Wednesday, August 12, 2009
There was something about that statue that made Lewis uneasy. He couldn’t figure out how it was possible, but he was sure the statue was watching him. The eyes followed him when he stepped to the left and they remained fix on him if he stepped to the right. When he stood tall on his tippy toes the gray stone eyes went up, and when he crouched down low they dropped.
Lewis was memorized. He stepped up to the statue’s foot and pinched the left big toe. It was cold, hard and lifeless. That ruled out a person disguised as a statue. He walked around the pedestal looking for a switch, or a place where one would insert a key to wind it up. Again, he found nothing. He searched for an antenna thinking the statue’s movements were somehow controlled remotely. Once again, he found nothing. He sat on the top step to think. He thought, and he thought some more. He thought so much his brain hurt.
Then a very troubling thought exploded through his mind. He stood up and ran inside the museum. His eyes scanned the central lobby. It was empty of children. There was a women sitting at a desk with a green lamp. Above the desk hung a large wooden sign with the word “Information” written in gold letters. He ran to the woman.
“Excuse me, but I can’t find my class.” Lewis was out of breath. His heart was racing and he felt a panic punching away inside his stomach.
“What school are you with?” The woman asked. She had a long, thin face. Her sharp nose held up a pair of reading glasses. Her hair was tightly rolled in a bun behind her head.
“Confederacy Elementary.” Lewis answered.
“And where is Confederacy Elementary located?”
“You’re with the school from Cloverdale?” The woman stood as she spoke. She pushed a buzzer with one hand and picked up the phone with the other.
“What’s wrong?” Lewis asked, fearing he already knew the answer.
“Your class left thirty minutes ago in their bus.You were left behind.”
For the first time in his life Lewis felt truly alone. The woman pointed to a nearby tall backed wooden chair. He took two steps and fell into it. Panic succeeded in punching its way out of his stomach. He felt gigantic sobs welling up from within. Ten seconds later they escaped, accompanied by a stream of tears. The wailing drew everyone’s attention. Several women within earshot instinctively reacted to the call of an injured child and came rushing to his aid. The men, free of their wives and girlfriends, found the nearest chair, sofa or bench, took out their cell phones and rejoined the real world.
It all worked out in the end. The bus promptly returned. A very upset teacher escorted Lewis out of the museum by the strap on his backpack. Lewis didn’t know what he feared most.....being left behind or the long trip home.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Tony Pavelli loves country music. What his family doesn’t know is Tony’s love of singing country. He keeps this passion secret because his father, Enrico, is a wielder at the machine works in Cloverdale and despises country music. Enrico is a man’s man. Singing is for girls and no son of his would ever sing, or dance for that matter. As for Tony’s mother..... she is too burdened with six children to shield him from the harassment and teasing he would suffer from her husband and Tony’s older brothers.
Enrico Pavelli’s life is routine and predictable. His alarm rings at 6:30 A.M. He gets up, dresses, goes downstairs, sips a cup of coffee and reads the sports section of the newspaper. He closely monitors all the Confederacy Football teams but is a rabid supporter of the local Cloverdale Eagles. Tony is sometimes awoken by his father’s tirades if his teams lose their matches. Sometimes he gets up and goes downstairs to listen to his father’s conversation with the newspaper. Tony understands his dad's love for the sport. He's a good football player himself on his school's team. But there is a big difference between a fan and a fanatic as seen when these two male Pavelli’s are sitting together at the kitchen table at 6:45 A.M. One shouts at the newspaper and the other sits with his knees drawn to his chest and listens.
At 7:00 A.M. Enrico leaves for the machine works and Tony gets ready for school. Tony is out the door by 7:45 A.M. a good thirty minutes before needed to catch the bus. This is his time. Instead of following the road to the bus stop, he takes the long way through the neighbor’s field.
The field is his theater. He turns on his cassette player and sings along with the greatest names in country to the greatest music ever written. He sings with all his heart in a place where no one will hear. And when the bus comes into view he picks up his books and runs to the stop.
