View Full Version : Pootie Game Revived #2: The Kid

05-07-2015, 07:39 PM
As the slow-moving freight train rumbled past the back gate, one of the trainmen tossed an orange out the yellow caboose window and called out, "Here ya go, kid, tell your grandpappy Zeke says 'hey!'"

05-07-2015, 11:34 PM
yvette gave a quick wave before catching the flying fruit in her well-worn catcher's mitt, then called out, "hey, gramps, wanna share an orange?"

05-08-2015, 12:09 AM
Every night when it was warm enough, Zeke and his grandchild Yvette spent hours on the front porch watching the trains run slowly out of town.

05-08-2015, 01:55 AM
Ezekiel Johnstone had passed his love of trains on down to Yvette who knew her grandpop had been a brakeman on the first Big Boy to climb the nearby mountain; what she didn't know was that he was a hero, too.

05-08-2015, 05:40 AM
Over fifty years ago, as a young newlywed, Zeke had taken the well-paying three day run between Denver and Colorado Springs. The trip itself was not that long, but he was part of the loading crew, a dangerous job on an easy day. It meant only seeing his wife a few days at a time, but Zeke figured he could make enough in a year for them to buy a small home and start a family.

05-08-2015, 07:04 AM
Yvette leaned back against her usual post and started to peel the orange. "Tell me a story about the ol' times, Gramps," she said. "Tell me one I haven't heard before."

05-08-2015, 09:31 AM
Even now the memory of that summer day in 1956 seemed so clear, that day when Zeke, as a boy, had seen Trevor Rivers step off that empty boxcar with his knapsack.

05-08-2015, 09:19 PM
"kick that crate over here, evvie, so i can put my feet up, and i'll tell you a humdinger!"

05-10-2015, 01:54 PM
"Rivers, yep, Trevor Rivers", Zeke mused as Evvie pushed the crate under her grandpop's outstretched feet and settled in next to him on the porch swing.
"I was just about your age, Evvie - 11 years or so - when I saw that feller for the first time and I sure do wish it'd been the last. That varmint rode the rails off and on for years - free of charge, don't you know, because he could run fast and jump high. Never could hold a job and didn't care if he did."
Zeke chuckled as he scolded Evvie, "Now don't be spitting those orange seeds into Gramma's flower garden or she'll have both our hides!"
Zeke petted Evvie's curly red hair and continued his story, "Now, Trevor, bad as he was, had some good to him, too. He sure could be a charmer and he charmed us all that summer before the bad trouble started."

05-12-2015, 09:25 AM
" 'Dumb kid', is what I thought when I first saw him. He said he was looking for farm work, needed a job right away...but if you want to be a farm hand, only a dang fool shows up in early June! The corn and spring wheat are all planted, and winter wheat don't ripen until almost July." Zeke was quiet for a moment, staring at the heat shimmering from the railroad tracks. "Shoulda known right then he had other things besides farm work on his mind."

05-13-2015, 01:33 PM
"Down at the corner of South Ferry Street and 6th Avenue," Zeke continued, "that was where a pie, cooling on a windowsill, disappeared later that evening. It seemed a small thing at the time."

05-15-2015, 01:34 PM
Evvie looked horrified, because she knew that address. "Not one of Aunt Donna's raspberry pies?"

05-18-2015, 07:29 PM
"strawberry-rhubarb, and she was fit to be tied," zeke answered. "she had made it for her sister shanah's birthday the next day."

05-19-2015, 10:56 AM
"You know, Evvie, as it turned out, she had baked her sister's birthday gift into the pie - a pair of diamond studs worth a fortune."

05-20-2015, 04:34 PM
"Earrings! Oh, no!" Evvie exclaimed. "That's even worse than stealing a pie. Would serve them right if they bit down on one and cracked a tooth."

05-21-2015, 08:44 AM
"Hot strawberry rhubarb pie!" thought Trevor. Helping himself greedily to a huge bite... he bit down hard and cracked a tooth.:eek:

05-25-2015, 08:49 AM
"He spit the hard thing into the dust," continued Gramps. "It wasn't until he found the mate a few bites later that he saw the sparkle. Sent him scrambling to find the first one but soon he had both in hand."

05-25-2015, 05:28 PM
"Dang!" Evvie said. She relished her grandpa's stories. "But Gramps...didn't he have to go to the dentist?"

05-25-2015, 05:35 PM
"that's how we found out what had happened," zeke replied. "ol' doc stephens blabbed it all over town after trevor showed up at his office the next morning."

05-26-2015, 01:35 PM
"Golly," Evvie said, "did Donna have him arrested for stealing the pie?"

05-27-2015, 09:09 PM
"Evvie," Zeke said, "Aunt Donna was one of the most forgiving souls on this earth. She baked him another one. In retrospect, that might have been a mistake. Trevor never came to claim the pie, and Donna never got the diamonds back."

05-28-2015, 04:14 PM
Evvie giggled - it was a sweet, infectious sound that her grandpa loved. "Maybe she was just hoping he'd break another tooth!" Then she said, "But Gramps...what did he do with those earrings?"

06-20-2015, 05:35 AM
"sweet girl," zeke responded, nodding his head, "that was the question EVERYONE was asking!"

06-20-2015, 12:49 PM
"Goes well with my eyes - the earrings, that is" thought Caitlyn. That was the name Trevor sometimes thought of himself as. He admired them a bit longer, and then slipped them into his pocket and wondered where he might find the nearest pawn shop.

07-30-2015, 04:14 PM
Placing the earrings on the counter at Universal Pawn, Trevor paused. He hadn't thought of his Mom in a long long time, but he realized in that moment that today was her birthday, and he wondered if he should keep the earrings instead and try to get them to her as a gift.
"$7.00 sir?" the clerk asked.
"What?" asked Trevor, returning to the matter at hand.
"Would $7.00 be acceptable to you?" the clerk asked.
"Hmmm," Trevor hesitated. "Tell you what," he said. "Maybe I'll be back tomorrow." He snatched the earrings from the counter and walked out the door.

07-31-2015, 01:37 AM
Reaching the corner, Trevor took a sharp left and entered a secluded doorway. A moment later he emerged as Caitlyn and was wearing the beautiful earrings. He just couldn't take a chance that the pawn shop owner would recognize him. He strutted purposefully toward the nearest UPS office, intent upon getting these gems to his mother for her birthday. He was so proud of this decision to act unselfishly for once.

07-31-2015, 11:56 AM
"Exactly what did that man take me for, a fool?" Caitlyn asked him/herself. "These are diamond earrings, and all he offered was $7.00? He took them to the back of the store and examined them himself. He had to know what they're worth! Maybe he thought I would believe him if he tried to tell me they were fake. These aren't fake... are they?:eek: "

08-02-2015, 09:34 AM
"You almost had him," Ike Green murmured to himself. "I should have given that train hopping trash my old why all you have here are a couple of fake diamonds, son, routine." Ike, the owner of Universal Pawn gazed out the front window. "Maybe he'll be back. Sure hope he didn't steal them from anybody local though."

08-05-2015, 07:14 PM
"Halfway down the next block," Zeke continued, "Old Trevor . . . uh, Caitlyn, stopped in his I mean her tracks! Because, Evvie, right up ahead, standing smack in front of the Silverado Savings and Loan, was -- OUCH!" Zeke's hand flew to his face.
"Oops, sorry!" Evvie said. She waited, orange juice and pulp dripping down her arm, as Zeke dabbed his left eye with a handkerchief.
"As I said," he continued. "Right up ahead, right there in front of the bank, crying her poor eyes out, was --"
"Graaaamps," Evvie said slowly, "how many people can have the same birthday?"

08-08-2015, 08:51 AM
"Your grandmother has had the very same 49th birthday now for... well, maybe I'd best not disclose that, Evvie," Zeke said, one eye still winking from the sting of the juice.

"That's not what I meant," replied Evvie. "Anyway, who was crying in front of the bank?"

08-11-2015, 10:12 PM
"Keep in mind, I told you this would be a humdinger," Zeke said. "The woman crying in front of the bank was the birthday girl herself, your great-aunt Shanah. The very person who Donna bought those earrings for."

"Oh! And Trevor stopped in his tracks because he felt bad that he stole them?"

Zeke pulled his granddaughter onto his lap. "Yvette, you have a good heart. The truth is, I don't think Trevor even saw Shanah. There was another women there too, and Shanah was crying and hugging her like she had just found all the lost diamonds in the world. I guess it was that other lady who Trevor saw, but he may as well have been looking at Shanah. Those two women had one and the same face."

Evvy stared at her grandpa with wide eyes. "They both had the same face?"

"I don't suppose you've heard about Aunt Lana," Zeke said. "We still don't talk about her too much."

* * *
Frozen in place on the sidewalk, the diamond-earred Trevor -- or Caitlyn; at this point he wasn't sure which -- cried out louder than he meant to: "Ma!"

08-12-2015, 11:04 AM
"Angie?" Lana said as she turned her head and saw the young woman standing not far down the sidewalk. It hadn't sounded like Angie, though. Still, when she'd heard someone cry Ma!" she had turned to see who it was that sounded so distressed. The young lady was the spitting image of her daughter Angie, Trevor's twin.

08-22-2015, 02:02 PM
Next - Lana paled. "Trevor," she barely exhaled as the realization of who was standing before her became clear. Precisely at 11:22 AM, Lana then managed to say, "What do you think you're doing?"

At exactly 11:22 AM, the horrified bank teller stared directly into the barrel of the pistol and, barely above a whisper, managed to utter, "What do you think you're doing?"

Trevor/Caitlyn, reaching for the earrings he/she was wearing, paused for a moment. Vertigo gripped him momentarily, and his hands instead went to cover his face rather than to pull the earrings. It had happened just like this so many times before. "She needs me, Ma," he said. "She needs me."

"Yes, she does," Lana replied, knowing intuitively of whom Trevor was speaking. Two blocks away, the bank alarm began ringing.

08-25-2015, 09:42 PM
“Grandpa, did you hear the bank alarm too?” Evvy asked. “Were you there that day?”

“Well, yes I was,” Zeke replied. “In fact, Evvy, it was probably on that very day that you came the closest to not ever having me for a grandpa.”

08-28-2015, 02:00 PM
“As I approached the bank's front door – it was a little before 11:30 AM, I suppose,” Zeke began, and Evvy was all ears... and then Zeke found himself immersed in 1956 all over again.

It was the same old joke, told by and hooted over by the same old teller of the joke, that being old man Gump as he sat on the bench outside the bank sipping his Dr. Pepper, “You gonna be able to get all them quarters up to the bank teller today, Zeke?”
Zeke, at 11 years of age and all of 4' 6” tall, wished he were about two feet taller so he could drop the sack of quarters on top of old man Gump's head. Instead, he politely answered, “I expect so, Mr. Gump.” The quarters (and nickels – and dimes – and pennies) were the sum total of coins Zeke had collected from his newpaper route customers over the past two weeks. The coins were inside of a tightly drawn drawstring bag, and the bag was inside of a faux leather briefcase from Sears and Roebuck. Zeke's father, in a mix of pride and humor, had purchased the briefcase for his son.
“So my son wants to be the little businessman about town, huh? Well then he ought to have a businessman's briefcase to carry all of his important items,” his father had said when he presented it to him. Zeke never seemed to have any important items other than the money, but he did prefer carrying all of his silver with a handle in his hand instead of a drawstring that occasionally rubbed uncomfortably against his palm. Hoping he could step into the bank without any further comments from Treelore Gump, Zeke pondered the inadequacies of his height for about another half-second when in the very next instant the Saint Louis Cardinals ball-cap sitting loosely on top of his head was suddenly blown away... along with a fair amount of hair and a line of skin from his scalp as well. The crack of gunfire was all the confirmation Zeke needed to realize that it was the lack of height that had just saved his life.

08-28-2015, 05:57 PM
Even as Zeke pondered his ironically good fortune, he saw that he was the only lucky one. Old Man Gump was leaning to one side, his Dr. Pepper smashed on the ground into a sharp puddle. The bullet that had grazed Zeke had landed in Gump's shoulder, perilously close to his neck.

Zeke turned around to look for help, which was when he saw who had fired the bullet. It had not occurred to him until then that it had to come from somewhere. The robber was headed down the steps of the bank, as the alarm started to ring.

08-29-2015, 07:31 AM
George Bayh (affectionately known as By George to all his friends) grabbed Treelore Gump's nephew by the arm; the boy had been sitting quietly next to his uncle. George yanked him to his feet and yelled, “Run Forrest run!” He then turned to John Deere and said, “Run and get Dr. Pepper!"

