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 20

“Emily, lemme tell you something. Water polo is not played with a hockey stick. You are not going to learn how to do that back half gainer off the ten-foot board with a hockey stick. It is not going to correct your end turns in the freestyle races. Besides, the guests ask all the time who is that little skinny kid with the hockey stick.”

Tinker was firm.

“I am filling out,” said Emily.

“A hockey stick will not help you fill out,” said Tinker.

“I’ll leave it home when I get tired of lugging it,” said Emily. “Suppose there were riots on the campus again? I’d need it.”

“There aren’t going to be any riots, just faculty strikes, and the big thing with them is forty million speeches and a few pushes.”

“How about all the things that happen to girls these days?”

“That’s mostly to girls who have filled out and not retired track stars. You could give anybody who wanted to do something to you a half a mile handicap and out-leg em.”

“You make it sound as though I were chasing after somebody who wanted to do something to girls.”

“Woodie! Woodie!” yelled Tinker awakening some poolside hotel guests who were taking naps so they would have strength to watch the Senate hearings on TV. “Woodie, come over here and tell Emily to bust her stick or else leave it home until hockey season.”

Woodie ambled across the apron of the pool. He had been taking water temperature because if the temperature of the pool got below the heat of a high fever none of the guests could stand the chill. Decker Todd had come up to swim one day when Woodie was taking the pool temperature. He saw the thermometer and said that the pool was critical and would either die of cholera or boil over, but that he was going in anyhow as the ocean was featuring an oil slick that day.

“Emily,” said Woodie, “bust your hockey stick or leave it home until hockey season.”

“Does it bother you?” asked Emily.

“Nope,” said Woodie.

“That ain’t what you’re supposed to say,” said Tinker.

“I already said what you said,” said Woodie.

Tinker grinned.

“She’ll lug it ‘till she dies.”

“Or gets tired of lugging it, wise bottom,” snapped Emily. “I’ll walk you home, Woodie.”

“He’s got about five hours yet,” said Tinker.

“I’ll wait,” said Emily.

“Come on, Woodie, there’s a drain clogged at the bottom of the deep end. You feel like a long dive?”

“Why not? What do you think’s in it?”

“Mad hair torn out by TV watchers,” said Tinker.

Emily watched them go. That Tinker, she thought. If he didn’t stop growing, he’d need a cage. And Woodie, he was getting fat for Woodie. At least his ribs didn’t glare at a girl anymore and look like perches for birds. He looked like an Indian, maybe not a formal Indian with feathers in a headdress, but a working Indian with a breech clout or almost one the way they made swim trunks for boys.

There was something very special about Woodie this summer. Had that accident changed him? But something special and she almost knew what it was. But then maybe she didn’t too … and anyhow he made her feel warm and nice and sometimes warm and nice and goose-pimply… and if Woodie has asked her to bust her hockey stick she would have. She just might do anything Woodie asked her to do although she would think about it, but maybe not long in case he changed his mind.

A test of what she’d do for Woodie was not long in coming.

They were walking across town, away from the beach and the hotel, down one of the tree-lined streets in the long bright dusk before dark. Woodie had worked late by the pool largely because Tinker had left early to play twilight baseball in the American Legion League. Emily had called her parents to check in and stayed to eat corned beef sandwiches that Woodie’s friend the hotel chef had sent out to the pool.

They weren’t talking, just walking past porches and lawns and driveways and small town junk on the sidewalks like express wagons and tricycles and stuff that hadn’t been brought in for the night yet. It was too early for fireflies and too late for small kids.

They came out of the side streets to meet a corner of Main where a few parked cars and the lights of a drug store winked opposite the closed bank and a row of closed stores.

Woodie stopped. He stopped as though he had run into a wall.

“What’s the matter?” asked Emily.

“Emily,” said Woodie slowly and distinctly, “listen carefully. I want you to go into Farrow’s Drug Store and call the police station. Tell the police to send a car to the corner of Lincoln and Grant Streets. It’s a little bungalow, sort of shabby. The number is 55 Grant. Don’t ask me why I don’t do it. You’re a big track star and well known to our policemen. I’d have to answer too many questions, and there isn’t time. Tell them to hurry. Tell them they’ll have to break into the house. Move!”

Emily moved.

Woodie just stood there. A baby was crying in his head, a choking baby fighting a strange smell for breath, a baby whose life was being measured in seconds.

He was standing there when Emily came back.

“Okay?” he asked.

“Okay,” she said. “But I have to go to the police station right now. Do I go alone?”

“No,” said Woodie.

The Marterville police broke into the little house at 55 Grant Street. They found a young couple stretched on the kitchen floor. The young woman had a bruise on her jaw as though she had been punched and knocked out. The young man had no marks of violence. The couple was unconscious. The house was full of gas and all the jets on the kitchen stove were turned on and hissing. All of the windows in the little house were closed and locked.

The police found a baby in a small bedroom. Its skin was turning blue.

The baby and the couple who were his parents were taken to the hospital. They lived.

“Okay, Emily, once more for me,” said the Marterville Chief of Police. “You and Woodie were coming into Main Street. That’s a mile away from Grant Street. How did you know what was going on there from where you were?”

“I didn’t know what was going on there until you told me,” said Emily truthfully.

