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

lightning Copyright © 2005 by Eric C. Biemiller

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Chapter 14

Woodie never knew what Dr. Bailiff told his mother and father about his ESP talents or his work with Dr. Bailiff. He knew that the three of them had had a long session in Dr. Bailiff’s laboratory after Dr. Finn Stanton had been removed from the local hospital and flown home to Jackson University in Maryland. He knew that Dr. Bailiff had shown his mother and father much ESP equipment and had discussed many theories and experiments.

He did not know what, or if anything, had been said about Dr. Finn Stanton. Nor, strangely enough, did he care. If somebody popped you in scrimmage, you popped him back, and the harder the better as long as it was fair. Somebody attack you, you defend yourself. Woodie had enough to worry about besides taking on adult abstractions and philosophy.

He never actually knew what happened to Dr. Finn Stanton. Maybe the man did have a stroke brought on by over-exertion or something? That was untrue and he dismissed the notion. It was just as well not to know exactly what had happened to Dr. Finn Stanton.

“Not so much massive hemorrhage, Beetle. What I thought when I got in there was that something had blown a series of fuses in several sections of the frontal lobe. Nothing distended or spongy. More as though they’d been cauterized or burned … He’ll live, but I wouldn’t’ want to say he’ll be a real bright wit again if he ever was … Anyhow they have a lot of good men in Maryland. He’ll be in good hands,” said Dr. Decker Todd.

“You going to tell me what happened? Was it Woodie?”

“If I told you what happened, you’d insult me again, and holler ‘where’s the science’ or worse, ‘who’s gonna pay me for working on the guy.’ I think you ought to get married, raise children and worry a lot. Look at you. No civic conscience. No social conscience.”

“No conscience,” grinned Decker Todd. “Come on, bucko, let me take away your shovel and lead you from the levee and buy you ham hocks and red-eye gravy.”

“Po’ white trash,” said Beetle Bailiff loftily grabbing his hat from the top of a bookshelf as he headed for the door.

February skidded into March. In Washington, D.C. the case of the Watergate burglars went on. One of the accused on trial wrote and delivered a letter to the little Federal judge handling the trail. Its basic message was that high officials in the Administration branch of government had put pressure on those being tried to plead guilty and remain silent. The burglar gave details later. The details indicated that the Attorney General of the United States had approved the Watergate break-in and the wire-tapping of the Democratic Party’s National Headquarters. The additional details revealed that the burglars had been given money to remain silent about their acts, and that they had received promises of clemency for their silence, and that those promises seemed to come right from the White House where the President of the United States himself lived.

The evidence of attempts to cover up and hide the whole case became clearer and more specific. And in the Senate of the United States a Select Committee was assembled to investigate charges of illegal acts in connection with the presidential election.

The days sped by, and the little Federal judge handed out sentences to the criminals and sought by every legal means to find a whole picture of truth.

There was an ugliness different in kind and degree than previously known uglinesses being revealed in Washington, and it seemed to grow and spread.

Families in Marterville read about it in their newspapers and saw its shape on television from time to time. Parents speculated upon it and so did their children. The outlines of outrage began to emerge in the university community, which was normal as the university community was always outlining some form of outrage anyhow.

“This Watergate thing may stink enough to gag the whole country before it comes to an end,” said Ballard Kynwood Senior.

“That’s elegant talk for a professor,” said Connie Kynwood.

“I am going out for track,” said Woodie Junior. “I am going to run a varsity 440.”

“Wasn’t I there in the shopping center before Christmas when you were recruited?” asked his father.

“I just decided,” said Woodie Junior.

“Well, I have decided something too,” snapped his mother. “If you lose as much as three ounces during your athletic endeavors, I am going to end your track career. I know this may come as a shock, but to me you look like an old hermit at the end of a thirty-day fast.

“He would have to be a young hermit,” said his father. “I think there’s an age limit for trackmen anyhow, hermits or not.”

“You keep out of it. And stop trying to bamboozle me. Three ounces and out like three strikes.”

“Strikes is baseball,” said Woodie Junior.

“They don’t have the 440 in baseball,” added Ballard Senior.

“Three ounces, that’s what!”

“You feel up to it, Woodie?” asked his father. “You do seem sort of stretched. I never thought I’d have a kid who was built like a cheap garden hose.”

“Dr. Bailiff gave me another check for a hundred dollars,” said Woodie.

“I never thought I’d have such a fine, smart enterprising, business genius for a son,” said his father.

“What happened to the cheap hose?”