Although nothing ran like a member of the Deere family, it was also true John could sometimes be a little slow on the uptake. "By George, he's been shot! The last thing he needs is another bottle of soda."

"No, John! Not more soda! Go and get the doctor!" George nearly screamed. "He should be in his office! I'll stay with Treelore!”

As it turned out, the local physician was Edgar Pepper. A medic during World War I, Dr. Pepper would not be easily cowed if the bullets were still flying when he arrived. John Deere found Dr. Pepper in his office chatting with his neighbor, Mr. Pibb, who had recently married Joy Almond, Dr. Pepper's office nurse. The three of them had been idly wondering if perhaps the bank might be testing their alarm system, what with all the racket.

09-03-2015, 02:44 PM
Twitchy and bitchy... that's how she felt whenever her gun was drawn. It's how she needed to feel. And whoever happened to be on the business end of that gun had best be giving her his undivided attention, or twitchy might just get the best of bitchy. And that's how she felt now; the adrenaline running like an electrical current, the peril perfectly balanced against the thrill, the heightened sense of awareness. Oh yes, the awareness... he was nearby! She had no doubt of it. Her connection to him could never be called into question, but be that as it may, it might not be the best time for him to make a sudden entrance into the bank just now.

"That's all there is, ma'am." The bank teller. Her peripheral vision had never been any wider than it had before this exact moment, but her eyesight tunneled its way back to the faux leather briefcase being snapped shut in front of her. Her ice blue eyes conveyed nothing but a world of malice, and the teller mustered his courage to speak once again. "Honest. I grabbed every hundred and every fifty within reach. And you got more twenties in there than you could spend in a year's time."

"I'll be the judge of that," she replied, and grabbed the briefcase. In one fluid movement she turned, her gun-hand went to her waist, and the briefcase was in the other hand, slightly higher than the gun hand so as to call attention to the case rather than the gun. Standing by the door, Wally Greve was again confusing his responsibilities as bank security with official greeter, but he knew a H&R 929 Sidekick when he saw one, and he caught a glimpse of one now... in the right hand of the woman with the briefcase. Angie missed nothing (well... except for Mr. Greve). She saw his eyes widening, and immediately the gun came up. "And the winner is - Twitchy," she said. Greve stumbled and then fell backwards against the glass door, Angie's gun following downward as she fired, the bullet missing its intended target, punching a hole through the glass, and on its way to a Cardinals ballcap at the bottom of the bank steps.

09-09-2015, 02:21 PM
Stupefied and stunned, Zeke stooped to pick up the briefcase he'd dropped, and a droplet of blood splatted on its side. He wasn't all that cognizant of the commotion surrounding him, and he took little notice other than to see the bank robber as she came bounding down the bank steps. Zeke's personal radar then completely failed to identify another person bearing down on him from the direction of the sidewalk. Trevor, noticing the kid with blood running down his forehead and cheek, saw that Angie was flying down the steps with her head turned toward the bank door, her arm outstretched and a gun in her hand. She was going to bowl over the bloodied kid, and Trevor sprinted toward the boy with the intent of tossing him aside. Trevor was just a single stride away when Angie, still not watching where she was running, missed a step and pitched forward. Knees and elbows collided with an already somewhat traumatized head, and all three went down in a pile.

“Angie, Angie!” Trevor shouted as his twin sister was already bringing the pistol around for the express purpose of neutralizing whatever or whoever it was that had placed himself between her and a quick escape. The mirror image of herself brought up short the whip of her gun hand. “Trevor?” she asked, recognition rapidly catching up to the shock of her twin brother's appearance. “You get a little confused about which of us is which this morning?” she said, a smile widening on her mouth.

At the bottom of the pile, and perhaps a bit concussed, Zeke gazed at the two lookalikes and said the first thing that came to his mind, “Angie, there ain't a woman that comes close to you.”

“SHUT UP, KID!” the twins shouted in unison. Trevor grabbed the briefcase as Angie swept her gun hand in an arc at the gathering crowd. Not dispersing to her satisfaction, she fired a shot in the air and that set the domesticated folks of this sleepy little burg to running! And then they were both running themselves, together, away from the bank and away from the crowd.

Zeke sat up, surveyed his surroundings, and saw his Cardinals ball-cap lying twenty-five feet away. He stood, and then stooped again to pick up the briefcase, and idly wondered what had happened to the blood stain on the side of case?

09-13-2015, 10:40 AM
Edgar Pepper had stanched Treelore Gump's bleeding and had done all that he could for him. All that was left was to wait for the arrival of the ambulance, which would be coming from forty miles away in Jefferson City. There was no exit wound to be found, and that left Dr. Pepper confident that the bullet was still lodged inside Gump's shoulder. Gump was both conscious and lucid though, and the doc felt encouraged by what he saw.

“Has anybody seen Forrest?” Treelore queried, obviously in a great deal of pain.

“Who?” asked the doctor.

“My nephew, Forrest,” Treelore answered. “By George told him to run, and the thing is... well, Doc, he's a bit simple. He won't stop running until somebody tells him to.” Gump saw the 'your pulling my leg now' expression on Dr. Pepper's face and said, “I'm not kidding, Doc. He'll be halfway to the next county by now if somebody hasn't corralled him. He took off to the east. Could you humor me and have a deputy go look for him? He'll be on one of the gravel roads east of town.”

The sheriff was hunched down thirty feet away, asking questions of the boy who had been grazed by the very same shot that had ricocheted off a car fender and then hit Treelore Gump. Edgar Pepper called to him, “Archie? When you have a minute, Mr. Gump here needs to ask a favor of you.”

09-22-2015, 12:24 PM
“Uh, Sis?” Trevor was in the back seat of the '51 Pontiac Chieftain, along with its owner Ralph Wallace. Unlike Mr. Wallace, Trevor's wrists weren't bound behind his back with electrical cord. Alone in the front seat, Angie was driving. Mr. Wallace had been sitting idly behind the cashier's desk at the Standard service station, flipping through the pages of a months old and badly grease spotted issue of Look when a couple of young ladies... “or wait a minute.” he'd wondered, “Were they both women?” They both looked so similar, but one had a look of some masculinity to her as well. He was waffling on the man vs. woman issue for only a moment and then the gun came up and it was in his face and the woman was making demands of him. “Put that damned magazine down!” she'd said. Then she wanted to know where the keys to his car were, how much money was in the cash register, and well... “what the hell are you waiting for? Get it out of the register,” she'd said - “all of it!” The young man, Ralph had definitely decided that the other young woman was a man, had found a lengthy extension cord and quickly bound Ralph's hands behind his back just as soon as the register had been emptied. And then they were off, all three of them, in Ralph's car. They were probably ten miles or more out of town, and had just blown by some youngster running east on a gravel road ("Had he been at the bank when all the excitement was happening?" Trevor wondered), when the young man who looked like a woman had become interested in the contents of the briefcase, the one with the singular dried blood spot on the top of it.

“What is it now, Trevor?” Angie asked.

“What did you ask for when you were in the bank, all the quarters or something?” Trevor asked, a bit confused.

“What are you talking about? Everything I got was paper. And there were large numbers on every bill, too,” Angie said with a smile.

“Yeah? Well what did you tuck the paper into? All I see here is maybe twenty or thirty dollars worth of change.”

They both thought about that for a while. A minute passed, and then another ten or fifteen seconds, and then, as it often did, the realization of what had happened struck them both at the same time. “The kid!” they exclaimed in unison. “He had a briefcase too,” Trevor recalled, thinking out loud. “That kid has our money!”

Angie hit the brakes. “We're going back!,” she nearly screamed. “If that snot-nosed punk thinks he's going to spend my money then I'll just show him what his little payday is going to buy him!”

09-23-2015, 12:52 PM
“My my, young man, that is some paper route you seem to have. Why, you must be the envy of every paper carrier in the country.” Sheriff Archie Younger was standing over the shoulder of Dr. Edgar Pepper while the doctor continued to administer tests that should either confirm or rule out the presence of a concussion. Treelore Gump was on his way to Jefferson City, and now Dr. Pepper, the sheriff, and Zeke had made their to Dr. Pepper's office and found themselves in the examination room. Ostensibly, someone had been dispatched to fetch Zeke's parents, but whether or not anyone had actually gone to get them was unclear.

“I beg your pardon, sir?” Zeke replied. Respect your elders, respect authority, and mind your manners; lessons that had been ingrained in him for as far back as Zeke could remember. But his response to the sheriff was also one of true bewilderment. He could read in the sheriff's demeanor that the man thought Zeke was hiding something, but Zeke also had absolutely no idea why the sheriff would make such a comment about his paper route. He suddenly felt a bit frightened – again.

“What's on your mind, Archie?” the doctor asked. “I'll be needing the boy's attention for a while longer.” Dr. Pepper had picked up on the edge in the sheriff's voice, too, and as neither of Zeke's parents had yet arrived, he now felt it might be necessary to take on the role of becoming the boy's protector and perhaps even his momentary lawyer, in addition to being his physician.

“Oh, you go right on doing whatever you need to do there, doc,” said the sheriff. “I'm sure our bank robber – or robbers – are a couple of very patient folks. I imagine they'll just wait around somewhere close by until I have a chance to get everything sorted out, and then just wait for me to come and get them.”

“What does any of that have to do with my patient?” Dr. Pepper asked.

“Oh, maybe nothing at all,” replied the sheriff. “I've just never known a paper boy who makes collections in stacks of 100s, 50s, and 20s. Why, I'm quite sure there must be in excess of a few thousand dollars in this young man's briefcase, and I'm more than a little curious what this young man had in mind to do with all that money.”

09-24-2015, 09:05 AM
“You see him anywhere back there in the service bay?” Jerry Atrick called to his younger brother Barry. They were looking for Ralph Wallace, but it appeared the service station attendant was nowhere to be found.

“Nope. He's not back here,” Barry called back. He surveyed the area once again, as if Ralph might miraculously reappear from thin air, and then decided to rejoin his brother in the customer service room. “We need to get some petro, Jerry, or Archie will have our hides again.” The brothers were deputies, though Sheriff Younger privately referred to the two as his “diputies.” The sheriff, not wanting to have two of his men standing around idly at the scene of a robbery, had told the brothers to make themselves useful and go search the town. “Look for anything out of the ordinary,” he'd told them. “And if you find anything get back to me immediately.” The boys had their orders... but their squad car was in need of fuel.

“Lookit here, Barry.” Jerry was pointing to the cash register. “That knucklehead Ralph left the store and didn't even bother to close the cash register. Looks empty, though, so I guess there wouldn't be any money to steal anyway.”

“Well that explains it then,” Barry offered. “There's no money in the till. He's run down to the bank to make a deposit.” The brothers thought about that for a moment, both shaking their heads at Ralph Wallace's obvious stupidity. “Leave it to Ralph,” Barry further observed. “Only an idiot would try to make a deposit during a bank robbery investigation.”

“Roger that, little brother,” Jerry concurred. He leaned over and picked up a copy of Look magazine off the floor. It was crumpled and partially torn, as if it had been discarded somewhat violently. “Now that's just a shame. A perfectly good picture of Jayne Mansfield and it's nearly torn in two.” Again the brothers shook their heads in disbelief at the careless nature of Ralph Wallace's behavior. “Well, Barry, do you think you can figure out how to run that pump out there? The sheriff will be expecting us to be out looking for anything suspicious.”

“Yeah, I can manage it I think. It would be nice to have Ralph here to check the oil and clean the windshield, though. How you planning on paying him for the gas?”

“I'll just write him a note. I hate to do it, but I may have to word it a bit strongly,” Jerry said. “I don't appreciate him not being here when we're in an emergency situation like this.” He reached over and grabbed a Hershey's bar from the box next to the register, grabbed another, and then grabbed a couple more for his brother. It wouldn't do to have those on the note, though. Archie wouldn't want to be paying for Jerry and Barry's candy bars. “Well, consider it an inconvenience tax,” he muttered to himself, and pocketed the candy.

Barry was placing the pump handle back on its holder when Jerry met him at the car. “Wouldn't it be great, Jerry, if we came across another crime that these half-witted bank robbers committed, and we were the ones to discover it? That would be just bitchin!”

“Yeah, it really would,” Jerry agreed. They both got into the car and then they pulled away from the gas station. They had their fuel. There sense of purpose was renewed, and they were now on a mission. If it took them all day, by God they were going to find something that was out of the ordinary!

09-25-2015, 08:28 AM
Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” Ike Green was a Yankees fan through and through; always had been. And the owner of Universal Pawn smiled (but only a little; his smile always came off as something more like a smirk) as he reflected on his favorite catcher's seemingly silly comment. But he knew what Berra had meant by the comment, and it occurred to Ike that you could learn a lot by just listening as well.

