1. Someone at the party offered Oscar Berkman a cup of eggnog.
“No thanks, I don’t drink,” Berkman said.
“I won’t trust a man who doesn’t drink,” the Chief, who was Berkman’s supervisor, chimed in from across the room.
Berkman, who feared the person he became when he drank, never touched the stuff. As a result, many people who did partake came to regard him warily. Maybe he bothered them because he remained alert and anxious while they were enjoying themselves; maybe he bothered them because they should have feared the people they became, too.
Yet the fact remains: At a time when his colleagues were trying to loosen up and forget another unbearable and unremarkable year, Berkman kept sober vigil, remembering and judging them all.
2. According to a guidebook that Brian Powell had purchased on amazon.com, there were 365 things to do in the big city before dying. Powell, who was dying of terminal cancer as well as a broken heart, never got around to doing any of them. He did try to attend the annual “Light-Up Night,” which was all kinds of a big deal, but it was cold outside and he couldn’t bring himself to leave his apartment. His life, or what remained of it, was funny like that.
3. “Herc” Broadsides couldn’t contain his fury when he learned that J.P. Crackerjack—a young slugger who had shattered all of his home run records—had tested positive for steroids.
“They ought to put an asterisk next to every one of his statistics,” Broadsides, who had bolstered his own play with a diet heavy in B-12 shots and amphetamines, groused to a reporter.
“It’s a tragedy and a farce. The players today don’t give a damn about the integrity of the game,” he continued.
The integrity of the game, which he had striven to uphold through corking his bat and refusing to insert an African-American player into his team’s starting lineup until the team’s owner threatened to fire him, meant everything to “Herc” Broadsides.
4. The young couple desperately needed a car to get to their parents’ house for Christmas, a trip that comprised six states and nearly five hundred miles.
“This one will get you there,” ace used car salesman “Chub” Leeds assured them.
“Will it? We’ve got only five hundred dollars to our name,” said the husband, looking as forlorn and innocent as any man who had ever lived.
“You betcha,” said Leeds, who figured that there was always a chance that it might.
“I’m so happy there are fine people like you in the world,” said the wife.
Leeds smiled. “Ma’am, this is a season for giving. And I’m always happy to give folks a great deal.”
The husband patted Leeds on his shoulder. “You’re a saint.”
Leeds’ smile widened. Maybe he was a saint. Who could say for sure?