“Okay, okay, but you ran across the street to Farrow’s Drug Store and called us. Why?”

“There was this instruction that came to me,” said Emily.

“Woodie, take this girl home,” said the Chief of Police.

“Yes sir,” said Woodie.

“But what really happened? And what will happen to those people and that baby?”

“Emily, I’m an old tired man, practically fifty years old in fact. I don’t know what will happen to those people yet. Why don’t you ask whoever gave you the instruction that suddenly came to you? And be a good girl for me, don’t say anymore to anybody than you have to me, will you?”

“I promise, Chief,” said Emily.

“And Emily, you’re a sweet girl. You’ve had all that publicity for your running, the world’s fastest female whatever, and meeting the President of the United States. That’s good. That’s fine. But you don’t want publicity about being bananas, do you? Not for nuttiness, eh? Be careful, please, for me.”

“I shall,” said Emily.

“Now” said Emily as she and Woodie made their way across town again headed for Woodie’s home. “Now what are you going to tell me, Ballard Kynwood Junior?”

“It was the baby,” said Woodie carefully. “First, I heard the baby. I had to save the baby, didn’t I?”

“Is that all you’re going to tell me?”

“I think so,” said Woodie.

“Okay then.”

The United States of America had never had a woman president. But when it got around to it, that woman would be Emily Nation. She was unique.

Woodie stopped again.

“Now what?” asked Emily. “Another baby crying?”

“Nah,” said Woodie.

He put his arms on her shoulders and spun her. He leaned over, stuck a hand under her chin, lifted her face, and kissed her. He could feel her lips, which were suddenly full and trembling. His own felt numb and shaking. It was the first kiss of the first day on the first morning of the world.

“Well,” said Emily. “Well,” she said. And she didn’t spoil anything by saying anything more.

Nothing stays well. Not even in Marterville. The weekly Free Flame, making a last gasp of calls before going to press got the story of 55 Grant Street from the desk sergeant. He was the one who said “ah, uugh, ooo” all the time when he answered the phone instead of Marterville police station.” He was also the mayor’s brother in law, the one who married the mayor’s sister who had been away for treatments, and he was just about as smart as she was.

“Does Star Sprinter Have Psychic Powers?”

The Free Flame wanted to know across eight columns of page one with a picture of Emily meeting the President of the United States.

For a whole week the story, what there was of it, almost chased Watergate out of the media.

As a side effect, it almost chased Minus Porter, wonder track coach, out of his mind. He got letters from many of his fellow New Jersey coaches demanding that all track scores be revised and all medals returned as he had rung in a witch as a runner. Many of the letters also said that his other star runner, Rumpelstiltskin Gomez, would also be looked into to see if he had bought any brooms lately or if his long hair had magic.

Fortunately, Rumpelstiltskin Gomez was away for the summer at a camp in Maine for very rich Puerto Rican boys and girls that offered horseback riding, French lessons, tennis, karate techniques, golf, swimming, trout fly tying, and lessons in the management of tax exempt bonds. Otherwise he, too, might have been upset. Rumpel worked in the camp kitchen where he laundered artichokes and was not disturbed by the rich Puerto Rican kids. He also washed dishes.

Dr. Bailiff was not pleased with the 55 Grant Street incident.

“I understand about the baby. The power was properly used. You could not have done less. But again it calls attention to the power and this time implies that Miss Emily might have it. Miss Emily also met the President of the United States, and was doubtless the reason that any of you met him. She was the star attraction which caused the interview.

“We can certainly assume that dark power supports wrong-doing on the Watergate scale and that anybody who has been close to the President enough for a handshake in the past year will be thoroughly scrutinized. And those with any signs of psychic strength, enough to read minds foretell events, for instance, could be in real danger. Fortunately, Woodie, you are not yet obvious” Dr. Bailiff said.

He was obvious enough to his parents, however. Their feelings were mixed. Ballard Kynwood Senior was still fighting himself about Woodie’s gift. He had accepted it, but it still frightened him and, when he had that fact rationalized, he was just plain uneasy. Connie’s acceptance was more complete. It was motherly in the fighting sense of the word.

“Would you love him less if he had two heads?” she asked.

“I could see two heads. I would gladly buy haircuts for two heads and recognize and doubtless love four ears. It’s what I can’t see that troubles me,” said Ballard Senior.

“Oh, Dad,” said Woodie Junior.

“Yeah, I know, son, tell us about it.”

“It was the baby, you know,” said Woodie. “And Emily was just great.”

“I intend to talk at length with Emily,” said Connie Kynwood. “That little girl is going to be some woman.”

Woodie Junior grinned at his mother.

“You said it.”

Woodie’s mother did have a long talk with Emily. She called Emily and asked her to come by.

“I want to have a long talk with you,” she said.

“You want a witch in your house?” asked Emily.

“As long as she doesn’t bug the one who lives here,” said Connie Kynwood.

They talked long enough to please them both, although very little about ESP, real or hinted at, and that was because the first thing that Emily said when they’d finished saying hello was, “Woodie kissed me.”

“You certainly know how to sock it to the possessive mother of an only child, Emily,” said Connie.

“Oh, Mrs. Kynwood,” said Emily. “It’ll take years, just years.”

“And, boy, how they fly by,” said Connie.

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 Eighteen Chapter Nineteen 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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