Ike was a master at slipping into and out of buildings, rooms, places... or just situations... without ever being noticed. He'd never intended to be that way; it was just something that had seemed to come by him naturally his whole life. To this day he remembered quite clearly the day when, as a boy, he'd been standing silently behind his mother and she had nearly scalded herself with boiling water as she moved the pot of spaghetti noodles from the stove to the sink. She should have known he was there; it's where he always seemed to be... but once again she was unaware of his presence. Tripping over her son, the pot had somehow miraculously been pitched forward instead of back onto the woman and child. “Isaac!” she'd said, the exasperation and hysteria growing with each word. “How many times do I have to tell you not to do that!” The chastisement hadn't delivered its intended effect, and it was in that moment Ike Green realized that perhaps he had a gift, one that might be deemed as quite useful over time. And so, now more than a half-century later, Ike found himself in Dr. Edgar Pepper's waiting room, completely alone and unattended. Dr. Pepper's nurse, Joy Pibb, was still over at the bank attending to the minor injuries - cuts and scrapes mostly - that had occurred to several people during the robbery. The doc, the sheriff, and the kid were in the examination room... and Ike was listening to every word.

He'd slipped into the waiting room, unnoticed as usual, only for the purpose of picking up the topical cream that would help control his psoriasis. Joy, the nurse, always referred to it as “Pepper's persistant, pasty, psoriasis patch putty.” It was the doc's own concoction after all. Ike never bothered to remind Joy that the “p” in psoriasis was silent, thus rendering her little witticism as more witless than witty. But the topical cream could wait... oh yes it could. Ike had heard mention of a briefcase filled with cash, and the sheriff had carelessly left it sitting next to the reception counter. “The silent slithering that has been my life,” Ike thought to himself. “The gift that just keeps on giving.” He padded over to the briefcase, picked it up, and noiselessly slipped out the door.

09-26-2015, 10:39 AM
Ralph Wallace sat in silence as Angie blew by the sign announcing the city limits. For someone who might not wish to draw attention to herself, Ralph thought the young woman may want to consider easing off the gas pedal. Besides, even with all of the attention that Sheriff Younger would be giving to the bank and its immediate surroundings, surely someone by now would have noticed Ralph's absence at the service station. Everyone in town knew he drove a green '51 Chieftain, and that would certainly make it even more difficult for the kidnappers to evade detection if they were going to continue driving his car.

Jerry and Barry Atrick waved at the young woman driving a green '51 Chieftain as she went by them headed in the opposite direction, perhaps a bit too fast in the estimation of Jerry Atrick, and he again felt a momentary sense of pride in the belief that there wasn't much that got by him. “Did Ralph Wallace sell his car?” Jerry asked his brother.

“No, not that I know of,” replied Barry. “Are you thinking what I'm thinking?”

“I sure am. It looks like there's another green Chiftain in town,” Jerry remarked. “I probably should turn around and pull her over. She was well over the speed limit, but I think it might be best if we let it go today. It's not every day you have a bank robbery in town, and we've got a crime to solve.”

“Roger that, big brother... roger that.” The brothers' eyes were like lasers. Surely something big was about to happen, and they were determined to be on hand when it did.

Angie's stomach nearly leaped into her chest when she saw the squad car approaching from the opposite direction. She knew she was driving much too fast given her location – Main Street. Unbelievably, the two police officers in the car merely waved as she went by. She immediately checked the rearview mirror and watched in astonishment as the police cruiser just kept on going, as if the most important thing on their minds was getting over to the local coffee shop for a couple of donuts and a cup or two. Angie, recognizing her good fortune, forced herself to try and calm down and slowed the vehicle to what felt like a crawl. In the back seat, Ralph shook his head in disbelief, "but then," he reasoned silently, "it was undoubtedly the Atrick brothers who had just gone by. God help us all."

Darren Pepper, a 2nd or 3rd cousin to Dr. Edgar Pepper, was a sergeant with the state police. He'd been 15 miles away, in the town of Renville, when he'd began hearing reports over the radio of a bank robbery in nearby Cleves. Darren was acquainted with Sheriff Younger and his deputies, Barry and Jerry Atrick, and he had quickly concluded that the sheriff would more than likely need all the assistance he could get. Twenty minutes later, he had parked his cruiser near the bank and found Nurse Joy Pibb administering small bandages to a couple of folks at the scene of the crime. “Excuse me, ma'am, but would you happen to know if the sheriff is still here inside the bank? I'd like to see if he needs my help.” Joy Pibb had said that she expected him back at any time now. He'd asked the bank tellers some questions, and then had followed the boy who may or may not have been shot over to Dr. Pepper's office. But he'd given the bank employees and everyone else who had been inside strict instructions not to leave. “He needs to talk with everyone – no exceptions,” Joy had said, and then had pointed the officer in the direction of his cousin's office.

“Darren, I'm damn glad to see you're here,” Sheriff Younger said just minutes later, as the sergeant stepped into the examination room with the others. “Doc, I'd like to introduce you to a fine policeman with the state's force.” Edgar turned and recognized his cousin but before he could interrupt, the sheriff was already making the introductions... “Dr. Pepper, Sgt. Pepper – Sgt. Pepper, Dr. Pepper.”

“We know each other, Archie,” Darren said. “Now, how can I be of help?”

09-30-2015, 12:59 PM
“Pull over, Angie – now!” Trevor saw his twin sister's eyes instantly glaring at him in the rearview mirror; the look was the same as it always had been for as long as he could remember, the one that conveyed the message that she was either going to need a damned good reason to pull over or a full on brother/sister dispute was about to ensue. “No arguments, Sis, pull over right now!” She did.

They had been cruising the streets as near to the bank as they dared, looking for the kid with the cash, but up until now they had come up empty. And suddenly that was just fine with Trevor, because he knew the search for the kid was over. Walking along a sidewalk, two blocks removed from the town's business strip, was none other than the pawn shop owner who had tried to con Trevor out of the earrings that were even now still hanging from his own ears. But what truly set Trevor's pulse to racing was that he also recognized the briefcase the man from the pawn shop was carrying. “That's a bingo, everybody!” he announced, and stepped out of the car as the man with the briefcase calmly continued his early afternoon walk.

Ike Green reminded himself that there was probably nothing to be alarmed about when he saw with his peripheral vision that Ralph Wallace's car had just stopped and parked on the other side of the street. Even so, he all at once didn't feel quite as invisible as he was accustomed to feeling. In fact, he suddenly felt about as obvious as a fly in a bowl of ice cream. He didn't know why Ralph wouldn't be at the service station right now, but whatever the reason might be, he was sure it had absolutely nothing to do with him. “Not my problem,” he whispered to himself. He continued to look straight ahead and made a conscious effort to maintain a steady gait. But then, in the next instant, it did become his problem. A voice from directly behind him asked, “You got $8.00 in that briefcase, Mister? I thought you might want to up the bid a little on these earrings.” Ike hadn't even realized he'd been holding his breath, and now the air rushed out of his chest as rapidly as if he'd just been kicked in his midsection.

The stitches in Zeke's scalp were neatly finished, and everyone was for the moment satisfied that Zeke had had nothing to do with the robbery. Still absent, though, were his parents, and Sheriff Younger decided it would be best if he could keep the kid close at hand... just in case the boy proved to be a bit better at deception than he was now being given credit for. It was time to leave, and the sheriff explained to Zeke that he'd be going for a ride with him. “You might be needed for an ID if we catch up to these two hooligans,” the sheriff had explained. That was fine with Zeke. He was still a bit wary of the sheriff, but he'd played cops and robbers with his pals hundreds of times. If he was now being invited to be part of a situation that was the real deal... well, what kid could pass that up? Why, it might just turn out to be about the most swell thing that had ever happened to him.

The employees' refrigerator was on everyone's right as they passed from the examination room back toward the waiting room, and Sgt. Pepper reached inside the cooler for a Dr. Pepper. Dr. Pepper grabbed Sgt. Pepper by the arm and said, “You're going to have to pay for that Dr. Pepper, Sgt. Pepper.”

“Of course I will, Dr, Pepper,” said Sgt. Pepper... and then everyone began to chuckle. The sheriff picked up the briefcase full of cash on the way out the door, and then the two officers and the kid were gone. Dr. Pepper grabbed a Dr. Pepper from the refrigerator and mentally noted that Joy Pibb hadn't yet returned from the bank. It occurred to him that she might be thirsty too, so he grabbed a Mr. Pibb for Mrs. Pibb, and if her husband Mr. Pibb happened to be there too... well, that Coca Cola drinking Cubs fan knucklehead could find his own soda to drink. But why wasn't Joy back yet? Maybe there had been more scrapes over there than he had originally thought. He went to grab his medical bag, but it wasn't located in its usual spot. He looked about. Nothing. Had he left it with Joy up at the bank? His old medical bag had finally disintegrated a few weeks back, after many years of service to the doctor, and he'd had to temporarily replace it with a faux leather briefcase from Sears and Roebuck. But it was nowhere in sight now. He left the office and locked the door behind him, reasonably sure that the case was with his nurse.

10-01-2015, 04:16 PM
Each evening he could get away with it, Francis Xander would stand outside the window of Dorsett's Electronics in the little of town of Carpenter, and he would watch CBS's Douglas Edwards with the News. Francis was utterly fascinated with two things, the news and televisions... and in Carpenter he had neither. The news would forever come to Carpenter; it would never be made here, and Francis's father was of the opinion that it was far more cost effective to read the news from a newspaper (or hear it from a radio) than to have to look at the man who reads it to you from inside a television box. Sometimes, if Mr. Dorsett was in a foul mood, he'd shoo Francis away. Mr. Dorsett didn't like having kids loitering about his business, and he wanted people who could actually purchase televisions ogling over his state of the art RCA television set in the display window, and Francis never appeared to be able to purchase so much as a pack of gum. Francis suffered from scoliosis, and he leaned noticeably to the right. His father liked to tell him that “he leaned to starboard,” but in Francis's mind that only amounted to yet another of the disappointing opinions that so often seemed to spill from the mouth of his father. Francis wasn't aware of the news being made nine miles to the west in Cleves, and it was about as likely that Douglas Edwards would be reporting on events in Cleves as it was that he would be doing the same regarding anything happening in Carpenter. From the west, Francis noticed a boy coming into town. He was running, and Francis judged that the boy would reach him in just about another minute or two.

Oddly, Forrest wasn't all that winded when he reached the little town of Carpenter; definitely thirsty, but not all that tired. He continued running into the heart of the town and then noticed the boy standing outside the electronics shop. As he neared the boy, he saw that it was a television that had caught the boy's attention. Forrest knew of these wonderful devices, but as yet there had never been one in his own home or that of any of his relatives. Nobody had told Forrest that he could stop running, but he judged that if he were in the next town then it would probably be alright with whoever it was that had told him to run that Forrest might be allowed a short break. He decided to introduce himself to the boy. “Hello, I'm Forrest; Forrest Gump.” And Francis Xander put forth his hand, shook Forrest's, and introduced himself, too.

“That man on the television,” Forrest queried, “what's he doing?”
“He's telling us all about today's news,” Francis answered.”
“I see,” said Forrest. “Is that what televisions are for? Telling us the news?”
“Why, yes,” Francis replied. “I suppose they are.” He couldn't think of a better use for televisions, and Forrest's question had sounded almost prophetic.
“That man must get awfully tired, sitting there telling us the news all the time,” said Forrest.
Brilliant! This angel from Heaven thought the news was being constantly broadcast – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round! He had no idea that Douglas Edwards would be finished with his day's work in another five minutes or so and that he wouldn't return to his desk in front of the camera at CBS for nearly another 24 hours. What an amazing concept! A 24-hour news station! Francis's head was spinning in the epiphany of it all. And then Forrest was saying something.
“You sure do lean to the right a lot,” he said.
“Yes I do,” answered Francis. “I guess I always have.” The question hadn't wounded him in any way. He was used to the stares and the comments, and Forrest seemed nothing other than sincerely curious.
“Maybe if you leaned to the left sometimes you would straighten out,” Forrest observed.
“I don't think I could ever lean to the left, Forrest, no matter how hard I might try. I'll just be leaning to the right for all of my life, I would imagine.” And then Francis had a question of his own. “Hey, let me ask you something. If you had your television station, what would you call it?”
Forrest thought about that for a while. “Radio stations seem to use initials. I guess if I had a television station, I'd call it by my initials.” And then he felt he needed to be on his way again. “Is there any place where I could get myself a drink of water, Francis? I really should be going.”
Francis directed Forrest to the public drinking fountain in the city park, and watched as his new friend ran off in that direction. But Francis's thoughts were a thousand miles away and decades into the future. A 24-hour a day news station, he thought... and with my initials! Francis Oliver Xander liked the thought of that, he liked the thought of that a lot! “But I'll never lean to the left,” he murmurred to himself. “No, that will never happen.”