The wheat in the field is entertained a second time when Tony returns from school in the late afternoon. He takes his time walking and singing, stopping the cassette repeatedly when he forgets the words, rewinding and starting over from the beginning. He figures he has memorized nearly fifty songs that way.
Tony wants a guitar for his upcoming birthday. He checked the prices at the shop in the village and walked away knowing they were more than his mother could afford. He didn’t think she would buy him one anyway. Tony came to the realization that if he wanted his own guitar he would have to earn the money himself.
Tony has a plan. He will learn to play the guitar. When his family is conditioned to hearing him play country music he will start singing. Simple songs at first, and as time passes he hopes to convert them to the single most powerful force in the universe - Country music.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Boomer Batty lives on Park Lane Avenue in Cloverdale. He’s too young to drive and that fact presents a dilemma. Boomer has places to go and people to see. Now, how does one too young to drive solve a serious problem like that?
Pictured above is Boomer’s solution - the Batty Wagon. Perhaps I forgot to mention that Boomer is considered a gifted child by the Ministry of Education and Employment. Using his Gifted classification and abnormally high IQ, Boomer gained access to the Comprehensive School’s trade shops. Using his annoying voice and persistence, Boomer gained access to the school’s drafting computers. Using his charm and persuasive skills, Boomer got access to Henry’s Junkyard and Scrap Metal three miles outside of the village on Highway One. With designs in hand, and a very convincing lie about a school science fair project, Boomer talked the Junkyard into donating the materials he needed to build the Batty Wagon. Construction was completed in two weeks. During that time Boomer rarely left the shop, and when he did, it was with the custodian’s help (by the scruff of the neck).
Of course, Boomer needed music for his outings. He owned a WalkMan portable cassette player and earphones. They were OK when he was on foot. But because of his pending graduation from shoe leather to rubber wheels, Boomer needed something else. He wanted a sound system so passengers could also enjoy his music. He needed something massively awesome.......something that made a statement. He needed something to tell the village that Boomer Batty was approaching and clear the sidewalks.
Boomer found the solution while he and his mother visited the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Boomer went straight to the electronics department while Mrs. Batty looked for used romance novels. A large sign reading “CLEARANCE. ALL PRICES REDUCED” caught his attention. He walked toward the sign. There, on a large banquet table sat a set of speakers. Boomer closely examined each one. They seemed in perfect working order. He stood back, closed his eyes and imagined himself on the Batty Wagon riding through town with those speakers blasting away. In his vision he saw all of his friends crowd around wanting rides. He smiled when the girls in his class appeared, each one begging to be his girlfriend. Such was the power of the Batty Wagon.
The sound system was installed three days later. It was the last thing added. The Batty Wagon was finished and ready for its maiden voyage. Boomer pushed it out of the school’s metal shop and set course for the village’s High Street. He reached down and pushed the play button on his cassette player as he neared the shops. The music caused quite a commotion as it boomed throughout the Shopping District. Windows rattled. Old age pensioners pulled their hearing aides from their ears. The Widow Wilson thought Cloverdale was having an earthquake and cowered under a table at the Mouse Hole where she was picking up her weekly order of Sharp Cheddar. Cloverdale’s telephone switchboard lit up with calls to the police station, and several dogs created an impromptu chorus of howling and yelping. Boomer was the talk of the town.
Boomer rides his Batty Wagon everywhere he goes but turns the volume down. He got a ticket for disturbing the peace. His parents made him work off the fine doing chores around the house.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Scooter Libby is tired. He spent half the day in an uncomfortable car seat and the other half on a sight seeing boat on Crystal Lake. His mother promised the day would be fun as they pulled out of the driveway early in the morning. She promised a boat trip and a picnic. She said there could be pirates. Well so far, the day hasn't been fun. The road trip was nearly unbearable for two reasons - the car seat was hard, with straps that hurt his shoulders, and he had to sit next to Grandpa Libby. Scooter loved his Grandpa Libby - from a distance.
