"Sure thing. Good talking to you. Come on around the next time you're in town."
As we left the office and were going down the stairs, my uncle said, "Did you hear what that old guy in there said about me?"
"No, Clack, that old guy that came in while we were waiting."
"Oh, yeah. You mean about you being the finest black man he had ever known? Yeah, I caught that."
"Yes sir, he let it be known that I was the finest black man he'd ever known, not the finest man. You see, a lot of people down here still ain't right. Never will be. 'Course, a few years ago it woulda been the finest 'nigga' he'd ever known, and nobody woulda thought a thing about it. Now, in spite of all that talk he's done about the supremacy of the white race and all, I never have heard Mr. Venable say 'nigga.' "
I didn't say anything. James Venable, the Imperial Dragon, had been a gracious host, had handled himself like a gentleman. But he couldn't ever be forgiven, couldn't ever be justified. You can't just say, "People do what they have to do," and let it go at that. But he was Uncle Arbria's friend and I was tired; and nobody could ever remember it being so hot for so long in De Kalb County.
The next morning I jogged along the route of General Sherman's March to the Sea. A car passed me from behind. The driver honked and waved as he passed. I waved back. It was Mr. Clack.
Three days later I was on the plane back to San Diego. It was a champagne flight. I thought of Uncle Arbria—a teetotaler. The All-Star break was over. He would be at the ball park tomorrow night if the Braves were in town. He had suggested that I drive up from San Diego to Los Angeles and introduce myself to Don Sutton and the rest of the Dodgers, tell them I was his nephew. I made a silent toast to Uncle Arbria. He was doing all right in Georgia, especially considering he'd never belonged to the Klan and all.
I had been a Red Sox fan and before that a Cleveland Indians fan. Now I had crossed over into the National League and become a Dodger fan. That was a good summer. August and September were really fine months, with San Diego weather and a good summer-school class, and the Dodgers won the pennant easily.