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

lightning Copyright © 2005 by Eric C. Biemiller

Please respect the copyrights.
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Chapter 24

Marterville High School played its second football game of the season on October 6 with the team of Trident Regional High School. The senior Kynwood’s drove the ten miles to Trident and its stadium because it was a lovely blue day and the foliage was gay. Emily and Sue went with Emily’s father who was an ex-high school player although they did not sit with him, as the Marterville cheering section needed voices. The Marterville squad went by bus, in uniform and ready to play, as it did not want to catch athlete’s foot by using Trident’s locker and shower facilities.

Marterville won by a score of 2 to 0.

Phineas David Fagen, Marterville’s defensive tackle, who planned to change his name to Abdull Abu Amir in later life, blocked Trident’s first punt attempt. The ball rolled back into the end zone where it was recovered by a Trident back who was promptly flattened for a safety. With the game only four minutes old, Marterville had its two points.

The defense made them hold up for the victory.

Tinker played the whole game. He went both ways: offense as a fullback; defense as the middle line backer. Woodie played five minutes, passing for three completions out of five attempts and demonstrating some deceptive running. Rumpelstiltskin Gomez did not play. He sat under his helmet and yelled for the team

Coach Doyle Fisher addressed the squad going home in the bus. “I liked that game today,” he said. “We didn’t disturb any of the other clubs in the league with a flashy score.

Two of the local radio stations mentioned the Marterville win. The Sunday edition of the Asbury Park newspaper had two paragraphs about the game, one of which said that Marterville’s new coach was off to a promising start.

Nobody cared much about such news except the players and their families.

There was bigger news.

The Vice President of the United States went away practically unpunished for his crimes. He submitted his resignation as Vice President to the Secretary of State. And, two days later he pleaded no contest to one charge of income tax evasion and was given a $10,000 fine and three years’ unsupervised probation.

Mastodon Brown was heard to tell his dogs that when stealing got that easy there couldn’t be much fun left in it.

And two days later than that, the President of the United States had a television party on all networks to announce that he had just appointed a new vice president. His choice was the minority leader of the House of Representatives, an ex-football player from Michigan, who had been a Congressman for twenty-five years and a Republican, like the President.

The old Vice President of the United States went away. He did not take Watergate with him. Watergate was heating up and about to boil over again.

Mrs. Trumpet Botts representing the Marterville Senior Citizens wrote a letter to the editor for the letters to the editor column of the Free Flame. It said that the reason that Congress could not make up its mind to impeach the president was that too many pots hesitated to call the kettle black. All of her friends saw it and, when she went shopping for Bovril and saltines in the supermarket, many younger women complimented her on her wit. Mrs. Trumpet Botts liked this. She took a portion of her Social Security money and bought a small advertisement in the Free Flame. It said that the reason that Congress could not make up its mind to impeach the president was that too many pots hesitated to call the kettle black.

Mastodon Brown told Minus Porter that they ought to call her Mrs. Pots Botts.

Marterville High School played Washington High School on October 13 at home.

“I want this one,” said Coach Doyle Fisher. “Washington is a class above our league and if we take them it means we’ve beaten a bigger school which will give us some prestige in our own league. This Washington figures to beat us easily and I think they may be over-cocky. Now, this team likes to throw a lot because they’ve got a kid who can throw some, and those two big basketball ends. But our defense is going to make that kid throw wild today, if it lets him throw at all. I’m putting two of our offensive backs in at the defense corners hoping they’ll pick off an interception or so and maybe take one in, you dig, you guys?

“Okay, keep listening. Mervie Beach will start at quarterback … You listen too, Woodie. I’m gonna take some heat off you. Just move the team anywhere inside their thirty-yard line, you hear? Don’t worry about sustaining long drives…Okay, go!”

It was a beautiful day, although the sun shined only for Washington High School up to the half. Washington went in for half time break with a 14 to 0 lead, both scores the result of time consuming drives on the ground. There was little passing.

“Don’t fret,” said Coach Doyle Fisher during the half. “We’re doing fine and we’ll do better. Let’s just concentrate on execution and play our own game, and let them worry about theirs. Anybody got anything to say?”