“Three ounces. Just lose three ounces and see what happens. And put the money in the bank,” stated Woodie’s mother.

“I’d buy pies and cakes and candy if I only had three ounces to worry about and build up a fatso reserve,” advised Woodie Senior. “I assume you’re okay with school work and with Dr. Bailiff’s stuff if he’s still paying?”

“I’m running,” said Woodie.

“You bet you are, son, and way out in front in my book,” said his father.

“Other women have it easier,” sighed Mrs. Kynwood.

“Than what?” asked Woodie Senior.

“I’ll think of something.”

The phone rang before she could do so. And Woodie Junior loped to answer it.

“You ever notice, my dear,” observed Woodie Senior, “that the older we get the fewer times the telephone rings for us.”

“That’s because you’re anti-social.”

“Say rather that I am exclusively yours.”

Connie Kynwood cocked her head and practically sprained her eardrums eavesdropping.

“Funny call,” she said, “all one-sided. Woodie’s not saying a thing. And there, he’s hung up.”

She waited until her son had rejoined them.

“Who was on the phone, dear?”

“Who else, Mother?”



“Well?” she pressed as the nosy parent she intended to be.

“Emily’s going out for track.”

“I’ll tell you one thing,” said his father slowly. “If that girl loses as much as one, single, itty-bitty ounce her mother will make that coach hard to catch.”

Connie Kynwood giggled.

Hubert Rosebrook Porter found no humor possible when he was confronted with Emily Diana Nation and her intentions the following day. Hubert Rosebrook Porter was not surprised. He had been somehow consigned to the teaching of adolescents in Marterville High School for twelve years. He had six children of his own which may explain his tenure. There was little that could surprise him and still less that could amuse him after trying to implant algebra into the heads of succeeding classes, boys and girls who called him ‘Minus’ Porter.

But Minus Porter took his track teams seriously. He was a good coach and Marterville teams had won championships under his direction. When interviewed by the press after some of his bigger wins, he usually smiled winsomely and said, “An underpaid teacher with a big family finds personal victories dubious. My boys do my winning for me.”

What was he going to say now? My boys and girls do my winning for me?

It was obvious that Emily didn’t care what he said. She had already quoted the court decisions allowing girls to play Little League baseball and State rulings forbidding sex discrimination in any sports sponsored by public schools financed by taxpayers. She had quoted Frieden, Steinem, Greer and the Supreme Court. She had a note from her parents stating their willingness to allow their daughter to compete. She had a doctor’s certificate stating that her health was sublime. And what’s more she had her field hockey stick.

Minus Porter was stuck, although he suspected that the doctor’s certificate was a forgery. Nobody that looked like Emily could be in good health. She was not only a twig she was a shaving off a twig.

“What about locker rooms and showers?” he asked.

“I don’t mind.”

“Suppose you make the team and we come up to a big meet and you get female trouble and can’t run?”

“Say menstrual period. We have classes in sex, you know.”

“You’ll have to buy your own uniform and warm-up stuff.”

“The school will buy or go to court. I’ll just re-design the jersey some.”

Minus Porter remembered that he was a coach and a teacher. He did not say what for.

“Just what event or events do you intend to make your specialty, Emily?”

“Sprints. The 100 and the 220 if I feel like it?”

“If you feel like it? Let’s get the discipline straight right now. If I feel like it. And if you qualify for the team. I have two black seniors on this year’s squad in those events. They ran one-two in both races in the State finals last season. How about cross-country in the fall, pretty leaves all out in the woods, run for miles out of sight, hill and dale?”

“The sprints,” said Emily firmly and tapping her fingers on her hockey stick.”

“You going to carry that thing when you run?”

“Tinker will hold it for me.”

“Tinker Tubbs?”


There was a crafty streak in Minus Porter. He frequently used it in behalf on his teams.

“If you get Tinker to go out for the shotput, I’ll see that you get in all the qualification stuff for the team.”

“Either the school board or the courts will take care of the preliminaries … or the newspapers, radio, TV and the local chapter of NOW. I don’t care. I’ll talk to Tinker. If he wants to throw that silly sixteen pound ball over the fence, it’s up to him.”

“Only a twelve pound shot in high school.”

“Then he’ll throw it over the fence easier,” she said.

“Yeah, yeah. Oh, boy,” said Minus Porter.

“I’ll be out with the squad tomorrow,” said Emily.

“How do you know it’s tomorrow?”

“You posted the notices on all the bulletin boards.”

“Yeah, well. Goodbye, Emily.”