10-06-2015, 04:20 PM
Ned Wittmer finally alerted the sheriff's office to the possibility that there may be a problem at the Standard service station. Customers were required to use the phone booth out by the sidewalk, but as Ralph Wallace was nowhere to be found, Ned simply walked to the cashier's side of the service desk and used the station's telephone. After describing the situation, “There ain't nobody here. The register is open and cleaned out, and one of your deputies has left what looks like an IOU of some kind on the desk.” Sheriff Younger was quickly dispatched by radio to the station, and he and Zeke pulled onto the station's tarmac with lights on and the siren blaring... which Zeke thought was just about the bees knees!

Sheriff Younger deduced in a matter of seconds what the Atrick brothers had failed to notice in the nearly ten minutes that they had spent at the station. The register had been robbed and Ralph Wallace was likely a hostage in his own vehicle, as the green Chieftain was nowhere in sight. The sheriff's face turned near to full crimson when he saw the IOU left by Deputy Jerry Atrick. He immediately returned to his car, raised Sally Mangan (the dispatcher) on the radio, and instructed her to
issue a “Be on the Alert” for a green Chieftain. “And find out what year that car is, Sally. I'm thinking it's got to be five or six years old, and get his license plate number and put that out on the air, too.” The radio transmission would go out to all nearby law enforcement agencies. She knew, also, to call the state police and to call each individual sheriff's office within 100 miles of Cleves.

Sheriff Younger then called out to his deputies and to Sgt. Pepper to ask if any of them had seen Ralph Wallace or his car. Sgt. Pepper responded immediately with a “negative,” and that response was quickly followed by Deputy Barry Atrick. “Negative, Sheriff. But Jerry and I did see another car just like Ralph's a little while ago. It couldn't have been his, though, as some young gal was driving it, and a good deal faster than Ralph ever would. So we should all try to make sure we don't pull her over by mistake, don't you think?” The sheriff could feel his pulse thumping under his shirt collar, and for a moment stars were flashing before his eyes. He struggled to regain his composure, as it wouldn't do to harangue his deputies over the air. There would be far too many other ears listening in.

“Barry, Jerry, and Sgt. Pepper,” he said as calmly as he could manage, “find that car. You find that car and you will find the bank robber and any accomplices she may have. You'll probably find Ralph, too. Any other law enforcement officers picking up this transmission in nearby communities, please direct your immediate attention to the roads leading into your town that would be coming from Cleves. Look for the license plate number and make and model of the vehicle that Sally is putting an alert out for.” And then to Zeke he said, “Against my better jugdment, you're still with me young man. But you make certain your seat belt is fastened and it's tight.” Zeke, eyes as big as saucers, only nodded in return.

Trevor had assured Ike Green that to deviate from his instructions would not be a very good idea, and those instructions had been to continue looking forward, put down the briefcase, and then just walk away. Ike had done exactly that, and like Trevor he realized that he was in no position to call the authorities. To do so would only implicate himself in the aftermath of the bank robbery. Trevor had picked up the briefcase, made sure that Ike was sufficiently acquiescent, and then hurried back to the car. He tossed the briefcase in the back seat, got in, and said, “Let's go,” as he pulled the door shut behind him. Angie pulled away from the curb and drove five blocks down, putting several hundred yards between themselves and the original scene of the robbery. Nearing the edge of town, she turned left and drove back to Main Street. She had heard the siren in the distance not long ago, and she had no doubts that the siren was that of one squad car or another... and it had come from the east. But east was the shortest distance between themselves and the city limits. She turned right onto Main Street, and she knew she was risking another drive past the service station. If she could make it just a few more blocks, they would be past the service station and out of town again. She prayed - or rather what passed for praying in her mind - that the siren hadn't been that of a policeman being called to an unattended service station with no money in the till.

Trevor had the briefcase open just as Angie was turning onto Main Street. “What's this?” he nearly screamed.

“What now?” Angie asked, the panic in her voice only thinly veiled.

“There's no money!” Trevor shouted. “It's only... drugs and bandages and scissors and... I don't know... doctors' stuff!” Angie's eyes were focused on the rearview mirror and the look of disbelief on her brother's face. When she finally returned her attention to the road in front of her, what she saw was the sheriff's car pulling out of the service station's parking lot only a hundred yards ahead.

10-08-2015, 02:45 PM
“dumb Dumb DUMB DUMB!” Angie chastised herself. “ I knew damned well that's what the siren was all about, but I came this way anyway!” In the back seat, Trevor was asking what the problem was, but he was just so much white noise at the moment. Angie didn't think she had been spotted yet, and with luck she could make a quick right turn in about another fifty feet. But then the cherry red lights atop the sheriff's squad car came alive and she knew she had been made.

Sheriff Younger, with Zeke belted in the rear seat, took a right as he turned west out of the Standard station's tarmac and onto Main Street. He recognized Ralph Wallace's Chieftain in the oncoming traffic lane immediately and flipped the switch to bring up his emergency lights. He was reaching for the radio mic...

“Hang on tight, everybody!” Angie exclaimed, and she knew the only thing to do now was to make a run for it... she put the pedal to the floorboard, and the Chieftain's engine roared.

He should have expected it, but nonetheless it was to Sheriff Younger's amazement that Wallace's car seemed to be rapidly accelerating as it approached. He decided the radio call would have to wait for a moment or two and began the motion of replacing the microphone in it's cradle... and then his eyes caught something just off to his left.

The car had always been well tuned. It was one of the advantages of having its owner working at a service station, and the Chieftain was accelerating rapidly. Angie would be doing at least 50 miles per hour by the time she covered the distance to the service station, and then her eyes caught something just off to the right.

Betty Lou was hanging the laundry along the clothesline next to the house. She'd heard the police siren a short while ago when she had been collecting clean bed sheets from the laundry machine. Something appeared to be going on just down the street at the Standard station. And that was certainly interesting, to be sure. After all it wasn't every day that Betty Lou heard police sirens in Cleves. And to think that the destination for those sirens had been the distance of only a single block away, well! She'd be on the telephone for a good long while tonight talking with her sister about it, and by then she would undoubtedly have all the particulars.

But for now...

those bed sheets weren't going to dry themselves just so Betty Lou Who could fluff her new dew, step over to the curb, and see what was happening with the service station crew! Her daughter, Cindy Lou, had spilled some glue (that was nothing new), and Betty Lou had said, “Oh, what to do? What to do with you, Cindy Lou!” So Cindy Lou and her dog Boo, had been banished from the house – yes it was true. So after much hype the glue had been cleaned (and with only a single wipe!) And then Cindy Lou Who was contentedly riding her tricycle in tight circles in the driveway, and Boo was happily chasing her in such a live way, and Betty Lou continued to hang sheets so they would soon be in a dry way.

And then came the bark, and not just a happy little yip or yap or a puppy kind of hiccup on your lap. Oh no, this bark – this bark was something far more dark. This sounded something like the rooster's crow that won't let you sleep in the morning. Yes this bark sounded something like some kind of warning. And so at the hour of two, Betty Lou turned with one shoe... and then two, so as to see what the alarm was with Boo. But where was Cindy Lou? She wasn't with Boo. No, she was not with Boo at two; oh dear, once again what to do? And Cindy Lou? Why, on that trike she could be so fleet. And on that trike she was headed for the street! That street where two cars might just meet!

Sheriff Younger had thought the chase was through. To the bank robber he thought, “It's off to jail with you!” But as he glanced to his left he saw a little girl – was it little Jenny or was it little Carol? And then with recognition he knew – and with a sense of horror he shouted, “Cindy Lou Who!”

10-11-2015, 09:31 AM
Oh it was said, on that hot summer day, that Angie's heart grew three sizes that day.

“Three sizes?” you say; “three sizes in just one single day?” “Well!” I say! “I say no way, Jose” – that's what I say!

It went like this...

Cindy Lou Who - who was only two - and if it could be said at all that at that age she knew - it was then caution to the wind she threw!

The tight concentric circles on the driveway ridden on her deeply treasured tricycle were fun. And it was thrilling to have her much beloved dog Boo chasing her about. But, Cindy Lou became bored, as two year olds will, and her mother had been lulled into a false sense of security. Cindy Lou was with Boo, after all, and had never before ridden off in the direction of the street. She had been told countless times never to do that, and she had never given her mother reason to be concerned that she might do otherwise. From behind the wet bedsheets that were being hung on the clothesline everything was fine until Boo barked, which he did often. But this time there was a slight sense of urgency to it. Betty Lou looked from behind the bed sheets, and Cindy Lou was nearly upon the street already.

The sheriff and Angie both saw Cindy Lou at the same moment. Sheriff Younger veered right, away from the approaching direction of the child, and Angie, approaching from the opposite direction and in the lane of traffic most proximal to Cindy Lou, turned hard to the left. They nearly missed... but didn't quite. Cindy Lou, on the other hand, suffered nothing more than being terribly startled by the sound of two vehicles colliding. She stopped – frozen – then began crying, and finally turned and raced back to her mother.

The Chieftain's front left headlight caught the left rear quarter-panel of Sheriff Younger's squad car and dislodged the rear bumper, which Angie then drove over, puncturing one of the front tires. She didn't strike any buildings, but the collision with the sheriff's car was enough to cause damage to the radiator, and coolant was streaming onto the sidewalk when the big green vehicle came to a halt. The sheriff's car would have spun around completely had it not been for the rear bumper hanging on to its supports just long enough to prevent that from occurring. But then the car did plunge ahead into a street light pole, and the tall pole fell back on top of the car, severely cracking the windshield and destroying one of the emergency beacons on the roof of the vehicle. Sheriff Younger's car door was jambed just enough to make it resistant to opening, but he eventually managed. In the other car, Angie had no such impediment, and she was out of her car with her gun up and ready for a fight. Trevor had had enough. He untied Ralph Wallace, pushed him out the rear door opposite of the side where Angie had taken a stand and told him to “beat it.” - He did. When Sheriff Younger finally managed to kick open his door, he thought it might be prudent to check his rearview mirror before exiting whatever protection his squad car might be offering, and things were as bad as he could have imagined. The woman was outside of her vehicle with her gun drawn... but she was completely exposed. The sheriff drew his own gun, and slid out of the car, but as his car's rear was facing the Chieftain it left him exposed to his adversary as well. “Put that gun down, Miss,” he said, and the answer he got was Angie's first shot, breaking the car door window just behind him and sending bits of broken glass flying. The sheriff hadn't thought she would actually shoot, and though he wasn't hit he was startled, and he twisted defensively in reaction to the shot. Angie wasn't sure if she had hit the sheriff or not, and she hesitated...

“Oh no,” Trevor said to himself, “not this.” This could only end one of two ways; either the sheriff would be shot or Angie would be. He couldn't let either of those things happen if he could prevent it. If Angie shot, or worse – killed, the sheriff, she would never see the outside of a prison again. Trevor bolted from the car and placed himself directly in the line of fire of Angie's gun. He faced his twin sister, put his palms up and said, “Angie, give it up.”

Sheriff Younger saw the look in the woman's eyes and realized she was going to shoot again. He aimed and fired... and Angie did the same. Sheriff Younger's bullet tore the earring from Trevor's right ear, while Angie's tore the earring from his left. Trevor paled, screamed, and fell.

10-12-2015, 02:00 PM
Lobe, diamond earring, and bullet, all struck Sheriff Younger, but only the bullet punched a hole in his shoulder and buried itself in the ball of his humerus bone. The projectile's momentum drove him back against the open car door, and because his right arm was still uninjured he tried to square himself for another shot at the woman. The same odd combination of materials that had struck the sheriff had nearly hit Angie as well, but instead missed anything solid and only tugged at her hair as the small mass went on through it. She rushed the downed lawman, hurdling her brother as she did so, trained the gun on the sheriff's head and told him to drop his weapon. Recognizing the checkmate under which he had been placed, Sheriff Younger made an appeal, “There's no need to hurt the boy,” he said, and laid his gun on the sidewalk.

