by Carl L. Biemiller,
edited by C. J. Carnahan and Eric Biemiller

lightning Copyright © 2005 by Eric C. Biemiller

Please respect the copyrights.
The chapter links are located at the end of each chapter.
Chapter 10

Two weeks before Christmas Woodie practically became a millionaire. Dr. Bailiff gave him a check for $100.00 for his work at the lab. He had never owned so much in such a lump. He gloated shamelessly although he thanked Dr. Bailiff quietly enough, and he was disgustingly casual about it when he told his parents.

“Wonderful,” said Connie. “I think money is always nice to have around, sort of like salted peanuts. Half of it you will put in the bank immediately, and I think clothes, yes clothes, will do in the rest for you.

His father was equally firm.

“I don’t have to teach a batch of college ninnies. I can sit right here on your chest and keep your arms pinned down until that check turns into dust. Paper is biodegradable and will rot into the soil, thus enriching the soil, you know. All you big ecology buffs know that, right?”

“Okay,” said Woodie. “Half in the bank if you get off my back.”

“Your chest,” said his father. “I planned to sit on your , uncomfortable though it might be for me.”

“Parents,” said Woodie disdainfully. He put half the money in the bank, however, and scheduled a shopping trip with Tinker.

He called Tinker on the phone and told him.

“I’ve scheduled you for a shopping trip,” he said.

“Great,” yelled Tinker, who really didn’t think that telephones carried messages, but that you had to hold one to direct your shouting. “But this is a bad year for money with me, and my father asked me the other night if I thought I could pay off my future allowances enough to make the lawyers stop laughing at his will when he died. How about the shopping mall? Lots of good cheapies out there … Good place to get a rubber duck … How’s tomorrow night?”

Tinker hung up. Woodie sat patiently by the phone. It would ring in a minute. He didn’t need the power to know that. He just knew Tinker. The phone rang. He lifted it to his ear.

“Hey, how we gonna get out to the shopping center? We’ll need a ride. Or do you want to hitch? What time? You wanna come over and eat here? My two fat sisters are back on their trap-a-fella diets so’ there’ll be plenty without bugging my mom…”

“I’ll call you back,” said Woodie.

His father was reading the newspaper, shaping curses under his breath. He was sloped in his chair on the end of this spine, a position which made his stomach growl as he awaited dinner.

“You think anything’s wrong with Tinker, Dad?” asked Woodie.

“If he’s human and alive in this century, something’s wrong with him. But in Tinker’s case, I’d say less than most.”

“We’re going shopping out at the mall tomorrow night if you’ll drive us and do some shopping, which you probably have to anyhow, and he wants to buy a rubber duck.”

“I heard it whiz by, I did. I recognized it as it went. Perfect. Absolutely perfect. If I don’t drive you out, I’ll never know why Tinker wants a rubber duck or maybe why anybody over the age of four would want a rubber duck. So I’ll drive you. I’ll drive you. And I’ve been slickered into it. Go tell your mother my stomach is growling.”

“She can hear it from here,” said Woodie.

“We’re going shopping tomorrow night, dear,” said Ballard Senior half way through his costly hamburger.

“Fine,” said his wife. “I have a few things on my list.”

“Woodie and I and Tinker. Out at the mall with the pick-pockets, shoplifters and other holiday venturers, but not you. Tinker is seeking a rubber duck. Would you care to guess why Tinker would want a rubber duck?”

“Not really. Woodie, please lift the fork to your mouth. Don’t lower your head to the fork. Just another ten years or so and the trick will be easy for you. I think Tinker’s entitled to a rubber duck if he wants one. He’s a nice boy and I like him.”

“Because he’s entitled. Great. Junior would you care to speculate on Tinker’s reasons for rubber ducking?”

“Well, he can’t drive a car yet. He’s only eight months older than I am …”

“And if he can’t have a car, he’ll take a rubber duck?”

“Or maybe he’s lonesome, Dad. But, if you’re going to work up a sweat, excuse me a minute…and you, mother…”

Woodie Junior left the table and made a phone call.

“Tinker, about tomorrow night. My dad’s driving us. I can’t come to dinner. We’ll pick you up at seven o’clock. And, Tink, why do you want the rubber duck? Don’t ask me why I want to know. Just tell. Okay, okay… No, I won’t spoil a surprise. Oh, yeah, that’s a nice thought, okay. I’ll see you.”

“So why does Tinker want the duck?”

“Finish your dinner, dear. I have some chocolate pudding. Woodie, why do you hammer so at Woodie? What did Tinker say, dear?”

“Do you realize that both of you have your faces hanging out? Boy, what kind of a family am I in anyhow?”

“The best kind,” said his father waving his fork. “Give.”

“It’s going to be a Christmas gift for Emily. He says he suddenly remembered how much fun it was to take a bath with a rubber duck. He thought Emily might like one.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful,” said Connie. “All children like bath toys. That’s sweet and thoughtful of Tinker.”

“Wait a dagnab minute,” said his father. “That Emily’s the one with the Sue, right? Well, she’s no baby is she?”

