Author's Note: This is Al's POV of "Ruthie's Story." All the events, etc, are the same. Both appear in The Return, a post-"Mirror Image" story available from Jim Rondeau. I used the birthdate for Al implied by the 1958 plebe year at Annapolis mentioned in "Rebel Without a Clue," instead of the date given in "A Leap for Lisa," which had him as an ensign in 1957. Since both are canon and they are irreconcilable, I had to choose one or the other, and I chose the one that would make Al's age in 2000 closer to Dean Stockwell's age in 1993, when, in a sane world, QL would have filmed its sixth season.

                         "Ruthie and Al"
                a Quantum Leap back story
                      by Barbara E. Walton

Chicago, Illinois.  1954.
        The priests at St. Joe's had tried to hold classes on
Saturdays for awhile, but even the orphanage kids, who were
presumably under their direct control, had been truant most of the
time.  They'd held on grimly through the last Saturday in March,
then announced that Saturday classes were officially over.
        Albert Calavicci, who was under no one's control, direct
or otherwise, and who had lost count of the number of times he'd
been hit with a ruler for truancy, blasphemy, and a thousand other
charges, thought that the old bastards had just decided they had
better things to do, now that the sun was out.
        This was fine by Albert.  He didn't have much use for
school.  He did most of his learning on his own, in the public
library (he always told the guys he was meeting with some girl or
other when he was planning to go there), at his chessboard (an
inheritance from Father Brusero, the only one of the witch-doctors
who'd been worth a damn), and, especially, on the streets of the
Lower West Side.  There was no lesson that those streets didn't
        He was in none of those places on the first Saturday in
  	  Even rebels needed some time off now and then, and that
Saturday he was playing basketball with a few of the guys from the
ward.  he wouldn't exactly have called them his friends -- he
couldn't think of anyone offhand who he would have called a friend,
except for his sister Trudy, and he hadn't seen her since their
father had died four years ago -- but they were okay.  They were
like him, anyway: Italian (except for a small and dwindling
Irish contingent, which was attacked frequently and gleefully,
because such fights broke the gray monotony), nominally Catholic
but not really believing in anything, wearing worn-out clothes that
billowed around them like sheets.  Most of them were skinny and
malnourished, short for their ages.  They attacked outsiders who
ventured down here -- the Pity People, Tony called them -- with
their nice cars and bags of dingy used clothes, but most of their
anger was spent on each other.
	  Albert dodged past Joey DiStasia, then threw the ball at
Tony Locarro.  Tony snatched it out of the air and ran for the
enemy side of the court.  Half way down, he passed Tommy Mahaney;
Tommy's foot came out, and Tony went sprawling across the asphalt. 
Tommy stood back, all-innocence.
	  Tony jumped to his feet, and shoved Tommy against the fence. 
"You cheating mick!"
	  "It was an accident, you greasy, lying dago."
	  Albert sighed, and tuned out the familiar conversation.  He
looked up toward a second floor window, where some of the little
kids were watching and cheering.  A new kid had showed up that
morning, and they had him pressed against the window, where he was
struggling to get free.  They're going to grow up and be just
like us, Albert thought dismally, and turned away.
	  He was about to say something to that effect to Joey (which
had probably not been a very good idea, anyway, now that he
considered it) when the blonde girl came around the corner.  All
of them turned to look at her for a split second.  It wouldn't
occur to Albert how strange that had been until many years later,
looking out across a harsh New Mexico sunset.  No one had pointed
her out, they had been involved in their fight, and yet, without
exception, they had turned their heads and glanced quickly at the
	  She had obviously come from the Jewish neighbornood a few
blocks away.  She was dressed ina long-sleeved dusty pink dress
that looked like it had started its life on an adult's frame and
been clumsily sized down.  She was tugging absently at the sleeves,
which shifted from side to side from the oversized shoulders, and
the waist hung somewhere around her hips.  Her long, shockingly
blonde hair had been pulled into a braid so tight it nearly
screamed.  Alber thought she was beautiful.  Couldn't be very
bright, coming into this neighborhood by herself, but beautiful.