“What boy?” Angie asked as she cautiously approached the sheriff, yet being mindful to keep herself out of arm's reach. When the sheriff didn't answer her question, she told him to step away from the car. Sirens could be heard in the distance, and they were getting louder. Angie could only hope it was the two imbeciles who had given her a free pass earlier. She directed the sheriff to go sit by her brother, and when he acquiesced she folded herself into the driver's seat of the squad car, forced the door closed, and started the engine. The streetlight pole was wedged onto the hood and roof of the car, so she found reverse, hit the gas, and nearly ran over her brother and the sheriff as she freed the vehicle from the pole. Then she spun the car around, began working the forward gears, and from behind her, a wide-eyed boy named Zeke asked, “Ma'am, where are we going?”

10-13-2015, 12:27 PM
“Going?” Angie answered the boy in the form of an echoed question. “Anywhere but here.” She hadn't noticed the boy when she'd taken the car, but Angie, who was often quick to anger but just as quick to assess a situation, was anything but rattled by the sudden and unexpected appearance of a passenger. The sheriff had mentioned something about not needing to hurt "the boy" after all, and this must be "the boy" he had been referring to. The speedometer was already pushing its way through the upper sixties into the seventies, and for the second time that day Angie was leaving Cleves and rolling east on County 13. She glanced at the rearview mirror, noted the bandaging on top of the kid's head, and asked, “What happened to you?”

“I got shot,” Zeke answered meekly, frightened of his driver but also sensing that he was looking forward to the time he would be able to tell his buddies all about today's adventure... assuming he would indeed live to tell about it.

“Yeah?” Angie replied. “Some of those cops back there would love a piece of my scalp too. You in trouble with the sheriff or something, kid? He the one that ' shot ' you?”

“No ma'am,” Zeke swallowed hard. “It was you that shot me, truth be told.”

“Me?” Angie stole another glance at the mirror while the speedometer was now blowing past eighty-five mph. Then the recognition kicked in. “You're that kid at the bank, aren't you? The one at the bottom of the steps. My brother's got your collection of nickels and dimes, kid. I hope that's my money you've got with you in the briefcase. It is my briefcase after all.” A mile-and-a-half back, at the edge of town, Angie was also catching the sight of a squad car's flashers. Someone was in pursuit.

Sgt. Darren Pepper pulled onto the station tarmac, lights on and siren at the only setting its volume had - full, and saw Archie Younger standing behind a young woman who was handcuffed. But a second glance at the woman made him think that something wasn't quite right; something was a little out of place. The young woman (or was it possibly a young man?) had blood trickling down both sides of her/his neck and it looked as though he/she had been bleeding more profusely not long ago. Archie looked pale and he too was bleeding, though from the left shoulder. The policeman idled his engine, weighing whether he should offer medical assistance to the sheriff and his prisoner or pursue the green Chieftain he'd seen leaving town just moments ago. Sgt. Pepper then decided to simply ask, “What do you think, Sheriff? How bad are you hit? Do you need my assistance?”

“Oh, I'll get by with a little help from my friends,” answered the sheriff. “And there's help on the way, or so Mr. Wittmer here tells me. God help me if it's Jerry and Barry.”

“Do you need anybody?” Sgt. Pepper asked, feeling as if he was addressing ground that had already been covered.

“I just need someone to... to catch that young woman and bring her back here right now! Now go get her!” It was all he needed to hear. Sgt. Pepper was gone – and in pursuit.

10-14-2015, 09:05 AM
The Jew's harp had started the whole mess – again. That and Noonan's “spirits,” as he liked to call it. And now Noonan was on the ground, somewhere in the massive cornfield down below, or so she had to assume, and Amelia was circling and looking for a sign of Noonan's canopy. But the canopy had seemed to disappear. Noonan had been floating downward over the field and had disappeared into a small patch of fog near ground level. The fog had dissipated just as quickly as it had mysteriously seemed to form, but for the life of her Amelia could not see Noonan's parachute spread out over the tops of the stalks of corn. Had he gathered it up that quickly? She circled again in the big lumbering bi-plane known as Maxwell's Silver Hammer. She'd named the plane after her father, a carpenter. Fuel was, for the present, of no concern. She had plenty (it was funny how that just never seemed to be a problem anymore) and she could circle the area for a long while yet before she would need to worry about that. Would she ever need to worry about that again? It seemed as though she should have to sometime.

They'd left an airstrip on the outskirts of St. Louis, bound for one of many county fairs they visited annually. Noonan was the self-proclaimed navigator, but usually he'd get drunk and take an in-flight nap while bound for their next gig. Once on the ground when and if they reached their destination, Noonan would normally be sobered up enough to be the money man, the ticket seller and taker. Amelia would then spend her day giving airplane rides to fair-goers. 50 cents per ride; pricey, but there never seemed to be any shortage of customers. But today she was pretty sure they were lost again, and perhaps even without all the extreme drama Noonan was providing, even then they might not find their county fair – the one that always seemed to be out there somewhere. In fact, they always seemed to be lost; lost and never found. It always seemed as though people were searching for them, searching for them and never finding them. How could that be? There had always been the county fairs, hadn't there?

They had agreed to meet for breakfast at Sam Frank's diner near the airstrip. Noonan had shown up late and already drunk, and he had a flask of his “spirits” inside his pocket. Waiting for the ham and eggs, Noonan had pulled from his other pocket the Jew's harp he always liked to play when he was deep into his cups. Amelia was sick of it, the drunkeness, the godawful noise Noonan would create with that damned Jew's harp. And then, just before they'd left the diner, Noonan had paid a visit to the men's room... and he'd left his “spirits” and the Jew's harp on the table. Amelia had taken the opportunity to walk over to the service counter and asked Sam if he'd dispose of the bottle of booze. He didn't want to get involved. When Sam had turned away, she tossed the flask and the Jew's harp together in the direction of the garbage can in the kitchen. The flask had landed in the right spot, but the Jew's harp had landed in an open can of Crisco. Oops!

An hour later, airborne and lost again, the only thing that seemed different was that Noonan wasn't passed out. He had become too worked up over the realization that he had neither his flask nor his Jew's harp, and he was insisting they return to the airstrip in order to retrieve both. Amelia would have none of it. Amelia was in the rear seat, the captain's seat as it were, and Noonan was seated directly in front of her doing about as much navigating as he ever did – which was to say none at all. He didn't like flying. He feared it and he didn't trust airplanes, including this one. For that reason he always flew with a parachute strapped to his back, and today was no exception. “Turn it around, Amelia,” he slurred.
“No,” she shouted back. One always had to shout when conversing in the cockpit of an airborne bi-plane.
“Amelia, turn this thing around or by God I'll walk back there if I have to.”
“Not going to happen, Noonan.”
“Damn it all – then fine!” And with that he stood up, stepped out onto the wing... and jumped.

And now Amelia was circling, looking for a drunk that she didn't even like all that much. But she did feel responsible for him. It seemed as though they had been together for so many years. They had... hadn't they? Maybe she should put the plane down on the gravel road running next to the field. At least then she could call to him. The more she thought about it the more sense it seemed to make. “Noonan,” she murmurred to herself, “you left your spirits in St. Louis, and I left your harp in Sam Frank's Crisco.” She flew away from the area for a mile or two and then turned the plane around and aligned it with the gravel road. She eased off on the gas, trimmed the flaps, and passed over a green car that was just turning onto the gravel road beneath. To Amelia's left, a police car was racing a mile or two behind the car under the airplane. Was he pursuing the green vehicle? Probably not, she decided. She swept over the green car and moments later she was down, on the gravel road, and the big green vehicle she had spotted was racing up behind her.

10-23-2015, 09:20 AM
Right ahead, a small convoy of gypsies was approaching Forrest as he continued his run east out of Carpenter. The water at the fountain had helped, but hunger was now becoming a state of constancy and discomfort. And he was getting tired. His legs were beginning to strain under even the relatively small amount of weight that made up the rest of his body. He wanted to rest and he was confused. Forrest had never before encountered such people, but he had never developed a sense of distrust and he assumed the group would be both friendly and helpful. The half-dozen line of horse drawn wagons had now fully closed the remaining distance and Forrest said, “Hello. I'm Forrest – Forrest Gump. I think I might be a little bit lost. Do you know where we are, exactly?”

“We're traveling in a fried-out kombi on a gypsy trail, head full of zombie,” the man driving the first wagon replied.

Forrest didn't quite know what to make of the answer. “This is a hippie trail? What is a hippie?”

“You misunderstand,” the man said with an accent that was new to Forrest's ears. “I said gypsy trail. You look tired and hungry my friend. Do you accept food from strangers?”

“Well,” Forrest paused a moment to think about that. “Once, I met a strange lady. She made me nervous. She took me in and gave me breakfast.”

“Ah!” the man's eyes widened, as if in recognition of what Forrest had said. “Do you come from a land down under? Where women glow and men plunder?”

“No,” Forrest answered. “I'm from Greenbow, Alabama. Mama says some people up north think the south is down under but I don't really know what she means when she says that.”

“A pity,” the man said. He turned and reached for something behind him. A young girl appeared from inside the wagon and handed him whatever it was he had reached for. “I was buying bread from a man in Brussels. He was six foot four and full of muscles. I said, 'Do you speak my language?' And he just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich.” The man hesitated, giving much consideration to the food in his hands. Then he extended it to Forrest and said, “And now it is yours! Eat and fare thee well, my young friend.”

“Have you ever found a vegemite sandwich in box of chocolates?” Forrest asked the man.

“No. I'm quite sure that I have not,” he replied. “Why do you ask?”

“Mama always says life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. And I surely did not know you were going to give me this.”

Now it was the man's turn to be somewhat dumbfounded by what had been said. He nodded and replied, “Can't you hear the thunder? You better run. You better take cover.” Then he gave the horse a light smack of the rein and he and the others were once again on their way.

Forrest looked about and took a bite of the sandwich. There was only blue sky above him, and he hadn't heard any thunder. Farther off, from the direction he had come, he thought he could perhaps just make out the drone of an engine. And there, low in the sky, there appeared to be a small airplane circling over a field.

10-26-2015, 10:37 AM
Deputies Jerry and Barry Atrick stood in front of their boss awaiting orders. But as more and more help from the state police had begun arriving in town, the deputies were thankfully not needed for any remaining part of the investigation. The bank was now secure for the remainder of the day and the service station would also be protected after Sheriff Younger's departure to the hospital in Jefferson City. Neither business would be reopening until tomorrow, and the sheriff was reasonably confident that the bank robber, or robbers, had acted independently and weren't working with anyone employed at the bank. Ralph Wallace had already made a statement confirming the culpability of Trevor and his sister for the crimes committed at the service station as well. Now it was simply a matter of whether or not Sgt. Pepper had been able to catch up to the fleeing woman and the boy. And it was the boy that filled Archie Younger with a sense of regret. He couldn't help but feel that he had made a mistake in keeping Zeke with him after their departure from the doctor's office. He could have easily imposed on the doc to look after the youngster. Now there was a very real possibility that Zeke could be hurt, and Archie wasn't sure how he was going to be able to reconcile that with himself if the pursuit east of town turned violent. He looked up at his expectant deputies and told them to go and look for the missing Gump boy. “Radio the office if you find him. We need to get word to Treelore that the boy is alright as soon as we can.”

Dr. Pepper had attended to both, the sheriff and Trevor, and he was satisfied that neither man's wounds were of grave concern. A surgeon would need to remove the bullet in Archie's shoulder, but all that would be required of Trevor would be for him to hold still long enough for the doctor to stitch up the tissues where his ear lobes used to be. Neither of the diamonds had been located, but then it hadn't yet occurred to anyone that any needed to be looked for either. Still, both the sheriff and Trevor would be making the trip to the same hospital that had received Treelore Gump just a little while ago.

Trevor was in handcuffs, and would remain so even in the bed that awaited him forty miles away. After Sgt. Pepper had left to pursue Trevor's sister and the boy, Sheriff Younger had still felt fit enough to be able to place the young man in cuffs. Trevor had offered no resistance. He was still in a bit of a state of shock, in pain and replaying over and over in his mind the drama that had unfolded. He also couldn't stop thinking about what might have happened had either bullet's trajectory been just the tiniest bit more medial than they were. It made him nauseous to think about it. As to Angie and her part in all that had occurred... “She fired a shot right at me!” he realized, “And then she left – without me!” In Trevor's mind it had been nothing short of a betrayal, irrevocable and absolute. “How could she have done that?” he wondered again. Still, he hoped that she'd gotten away clean and that she hadn't harmed the kid. Trevor had never been one to mind helping himself to other people's assets, but at his core he was essentially nonviolent. Even tying up the service station attendant and forcing him to the car had left him feeling as though he'd compromised himself. And now one police officer or another, Trevor didn't recognize him from anywhere earlier in the day, was placing him under arrest. He was being charged with the kidnapping of Mr. Wallace, robbery of the service station, and as an accessory to the bank robbery. He nodded, indicating that yes he understood the charges against him, and then further indicated that “no” he didn't think he needed anything else in the way of assistance from Dr. Pepper or his nurse. Sheriff Younger would be transported by ambulance to the hospital once it returned from Jefferson City, but Trevor was being escorted to a state police officer's car, and that would be his ride to the room awaiting him. As he was being seated in the rear of the vehicle, he looked out at the assembled onlookers who were gawking at all the disorder that had resulted from the mayhem. And just before the door was slammed shut, he spied his mother, out there on the fringes, watching her son. It occurred to Trevor that the look on her face held about the same level of concern for him that Angie's had... which was to say probably not that much at all.

