“What ya typing?” she asks.
“I’m typing every word you say,” I answer receiving a puzzled stare. I explain,” in the late sixties Teri Garr played a part in the original Star Trek series. She spoke to a computer and said something like: It’s typing, it’s typing everything I say,” I said looking into her eyes hoping to see some sign of activity.
“So, what ya typing?” she asks with a bit of compassion in her smile.
“I got nothing,” I respond, closing the lid of my Mac Book and giving her my undivided attention. “How you doing?” I say trying to sound like Joey on the Friends television show.
“Just came in for some caffeine. This your hot spot now?” She set down in the chair next to mine and pulled the plastic top off her cardboard cup.
“I’m not sure about hot spot but I seem to end up here two or three times a week.” I lean back in my chair and take a sip of coffee from my off white ceramic mug, being very careful not to drip on my green John’s Bay tee shirt.
“So who’s this Teri Garr?” she asks.
“I’ve been in love with Teri Garr my whole life. She played Phoebe’s mother on Friends once. She did such a good job I still believe she’s Phoebe’s mother.”
“Never heard of her,” she said.
“Kind of a blond Zooey Deschanel,” I said, not really sure why but it seemed right somehow.
She took a thoughtful sip of her caffeinated drink and said, “Zooey’s fun, and I love to say Deschanel.”
“I love to say Teri Garr,” I said. “Teri Garr.” I said again. “It makes be feel happy, Teri Garr.”
“Well I’m glad you’re happy. I’m gonna go now. Things to do.” She got up from the chair and waited for my response.
“Are you happy?” I asked looking up at her.
She paused a moment and said, “Yes, I’m happy. Bye,” she said as she turned to leave.
“Bye,” I said as she walked away.
He picked up the receiver to the black phone sitting on his desk and listened for a dial tone. Slipping his index finger into the face of the phones dial just over the number nine he pulled the disk around in a circle until his finger hit the chrome stop. He pulled his fingertip away and allowed the dial to return to its original position. He heard the familiar, “dat, dat, dat, dat, dat, dat,” as the disk unwound. He placed his index finger into the dial above the one and made the short trip to the chrome stop. “Dat, dat,” the second the dial stopped he dialed one once more. He heard the first ring, and then a second, “brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”.
“What is your emergency?” a women’s voice asked.
“There has been a murder,” he said, “there’s blood everywhere.” He spoke clearly and without hesitation.
“Where are you calling from?” the women’s voice questioned, but he did not hear. The receiver had fallen out of his hand and onto the tiled concrete floor. He fell forward, his head-hitting the desk. His breathing stopped. The room fell silent.
“Sir, sir, where are you calling from?” a thin voice said, but no one was there to hear it.
“Why don’t we just give it to him?” The Lieutenant was pacing back in forth in the small, glassed in area inside the police station. His pacing required a deal of attention, rolls of file cabinets and a desk piled to capacity left little free floor space in the captains’ office.
I have a sister. It’s not as bad as it seems. First, she is very smart, she goes to a special school on a short bus because she’s so smart. She has long, light brown hair and she is so tall she can see right over my head without standing on tiptoes. Her name is Kathleen. Never, I repeat, never call Kathleen, Kathy. If you were to call Kathleen, Kathy you would get the look followed by silence – trust me, you do not want that. My sister, Kathleen, spends a lot of time alone in her room; no one knows what she does in there. This morning when she came to me with a request it was quite unusual, not the request, but that she spoke to me at all.
“David”, my sister said to me. I looked at her, puzzled and could think of no response. “David, I want to do something outside with you” she said and it didn’t even sound like a trick.
“Okay”, I said.
“What can we do?” she asked with a childlike interest I had never seen before.
“Climb the Hill, catch Polly Wogs, ride bikes?” the last suggestion slipped out before I remembered she does not know how to ride a bike, but it didn’t seem to faze her.
“No”, she was thinking; she really wanted to do this. I was getting just a little excited. “We could play baseball”, she said.
“I’ll get the stuff!” I ran toward my room not giving her time to change her mind. I found the bat and threw it onto the bed. I found one glove and then another, piled them on the bed. I dug in the back of the closet. I crawled under the bed. I scanned the floor from edge to edge. I found nothing round. I dug into each of my four drawers, no ball was found. I went back to where my sister waited knowing I had lost my chance to play with her outside. “I can’t find a ball” I said and looked down at the floor.