	  "Hey, Pick, did you see that?"  
	  Albert turned back to the game, and saw that Tony was coming
toward him.  He groaned to himself; they were going to ask him for
a ruling.  They always did.  He hadn't asked for that job.
	  "Everybody saw that.  Mahaney tripped you."
	  "You always gang up on me!" Tommy shouted indignantly.
	  Albert raised a tired eyebrow.  "What do you expect from
greasy, lying dagos?"  He held out his hands.  "Give me the ball,
	  "Come on.  Everyone saw you trip him.  They'd say the same
thing in County Cork.  Are you going to admit it or are you going
to cry?"
	  Tommy handed the ball over reluctantly, not lifting his
eyes, and Albert was about to give it to Tony to make his foul
shots when he caught sight of the blonde girl for the second time. 
Frankie Marchetti, a St. Joe's bully two classes under Albert's,
and his good-for-nothing pal Carlo Something-or-Other had ganged
up on her.  Carlo was holding her by the shoulders, and as Albert
looked up, Frankie punched her in the gut.
        Without thinking about what he was doing, he handed the
ball back to Tommy, ran to the chain-link fence, and started
climbing it.  When he reached the top, he jumped.  His feet hit the
sidewalk just as Frankie hit the spring-button on his switchblade
and started moving toward the girl. 
        He grabbed Frankie's wirst with his left arm, and brought
his right in low to punch the nozzle in the gut, just so he'd have
a clue what the girl had felt.  Albert didn't hold with men hitting
women, and he figured any guy who tried it ought to get back what
he'd given, and then some.  He pulled the knife out of Frankie's
hand and reached back to put it in the girl's.  He didn't have time
to see if she took it, because Frankie had decided to put of a
fight.  He was two years younger than Albert, but he was big for
his age, and a mean fighter.  Albert had taken him on once before,
in the schoolyard, for picking on a little girl with a harelip.
        Suddenly, Carlo cried out and ran off, his arm dripping
blood from a gash under the elbow.  Frankie was distracted, and
Albert took the opportunity to punch him in the gut again, then in
the jaw.  The second punch sent Frankie into the sidewalk.  He
started to get up, then saw something that made him scramble to his
feet and follow Carlo.  Albert turned briefly, and saw the girl
crouched in a fighting posture, holding the switchblade out like
a dagger.  There was something strong and good about her; she
reminded him of the French chick in the Church windows.
        Not bad, he thought.  Feeling like he out to end the
fight properly, he shouted after Frankie and Carlo, "Go pick on
someone your own size!"
        When he turned back to the girl, the fighting posture had
disappeared.  She ahd stood up and lowered her arm, and her eyes
were wide and confused.  She looked like she was about to faint,
althought Albert would have believed that impossible when he'd
seen her a moment ago.  "Are you okay?" he asked.
        He heard the knife fall out of her hand and hit the
sidewalk as she nodded slowly.
        "You sure?"
        Her eyes, which were an incredible shade of blue, turned
up to meet his.  A feeling something like an electric shock when
through Albert's head.  It wasn't sexual attraction, although that
was present as well (it was present, to be fair, with just about
every girl who'd crossed his path since he was about nine).  It was
a sense of recognition, a feeling that somewhere behind those alien
blue eyes was a mind that Albert knew as well as he knew his own.
        Then the feeling passed, and she was only a frightened
girl.  He extended his hand to her.  "I'm Albert," he said.
        Inexplicably, she backed away from him.  "I -- I have to
leave," she stammered, then turned and ran.
        Albert watched her until she had disappeared around the
corner.  When he turned back to St. Joe's, the guys were lined
against the other side of the fence.  Tony Locarro was smirking.
He blinked his eyes rapidly and clasped his hands together.  "My
hero!" he swooned, and the rest of them laughed.
        "Imagine that," Tommy Mahaney said from the back. 
