Not yet a year old, and Ginger proved herself an expert manipulator – screaming every time mom turned her attention to the older siblings.
"Shhh!!!" Victoria held a finger over her lips, addressing the baby. Ginger giggled and added more food to the smear around her mouth.
"Mommy, but I don't want to go to school today," Phillip groaned.
"Me neither," Roxy, Phillip's twin sister, agreed.
Victoria gathered a breath, straightened their backpacks, and then knelt to their level.
"Hey, look at me. Mommy loves you both – so much! Now, listen. You two watch out for each other today – you're first-graders, and that means a whole new set of challenges."
Roxy asked with a pouty face, "Will there be recess?"
Victoria smiled and reassured them both, "Yes, of course. Now, we've got to hurry, or we'll miss the bus."
Ginger rode on her mommy's hip as they pushed back through the door. Victoria trapped the phone between her shoulder and ear.
"Yes, Ron, I'll be there today. Who is this guy again?"
"His name is Ben Roberts," Victoria's editor, Ron McCormick reminded. "They guy's a coaching legend. Get this - he's the all-time leader in wins for high school coaches in the country."
Victoria herded toys with a foot and corralled them in the corner of her new apartment. She switched Ginger to the opposite hip and rearranged the phone.
"Okay, but tell me again why we're doing this?"
"Well, his granddaughter reached out to us – said he wanted to share his wisdom to help the coaching community. It's a perfect piece for our publication."
"And you say he's old, right?"
"Ron," Victoria started to protest the assignment.
The editor intervened, "Yes, I know, I know, but I really do think he might be able to share something valuable. Besides, you're the perfect person for this assignment."
"Why, Ron? Because I played softball in high school? Please don't patronize me. I said I'd do it – just call me skeptical that there'll be enough for a story. Besides, you know I'm terrible with old people."
Victoria checked-in at the front desk and received a warning from the desk nurse.
"Coach ain't the easiest. Most days he don't talk at all. I'm going to wish you luck because, sister, you're gonna need it."
Victoria thanked the nurse with a flat smile and settled into a chair at a small round table.
When the attending nurse wheeled in her subject, Victoria stood to greet him and formed some initial impressions.
Ben Roberts looked small like a child, and his downcast eyes appeared hidden beneath bushy brows. He wore a neat shirt and a blue softball visor, tilted to the right.
The attending nurse fixed his chair across from Victoria, bridged an introduction, and then winked as she departed the room.
Victoria scribbled a date on the page in the upper corner of her notebook.
She asked, "Mr. Roberts, can we start by having you just state your full name, where you coached, and for how long?"
The old man gazed downward, and after a few moments, he replied, "Call me, coach." Then shared an observation, "You must've been a catcher," he said and peered at her beneath heavy eyelids.
"How did you know?"
Roberts lifted a finger and explained in a soft voice, "Only a catcher can be so direct… No fluff… You cut to the chase."
Victoria smiled and leaned against her chairback. "Okay, Coach, where should we start?"
Victoria sped away from the rest home and called Ron.
"I didn't get much," she complained. "Roberts didn't answer a single question."
"What do you mean?"