“I have a ball”, my sister said like it was the best thing that had ever happened to her. She turned around and ran to her room. I can’t remember ever seeing her run before. She returned with the satisfied expression of a victor. Holding a golf ball out for me to see.
“We can’t play baseball with a golf ball”, I hesitated to admit. “If we hit a golf ball with a baseball bat it will fly for miles. We will never find it again.” I expected her to turn and go back into her room but she surprised me one more time.
“I’ll pitch the ball to you, you can hit first”, she said, like it was something a normal person would say. I had figured I would pitch to her, that I would run and find the ball, that when it came time for me to be at bat she would quit. Her pitching to me first made no since at all. I knew the golf ball was wrong but I had to let my sister pitch the ball to me at least one time. In the history of brothers and sisters this would be epic. I grabbed the gloves and bat. We headed out into the back yard. I marked a home base in the soft dirt. My sister stood about twenty feet away. I stood next the triangle home base and held the bat up above my shoulder; ready to step into her pitch and put every ounce of force at my disposal into my swing. Kathleen wound up and the ball left her hand. A perfect underhand pitch came toward me. The bat smashed the small ball; it was going to go into orbit. But the ball did not achieve orbit. The ball did not make it even to the wooden fence fifty feet away. At first the ball only went twenty feet. The golf ball moving at thousands of miles an hour hit my sister Kathleen in the forehead, right at the top of her head. If the ball had been one inch higher it would have missed her completely. Kathy stood there without moving, without making a sound, but tears started running down her face, two streams of water, one down each cheek. During this time, unbeknownst to us the golf ball climbed higher and higher into the sky until it reached it’s apex. The golf ball paused for a split second and than began it’s journey back to earth. My sister had not moved or made a sound, tears still ran down her face. The golf ball made it’s way almost to the ground. The golf ball would have hit the ground if my sister’s head had not been in the way. Against all odds the ball hit my sister in the center of the top of her head. She found her voice. A howl could be heard throughout the neighborhood as my sister ran for the house. I picked up the golf ball and slipped it into my pocket. I returned the bat and gloves to my bedroom.
Ricky and I have made it to the fourth grade. We are never in the same class; the school seems to think I’m quite a bit smarter than he is (I know different). The school insists I’m just working below my full potential. Rick and I meet up after the last bell rings and start the trek toward our homes. We are not going home. We walk along the creek. The creek is fifty feet from our school and one hundred feet from my house, almost a miles walk. The Polly Wogs are abundant this year, thousand of black swimming apostrophes hoping to someday become frogs. But we have no time for Polly Wogs this afternoon. We are headed for “The Hill”. The hill is an unnatural protuberance. Last year a flock of excavators and dump trucks worked for months digging and hauling muddy dirt out of the bottom of the creek. All the dirt was piled in an empty field near our house. From the top of “The Hill” you can see over US Market all the way to the orange shaped, orange juice stand. The Hill is lined with small paths; some switch back and fourth, some head almost straight up. Ricky and I pick a path and head toward the top cutting across the front face of the mountain. When we reach our work site the twins, Jerome and Jarrett, are already at work.
“How goes the tunneling?” I holler at the entrance to the cave we are working on.
From about five feet in Jerome, the oldest of the twins by almost two minutes, hollers back, “we are making good progress” and starts scooting back leaving Jarrett to dig alone.
“I think we are far enough in to start widening it out” Jerome says as soon as his head clears the entrance. “Jarrett is going to see if he can get it wide enough to turn around in before he comes out.”
I listen at the opening and hear Jarrett humming his favorite working song, I Love to Go a Wandering; he can really make something out of the Hi-Dee- Hi Does. Every once in a while his feet kick a pile of dirt to within three feet of the cave’s entrance and we pull it the rest of the way out with shovels and hands. It’s good work and Jarrett seems to be making good progress by the looks of the pile of brown dry dirt we have pulled out.
“Looking good Jarrett!” I shout encouragingly into the hole. Jarrett kicks a small pile of dirt at me letting me know he doesn’t need encouragement and continues his song. I stand away from the cave and take a minute to wipe the sand out of my eyes. I can hear someone panting their way up the hill.
