Part II

An orphan runs away from his guardians to search for a real home. On his journey, he performs feats of athleticism and confronts racial prejudice.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. confirm
    establish or strengthen as with new evidence or facts
    The mother came lumbering over, nodding, as if to confirm: “A kid.”
  2. hoist
    move from one place to another by lifting
    The old man gathered his own bones and muscles as best he could and managed to hoist the kid and get him into the pickup.
  3. official
    having authority or sanction
    He knew he should take the kid straight to the hospital, or a doctor, someplace official, someplace right.
  4. limp
    lacking in strength, firmness, or resilience
    With trembling, dusty fingers, he touched the kid’s limp, scrawny hand.
  5. spree
    a brief indulgence of your impulses
    An hour later, after a minor shopping spree, Maniac had clothes of his own.
  6. prompt
    performed with little or no delay
    Maniac’s answer was prompt: “The baseball room. It’s perfect.”
  7. scatter
    move away from each other
    So all the other kids would be heading for their homes, their night homes, each of them, hundreds, flocking from school like birds from a tree, scattering across town, each breaking off to his or her own place, each knowing exactly where to land.
  8. notion
    an odd or fanciful or capricious idea
    And the brushing little worm of a notion was beginning to tickle him now.
  9. dumbfounded
    as if rendered speechless with astonishment and surprise
    Dumbfounded, the old man drove back out of the park to the nearest diner, where he sat with a cup of coffee while the boy wolfed down meatloaf and gravy, mashed potatoes, zucchini, salad, and coconut custard pie.
  10. abruptly
    quickly and without warning
    Grayson had a way of jumping into a subject without warning; it was during Maniac’s dessert that he abruptly said, “Them black people, they eat mashed potatoes, too?”
  11. impatient
    restless or short-tempered under delay or opposition
    “I know that,” said Grayson, impatient, “but is theirs the same? As ours?”
  12. conclusion
    a position or opinion reached after consideration
    Neither could Maniac explain that the bad luck he always seemed to have with parents had led him to the conclusion that he’d better stick to himself.
  13. prod
    urge on; cause to act
    “Sure you do,” Maniac prodded. “About yourself. You know about you. Everybody has a story.”
  14. weariness
    temporary loss of strength and energy from hard work
    There was a frayed weariness in the old man’s words, as though they had long since worn out.
  15. robust
    sturdy and strong in form, constitution, or construction
    This word, unlike the others, was not worn at all, but fresh and robust.
  16. insist
    assert to be true
    All the while Grayson told baseball stories ( insisting, all along, “I ain’t got no stories”).
  17. aroma
    a distinctive odor that is pleasant
    Sniffing the scuffed horsehide aroma of the ball, rippling the fingertips over the red stitching — it’s hard to say how these things can make the listening better, but they do, and, for Maniac, they did.
  18. grapple
    grip or seize, as in a wrestling match
    Stiff, crooked fingers that grappled clumsily with Krimpet wrappers curled naturally around the shape of a baseball.
  19. repertoire
    the range of skills in a particular field or occupation
    Except for one pitch, the only one left in his repertoire from the old days.
  20. contrary
    exact opposition
    Unlike most pitches, the stopball involved no element of surprise. On the contrary, the old man would always announce it.
  21. peculiar
    beyond or deviating from the usual or expected
    There sure didn’t seem to be anything unusual about it, not at first, anyway; but as the ball came closer, it did somehow seem to get more and more peculiar; and by the time it reached the plate, it might just as well have stopped, because Maniac never knew if he was swinging at the old man’s pitch or at his speech.
  22. grouse
    complain
    And every night, as the old man left for his room at the Y, he would grouse, “You oughta go to school.”
  23. mangle
    destroy or injure severely
    Ancient, back-broken math books, flaking travel books, warped spellers, mangled mysteries, biographies, music books, astronomy books, cookbooks.
  24. knack
    a special way of doing something
    The old man showed an early knack for consonants.
  25. pommel
    handgrip formed by the raised front part of a saddle
    He would saddle up that c, climb aboard and grip the pommel for dear life, and ol’ c, more often than not, it would throw him. Whenever that happened, he’d just climb right back on and ride ’er some more.
  26. ornery
    having a difficult and contrary disposition
    But even at their orneriest, consonants were fun.
  27. anxious
    eagerly desirous
    The kid used different words, but in his ears the old Minor Leaguer heard: “Keep your eye on it. .. Hold your swing . .. Watch it all the way in . . . Don’t be anxious ... Just make contact.”
  28. suspect
    imagine to be the case or true or probable
    And suddenly the kid was hugging him, squeezing with a power you never suspected was in that little body, unless you had seen him pole a baseball almost to the trees in dead center field.
  29. preposterous
    inviting ridicule
    While he groused about so preposterous an idea, the kid laid down the mat he never used, bulldogged him down to it, pulled off his shoes and draped a blanket over him.
  30. consciousness
    an alert cognitive state in which you are aware of yourself
    Something deep in his heart, unmeasured by his own consciousness, soared unburdened for the first time in thirty-seven years, since the time he had so disgraced himself before the Mud Hens’ scout and named himself thereafter a failure.
  31. throng
    press tightly together or cram
    But that didn’t stop the old man and the boy from joining the ten thousand who thronged to the stadium on the boulevard to see the traditional high school football game.
  32. collapse
    break down due to fatigue, an illness, or a sudden attack
    They stuffed themselves silly, then collapsed and listened to polka music.
  33. proclaim
    state or announce
    “One oh one,” he proclaimed. “One oh one Band Shell Boulevard.”
  34. privileged
    blessed with special advantages
    Thanks to his long acquaintanceship with the locker room attendant, he and Maniac were privileged to continue using the Y’s shower facilities at their pleasure.
  35. vacant
    without an occupant or incumbent
    Wherever there were a few vacant square inches, something Christmassy appeared: a matchbox creche, a porcelain Santa, a partridge in a pear tree.
  36. languish
    become feeble
    By the time the two of them finished trimming it — their tree-trimming instincts having languished for so many Christmases — hardly a pine needle could be seen under the tinsel and balls and whatnot.
  37. bound
    move forward by leaping
    Within an hour or two, the holiday would come bounding down the stairs and squealing ’round the tinseled trees of Two Mills.
  38. meander
    move or cause to move in a winding or curving course
    They walked the creek woods all the way to the zoo, meandering wordlessly throughout the snowy enchantment.
  39. gape
    look with amazement
    Maniac tore it open — and gaped helplessly when he saw what it was.
  40. stoic
    seeming unaffected by pleasure or pain; impassive
    He held the cold, limp hand that had thrown the pitch that had struck out Willie Mays, that had betrayed the old man’s stoic ways by giving him a squeeze.
Created on September 28, 2016 (updated September 24, 2018)

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