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"The thing at Schaffel's," he says, "I don't even know what it was about. I just forgot the whole thing. Let's not even bring it up."
Albert carries with him a huge AM-FM radio he bought with his earnings this summer, and when a favorite tune comes on he turns the volume to a roar and dances in place. "Rock-a the boat," he sings. "Don't tip the boat over...."
The main reason Albert feels at ease is because, for the moment at least, the recruiting war is over. Not knowing which of the dozens of fast-talking high school scouts to believe, he trusted none of them, enrolling instead at Fort Hamilton High School in the far southeast Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. Located in a white neighborhood, the school is mediocre athletically, old, with poor facilities and little sports interest, but it is where Bernard and another brother went and it is soothingly low-key. " Fort Hamilton accepted me, not a basketball player," says Albert. "I had to apply like a normal person. They didn't offer me nothing."
Now, with Rodney bouncing towards him, Albert can joke about the old man's waddle and slap his open palm.
"Come on, Big Al," says Rodney, "I've been waiting for you."
The park is virtually deserted. School started yesterday, and even the slicks and the dropouts have vanished, having relocated at pool halls and street corners where the action will continue regardless of classwork.
The first tints of yellow have come to the big maple tree above the main bench. In the bright sun the change is almost imperceptible, but the leaves make a dryer, clattering sound in the breeze, and someone who could remember the moist ripple of June would notice. The whole park seems bleached of its bright colors; the courts are still without their usual crowd. Except for a few mothers with babies, some boys already playing hooky and a few old men, the park is empty.
I sit alone, thinking, about other things, about Albert King's return. Yesterday Albert had called Winston again and the two had laughed about their recruiting trip to the Eastern school. But after a few stories Albert had suddenly grown quiet.
"What's up?" Winston asked.
"Winston, I'm sorry."