"Calavicci's still playing knights."
        Albert felt hot blood rise into his cheeks.  He wasn't a
goddam knight; he was just doing what anyone would have done.
"Shut up," he growled, and started to climb the fence.
        Tony gestured for the others to bow when he landed on the
court side.  "Clear the way for Sir Albert of the Pick!"
        Albert grabbed Tony by the lapels of his jacket and pushed
him into the fence.  "You got a problem, Locarro?"  Tony shook his
head rapidly.  Albert threw him aside.  "How about the rest of
you?"  No one had any comment.  Albert turned up his collar, gave
them his best j.d. glare -- which was pretty goddam intimidating,
if he did say so himself -- and went inside.
        By Wednesday, they had forgotten the incident.  Albert had
given them something new to talk about by sneaking Myra Boychik out
of Mass Sunday evening, and not showing up agian until Monday
morning.  The fact that he had actually slept in the alley behind
Aiello's restaurant was irrelevant; the rest of their assumptions
were right.  There had been no more ribbing about being a knight.
        Albert, however, had not forgotten.
        After leaving Myra on Sunday, he followed the night streets
into the Jewish neighborhood, trying to look nonchalant while he
galnced into lit window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the blonde
girl.  He wasn't sure why he felt compelled to do this, but he
did it anyway.  One house after another, window by window, but he
didn't see her.  Finally, a middle-aged man with a full beard and
long curls beside his face ran out of one of those houses and
chased him out of the neighborhood.  He sat down in Aiello's alley
to wait for the man to go back inside, and wound up falling asleep
        He'd spent Monday and Tuesday scrubbing the floors of the
wards, which was a punishment not for sneaking out but for refusing
to go to confession about it.  He had to do this every time he ran
away, and he usually had to do it with open cuts on his hands from
the ruler they had hit him with.  His thoughts kept returning to
the blonde girl, and to the electric shock feeling he'd gotten when
she looked up at him.  He kept pushing those thoughts away -- not
because he resented them, but because he could do nothing about
them at the moment -- but they would sneak back in a few minutes
        On Wednesday, the day she came back, the floors were done,
and Albert was allowed to go back to his life on the ward. 
Normally, that would have included swapping stories and stealing
smokes with the guys, but Albert had not forgotten about Saturday,
even if they had.  Instead, he set up his chess board in the back
corner of the pitiful play lounge and worked on a rook-centered
offense he was trying to build.  It was difficult to do without an
opponent, but he hadn't had one since Father Brusero died in
December, and he'd gotten accustomed to it.  Brusero had been an
inveterate gamer, and he had found in eleven-year-old Albert a
kindred spirit.  Albert (who was now almost fourteen) had always
loved games, any games -- the objective was clear-cut, and the
rules, once learned, were not subject to sudden changes.  After
twenty minutes, he was completely focused on his strategy, which
was good after two days of unfocused thinking.  He hear the others
start heckling someone, but it was far away, and he paid no
        He moved the rook on his experimental side (which he
thought of as "the Good Guys") four spaces forward to knock out his
fictional opponent's bishop; so far, so good.  He crossed to the
other side of the board, and reviewed the position from the "Bad
Guys"' viewpoint.
        "Albert?" one of the priests interrupted him.
        Albert waved an impatient hand at him and continued his
perusal of the opponent's perspective.  The queen was no threat.
He had pinned her on an early move.  The other bishop was out of
play.  Neither rook could reach him in a single move.  The Good
Guys looked to be in pretty good shape.  Unless...
        Damn, he thought.  The rook, which occupied a key
space, was directly in the path of the Bad Guys' knight.  It was
the same mistake he had been making since his first game; Father
Brusero had told him to check the knights every time, even if they
weren't anywhere near him, but he never did, and when he lost, that
was almost always why.
        Albert sighed inwardly and captured his own rook.  So much
for the Calavicci offense.  He looked up at the priest.  He was one
of the younger ones, and Albert wasn't sure what his name was. 
"Sorry, Father," he said generically.
