This one is for Alice Audrey, who seemed disconcerted that the old basketball court in Bella Diana is no longer in use. Diana is about nine in this scene, and Melinda is her mother.
Donovan, disconcerted by the fuss he had started, changed his mind about walking and tried to catch up with Amalia, but he had strapped his leg into the brace that morning and it slowed him down. He found himself struggling beside Diana's cart.
"Want a ride?" She tugged on the reins with one hand and pulled the brake to a full stop. "Get in. It don't make no difference to the team on the downhill, as long as I don't get careless with the brake."
Donovan scrambled onto the seat beside her. The girl released the brake ever so slightly and they started down again. "Where are we going once we're in town? I understand there's a market."
"A big one, with long benches that go up on each side."
"Benches that go up? You mean a stadium?"
"It's a market. I don't know if there's a fancy Guard word for it."
"Stadium isn't a fancy Guard word. It just means a place where they used to play sports, kick balls around and things like that."
Diana furrowed her brow. "Why would they need such a big place for something like that? Me and some of the valley kids play ball games when we get together for parties, but we don't need a special place for it."
"I've been told they used to have big groups of people who practiced their games until they were good enough that other people would come and spend all afternoon watching them. That's what the benches are for. Sometimes the players were so good people would pay them."
"Pay them money? Just to kick a ball around?"
"That's what I've been told."
Diana giggled. "You're making that up."
"No, I'm not."
"Well, someone must've told you a story because no way would anyone pay kids money just to kick a ball."
"They paid grownups to do it, not kids. And they gave them special clothes, too, so they would all look the same."
"What?" Diana fell over her reins screeching with laughter. Her donkeys flattened their ears in annoyance and Melinda maneuvered her horse down the path, curious to know what the fuss was about.
"What's so funny up there?"
"Donovan says--" Diana gasped for breath. "He says the market at Macrina— that men used to—"
"I told her it sounded like an old sports stadium," Donovan cut in. "She thought the idea was funny."
Melinda pursed her lips. "It used to be the high school football field, but I've never known them to use it for that. The school didn't have enough students for a team when I was a kid and there wasn't enough fuel to bus anyone over for a game, anyway. I only know about it from my father."
Diana swiveled around on her seat, leaving the donkeys to find their own way. "So it's true? They used to pay men to play ball games at our market?"
"Watch your team, Diana," Melinda cautioned. "No, the Macrina high school had a student team. They were teenage boys and they weren't paid anything. But there were big national teams and if you were a good student player, you could maybe get paid to play on one of the big teams when you grew up. Your grandfather says those men made a lot of money."
"Just to play a game? They didn't actually grow or raise anything?"
"No, they just played their game and people paid money to watch them."
"But that's crazy."
"We would be crazy if we did it," Donovan said. "But people were rich then."
"Well, we're going to sell all our stuff at market. Then we'll be rich, too."
"Are you going to buy a ball team with your money?" Donovan teased.
Diana tossed her head. "That would be stupid." The wagon lurched over a rock and she clucked at the donkeys. "When I get some money, I’m going to buy a mule."