Coach Porter’s day was not done. He was still in shock as he wandered out of school toward the parking space where his 1965 Dodge leaned like a tilted vault in a deserted graveyard when he was hailed to a stop by Rumpelstiltskin Gomez and his hair. Rumpelstiltskin had it braided today and tied off with an azul ribbon.

Rumpel frequently looked as though he were standing in a hole. He looked like that now as he stared up at Coach Porter.

“Freshman basketbol is no more. I theenk tomorrow I come to run on your track team. Si?”

“That’s nice,” said Minus Porter absently. “And what’s your specialty?”

“I run thee spreents with Emily, si?” She tol’ me she gon’ be on thee team, no?”

“Goodbye, Gomez,” said Coach Porter. He kicked the car when he reached it.

He apologized to the 1965 Dodge when the track season closed. He even bought it four new shock absorbers, which startled the Porter children who thought that all cars kicked them in the fanny on rough roads. He could do no less. He did not lose a meet. Marterville ran off and hid in the State finals at Trenton, racking up the biggest team score in history. And the squad came home from the Penn Relays in Philadelphia with an assortment of trophies.

Minus Porter did not know that his finest hours lay just ahead when some forty kids reported for practice the next day. Some of them, like his two seasoned sprinters, Gwyned Jones and Nestor Mills, he knew. He was glad to see Woodie and, perhaps, extra glad to see Tinker who promised to come over on meet days and throw the shot if he didn’t have to take off his baseball uniform or miss any turns at bat for the baseball team. He had his pole-vaulter back who had been lifting weights all winter and would doubtless soar over 12-feet this season. He had his high jumper who could go 6’11” if he ever managed to saw off one bar-draggin’ leg. Best of all, most of his rangy, vitamin-packed kids looked dopey enough to stay with him and not go busting out to try for the golf team or chase permissively raised girl children along the Springtime beaches. And, better than best, he had Miss Emily Diana Nation and Rumpelstiltskin Gomez, although he did not know what he had at the time.

He was not long left in doubt, however.

The first week he held time heats for his sprinters he moved his stars of yesteryear, the Messrs. Jones and Mills, to the relay team, and in addition assigned to Jones to the half-mile and Mills to the mile.

Emily Diana Nation, her long straight hair foresworn and cropped like Russian gymnast Olga Korbut’s, and clad in brief track pants with leg ruffles and a jersey of her own design, owned the sprints in partnership with Rumpelstiltskin Gomez whose hair hung down in ringulets when it was not streaming straight behind him in a 20 mile an hour wind of his own making.

It was not so much that Emily and Rumpel ran. They just went off their marks with the gun, blurred briefly and finished leaving only holes in the air to denote passage. When they ran together they frequently ran dead heats.

Occasionally, Coach Porter overcome with greed would have Woodie enter the 100 with them so that he could sneak in a score for third place. He did not run Woodie in the 220, as he preferred his easy floating speed in the 440 and for duty in the mile relay.

Emily and Rump made their presence known to Marterville’s competition early by the simple process of removing it. In the season’s first triangular meet with Haversford and Blattstown, the Haversford and Blattstown sprinters barely had time to comment about running against midgets, one of whom was a girl, before Emily and Rump crossed the finish line of the 100 yard dash and the timers were saying ten seconds flat.

The Haversford and Blattstown runners in the 220 just barely designated Rumpel as a spic queer and Emily as a freaked out female glue sniffer before the timers were saying 23 and one-tenth seconds and Emily and Rump were watching the rest of the field finish.

Springtime sports in high schools do not normally attract the attentions of the press. Emily and Rumpelstiltskin Gomez altered the condition. They were, first of all, a beguiling duo. Rumpel in his track drawers and jersey looked like a dwarf Latin alter boy in a long, spun gold wig which made his creamy Caribbean skin resemble blond butter and emphasized his wide and liquid brown eyes.

“You ever notice Rump’s eyes?” Tinker asked Woodie. “They look like a sick cow’s”

Emily was all elf, a dancing, blue-eyed dapple of shadow and light as she moved, her budding, if merely perceptible breasts outlined against her jersey, and her whole miniature being a prophecy of future beauty. She stirred the poet in Tinker.

“Like a moonbeam with muscles,” he said dreamily and went forth to hurl the shot 58-feet in his baseball uniform.

“Like malnutrition strung on wires,” said Woodie. “And stubborn and yappy to boot.

