Tuesday, May 10, 2016

26 Minutes Redux

I first attempted this exercise in Febraury of '15. I wanted to write a (very) short story ... just to see how long it took. I didn't write with undue alacrity. I just sat and wrote until I was happy. It took 26 minutes. In the mood for another story, I plan on writing for 26 minutes, then stopping wherever I am. So, bear with me, all of my dozen fans. The neighborhood of Park Terrace is chronicled in one of my ever-growing trove of unpublished novels, Slow Dancin'. You can read the other scribblings here.

May 10, 2016, 4:00pm

Tales from Park Terrace

The New Kid

Since few people moved in and out of Park Terrace, a new kid at school was huge news. The girls of St. Dymphna's, daintily jumpered and saddle-shod, would start the whispering. The guys would eventually come around. This all happened just before Christmastime. I was in the sixth.

The kid's name was Dickie. A little taller than I (well, everyone was, even the girls), but gangly. A walking pantograph, if you will. He seemed to amble about the playground in multiple directions, as if avoiding an unlucky straight line. Maggot Nimmets challenged him to a race. This was an early testosterone test among the kids of Park Terrace. We ran everywhere.

Dickie managed to fold his arms about his corpus. He replied in a calm, almost aristocratic voice, "I'd rather not." Maggot launched a few choice words in the new kid's direction, none of which ruffled Dickie.

Dickie was a bit of a towhead. but it wasn't the color of his hair that we noticed. It was his coif's lack of direction. His hair spiked crazily away from his head—amazingly mimicking his limbs. Sister Hugo even took after him with a comb, brush and Vitalis that first day. She was a stickler for neatness. Dickie protested mildly, "This will have no effect, Sister. I am not debonair."

He was right. Big Fun Laughlin pegged it, "Kid has mental hair, Nipper," he said to me.

One of the girls asked where Dickie lived. He turned his head—but his hair seemed to turn in an opposite direction—and said, "I reside on Barkentine Lane."

Uh, oh. This road was on Seeman's Hill, the small enclave in Park Terrace reserved for the moneyed few who still lived in the city. The automatic attachment: Here's a snotty rich kid. Most Hill kids attended fancypants private schools in the 'burbs that encased our crumbling city.

As a matter of course, Dark Mark Longeuil challenged Dickie to a fight a few days after his arrival. For Mark, tussling was a hobby. Some kids built car models. Mark fought. He wasn't the toughest kid, but he was the most fearless.

Mark batted Dickie about the shoulders a few times, "C'mon kid, let's go."

Dickie's disposition stayed waveless, a tranquil pond. "I shall not go anywhere with you. And I abhor fighting."

I decided to step in and offer to walk home for a bit with Dickie. My home on Midfield was on the way.

Dickie shed the slightest tear. He said little. I tried to calm with stories of guys who had bested ("taken") Dark Mark.

Soon after that, most of us left Dickie alone. He was a superlative student, but slings of "brown nose" gave him little pause.

When spring rolled around, he found himself on Ballard's Field, home of the PT Little League. He was picked for the Green Sox, my team. Coach Ziggy Toth, an evil, tobacco-spewing martinet, eyed Dickie cautiously.

In the third game of the season, Ziggy took a chance and used Dickie to pinch hit. We were down to the Panthers by ten runs. Dickie calmly strode to the plate. His elbows seemed to extend into the opposite batter's box.

He took three balls and two strikes. Ziggy cursed under his breath. On the sixth pitch, Dickie swung. His limbs (and hair) flailed in the spring sunset. Ash met horsehide with a feral crack.

And the ball flew off his bat. And flew and flew and flew into the industrial waste site, way over the fence.

Dickie set new league records that year, both for strikeouts and homers. He seemed to effect only those two modes of at-bats. He shunned any praise. His father would drive him home in a leviathan of a Cadillac.

We won the league championship. Dickie refused to play for the All-Star team, saying, "I would rather end my sport season here."

When school began in September. Dickie wasn't there.

I forget his last name.

4:26 pm

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