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 18

They started their sightseeing early. Emily and Sue wore trim sweaters and skirts and looked like real girls.

“I didn’t know you had any sweaters and skirts,” said Woodie Junior.

“Woodie, that’s rude,” said his mother.

“We’ve got lots of things you don’t know,” said Emily.

“Yeah,” said Sue. “Lots.”

“Like bums mostly,” muttered Woodie Junior vaguely.

They went to the FBI and Sue talked professionally with their tour guide. She submitted rapturously to fingerprinting and got some ink on her sweater, which went nicely with pink. The FBI would not let her fire off any guns. They gave her some empty shells. The man said they had originally been fired at the famous bank robber John Dillinger although he hadn’t checked recently. The FBI was so busy.

They went to the Library of Congress and saw the Declaration of Independence and the Gutenberg Bible. They went to the nearby Folger Museum, which is all about Shakespeare, and Ballard Kynwood Senior quoted a lot. They went to the Art Museum and looked at paintings.

Mrs. Kynwood, Emily and Sue took their shoes off because the marble in the corridors was nice and warm and not all that dirty from other feet anyway.

They went to lunch at the Mayflower Hotel because that’s where Dr. Bailiff was going to meet them and pay the check and show them the Washington big shots who frequently look lunch there.

All of the big shots were out to lunch elsewhere although Marius Scopton, who was sightseeing with them at congressman Otten’s request, pointed out a lobbyist for the milk industry who was drinking a dark brown liquid that wasn’t milk. He also pointed out the famous Washington newspaper columnist, Jack Anderson, who was a Mormon and did not drink anything dark brown, including coffee even if it had the caffeine taken out of it.

They ate roast beef which Dr. Bailiff said was probably the last of the American beef herds whose rib cuts would soon be museum pieces at these prices and seen only in the Smithsonian Institution as vanished Americana.

Dr. Bailiff had had a dream last night too. It was almost as unpleasant as Woodie Junior’s, so he did not choose to discuss it.

“They’re checking, always checking, and if it’s who I suspect the most, they’ll peek and pry some more,” he said cryptically.

“The beef is delicious,” said Connie Kynwood.

“Super,” said Emily. “We don’t get roast beef much at home anymore. My father says that if he got one dollar for each breath he took all day it would not be enough to buy beef roasts.”

“How about if he breathed faster?” asked Sue.

“My mother says he breathes too fast now and if he doesn’t watch his temper as well as his breathing he might have a heart attack.

“Does he snort a lot when he breathes?” asked Woodie Junior

“Why are you so interested in my father? asked Emily.

“I hardly breathe much at all.”

“Not even when you’re running and breaking all those records?” asked Marius Scopton.

“I take one gulp when the gun goes off in the 100 yard dash, and maybe three gulps for the 220. How many gulps do you take for the 440, Woodie?”

“Depends on whether somebody gives me an elbow on the turns. Otherwise I just go along not counting, sobbing and panting and feeling sick at my stomach at the finish line,” said Woodie.

“That is a capsule history of a man’s life,” said Ballard Kynwood Senior.

“Are you going to be grumpy, Woodie?” asked Connie Kynwood. “Can you hold off being grumpy until I have a hot fudge sundae for dessert?”

“Stuff yourself with hot fudge and write nasty notes to the Playtex underwear people all summer. I am not now nor do I intend to be grumpy. I may be a mite moody after I go out to see Mr. Lincoln and his memorial, but not grumpy.”

“You’ll give him my best, of course,” said Dr. Bailiff. “He’s done a lot for my people.”

Woodie Senior felt a great warmth for Dr. Bailiff. He grinned at him.

“You want a hot fudge sundae?”

“If I’m paying, I’m eating,” said Dr. Bailiff.

“This may be the best day I ever had in Washington,” said Marius Scopton. “It might be the last too,” he added. “The boss has me and most of his staff digging into Constitutional law which makes my eyeballs stick out like a crab’s.”

“Not surprising now that he’s on the Judiciary Committee,” said Dr. Bailiff.

“Watergate?” asked Woodie Senior.

“Watergate,” said Marius Scopton looking suddenly like a bright, young dedicated lawyer.

Dr. Bailiff summoned a waiter who asked him if he knew that he had a whipped cream mustache.

“Any fudge on my necktie?” asked Dr. Bailiff.

The waiter bent over and peered. He didn’t have to bend far because Dr. Bailiff sitting was as tall as the waiter standing.

“No, sir, but there are all these funny little spots like freckles sir,” said the waiter. “To a necktie salesman they’re polka dots. To you they’re freckles. Keep the change.”

“Yes, sir,” said the waiter.

Dr. Bailiff surged out of the lobby like a dark-hulled pirate ship flying black sails. He had another appointment and would see them either later or in Marterville.

For a fleeting moment Woodie Junior wished he were going with him.

“I am going to see a man about dogs,” explained Dr. Bailiff. “You have all heard stories about dogs that were lost and found their way home again after traveling thousands of miles. We know that no scent trail could be involved in such distances. This professor friend of mine thinks that some sort of ESP leads them home. He calls the process ‘psi tracking.’ Anyhow he’s working with dogs. Goodbye.”

The Washington Monument admonished the sky. Thomas Jefferson, patriot, president, and statue, was in residence by the tidal basin under a replica dome of the one he had once designed for his beloved Virginia home Monticello.

At the Lincoln Memorial Mr. Lincoln sat with an eternity of sadness and compassion in his lined marble face and looked out over the reflecting pool. They looked at him and knew that, while Mr. Lincoln might be a trifle hard to the touch, he nonetheless lived.