Grandpa had his own house once, until Scooter's dad said he was "a danger to himself". Scooter helped his dad move Grandpa into the Nearly There Home for the Elderly and Senile. According to their advertisements, the staff of Nearly There excelled in providing assistance to the senior citizen too aged to care for themselves yet to stubborn or senile to understand they couldn’t.
Several months ago Grandpa entered the home thin. On each family outing everyone but Scooter noticed he kept growing thinner. Scooter was too young to recognize the weight loss but wasn’t too young to recognize bad smells, and Grandpa Libby smelled bad.
“Grandpa stinks,” Scooter told his mother before Grandpa stumbled into the car from Nearly There’s sidewalk.
“I know Scooter. Grandpa's not happy living here. Its his way of showing us. We are not going to talk about this in front of Grandpa because it will make Grandpa and Daddy get into a fight. So, don't say anything.” Mother replied.
Scooter understood to keep quiet and waited for the van to start moving. The air coming through the window was his only solution to the odor.
Several minutes passed. The van was still parked. Scooter couldn't see his dad - his mother’s shoulder was in the way. The car seat’s straps held him tightly down when he tried to push himself up to look out the windshield. He gave up after three attempts. His mother either understood Scooter’s distress or was overcome by Grandpa's smell and turned the key to lowered the Van’s power windows. A breeze filled the car. Voices accompanied the breeze. Scooter recognized his Dad’s. He was yelling to someone about Grandpa. Scooter couldn’t understand all the words but knew when his dad was mad. His dad was really mad.
"Why's daddy yelling?" Scooter asked his mother.
"Nothing to worry about dear," Mother answered.
"Don't want to stay here. I want to go home. I'm not eating much, only enough to stay alive. The food tastes like cardboard. And I'll not bathing much until my demands are met. If it worked for Gandhi then it will work for me." Grandpa was a stubborn stubborn man. Scooter tried to imagine what cardboard tasted like. He put that thought aside for future experimentation and decided to ask about something else.
"Why can't you go home?" Scooter asked.
"George..... this isn't the time or place for this discussion. Scooter look at your book." Mother handed Scooter his picture book on Dinosaurs. She gave Grandpa a hard look. Grandpa shifted in his seat and folded his arms.
Dad opened the van door and got in.
"Dad, this is unacceptable behavior on your part."
"Don't you start on me. You're the one that said I was unable to care for myself. Why I lived on my own since your mother died....."
"Stop!" Mother yelled. It frightened Scooter. He dropped his picture book. "This was going to be a nice day out. I won't hear another word about Nearly There because I'm Nearly at wit's end with both of you."
Mother had the last word that morning. There was nothing more said on the subject.
The boat was interesting. It had nooks and crannies and compartments and a steering wheel and an anchor and life vests. Scooter was ready to begin several hours of exploring. His mother took his hand as they approached the gangplank and didn’t release it until he was seated next to the outer hull of the boat on his right and his mother on his left. He struggled to slip down to the floor and scamper under the benches to find the pirates. There had to be pirates. Grandpa said they were going on his old pirate ship. He told Scooter what it was like being a pirate. Scooter asked why he wasn't a pirate now. Grandpa said he gave it up when Scooter's dad was born.
Each time Scooter straightened out flat to slide down the bench his mother grabbed his leg, gave it a squeeze and told him to stay still. If he pouted his mother squeezed his leg harder. He understood the consequences and gave up.
The boat left dock. Scooter heard the engine and felt the bumping of the boat against the water. He got up on his knees to see over the side. He wasn't tall enough. He could see the disappearing shoreline but not the water. He started to stand. Mother took his hand and held him down.
“No standing. Didn’t you hear the captain?” She asked.
“I can’t see.” Scooter explained.
Mother took him by the waist and sat him on her lap. It was a bit better but he still couldn’t see the water. He struggled. Her hand was back on his leg. He understood and stopped. Mother would not stand for a temper tantrum in public. Having one at home was one thing. She would send him to his room. Having one in public was entirely different.
Scooter was asleep ten minutes into the journey. It was all too much for a young boy. Mother let him sleep for the rest of the lake excursion. A picnic was planned for later. He could run around and explore then.