“Someone is coming”, I whisper to Jerome. He drops to the ground and crawls, keeping out of sight, seeking a vantage point where he can see down the path without being seen.
“It’s my mom”, he whispers as I crawl up next to him. A slightly overweight, twenty-six year old lady, in a skirt just a bit to long for hiking puffs her way up the hill. She does not look happy. She is mumbling something we cannot make out but are pretty sure it isn’t in our favor. Jerome stands up so his mother can see him.
“Jerome and Jarrett I’ve been looking for you for half and hour”, she says in between breaths. I have never heard her call for just Jerome or just Jarrett, they are always together and she always calls them Jerome and Jarrett. I stand up beside Jerome. As I stand up I feel a soft swish of air and hear a slight thump coming from the cave. Jerome and I turn in unison and see dust coming from the mouth of our excavation. The earth above Jarrett is concave. We forget about Jerome and Jarrett’s mother and both grab shovels. Ricky already has dirt flying. We need to get Jarrett out. At first we attacked the entrance but that only seems to make more dirt fall in so we start pushing away the loose dirt right on top of where we assumed Jarrett is, until I hear the scream.
“My Jarrett!” Jerome and Jarrett’s mom has made it to the top of the path and, to her credit, figured out almost instantly what has happened to her younger twin boy. Again she screamed, “My Jarrett!” her feet are bolted to the ground and she is shaking all over. I put down my shovel and stand beside her. I hold her hand in mine as Jerome and Ricky continue to franticly dig.
“It’s going to be Okay”, I say to Jerome and Jarrett’s mother in a calm and soothing voice, “We are going to get him out.” She stops shaking a little and her eyes fill with water.
“I found a foot”, Jerome says and waves me over. We pull dirt away with our hands until we can get a hold of both of his brown shoes. We brace ourselves again the pile of dirt and pull. Jarrett body starts to slide out. Jarrett starts kicking and squirming, a good sign. We pull and he squirms until the four of us sit on top of what had once been our cave. Jarrett’s face is covered with mud from all the crying he has done while he thought he was going to die. Jerome and Jarrett’s mother grabs Jerome’s arm with one hand and Jarrett’s arm with the other. Without looking at Ricky or me she pulls them down The Hill toward their home.
“I’m thinking we might not need a cave”, Ricky says as he watches the twins being dragged home.
“I’m thinking if we just dug a big hole first, and then cover it with timbers and covered the timbers with dirt?” We start shoveling out the soft dirt.
School seems to be a necessary evil, I’m a kid, I go. Over all it’s not a complete waste of time, I could see someday using long division. Ricky, my best friend, waits for me at his house that is six houses up the street. Ricky is the only nine-year-old at the school smaller than I am. We’ve been friends since out first day of Kindergarden. That first day of kindergarten – it wasn’t something easy to forget. Ricky’s mom had dropped him off with hugs and tears. She was just a kid too, only twenty years old. But at the time it was a bit disconcerting to see a mom cry. When she was out of sight Ricky was left standing in a room filled with kids his own age, a bit overwhelmed. Then he noticed us in the carpeted part of the room. We had piles of red cardboard blocks painted to look like bricks. Rick wandered over where I was giving instructions to two teams of kids. Ricky gave his standard introduction, “Hi, I’m Ricky.”
“Hi Ricky, we need a wall right here and if you can figure a way to get a roof on our fort that’s what we need. Your on our team.” I said.
We worked much of the morning once everyone was clear on what a fort was and how to build one. Our wall curved to form a half circle – there was no roof. A pile of hard wooden blocks was referred to as ammunition. It was important to have lots of ammunition near by.
With hindsight I see half a classroom of kindergarteners engaged in a creative project for a least an hour. I’m sure Miss Hanna, our teacher, was very proud of her first day as a kindergarten teacher – her well-behaved brood content, at work and quiet.
At this point I stood up and in a loud low voice – as manly as a five year old can sound said, “This is war! You’re the bad guys. We are the good guys!” I picked up a hard wood block and threw it across the room knocking a few red cardboard blocs out of the bad guys fort. Ricky, my second, from that day forward – picked up a hard wood block throwing it as hard as he could at the enemy fort. His throw went high just above the wall of the apposing teams fort. As luck would have it one of the bad guys looked above the rim of the fort just as the block passed its goal leaving only the kid’s forehead in it’s path. I can still hear the scream – kids cried, the teacher turned white.
