park.”
“There was nothing ever like them. He hits the longest ball I have ever seen.”
“Do you remember when he used to come to the Terrace? I wanted to take him fishing but I was too timid to ask him. Then I asked you to ask him and you were too timid.”
“I know. It was a great mistake. He might have gone with us. Then we would have that for all of our lives.”
“I would like to take the great DiMaggio fishing,” the old man said. “They say his father was a fisherman. Maybe he was as poor as we are and would understand.”
“The great Sisler’s father was never poor and he, the father, was playing in the Big Leagues when he was my age.”
“When I was your age I was before the mast on a square rigged ship that ran to Africa and I have seen lions on the beaches in the evening.”
“I know. You told me.”
“Should we talk about Africa or about baseball?”
“Baseball I think,” the boy said. “Tell me about the great John J. McGraw.” He said Jota for J.
“He used to come to the Terrace sometimes too in the older days. But he was rough and harsh-spoken and difficult when he was drinking. His mind was on horses as well as baseball. At least he carried lists of horses at all times in his pocket and frequently spoke the names of horses on the telephone.”
“He was a great manager,” the boy said. “My father thinks he was the greatest.”
“Because he came here the most times,” the old man said. “If Durocher had continued to come here each year your father would think him the greatest manager.”
“Who is the greatest manager, really, Luque or Mike Gonzalez?”
“I think they are equal.”
“And the best fisherman is you.”
“No. I know others better.”
“Qué va,” the boy said. “There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you.”
“Thank you. You make me happy. I hope no fish will come along so great that he will prove us wrong.”
“There is no such fish if you are still strong as you say.”
“I may not be as strong as I think,” the old man said. “But I know many tricks and I have resolution.”