10-28-2015, 01:13 AM
Like his father before him, Trevor had never commanded much of Lana’s love or attention. Trevor looked just like Angie – so much so that, early on, his mama took to calling him Caitlyn just to get his goat – but he was never like Angie. Where Angie had a wild and mean streak, Trevor, deceitful and sneaky as he was, had a kind and tender streak and he had loved his father. No, that’s not right; he still did love his pop. Alive or dead, no one knew because he’d escaped five years ago and no one had seen or heard from him since. A legend now, what with all the talk and scandal.

Just thinking about what his pop must’ve gone through and, certainly, Lana had never been any help to the man. Probably drove him half way to mad all by herself. But that day, that sad and terrible day… Why, Trever was just a kid then, himself. Couldn’t have been much older than Zeke when they took his pop away.

It was Sheriff Younger’s own father who finally discovered what had been going on with Trevor’s pop. The older Sheriff Younger burst in on his friend unannounced and found the babbling Rivers slow-dancing to “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” with Lucilla “Lucky” Strike who’d been dead for two days now! God rest her soul, her husband Mitch had had enough of her shenanigans and, as they say, that was that.

Now that dance might’ve been excused or overlooked, if you will, but for the added horror of the audience who were witness to the goings-on. There they were, dressed to kill and slouching in their chairs, all five of the recently departed hometown ladies and gentlemen looking for all the world like they didn’t give a damn about who Rocky Rivers was tripping the light fantastic with. Combed their hair, he did – coifed the ladies’ – shined their shoes, and set a good stiff drink in front of each along with cocktail napkins and a bowl of salted peanuts.

‘Course Rocky was just his nickname. Got it back in World War II. When nothing more was to be done for the mortally wounded, the tender-hearted medic would take the dying men and rock ‘em to sleep whenever he could. Likely that’s where his troubles began. Ironically, that’s where his talent and skill and life-long livelihood also began. You see, Rocky became an undertaker. Best in the business. Cared well for the dead and living alike. Not a corpse in his funeral home but that someone didn’t exclaim, “Why, my goodness! Doesn’t she (– or he, as the case might be –) look wonderful! The living, too, were petted and made to feel oddly at home.

So, there he was again, embracing the dead and caring for them like living folk. Chatting away, too, about the weather, the Platters’ great harmonies, and, “Oh! What beautiful hair you have, Lucky!” Swore he’d marry her soon as he could free himself of the loathsome, albeit breathing, Lana.

Trevor had been bringing lunch down to his pop whose place of business was on the first floor of their home when he heard the commotion and the older Sheriff Younger shouting for Rocky to, “Let go of her, dammit, Rocky, just let GO!”

The older Sheriff Younger was beside himself with grief for his best friend’s obvious mental breakdown and didn’t see young Trevor in time to stop the boy from hurling himself at Rocky and Lucky who still was held fast in Rocky’s embrace. They tumbled to the floor in a heap, living arms and legs tangling all around with, well, you know…

Later on Trevor wept at the memory of his pop being led away to the waiting ambulance all the while begging for just one more dance with his true love. Please. Just one more.

Lana was nowhere to be found to comfort Trevor, not that she would have done so anyway. Without her, it fell to the older Sheriff Younger to fill in the details for the fellows from the loon… ah… mental hospital before they took Rocky away.

“Yep, that’s right, fellers. He’s the funeral director, all right. Name’s Rocky Rivers. Oh, right, you mean his given name. Well, boys, nobody’s called him that in, well, I’d say ten years or more. Doubt he’d even answer to it. Real name’s Barnabas, a’course. Barnabas Rivers. You fellas be good to him, now. He’ll come around and we’ll be here waiting to welcome him home.”

The attendant shook his head sorrowfully, “I don’t know, Sheriff, he’s pretty far gone,”

“Well, I know,” said the older Sheriff Younger. “I know. Yeah. Beethoven was deaf. Helen Keller was blind. I think Rocky's got a good chance.”

10-29-2015, 08:36 AM
“Ever go for a plane ride, kid?” The continued silence from the back seat was beginning to annoy her, but there was no time for conversation now anyway. "Let's go,” Angie commanded. “And bring the case with you.” The order might as well have been given in Greek as the kid remained frozen in his seat, frightened, and wide-eyed. “Move it – now!” she yelled. And that produced the desired results, as Zeke made for the door. Angie had turned onto the gravel road in the hopes of having a better shot at losing her pursuer. She had also guessed that the longer she remained on her original course the more likely she would soon encounter law officers coming from the opposite direction. Turning had seemed to be the best option. And then, out of nowhere, an airplane was suddenly landing in front of her... on the gravel road. The wingspan of the biplane left no room to negotiate her way around the aircraft, and she'd had no choice but to come to a stop. The police officer in pursuit would catch up to the unusual roadblock in a matter of moments, and Angie had thought she would be forced to make a stand and shoot it out. But then it occurred to her that the airplane might be more boon than bane after all. It might in fact just be the perfect vehicle for an escape. But she would have to move fast, and now she and the kid were making a dash to the pilot who was calling out something in the direction of the cornfield. The thundering of the plane's idling engine made it difficult to hear what the woman in the cockpit was saying, but it hardly mattered; she and the plane were Angie's ticket out of here.

“Noonan! Noonan, where are you?” the woman was crying. “We must be on our way, Noonan. They are expecting us in Fulton!” She had not noticed her hijacker until Angie was nearly standing on the lower wing of the biplane, pistol up and ready to brook no argument. If the woman in the cockpit was cognizant of the gun being aimed at her, she offered nothing in the way of concern. Instead, she addressed them. “They're looking for me, you know? They're always looking for me.”

“Well, at least we have that in common,” Angie shouted back as she glanced over her shoulder. The squad car was just now coming to a stop behind Sheriff Younger's stolen vehicle. Angie had considered taking the briefcase from the kid and leaving him behind, but the cop's arrival changed her mind. Kids weren't good for much... but they made excellent shields. A cop was far less likely to send a bullet down a path that might lead to an innocent child. “In the plane, kid – now!” Angie extended her right arm, aimed, and fired a shot in the direction of the squad car.

Zeke stepped up onto the wing, tossed the briefcase into the forward seat and then pulled himself into the plane, too. There was something creepy about the pilot; she seemed to be staring right through him. He didn't know whether he should sit down or simply scramble out the other side of the plane and just keep running. And then the pilot spoke to him, “Can't you hear? Can't you the thunder? You better run. You better take cover.” Zeke didn't have an answer.

“He's not going anywhere!” Angie shouted at the pilot. She too was now jockeying for her place in the forward compartment. Quickly, she shoved the kid forward, sat down, and then pulled him down into her lap. Looking back, with one eye on the squad car and the other on her pilot, Angie yelled, “Let's get this magical mystery tour started, sister!” Again she levelled her gun at the pilot, and again it seemed to fail to make an impression. “Come on now! Get this bird in the air!” The pilot appeared to be more placated than anything else, certainly not terrified. Whatever had prompted her to land the plane earlier seemed to either be dismissed or forgotten. Fifty feet behind them, the policeman was cautiously exiting his car, taking up a defensive position behind the open door. In the pilot's seat of the plane, Amelia sat, strapped herself in, released the brake, and gave the pistons all the gas they could take.

10-29-2015, 11:35 AM
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v227/chadgumbo/walking-dead-season-5_zpsgvebekuf.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/chadgumbo/media/walking-dead-season-5_zpsgvebekuf.jpg.html)

"I said I will lead this dance!" Barnabas giving dance lessons again.

10-29-2015, 10:16 PM
"Ever been to Howland Island, Missy?", shouted Amelia over the roar of the engines. "Take your breath away, it's that pretty."

Just as the wheels were about to leave the ground, Amelia caught sight of Noonan struggling to free himself from his parachute. Ignoring Angie's frantic gun-waving and cries of "Go! GO!! Get us the hell out of here NOW!!", Amelia pulled back on the throttle and stopped the plane just inches from the entangled Noonan.

"Scoot over there now, Missy, and make room for Noonan," Amelia ordered. "We're not going nowhere, nohow, and noway without my navigator. Why, we'd just go flying around in circles forever. Now scoot!"

10-30-2015, 09:50 AM
“Take off, lady! Your friend stays here!” Angie commanded. Again, with the gun pointed directly at the bridge of her nose, it seemed to hold no sway whatsoever over the strange woman in the cockpit. Angie could see that the police officer, now a quarter of a mile behind them, had come to recognize that the plane might not be leaving after all, and he was now getting behind the wheel of his squad car. Soon, he would be around the sheriff's car and on his way to the standstill between the pilot, her friend, the kid, and – worst of all – herself. Angie could wait no longer. “Fine,” she exclaimed, “I can't shoot you but I can sure as hell shoot your friend.” She turned, aimed, and fired a shot, striking the man known as Noonan right between the eyes.

From a distance of a few miles, Forrest heard a crack pierce the air, and then a short while later there came another just like the first. He thought about what the gypsy had said when he had asked Forrest if he could hear the thunder, and the warning about taking cover which had followed. He hadn't seen any clouds at the time, but now – far off in the southwest – a line of gray was approaching. But the “thunder,” or whatever it had been, had sounded much closer than that. He took the final bite of “vegemite sandwich” and muttered to himself, “There isn't anyplace to take cover even if I wanted to. No sir. Not so much as even a culvert to crawl into with a muskrat.”

In the back of the state policeman's car, Trevor's eyes rolled up into their sockets until only the whites of his eyes shown. He jerked violently once, then again, and finally between clenched teeth he spat the words, “Don't shoot them, Angie! Don't! It's not the way! Just... just get away from her! Now!” In the front seat, officer Dick Starkey couldn't believe his bad luck and, panic stricken, said, “No no no no, please don't die no more. I'm tired of taking them to the morgue! No thank you please, just make yourself sneeze, and then I'll get you to the hospital door!”

Instead of the expected backward jerk that would be instantaneously followed by the bits of bone and crimson exploding out of the back of his head, Noonan's face seemed to shimmer for a moment... and nothing more than that. He continued advancing toward the airplane, cursing and demanding that the pilot (Amelia he'd called her) produce his spirits and a Jew's harp. Angie literally disbelieved her own lying eyes and fired again, which only produced the same result. Noonan was going to board the plane and she realized she wasn't going to be able to stop him. The cop was coming... and Angie leaped from the plane, onto the starboard wing. The gun fell onto the gravel road, but too many paradigms had suddenly changed in the reality that was Angie Rivers' mind. The gun stayed where it landed, and Angie ran straight for the cornfield.

Zeke followed Angie's lead, and he grabbed the briefcase as he was making his exit. Noonan was into the forward compartment as quickly as Zeke had exited, and Zeke lightly jumped off the wing onto the road. For the rest of his life he would never be able to sort out what it was that had possessed him to pick up the gun, but that's exactly what he did. And from behind him, he heard Sgt. Pepper shouting at him, “Freeze! Drop your weapon and the case!” Zeke looked up and saw the officer's gun levelled directly at himself. He leaped back onto the starboard wing, grabbed a strut, and then Amelia was hurtling the plane forward. Moments later, Zeke was airborne.

11-03-2015, 01:50 PM
“East! It's drifting east and gaining altitude!” Private 1st class Carl Grell exclaimed, mostly to himself. As he watched the giant weather balloon, property of the United States Army, floating free and untethered, his mind entertained visions of a court-martial, a dishonorable discharge, and... “Who knows?” he whispered to himself in a state of near hysteria, “Maybe I'll have to go to prison.” Because the 'weather balloon' he had failed to properly secure was almost certainly more than just a weather balloon (if weather data was really a portion of what it gathered at all). There were sensitive instruments inside the giant bright yellow blimp, but neither Carl nor any of his associates believed those instruments watched the weather. What they did watch, he could only begin to guess at. He was, after all, a private, and privates weren't on the mailing lists of anyone who handed out top secret memos, letters, or any other kind of classified correspondence. The blimp, on its way to wherever it was now free to go, bounced off the side of a radio tower, and Carl thought he had seen - for just a moment - a piece of yellow fabric flapping along the side of the giant cylinder of gas. Had it been ripped? Was the blimp now damaged in addition to being loose? He shuddered at the thought. “Oh, the humanity,” he murmurred to himself, and began to whimper.