I remember sitting outside the principles office on a bench at the end of a long hall. Seems like we sat there in silence for a long time. I don’t remember how we got there. The principle, a giant man, a very stern man – invited us into his office. He seated us on a sofa in his office, side by side, our legs sticking our straight. Our legs barely long enough to keep our shoes off the upholstery.
The Principle pulled a chair close, bent over, looking into our cherub like faces said, “What was that about?”
I answered without a pause, without excuse – in a clear direct statement of truth. “It was War.”
We live on Cedar Street and the walk into town is lined with Cedar Trees. Cedar Trees forty feet apart with branches just touching. I would like to meet the person in charge of such careful city planning. The concrete sidewalk is six feet away from the curb; which is next to the asphalt road. Within the six feet the Cedar Trees grow. The city mows the grass that grows between the trees, so it’s like a long skinny park everyone owns. I can walk on the grass if I want to and no old guy from his porch can holler at me to keep off. Today I walk on the four foot wide concrete side walk being careful to keep off the lines that mark off two by two foot squares and I never step on cracks – no need to invite calamity. The road through town was dug up a few years ago and replaced with red bricks in a herringbone pattern. Out of the same red bricks planters were built that are now filled with flowers and small trees. The cars have all been diverted to parking lots behind the stores, bicycles are still allowed. I notice a group forming in front of the used bookstore, which just happens to be where I’m headed. I nudge a tall, six foot nine, a hundred and sixty pound guy in the back of the crowd; he has a clear view, being nine years old and four foot tall all I can see is backs and bottoms. He turns and misses me altogether.
“Down here”, I say while tugging on his shirtsleeve. He looks down through rimless glasses and finally focuses on what must look like the proverbial ant, me. “What’s going on?” I ask.
“Mr. Allen is being held at gunpoint – he came in early and interrupted a thug – robbing his shop”, he said stopping to breath three times.
“And why are we all just standing here?” I ask with just a little bit of wonder.
“The police – are coming”, he said like that explained everything. I worked my way past him and in and out until I made it to the front of the thirty or so people who had gathered to watch poor Mr. Allen. I could see him through the front window. He looked small and old pushing himself hard against the wall trying to keep himself as far away from the over weight man with a gun as he could. Mr. Allen stared without blinking straight at the guns black barrel. I pushed open the thick glass door, the crowd behind me let out a unison gasp.
“Mr. Allen, I’ve come about the new Flash comic book”, I looked at Mr. Allen like nothing was going on and spoke in a casual, calm voice.
“Jimmy, get back, there’s a man with a gun”, Mr. Allen is a friend and he was looking out for me but, right now, I just didn’t need looking after. I gave Mr. Allen a knowing nod. I turned and looked at the man with the gun. I jumped a little when I saw him, pretending I hadn’t seen him standing there.
“What do you plan to do with that gun?” I asked, like I really wanted to know. I walked a little closer to the man as I spoke and pointed my finger almost touching the gun still pointed at Mr. Allen.
“I was looking for money or something to sell,” he said quietly, almost apologetically.
“It’s too late for that”, I stated, very matter-of-factly, without a hint of doubt. “Put the gun on top of that pile of books”, I took my eyes off him for a split second and looked at the top of the pile of books a few feet from where he stood. He placed the gun on the books and looked down at the ground. “Sit in that chair by the door and wait for the police, they should be here in less than ten minutes”, he took a seat as I walked over to the counter behind which Mr. Allen was still pressed against the wall. “Did the new Flash come in while I was on vacation?” Mr. Allen relaxed and leaned on the counter like he usually does, his usual smile came back too. He reached under the counter.
“I saved you a copy, Jimmy, It’s an especially good episode, lots of very fast moving”, Mr. Allen said, he still wasn’t quite ready for conversation. “Thank-you Jimmy”, he said nodding toward the dejected man on the chair near the glass door.
“No Problem”, I said and turned toward the door. I nodded at the thug in the chair and pushed open the door. There were light applause as the crowd made a path for me – they were already standing. My next stop would be Woolworths; I needed refills for my Pez dispenser.