Admittedly, Coach Porter found some personality quirks in his new stars, which annoyed him. Emily wore a tracksuit of watered green Thai silk with bridal white ruffles on the shorts. She did not like Marterville High School’s colors which were scarlet and black and refused to run in them, although she could no nothing about the black spikes in her green running shoes. On practice days she showed up in a bikini consisting of a patch and a string bra, as she did not intend to delay any start on her summer tan. She also kept her hockey stick by her side.

Rumpel Gomez was bent a bit by coaching standards as well. He practiced bare-footed wearing ragged cut-off jeans with heart-shaped patches and a sweatshirt, which announced that beer was better than pot.

Further, neither Emily nor Rumpelstiltskin Gomez tolerated much training. After Minus Porter taught them how best to come off the starting blocks they quit listening. Instruction was for pole-vaulters and baton passers and hurdlers and other funny people.

“I don’ like these exercise stretches and stof’. To run ees eenof’ exercises, no? Also ees the fon’ no? Si …”

Miss Emily made no comments about training. She put a blanket on the lushest grass she could find, stretched out flat in her bikini and read paperbacks with the covers torn off to foil parents or teachers and other busy-bodies like Minus Porter.

On track meet days they dressed after their own fashion, ignored their competitors, went off with the gun, blurred briefly and broke the finish line yarn usually as one. On one meet day with a small following breeze one out of three watches caught Miss Emily in 9.9 seconds and the other watches had her at 10.2 seconds.

Naturally, the press fancied them and the Marterville track team. They were a TV take on all networks before the season ended and the AP and UPI stringers usually desolate for copy in New Jersey loved them.

No fourteen year-old girl runs as fast or faster than men especially trained and older men. Emily didn’t know that nor did she care. And Rumpel Gomez never knew how fast he ran, nor did he care as long as he got there with Emily.

By the time the squad was getting ready for the county championships the university publicity clowns were hanging around for scraps. The high school principal, a fat greeter who doted on service club lunches, appeared daily. And Hubert Rosebrook Porter knew glory and national publicity. Fortunately, Minus was unchanged by it.

“Minus is a nice clot,” said Tinker who by then was hitting .376 for the baseball team and tossing the shot 55 feet when track meets did not conflict with his average.

All of Marterville and the county itself loved the Porter track team that season, and affection even slopped over upon the press. After all, the reporters were not there to cover any campus demonstrations, drug raids, honorary degree ceremonies, academic rituals or ‘streaking’ performances. They were there to cover two nice high school kids, unusual in red-blooded American prowess even if Rumpelstiltskin Gomez was a spic and Emily Diana Nation had some mind blowing ideas of women’s place no matter how often she proved the place was first.

With all of the ink being splashed around his district, it was no surprise to find Congressman Morris T. Otten present for the county meet. He showed up with Dr. Reginald B. Bailiff, Dr. Decker Todd, Connie and Ballard Kynwood Senior and his own photographer.

Woodie Junior was mildly surprised to see his parents.

“You come to see Emily and Rump?” he asked.

“Only incidentally. We have a son in one of these races,” said his father.

“Well, enjoy him. Emily may not run today, and if she doesn’t, Rump says he’ll sit it out to keep her company.”

“Where’s the old school spirit?” asked his father mildly.

“That ain’t the point. Emily wants to know where her hockey stick is. She left it in the back of her father’s car when he drove her here. Of course, the little nuisance should have come by bus then she’d have had the stick in hand where it mostly lives. Her father didn’t want to see her run particularly so he took off …”

“Unusual father, isn’t he?” asked Connie.

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Woodie. “He says with girls no matter how fast they run some out of work bum will catch them.”

“This is terrible,” said Congressman Otten. “I’ll be right with you. I’ll get the State Police to put out and APB.” He hastened off.

“Boy …” said Woodie. “That’s dumb. I should have told him that Tinker went for the stick. He got Bewford Ballentine to drive him. You know Bewford with the mustache who drives the ambulance? That Bewford. Personally, I wouldn’t ride with him. No matter what he drives, it’s an ambulance.”

“So, who’s worrying?” asked his father.

Woodie grinned at the little group.

“Emily and Minus Porter … not me, nor the competition, nor Rumpel Gomez … But the competition will worry soon enough. I’ll con Emily to the line for her heat. Tink’ll show up with the stick and go to the finish line where he’ll wave it at her. She’ll go with the gun for the stick and set another record. And, in the finals, she’ll be so happy she’ll set another one. You’ll see. I gotta go.”

“That’s precognition,” said Dr. Bailiff in a bubbling bass.

“It’s only girls,” said Woodie Junior.

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen 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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