        "Are you winning?" the priest asked, with a smile that was
supposed to be jovial, but looked more than a little condescending.
"You have a visitor," he said, and walked away, revealing the
blonde girl, who had been standing beside him.
        Albert looked at her for a long moment.  In all of his
thinking about her over the past few days, it had not occurred to
him that she would come here.  She had obviously been badly
frightened on Saturday, and girls stayed away from things that
frightened them.  Besides that, girls didn't follow boys without
being prodded into it.  But here she stood, and Albert found
himself with nothing to say.
        Oh, hell, he thought.  Since when do girls play
by the rules anyway?  He smiled and said the only thing that
came into his mind, trying to make it sound as easygoing as
possible.  "Hey.  I didn't think we'd see you around here again
after Saturday.  You're pretty tough, for a girl."
        It must have sounded alright, because the girl visibly
relaxed.  "I wanted to say thank you," she said.
        Albert shrugged, and slipped into a more familiar way of
talking to a girl.  "What was I gonna do?  Let that nozzle cut up
your pretty face?"
        She didn't blossom at the flattery, which was what Albert
had expected, and that made him uncomfortable again.  Instead, she
looked around the room at the other St. Joe's kids, who, Albert
realized, had almost all been outside with him the day she had been
attacked.  "The rest of them would have."
        A vision of Tony Locarro clasping his hands together and
saying My hero went through Albert's mind, and he pushed it
away.  He had just been doing what anyone would have.  Hadn't he? 
Of course he had.  He'd just happened to see the trouble first,
that was all.  "Aw, they're good guys," he said, to get past her
accusation.  She did not have the good grace to agree and let the
subject drop, but was nervous enough to not say anything more.
Albert racked his brain from something to say to her.  He was
usually good with girls, and the situation was unnerving him.
Finally, he said, "Do you have a name?"
        What he heard, at first, was "It's Trudy," and his sister's
face, wide open and innocent, surfaced in his mind.  He missed her
suddenly and acutely.  Then the blonde girl spoke again, as if
clarifying:  "Ruthie Minkin."
        "Ruthie," he repeated.  Not Trudy, then.  And what was he
doing thinking about Trudy, anyway?  He never thought about Trudy.
There was nothing he could do for her.  This girl was Ruthie,
Ruthie Minkin, and she was not his sister, and he didn't want her
to be.  He nodded emphatically at the sentiment.  To confirm it,
he asked a question which neither he nor anyone else would have
ever asked poor, slow Trudy:  "Do you play chess?"
        It turned out that she didn't, but Albert was able to teach
her the game in considerably less time than it had taken Brusero
to teach him.  Whether it was because he was a better teacher or
she was a better student was irrelevant.  He beat her soundly on
the first game, guessing that she would respond to an honest loss
better than she would to a well-intentioned win handed to her on
a silver platter.  His guess was correct; she demanded a re-match
immediately, and her playing improved at what Albert considered a
fairly alarming rate.  Her first few moves, she mimicked his
intense concentration, but she quickly developed her own style.
She began talking as soon as his move was complete, then, seemingly
at random, moved a piece a space or two, often doing serious damage
to Albert's strategy.  During one of these interludes, she asked
him how old she was, and he told her he would be fourteen in June.
She looked about eleven, but he knew it was sometimes hard to tell
a person's age.  Figuring it was always better to guess older
(people often thought he was younger than he was, and he hated it),
he asked, "What are you, about twelve?"
        "Yes," she said without hesitation.  She moved her queen
six spaces, knocked out his bishop, and smiled cheerfully.
        Albert stopped answering her when she talked after that. 
It took him fifteen more minutes to win.

Ruthie, BTW, lied about her age. She is ten in this scene. Al is, to put it mildly, unthrilled to learn the truth two years later when she tells him after they've gone too far to bother turning back. If you want to know more about this sordid little soap opera (my private QL soap), [e-mail address temporarily disabled] and I'll fill you in on the neverending saga...

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