“She’s sort of a self-elected girl friend,” admitted Woodie. “She dates Tinker, I guess. Skinny little kid, lots of bones, looks like a boy mostly … But Tink likes her. I do too sort of …”

“Well, dear, the idea shows a lot of imagination on Tinker’s part. My goodness…”

Woodie grinned at his father, his lean face a small snicker away from actual laughter.

“So? So?” asked Ballard Senior.

“Well, Emily always carries that field hockey stick with her, in classes, rec hall dances, church, the library …”

His father roared. “You mean she might beat the duck to death with it in her tub?” he choked.

“Something like that,” agreed Woodie and his eyes danced.

“But before you get rolling around on the floor with Emily, I think you ought to know that Tink’s getting his dad a duck too.”

Connie Kynwood was a smart mother, and her smarts leaked sometimes in the most innocent of ways, as her two males well knew.

“Will his father like it, dear?” she asked.

“John Tubbs owns and runs about half of this county,” murmured Ballard Senior. “I understand he doesn’t think much of the academic and intellectual life in Marterville. Never went to any college.”

Woodie thought a moment of Tinker’s father, that blond bear of a man who churned and roared and ran a big real estate company, the Cadillac automobile agency, a nearby resort hotel, served on the county board of free holders, and who was not home as much, as say, his own dad. Tinker didn’t talk about his father much, but when he did it was like a fellow talking about another fellow he liked pretty much, but would like to know better because he thought he was neat … and not because he was a father … nobody was supposed to like parents much anyway to hear some of the kids in school talk, especially the grimy seniors.

“I think he’ll like it,” said Woodie slowly. “That is, if he thinks about it ten seconds. You know even kids who do don’t go around telling fathers or mothers they love them. And anyhow, Tink’ll get him a white shirt just in case.”

“He’ll be crazy about that duck,” said Ballard Senior firmly. “I’d prefer a wind-up boat myself, however.”

“I’d rather have my back soaped,” said Connie Kynwood.

As they got out of the Kynwood’s 1969 Nova the following night, they could see the glow on the shopping mall’s store complex on the horizon from the parking lot.

“If we had gotten any closer we could have shopped by mail,” complained Tinker.

“Who ever heard of a parking lot close to a store?” asked Woodie.

“Be brave. This may be farmland once again when the world grows sane,” said his father. “It’ll be easier to peel off this blacktop than knocking down the stores that they’ll build here as soon as they get some farmland for parking lots further away. Let’s walk unless you’d rather accost some chance caravan also headed for the bazaars.”

“Well, at least I know what I’m going to get,” said Tinker, “and I’m not worried about the moo either. I borrowed my mother’s charge card just in case I was light on loot.”

The expedition was a success. Woodie Junior politely asked his father to get lost after suggesting a central store meeting place. He and Tinker went off together. Reveling in his own riches, he bought a clock radio for his parents and had it gift wrapped for fifty cents more. He and Tinker, advised by a grumpy, rude and non-English speaking store attendant overcome with the courtesy of the season, found the infants department where Tinker purchased two rubber ducks, one pink, one blue. Overcome by his success, Tinker also found the sporting good department and bought a rubber duck for himself. It was five feet long when inflated and suitable for the surf. Unfortunately, it was packed deflated in a box about five feet long, which made the aisles in the store much smaller. He also bought a white shirt for his father, identical scarves for his sisters and a charm bracelet for his mother. In the hardware department adjacent to the sporting goods department, Woodie found two sturdy looking police whistles, which a worried clerk advised him against blowing at the moment.

“I’m rich,” he explained. “Might as well get Emily and Sue a touch of something. Sue’ll love hers, I know, goes with the police calls.”

They found Woodie’s father at the assigned meeting location. Odd sized packages sprouted from the pockets of his topcoat. He also toted a shopping bag, which bulged with other gaily-wrapped lumps. He was talking to one of the store’s security guards whom Tinker and Woodie recognized as the high school algebra teacher who also coached the track team.

“Hi, Mr. Porter,” they chorused.

“Woodie, Tink …” nodded Mr. Porter.

“We didn’t know you worked here,” said Tinker.

“I moonlight here every Christmas season. Do security work at the race track summers … Big law and order man …”

“You get much business?” asked Tinker.

Mr. Porter unbuttoned his uniform tunic. He was wearing a high school warm-up sweatshirt under it.

“I peel outta this thing and I’m ready for cross-country chasing. Not that I catch anybody much, but I cause a lot of merchandise dropping among the younger heist set.”

He re-buttoned his tunic, bent and pulled up his trouser legs. He was wearing high school basketball shin guards.

“They run senior citizen charter buses out here for the grandmother trade. You put the arm on some of those old ladies borrowing various gift products, they kick. And most of ‘em wear hobnailed combat boots. That answer your question about business?”

“Tells me more than I care to know,” said Mr. Kynwood soberly. “Let’s go home, troops.”