“I have the idea that people bring their own lives here, and that their feelings and emotions seep into that great stone shape.” Said Ballard Kynwood Senior. “And so he shares today with today’s people as he shared his own time with those who lived then. I’m not talking about the words he spoke and the ideas he had and the heritage he left along with our union as one country. I’m talking about life right in that stone Abraham himself. I’d believe it if you told me that stone was the same stuff that held the sword Excalibur in the old King Arthur legends. I’d believe it if you told me that Mr. Lincoln gets up and walks, just as he is, by moonlight.”

Ballard Kynwood paused.

“Dr. Bailiff sends his best Mr. President,” he said.

The sun was bright and a child breeze rolled cotton balls of cloud across the blue walls of the sky. The day was late May heavy and the air was a warm weight.

“Why do I feel chilly all of a sudden?” asked Emily.

“We’re in the shade and the shade holds some dampness, dear,” said Connie Kynwood.

“I don’t think it’s that at all,” said Sue.

“It isn’t,” said Woodie Junior.

“What do you think it is?” asked Emily.

“Well, we’re in the shade and the shade holds some dampness,” said Woodie Junior looking as solemn new black shoes. “But I think it’s father who has a gift of his own that some people might call ESP.”

“Then he must be getting a distinct impression from my feet. My arch bones are popping like breakfast cereal,” said his mother.

They were tired when they got back to the apartment. Woodie’s father and mother had decided against going out to dinner. After all, they’d had a monster lunch. They stopped by a neighborhood store and bought canned soup, cold cuts, sour rye bread with caraway seeds, a gallon of milk and a big bunch of small bananas, which Ballard Kynwood Senior said, were ‘finger bananas’ that might have come from Uganda in East Africa.

“They make a drink called waragi which is distilled from these bananas. They drink it. Then they go over to the national park near Murchison Falls and pull the teeth from lions with their fingers to make back-scratchers or necklaces,” said Woodie Senior.

“You’ve never been to Uganda,” said his wife.

“I had a student from Uganda once. He worked summers chasing antelope and zebras off the runways at Entebbe so the planes could land. He had to have a college degree to chase big stuff like elephants and rhinos and Nile hippopotamuses. He came over here to study.”

“Yeah,” said Connie suspiciously. “Did he go back? Where is he now?”

“Well, he’s still working with animals. He’s a cop in the K-9 corps in Atlantic City and excellent with dogs.”

“If I go to college, I think I’ll take one of your father’s courses,” said Sue.

“I may take ‘em all,” said Emily.

Dr. Bailiff did not show up for cold cuts. But Morris T. Otten did and reported that Dr. Bailiff would see them in Marterville. They ate without him. Woodie Junior, Emily and Sue watched television.

The news was Watergate. All the other shows were about policemen and they watched them largely so Sue could review police code calls otherwise there’d be no sense in getting batteries for her transistor radio.

Ballard Senior and Connie and Congressman Otten sat long and talked seriously. Now and then scraps of their conversation filtered through the gunshots, brake squeals, police whistles, shouts, moans and screams hurled into the room by the TV.

“Woodie, more than anything else this country needs its faith renewed in government, in its institutions and its standards of excellence. I know that we expect higher codes of conduct from our public men than many of us would set for our own daily life. Maybe that’s unfair because men in public office are human although it is hard to tell when they act like politicians.” The congressman paused reflectively and then continued. “Nevertheless, a great part of holding an elected office lies in setting a good example of conduct, of respect for our laws. When public trust is betrayed to the point where faith in the law is shattered by those sworn to uphold those laws, then, God knows, we’ve failed our country, ourselves and our kids, to say nothing of all those in the world who take hope from the American dream.”

Congressman Otten’s voice was firm and clear.

Woodie Junior and Emily and Sue heard it. For perhaps three whole minutes they paid no attention to the television set. They were digesting Morris T. Otten’s words for future review. This is not uncommon when one is fourteen and fourteen almost fifteen.

Woodie also heard his father. It was his father’s classroom voice, low but distinct and measured.

“I don’t know how to teach faith,” he said. “But belief with exceptions is no belief at all.”

Ballard Knywood Senior bought some newspapers before they got on the train for Princeton Junction in the morning. The Washington Post was baying down another trail in the Watergate case. The New York Times was sobbing over fifteen strikes, which it insisted upon calling job actions, inflation and Watergate. The Newark Star Ledger featured pickets, high prices and a proposed oil port off the Jersey coast.

Woodie Junior did not read during the trip. He suspended himself. Emily read a paperback with the cover torn off and fondled her hockey stick. Sue suspended herself. Woodie’s mother took her shoes off and reviewed her life history, deducting three years from her age to make a round number. Ballard Kynwood Senior read the newspapers and muttered graffiti.

Marterville was quiet when they arrived.

Emily and Sue were deposited at their homes, said their thanks and disappeared.

Marterville’s peace was deceptive.

Ballard Kynwood Senior took Ballard Kynwood Junior into the rear of the Knywood garage and took hold of an old razor strap that had once been used to sharpen old-fashioned straight razors by Ballard Kynwood Senior’s father and grandfather.

“I told you what I was going to consider for reading the mind of the President while you were a guest in his house,” he said sharply. He folded the razor strap in half and tested it by making a whacking sound across his palm. “Know that performing that deed is no worse than what the people are accusing the President of doing. Do you understand that when injustice exists few of us escape it?”

“Yes, sir,” said Woodie Junior.

Kynwood Senior whacked his palm again, stemming his anger. “You are no better than a thief with your talents misused, boy. There better be very good reasons for you to invade again. Now get out of here, before I regain my old bad self and use this strap.”

Woodie Junior wasted no time leaving the garage.

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 Fourteen Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen 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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