The blimp, to the half-dozen men who attended to its mooring, was referred to as 'the yellow submarine.' The base's C.O., Col. Harland Sanders, had once asked Pvt. Grell why they called it a submarine. “It's a blimp! Why don't you call it the yellow blimp?” Grell had tried to explain that calling it a yellow blimp would simply be calling it what it is... “It wouldn't really be a nickname for it then, would it sir?” The colonel had waved him off dismissively, having lost interest almost before realizing he'd had any at all, and gone in search of his dinner. Fried chicken was being served at the base commissary, and on such days the colonel could hardly be counted on to focus on little else. Now, it seemed to Private Grell, the colonel would have a good deal more to focus on than he would like him to. The blimp was more than a mile downwind at an altitude of 1500 feet and climbing, and from somewhere behind him Private Grell was beginning to hear the shouts of men who were just coming to the realization that there was something to be alarmed about.

Nine hours later...

The crack of gunfire that had pierced the air behind Forrest, somewhere back towards Carpenter, had given him pause. He stood, looking back in that direction, and for a time nothing further seemed to be happening. The gypsies were now a half-mile or more down the road, and Forrest simply watched the backs of the wagons as they diminished in the distance. But then there came the sound of the airplane, probably the very one he had seen circling earlier. And sure enough, within moments Forrest could see the biplane rising from the ground, gaining altitude quickly and heading due north. After a time, the plane banked to the right and began coming around in such a way that its flight path would bring the aircraft directly over Forrest's head. He continued watching the plane, following its every movement, and as the plane crossed over him, Forrest turned with it. And it was only then that Forrest noticed a giant yellow... “is that a balloon?” he wondered, bearing down on him, drifting only 25 feet off the ground and dragging with it a mooring cable.

11-05-2015, 09:48 AM
“East! Why are you turning east, Amelia? We need to be heading southwest!” Noonan was shouting at his pilot. He was itching for another argument. The biplane, with its three passengers, had lifted off perfectly with no other option than a heading of due north, and once airborne the standard practice was to bank left. But the gravel had been no airport, and there was nothing 'standard' about today's flight. Amelia banked hard to the right.

Amelia ignored Noonan, as she often did when he was inebriated and overbearing, and lifted the microphone handset from its mount on the radio, pressed the send button on the mic and began trying to open communications with Fulton, “King How Able Queen Queen to Fulton; do you read me?”

Immediately, his frustration and anger mounting, Noonan tried to talk sense to Amelia. “Damn it, Amelia, those are the tail letters for the Electra! This is Maxwell's Silver Hammer, the biplane... which by the way, you keep claiming to everyone you meet you named this plane after your father. Max was your father's friend, Amelia! Your father's name was Sam. People called him Edwin! Amelia, are you listening to me? We're not going to Fulton. We never were! We need to make for Howland Island!” Her stare, as vacant as an abyss, seemed to look right through Noonan. “King How Able Queen Queen to Fulton; do you read me?”

It had been difficult enough from the outset for Zeke to maintain his tenouous hold onto the wing's strut. He could only hold the the pole with one hand, the other being needed to keep a grasp on the briefcase. His feet were standing on a flat surface, but his balance was under attack by the gale force winds being generated by the plane's propeller. As the plane had risen from the gravel road, Zeke wondered almost at once about how long he could sustain the delicate balance he had established. And then the pilot, the one Noonan was calling Amelia, had suddenly banked hard to the right. At once, Zeke's feet slipped out from under him, dangling earthward, and his only link to the plane was his grasp on the wing's strut. “Help!” he screamed at Noonan.

Noonan altered his gaze from Amelia, turning his head to address Zeke. He recognized the impossible situation the boy had gotten himself into, but rather than extend a helping hand to him he merely repeated what he'd said before, “Can't you hear? Can't you hear the thunder? You better run. You better take cover!” and then smiled.

Zeke knew he wasn't going to be able to maintain his hold on the strut for much longer. The forces of the wind, the turning of the plane and whatever added g-forces that might have brought on, and even gravity itself were all placing demands on his physical presence. He looked again, desperately, to Noonan for help, and it was then the briefcase slipped from his grasp. “No!” he screamed, and instinctively reached for the falling case. And the act of reaching for the briefcase with his empty hand, in turn, loosened his fingers just enough on the strut... just enough to cause them to slip completely from their purchase on the pole. “AHHHH!” he screamed from several hundred feet up in the air. And as he fell, it occurred to him that he could no longer hear the thunder of the biplane's engine... and he had absolutely nowhere to run.

11-06-2015, 08:09 AM
“No gun!” Angie Rivers reminded herself of that for what seemed like the hundredth time. She was running through the cornfield, the myriad stalks each at least a foot taller than herself. They provided good cover, but as densely spaced as they were they also left a trail of noise as she collided with the stalks she was passing by – or through. Added to that, there was the problem of her shoes leaving a noticeable print in the dirt with each hurried step. Angie, though, had always been quick to recognize a situation for what it was, and she knew there was nothing to be done about the noise or the footprints. The cop was somewhere behind her; she had heard him crashing through the stalks as well, though seemingly a good distance behind her. He had a gun and she did not, though at least he was someone of the mortal variety and that made him far more manageable than the occupants of the biplane – whatever the outcome of all of this might be. All she could do was keep running, zig and zag, and hope that he would at least lose sight of her tracks during his pursuit.

She had heard the plane's engine roar back to life. It had certainly rumbled a great deal while idling, but then just a short time ago it had loudly announced its intentions of making a departure from its earthly surroundings. Shortly after that the engine sounded as if, in addition to being behind her, it was now above her as well. And while Angie was aware of these perceptions, she paid them no heed. Her intended escape by air was no longer an option, and only the things that might be useful to her in her attempt to evade the man following her found their way to Angie's immediate focus. Angie hardly noticed when the plane, banking hard to the right, passed directly overhead. It continued on, as did she, and then something struck her hard on her head, just where the hairline met the skin of the forehead. Whatever it was had hit her hard enough to cause her to fall, and her scalp had been broken open. She was already bleeding when she went face first into the rich black soil. The blood, sweat, and labored breathing attracted mosquitos almost immediately, but they were the least of her problems. Dazed, she pulled herself up to her hands and knees and paused to listen. Back there, somewhere, but a good distance off yet, the cop was still crashing through the cornfield. Blood was stinging her eyes, and she was trying desperately to still the vertigo caused from having been struck, or so she supposed. She doubted very much that she would now be able to outrun the cop... but at least now she could shoot. Oh yes, she could do that. Three feet down the row of corn from where she knelt lay the gun – her gun, the one that had hit her on the head, the one that had fallen from the airplane as it passed over her.

11-07-2015, 09:56 AM
Rushing up to meet him was the ground... from his perspective, anyway, though he knew the opposite to be the truth of the matter. He was free falling, and as he looked at the small speck of a person below on the side of the road, he realized that whoever it was down there, he or she was going to be the last person he would ever see in this world. And that in itself was on odd thought, something he had never given any consideration to before – that out there somewhere, someday, someone's face was going to be the last face he would ever look upon. And now, suddenly, much sooner than he could have ever imagined, here was that person, though from this height Zeke could make out no details whatsover of whomever “that person” was.

How had his day come to this? All he had wanted to do was deposit less than $20 worth of coins into the bank, and now here he was just a few hours later falling to the end of his life. His thoughts – and there were so many – were all running concurrently; there was no time now for a string of consecutive reflections. His parents would be heartbroken, as would many of his classmates... but a few, maybe not so much. Why had he picked up that stupid gun? Why had Sergeant Pepper assumed the worst in him when he had done so? Why had he chosen to jump onto the wing of the airplane rather than simply drop the gun? He supposed he could guess an answer to that one; having a loaded gun aimed directly at you by another person can cause you to panic in the most unusual of ways. He had thought he was going to duck behind the fuselage from up on the wing to protect himself from the policeman's line of fire, but then he realized the one named Amelia was about to throttle up the engine, and again another instinctive reaction had immediately kicked in – hold on to something! He had wanted to protect the briefcase, had wanted to place it directly in the hands of Sheriff Younger himself. So he'd held onto it and dropped the gun instead and grabbed one of the wing's struts with his free hand. When he'd felt the force of the wind from the propeller, he had positioned his feet in such a way to gain the best sense of balance he could muster... and he had unintentionally stepped on the gun, thereby holding it in its position on the surface of the wing. When he had realized how tenuous his balance truly was, he hadn't dared to adjust his feet in the slightest. The plane was hurtling down the gravel road, and then they were airborne and things only got worse, the constant rush of the wind conspired to blow him right off the plane out into thin air. Why hadn't that ghastly figure of a person – Noonan; that was his name – extended a helping hand? The final tendril of hope snapped when Amelia had taken that hard turn to the right. It was as though his feet had been knocked right out from under him. The gun was suddenly gone, and only a moment or two later, so was the briefcase. And then he himself was gone as well, and now here he was, trying to make out the details of the face on the boy on the side of the road, as his fall neared its unforgiving point of termination.

The end was approaching quickly. Two hundred feet... one hundred... fifty... and then he was down to the last color he was ever going to see... and that, apparently, was yellow.

When he struck the blimp, much of the giant balloon's helium gas had already escaped from a small tear in its side, that as the result of its brush with the radio tower some nine hours earlier. The blimp was still aloft, but its mooring cable had dragged it down to its last twenty-five feet of elevation above the ground. The yellow fabric covering the skeletal frame of the blimp was now far less taut than it had been when its wayward journey had begun several hundred miles to the west. Zeke crashed into the top of the blimp and the fabric, by then, had a certain amount of give to it, and the force of his body hitting the blimp pushed the large balloon its last twenty-five feet to the ground, further softening his initial blow. As the blimp bounced off the surface of the road, the exterior fabric where Zeke had hit the blimp stretched to its maximum stress and was about to recoil and toss Zeke airborne again. But instead it ripped, and then Zeke was falling into the blimp. Somewhere within, he struck a light-weight table that was supporting what looked like scientific instruments of some kind, and the table broke and Zeke was falling again. He landed awkwardly on the blimp's bottom, and just to his left the fabric was tearing open again. It had caught on a barbed-wire fence, ripping the exterior of the blimp violently. And then, as if he were a chicken being hatched from an egg, the blimp simply rolled away from him and he was left lying in the ditch near the road, miraculously unharmed. The boy – the one he thought was going to be the last he would ever see – was standing up by the pavement, holding the briefcase. “Hello,” he said. “My name's Forrest – Forrest Gump. I think you dropped this.”

Zeke had been breathing high levels of helium during his brief tumble within the blimp, and in a voice that sounded something like Donald Duck, he replied, “I'm Zeke. Pleased to meet you, Forrest.”

11-08-2015, 01:02 PM
“That sure is a funny voice you have,” observed Forrest. And then Zeke started giggling... and crying, both at the same time. “Momma always says to leave the past in the past,” Forrest offered. “That's where it belongs and you can't leave it anywhere else anyways. The ground is right underneath of you now, Zeke, and you can't fall no farther.” And that made Zeke laugh, but the crying continued too. There were just too many emotions surfacing all at once.

“I suppose you're right, Forrest. The falling really is over, isn't it?” Zeke mused aloud, his voice steadily returning to normal. And then they both realized a third voice was encroaching on their conversation, though it sounded somewhat tinny and artificial. On the opposite side of the fence, where the fabric of the blimp lay spread out and various broken instruments of some kind or another lay in disarray inside the frame, a radio receiver was still working. “King How Able Queen Queen to Itasca, this is Earhart; are you there?” There was no reply, only the pilot repeating her request for a response every 30 seconds or so.

“She was trying to reach someone or someplace called Fulton before,” Zeke said. “Her friend Noonan wanted her to try for a place called Howland. Now she's asking for an Itasca, whatever that might mean. Maybe Noonan convinced her of whatever it is he wanted.” The boys looked skyward, searching for the biplane, and in the distance far to the southwest they spotted it. It was headed directly towards a giant cumulo-nimbus cloud with voluminous billows of white cloud at the top of the mass but dark heavy steam at the bottom. Streaks of lightning burst earthward from it and moments later thunder followed, rolling out over the landscape. “I guess Noonan got the thunder he kept wondering about,” said Zeke. And a moment later the plane entered the violent cloud mass and disappeared. And from that moment on there were no further appeals heard from the radio. "Well, I guess that's it then," said Zeke. "God help them, wherever they are now."