Bermondsley Jones, the split end who was going to change his name to Akkbar Din later in life, said, “I got my guy beat on that fly pattern three times and Mervie Beach don’t find me. I beat that cheap zone twice in the middle and Mervie don’t find me. That’s all, coach.”

“Woodie, you’re starting this half. Look for Jones,” said Doyle Fisher. “And we get the kick-off. Let’s go.”

They went.

They ran the kick-off out to the thirty-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage Woodie found Bermondsley Jones on the fly with a zipping arc of a pass that carried forty yards in the air. Jones took it on the dead run over his shoulder and went all the way to score. It was a beautiful 70-yard play.

Marterville’s defense held and ran the Washington punt back to the Marterville forty. Woodie found Bermondsley Jones all alone in the middle of Washington’s cheap zone. He took it to the Washington thirty.

And in came Rumpelstiltskin Gomez disguised as a toadstool. Woodie held and Rumpel booted a thirty-yard field goal. He had already chipped over the point after the touchdown disguised as a toadstool.

Washington came unglued.

By the time the fourth quarter ended, Rumpel had booted two more. He removed his helmet on the last and let his hair stream in the wind.

“By golly, Garo Ypremian of the Miami Dolphins can’t do that,” said Woodie’s father.

Marterville won 16 to 14.

But Rumpelstiltskin, secret weapon, had been unveiled.

Two area coaches, who coached track as well as football, and who also vaguely connected Rumpel with Emily’s suspected magic powers, called up Doyle Fisher and asked that Rump be examined for witch marks.

Late teenagers had dates in Marterville. Early teenagers had not-exactly-dates or taken-for granted collisions. The difference was a driver’s license and access to wheels. Emily, Woodie, Tinker and a new venture of Tinker’s named Estrella Harlow met the night after the game at the American Legion rec hall.

Estrella was a lanky, roan-haired girl with face like a friendly horse and a whinny to match when she laughed. When she stopped being fifteen she intended to be a trial lawyer and defend criminals against society. “That’s where the loot is,” she said. “Crime pays.” Nobody called Estrella Estrella which means star in the Spanish language. Nobody called Estrella Stella either. They called her Slats. Anyhow Tinker liked her.

“She is okay,” said Tinker. “She is a nice square chick. She is not a kook like you Emily. Maybe when she’s a big lawyer I’ll let her handle my estate.”

“She’s going to be a criminal lawyer,” said Emily.

“Ain’t they all” said Tinker.

“Not an estate lawyer,” continued Emily.

“She also likes popcorn with catsup on it,” said Tinker.

They sat on battered benches in the Legion Hall and drank nickel cokes and ate dime hamburgers. Post Number 38’s members made up the weekly food deficits. They listened to two juke boxes, which had been altered by Fingers Goldfarb so that the sound made eardrums bulge out like bellows. Fingers could start cars with pieces of wire when he wanted to borrow one for a ride. And, if he started one more, the Chief of Police was going to have him attend a school run by the State of New Jersey. Fingers’ father did not want Fingers to go to such a school so he sent Fingers to a psychologist for some lessons. After six lessons they psychologist suggested to Fingers’ father that he put boxing gloves on Fingers at sundown so that he could no longer manipulate wires. Either that or lie about his age to buy him a car.

One juke box played hard rock. The other played country music. Woodie liked country music. So did Tinker.

“It’s all very sad stuff,” said Tinker.

Tinker and Woodie made up their own verses to go with the sadness, and worse, they sang them.

“Oh, she took all my entrails for harness,
And blinded me so’s I cain’t see.
She lopped off my feet to give ‘er a treat.
I wish she would set mah heart freeeeee.”

“What are entrails?” asked Slats Harlow.

“Nothing but slimy guts, said Emily. “And who wants to sit around here talking about slimy guts?”

“You want to walk five blocks over to the ocean, climb up the seawall and skin your shins, then take a walk on the beach?” asked Woodie.

“Not me,” said Slats Harlow.

“I played 48-minutes of thrilling, crunching, action-packed, crowd stirring, Howard Cosell type of football today,” said Tinker. “Naturally I hate walking.”