“Night all,” said Mr. Porter. “Woodie, I could use you come spring in the 440. You could help give us a very tough relay team … Baseball coach is a monster, they tell me. Not sweet like me. Think about it.”

“Goodnight, Mr. Porter,” said Woodie.

“Seems a strange fellow,” said his father as they toted their burdens toward the distant car. “But versatile, I’d say.”

“Too nice a guy to have his shins kicked. Maybe my dad’s real estate business could train another hand.”

“Tinker, you are a prince among rubber ducks,” said Ballard Senior. “I gather the condor model is your very own, and doubtless for a tub about the size of the Red Sea.”

“You gotta think ahead, Mr. Kynwood, and I’m still growing.”

“Then you must be thinking ahead to a stop at the World’s Famous Hamburger Emporium for a burger and a malt on the way home, eh?”

“Gee, thanks, Mr. K, but Woodie’ll tell you, we’ve got a better drop than World’s famous.”

“Thought they were the kings of the pre-chewed charred meats and fall-away buns? They dominate the airwaves with quarter pound portions.”

“Fraud,” said Tinker simply. “Tell Woodie…”

“Tink ran an area survey, Dad,” said Woodie. “We took our pocket fish scales and weighed out about fifteen places. World’s Famous came up light from two to six ounces everytime …Almost a week of solid eating before the results were all in.”

“Interesting,” said his father. “You made weight allowances for cooking losses, no doubt? And proper deducts for catsup, relish, other glop added to the base product…? And all this without disturbing the managements too much?”

“World’s Famous lost,” said Tinker flatly. “Now, would you like to try the Godfather Griddle and Pepper Plaza?”

“I’m in your hands, gentlemen.”

“I think I ought to tell you, Mr. K, that Rumpelstiltskin Gomez says that a lot of goats and old horses go into Godfather’s back yard and never come out again.”

“That’s friendly of you, Tinker. Rumpelstiltskin Gomez?”

“He’s Puerto Rican.”


“Oh, that’s a nickname, Dad,” said Woodie. “One of the girls read an old fairy tale and came up with it.”

“Let me lean on the car a minute. Now I've got it. The miller's daughter who was forced to spin straw into gold, and was snookered by a little man who promised to help then made her guess his name to save her child.”

“No, Dad," said Woodie. "The girl who let down her hair from the tower so somebody could climb up it.”

“Gomez wears it pretty long,” said Tinker.

"But he is little," Woodie reminded him.

“Well I hate to disappoint you Brothers Grimm, but the tale of the gal who let down her hair was Rapunzel,” expounded Woodie Senior.

“Oh well," lamented Woodie Junior. "You're the arts guy, Dad. I guess Gomez is stuck with the Rumpel nickname either way.”

“Okay, then. Let’s get the stuff stowed and get moving,” stated Kynwood Senior. “Maybe Gomez’ eyes aren’t as healthy as his hair. Might just have been cats and dogs he sees going into Godfather’s.”

“Your father gets a little disgusting, Woodie.”

“He’s paying, Tink.”

“Which reminds me, son? Should we try for a tree soon or wait until after Christmas when the prices come down?”

“After,” said Tinker, “then you can go with my father.”

Marterville’s college population thinned with the holiday break. The high school closed all doors except those of the gymnasium so the girl’s basketball team, the intra-mural basketeers, the freshmen, the JV’s the varsity and the wrestling teams wouldn’t be lonesome. And the holiday season was festive.

Dr. Bailiff closed his laboratory and gave Woodie a vacation, although he managed to show up at the Kynwood’s along with Dr. Decker Todd and Congressman Morris T. Otten to tower over the eggnog sippers among the faculty friends assembled by Ballard Senior.

Dr. Bailiff brought Woodie Junior an intricately carved, oddly heavy ring as a gift.

“Star iron,” he said, “from a meteorite fall. It came from Lapland. Big shamans and wizards among the Lapps. Actually,” he lowered his voice; “the ring does have some strange properties if it attunes to you properly. Anyhow, Merry Christmas.”

Congressman ‘Twit’ Otten gave Woodie a warm handshake and big grin, and said that he and Dr. Bailiff were figuring out a visit to Washington for him.

Dr. Decker Todd gave Woodie an appointment for an office visit. “Just for a look to please myself,” he said. “I hear you didn’t go out for freshman basketball. “Why?”

Woodie shrugged and was silent.

“That so?” commented Decker Todd. “Well, at your age changes come a dime a dozen, but I don’t like too many surprises. I especially don’t like any ol’ Beetle type changes, but he’s happy with you. Ah, but hum… don’t get tuckered too easily, eh? Don’t like people hanging over your shoulder?”

“I just didn’t feel like basketball. That’s all.”

“You come see me anyhow. My nurse will call your mother about the appointment. It has to be a time when I’m around unless you want my nurse to tell you stories. Damn kid …”

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Chapter Twenty Three Chapter Twenty Four Chapter Twenty Five Chapter Twenty Six
Chapter Twenty Seven Chapter Twenty Eight Chapter Twenty Nine Chapter Thirty
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