After Forrest explained to Zeke what it was he was doing out here by himself, Zeke reassured him that it would be alright to return to Cleves. They both began walking west, toward the town of Carpenter; Zeke with a few coins in his pocket that he hoped to be able to use at a pay phone to call someone for a ride. They had walked for a few minutes, quickly getting to know one another in the way that comes so naturally for boys, when the crack of gunfire erupted from the cornfield on the north side of the road. Neither of the boys could see more than two rows deep into the field, and though they couldn't see what was unfolding in the field, Zeke had a pretty good guess about who might be involved. “Forrest,” he said, “come with me right now!” He grabbed Forrest's hand, led him into the ditch, and the boys quickly scrambled over the fence bordering the cornfield on the south side of the road. He led Forrest twenty yards in and then stopped. “We should be safe now. Nobody knows we're here and nobody can see us from the road. Let's just wait and listen for awhile. If we hear more shots we'll just sit it out here until after sundown and then follow the ditch back to town.”

11-09-2015, 09:06 AM
No further shots were heard, after the two the boys had heard when they were standing alongside the road. And neither of them really knew quite what to make of the situation. “I didn't fall a thousand feet out of the sky just so I could get shot by a crazy woman who wants this money I'm carrying around.” Forrest had then asked if the money was his, and then whose it was, and had Zeke gotten it at the bank robbery Forrest had run away from, and a few more questions before Zeke had asked him to be quiet so that he could think. Added to the uncertainty of whether or not anyone had actually been shot on the other side of the road and having to deal with Forrest's curious nature, the weather was quickly becoming a problem... something Zeke hadn't counted on. The giant cloud mass that had only a short while ago seemed so distant was quickly moving in and the wind, even from the shelter provided by dense rows of tall corn stalks, was gaining strength.

A bolt of lightning was followed by a frighteningly loud BOOM! “Can you hear the thunder?” Forrest asked casually.

“If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that today, I'd need another briefcase for them all,” Zeke answered. A mass of gray clouds seemed to swallow the sky and then the rain began to fall, large cold heavy drops of water that seemed to be being driven into the ground rather than simply falling to it. “We need to find some cover, Forrest, and we can't see where we're headed from in here. We could follow this row of corn but I think we'll get to town faster if we follow the road. If we stay in the ditch, I think we'll be alright.” Forrest nodded his consent and they hustled back to the road from the direction they had come. When they reached the ditch they turned and were about to begin following it west to Carpenter... and then they looked up.

Angie wasn't sure if the cop had been hit by the shot she had fired or not. He had spotted her and told her to “freeze.” Never one to simply throw in her cards, she had instead turned and fired in the direction she thought the order had come from. A shot was returned in her direction and it missed, but she hadn't really gotten a glimpse of her pursuer. Reacting defensively, both had moved off from their positions so as to make themselves more difficult to spot. As far as she knew, the cop hadn't seen her since then; she certainly had not seen or heard him. “Maybe he's laying face down in the mud,” she murmurred to herself. “The crows have gotta eat more than just corn if they're going to have a balanced diet.” She kept on, not sure in what direction she was headed. The wind had come up – blowing hard, the rain had begun to fall, and now even small bits of hail were bouncing off the corn stalks and the ground. She was cold, tired, and bleeding, and she just wanted to get out of the weather and find a place to rest. When she finally reached the ditch leading up to the road, she looked up – at a tornado coming out of the southwest and making its way straight for her.

11-10-2015, 03:39 PM
Run! But where to? The little town of Carpenter was a couple of miles west; there were no barns or other buildings to try and get to, and any culverts that might be found in the ditch were undoubtedly filling up with rain water. The tornado, which was several hundred yards wide, was coming for her. It was coming for her; Angie could feel the malevolence. This was no ordinary tornado... this was whatever had occupied that damned biplane, and maybe even the plane itself. “That's right!” she screamed. “I shot you right between the eyes, and I have another round chambered just for you! So come and get it!” and she fired a shot at the approaching tornado.

In her mad wanderings through the cornfield, Angie had finally emerged farther west on her side of the road than had Zeke and Forrest on theirs. And she was right about the culverts; the torrential rainfall was filling the ditches, and the boys behind her had been forced to higher ground as well. They, like Angie, were transfixed by the tornado and neither party as yet had noticed the other. The shot taken at the tornado, though, got the boys' attention, and Zeke put his free hand on Forrest's shoulder, stopping him in his tracks. The wind, though, was making it impossible for anyone to maintain their balance and Forrest leaned heavily on Zeke, and Zeke leaned back. Closing in on the little group, the tornado was a monstrous vacuum and Angie turned her back to it and was now facing the wind... and the boys. She saw them at once and instantly set aside all thoughts of the tornado bearing down her, she being the first person it would reach. She raised her gun and sighted it in directly on Zeke's chest... and pulled the trigger.

Whether it was the tornado that pulled her back or the bullet fired from the gun of Sergeant Pepper that knocked her back was never known. Angie's gun never fired; her chamber was empty. Sergeant Pepper, from a position behind the boys, had seen Angie raise her weapon, and he had aimed and fired at her in an attempt to save the boys. But when Angie's backward motion gained momentum, rather than ending with her falling to the ground, her body actually became airborne and then was pulled into the giant vortex. Though endless speculation would ensue about where the tornado may have deposited her, her body was never found. Sergeant Pepper had raced up to the boys, wrapped his arms around them, and pulled them down to the road's surface, he taking a position above them to protect them from what seemed inevitable. But the tornado never reached them. Once Angie had disappeared it simply lost contact with the earth, rising higher and higher into the sky toward the cloud of its genesis. The rain stopped and the winds calmed. Sergeant Pepper and the boys sat up, and Zeke turned to the man and said, “I wanted to give this to the sheriff, but I'll just give it to you instead. Its' the...”
“...the money from the bank,” Sergeant Pepper finished for him. They all stood and began their walk back to town.

11-11-2015, 10:31 AM
November 11, 2015:

Evvie Johnstone had left the message on her grandparents' answering machine, urging them to come by the house in the evening. She had recorded something on her parents' DVR and she was sure it was something Grandpa Zeke would want to see. “Have you been filling her head with all that nonsense about Amelia Earhart's ghost again, Zeke?” his wife Emma asked. “She had asked you to tell her a humdinger of a story and you certainly gave her one.” Zeke had then reassurred his wife of two things: 1.) no, the topic of “that day in 1956” hadn't been discussed recently, and 2.) for what seemed like the one-hundredth time, he reiterated to his wife that the events of that day were not nonsensical, or at least not fictitious, in any way whatsoever. At 6:45 PM, Zeke and Emma were greeted warmly by their son Pete, his wife Gwen, and their daughter Evvie; older brother Pete Jr. was off to college and wouldn't be home until Thanksgiving. Gwen served raspberry pie with ice cream (Aunt Donna's recipe) and then everyone gathered in the living room. Evvie tuned the large Samsung hi-def screen to the DVR player and the last couple of minutes of a string of commercials played, and then the familiar CNN letters rolled across the screen, quickly followed by the AC360 logo. Anderson Cooper was sitting in his usual position behind the news desk with a thin smile stretched across his face.

“Tonight on the The Ridiculist,” he began, “we take you to Honolulu, Hawaii with what may – or just as likely, may not – be yet another minor development in the now nearly 80-years long mystery in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan. It seems as though still another “Earhart enthusiast” has made one more discovery on Howland Island. Professor Henry Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunae VIII – the 8th?” Cooper repeated for effect and chuckled, “and a couple of graduate assistants from the University of Hawaii were scouring Howland Island near the site of previous findings. They were looking for anything that might help confirm claims that previous airplane wreckage found on the island irrefutably came from the Lockheed Electra Ms. Earhart was piloting in an attempt to circumnavigate the world in 1937. We take you now to Honolulu and CNN's Randi Kaye. Randi, Professor Henry Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunae the 8th?” and he started chuckling again.

“Yes, Anderson,” Randi replied, smiling pleasantly, when the screen bisected into two images, one of Anderson and one of Ms. Kaye. “It's quite a mouthful, isn't it? His family and friends simply refer to him as Henry the 8th.”

“I can't imagine why,” Anderson said with as cheesy a grin as he dared to muster.

“Indeed,” Randi said, wanting to get on with her report, and then the TV screen went full to a single image of Ms. Kaye only. “What the three men found was not another part of an airplane's fuselage, or any radio instrumentation or pilot's gear or anything of that sort. What was found was a handgun, specifically an H&R929, commonly referred to as a 'sidekick' back in its day.” She raised a large ziploc bag for her viewers to see and it was presumably the gun to which she was referring that was inside the bag. “It was the professor himself who spotted the gun lying between a couple of rocks and it was somewhat covered by the grass growing around it. Fortunately, he had the wherewithall not to handle the gun with his hands but instead picked it up with a 'grabber', the kind anyone can buy at a Walmart for about $13- or so. He bagged the handgun in this ziploc bag and it was eventually taken to the University of Hawaii for analysis. What was discovered then is a bit remarkable. The gun, though never thought to have been on board the ill-fated Earhart plane, seems to belong to still another person who has been missing for a long long time. The trigger was found to be in remarkably good condition, and if the gun has been here since its owner went missing, it is then nothing short of miraculous that a fingerprint was somehow successfully lifted from the trigger, and it came up as a match for Angie Rivers, a young woman who had been in the process of building quite a resume of criminal activity when she disappeared in 1956 after a foiled bank robbery attempt in Cleves, Missouri. Mr. Forrest Gump, the colorful retired CEO of Bubba Gump Shrimp, has long maintained that he saw Ms. Rivers get pulled into a tornado a couple of miles east of the little town of Carpenter, Missouri on the day of the robbery. Her body was never found. Nor was this gun – until now – and how it could possibly have made its way from rural Missouri to Howland Island, lying amongst wreckage that may or not be from Amelia Earhart's airplane is anyone's guess.”

“Is there any chance the gun may have been planted?” the screen had split again, and the dual images of the two reporters filled the screen.

“Well, that's certainly an obvious question, Anderson,” Randi answered. “But the professor, Henry the 8th, insists that if the gun was placed on Howland Island it was not done so by him, and he can't imagine what a hoax of this nature would hope to accomplish, if this is indeed some kind of hoax.”

“And no sign of the remains of Angie Rivers, I assume?” Anderson asked.

“That's correct,” Randi answered. “Still no clues as to the whereabouts of the body of Angie Rivers, who by the way would now be 81 years old if she might somehow still be alive.”

“Alright. Thank you, Randi,” and the screen went full to Cooper. “That is tonight's Ridiculist, and that's going to do it for us. Thank you for watching. CNN Tonight starts right after this.” The network broke to a Dr. Pepper commercial, and then the DVR stopped running.

Pete and Gwen hurriedly gathered the now empty pie plates, not wanting to get caught up in the inevitable discussion that was about to ensue – a conversation that never did materialize. Emma muttered something about any news report not reported on Fox was really no news report at all, and then decided to join her son and daughter-in-law in the kitchen. Zeke remained in the Lazy-Boy, his son's, though it was always relinquished for Zeke's benefit whenever he came over. On the sofa, Evvie sat and studied the expression on her grandfather's face, and she thought she detected a hint of sadness. Perhaps Grandma Emma's little jibe had hurt a little, or maybe it was something else altogether. Regardless of what it may have been, she said softly but with sincerity, “Grandpa, I've always believed you, you know?”

"Nobody's ever disputed the events of the bank robbery," Zeke replied. "There were dozens of witnesses and everything was plausible. Forrest saw me fall from the sky, but he never had any contact with Amelia and Noonan. So the only people who saw them were Angie Rivers, Sergeant Pepper, and me... and Sergeant Pepper never saw them up close or spoke to them. He may have seen Angie shoot at Noonan, but if he did he probably assumed Angie missed... which she didn't. Angie was up close and got an earful of them, I can tell you. She found out in a hurry that she wanted no part of them, and who could blame her? But, I assume she's been dead for all of these past 59 years, and so that leaves me. I'm the only one left who saw them and actually interacted with them. And I know one thing; they were not..." he paused, searching for the right word, "...tangible! Whether they were living or not, who am I to try and understand such things? And I can't blame your grandmother for her skepticism or anyone else for theirs. But I saw what I saw." He turned and looked Evvie straight in the eyes. "I love my family, and I regard my grandchildren as God's finest gift He's ever given me. But you... you're the only one who accepts my account of what happened that day without judgment or question. And you'll never know how much that means to me, Evvie. Thank you. And with that said, I think I could do for a second slice of pie." Zeke rose from his chair and headed for the kitchen.

The End?