The air was warm and full of summer on the beachside of town. The trees lining the streets were still full leafed although the winds of September had thinned them a trifle. The night hid the color of the leaves, but a half moon gave them a faint silver glow. The leaves had a scent. They smelled vaguely of burning as though they remembered for the days of their ancestors and a hundred fires along the curbs and in the yards, which raised veils of perfumed smoke into the dusk.

Leaves no longer burned in Marterville. There was a town ordinance against burning leaves. Burning leaves polluted the air, and that right was reserved for buses, trucks, motorcycles, automobiles, airplanes, factories, and the breath of the people who lived in the most densely populated state in the union.

But the beach was sweet and the sea was as bland as a sleeping pond. The moon path across its barely breathing water was clearly marked. Woodie and Emily kicked off their shoes and waded a long the edge of the beach. And there was less chill in the bubbling lather than one would find there in the month of August.

They had the world to themselves and the quiet that was in it, and were pleased to be the sole possessors. They sat on the rocks of old jetties, and nibbled at each other with talk when the felt like it, and they were not self-conscious at all, only aware of each other and at ease.

Woodie did not know long they sat and gazed at the sea and the sky. But suddenly, as he lifted his eyes above the moon to the wink of stars he felt it. There was the surge, the sweep, the reaching, questing probe of energy. It stretched from some hub of its own being through a 360-degree arc, moved on, and on, and repeated the process. He felt its touch through every cell in his body then it was gone.

Emily’s hand within his was chilled.

“Woodie, did you feel that? What was it? Woodie, I had this funny tingle as if a hand from the sea had brushed my head.”

“The searchers,” muttered Woodie.

“The what?” asked Emily. “Are you being strange again, Woodie?”

“When you were a little girl getting used to going asleep in the dark by yourself, did you ever get the idea that something nice was peeking in to see that you were warm and safe and cozy?”

“That was my mother and my father, and when they went downstairs it was God,” said Emily.

“Yeah,” said Woodie. “Let’s go home, Emily.”

“Woodie, I don’t care if you’re strange. You are strange, Woodie”

“What do you care if you don’t care?”

“I care,” said Emily.

Mid-month came and Marterville, and practically the whole country, was ready to use a hockey stick or even a plain ordinary stick. The President of the United States ordered the Attorney General of the United States to fire the Special Watergate Prosecutor. The Attorney General who had only been in his job a few months had hired the Special Prosecutor with the approval of the United States Senate. He had hired him for his legal skills and integrity to dig out the truths about Watergate. The President said he would be happy to give the Special Prosecutor his full cooperation in finding those truths.

But when the Special Prosecutor asked the White House to give him some tapes of what the President said to whom and what who said to the President, the President said no. The Special Prosecutor insisted and said he would go to the Supreme Court of the United States if he had to do so to get the material he needed from the White House.

The President did not want the Supreme Court asking for Watergate truths too so he told the Attorney General to fire the Prosecutor.

The Attorney General said that his conscience would not let him do it so he resigned. Then the Assistant Attorney General resigned because he did not wish to fire the Special Prosecutor either. Finally a Deputy General fired him.

Clearly the President of the United States did not intend to turn over his tapes and other materials just because the law had ordered him to do so.

Clearly he had not foreseen the reaction of the American public either although it was not long in coming. The President of the American Bar association, which is a big club of lawyers, said that the President of the United States had tried to abort the established process of justice. A United States Senator from Oregon said, “The office of the President does not carry with it a license to destroy justice in America.”

Tinker’s father said, “That fellow shaves his own worst enemy every morning.”

But within 72-hours of firing the Special Prosecutor the President said that he would turn over the nine tapes that the Special Prosecutor had asked for the court.

One of the President’s top lawyers said, “The President does not defy the law.”

Watergate was going to be around a long time.

And not even the war between the country of Israel and the Arab states in the Mideast was going to make it go away. That war broke out in October too.

“I think the world is in business to confuse us kids,” said Woodie.

His father thought it over.

He looked at Woodie a long time.

“I’ll split the last breakfast doughnut with you,” he said.

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
Chapter Twenty One Chapter Twenty Two Chapter Twenty Three Chapter Twenty Five Chapter Twenty Six
Chapter Twenty Seven Chapter Twenty Eight Chapter Twenty Nine Chapter Thirty
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