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 25

For every national gnawing like Watergate, there is a local crisis, which threatens the cause of peace, of law, of order, of respect for rightful authority.

Shortly before the football squad played its fourth game, Coach Doyle Fisher confronted dissension and disaster.

One of Rumpelstiltskin Gomez’ rich Puerto Rican camp friends mailed him a pair of fashionable platform shoes. They did not fit but Rumpel loved them. They added four inches to his 4’8” and they were a royal purple in hue. Unfortunately, Rumpel fell off them with practically every stride he took. The last time he tumbled off his platforms he twisted his knee, and made Spanish comments about the wax on the high school corridors.

Woodie ratted on him

“You want to keep your secret weapon in firing shape, you’d better have him climb down from those shoes,” he said to Coach Doyle Fisher.

Doyle Fisher was so upset he ran out of his chemistry class at the bell between classes and collared Rumpel in the high school hall.

He banned the platform shoes.

Rumpel explained that he could not comply with such an edict.

“W’at these ees? I already give my sneaks to my brother, Hernando, for thee winterrr. Esta frio, no? W’at I do? Go weeth thee feets bare?”

Coach Doyle Fisher held Rumpel erect as he balanced in his shoes during the explanation.

“First, thee hair, no? Now thee shoes, si? Thee beeg black keeds wear soch stylish shoes, no? Jones, he ees seex feets seex, an’ he wear soch shoes, no? Hokay for thee blac, pero no for thee Puerto Rican, si? Hokay, steeck thee futbol game … Ees no for minority people.”

Rumpel added several graffiti in Spanish.

He teetered off to class with his Latin dignity intact but tilted. He did not show up for practice after school.

“Now what do I do?” asked Coach Doyle Fisher to the locker room ceiling and Tinker and Woodie. “Knock Jones and his buddies off their platforms? Give in to Rumpel and have him break a leg and not be able to kick field goals? Get dressed and let me think.”

“I could ask Jones to wear something else and explain about Rumpel,” suggested Tinker.

“You can try it gently, but it won’t work,” said the Coach.

It didn’t

“All us big black stars wear ‘em,” said Bermondsley Jones. “Clyde Frazier, O.J. Simpson , Sammy Davis Junior … stars by the thousands. I don’t need no white cat tell me how to dress stylish.”

Bermondsley Jones would have been all right if he had stopped there, but he kept poking Tinker in the chest with his finger as he spoke. Tinker shoved him over the bench between the two rows of lockers as he did not care to be poked in the chest.

Bermondsley Jones came back swinging.

Tinker flattened Bermondsley

By the time Coach Doyle Fisher broke things up, the squad was not a friendly one. In fact, the coach decided to forego a scrimmage session that he had planned for the day’s practice. The squad ran laps around the track instead. Then it ran wind sprints and more laps.

Downtown, Rumpel was tacking about on his fancy shoes like some pot-head eight grader when he ran into Emily who had been excused by her mother from hanging around Woodie for a few hours so that she might help with the family shopping.

“You are going to fall off those shoes and break your spic neck,” said Emily.

“I queet the game of futbol for these shoes,” said Rumpel. “I am beeg in these shoes, an’ I like the color,” He explained further.

“You are nearly dumb enough to be a politician,” said Emily. “Let me explain a thing or two to you.”

Emily explained that being tall in height had nothing to do with being a big man. She explained that when Rumpel broke both ankles falling off his shoes he would have to walk on his hands, and that his hair would fall to the ground and get filthy from excessive walking on his hands. She did not mention Rumpel’s value to the football team or school spirit or anything stupid. She pointed out that Rumpel would not be missed on the squad as the space he took up on the bench would give more room and thus comfort to other players.

“Now,” she said. “We will take these groceries to my house if you can walk that far, and I will get my hockey stick so your brother, Hernando, will give your sneaks back to you.”

“Hokay,” said Rumpel. “But he ees hard to catch.”

“We are not track stars for nothing,” said Emily.

Hernando Gomez was eight years old. He did not know that Rumpel and Emily were track stars. It took them three hours to run down Hernando. Admittedly, Rumpel was handicapped by running barefooted. But then Hernando, wearing Rumpel’s sneaks, dodged with difficulty as the sneaks were several sizes too large for him. He had to move his feet many times before the sneaks moved.

But in the end, while Rumpel held his brother down and Emily whacked him with her hockey stick a few licks, they managed an exchange of footgear.

Rumpel wore his red, white and blue sneakers to school the next day and showed them to Coach Doyle Fisher. He said that he wished to “unsteeck thee futbol,” if it were all right with Coach Doyle Fisher, as walking on his hands would get his hair dirty, and Emily said so.

Coach Doyle Fisher stared out of the window during his next chemistry class and made little moaning noises while his students tried to memorize the element symbols.

Rumpelstiltskin Gomez appeared for practice that afternoon. But nonetheless Marterville’s squad ran laps and wind sprints. The players also hit the blocking and tackling dummies. They took a half hour of calesthenics including push-ups. Coach Doyle Fisher and his two assistants sat in the stands and watched. Not a single ball appeared on the field.

“A squad that brawls within itself makes me unhappy,” said Coach Fisher. “When I am unhappy people for miles around are going to be unhappy. So make me happy.”

Nobody shook hands with anybody. In fact, Tinker announced that anybody who put a finger on him would be flattened. But the Marterville team made coach Fisher happy.

It played Haddon Hills at home for its fourth game of the season. After a week of laps and wind sprints and calisthenics Marterville took out its peevishness on the Haddon Hills’ players who hadn’t done anything except show up.

Marterville won the toss and the ball, which it ran out to the twenty-yard line on the kick-off. With Mervie Beach as quarterback the team moved eighty yards in seven plays for a touchdown.

Half of the team hit the Haddon Hills’ back who grabbed Marterville’s kick-off and the ball got away from him. Marterville recovered. One play later Tinker took a hand-off from Mervie Beach and bolted twenty-two yards up the middle for another score.

Rumpel kicked both points after the touchdowns.

Marterville led at the halftime 35 to 0.

Woodie played the entire second half, and the team scored twice more with every boy on the Marterville squad seeing action

Marterville won 49 to 0.

Rumpel kicked seven extra points. He wore his helmet on the first four and allowed his locks to float free in the breeze on the next three.

The following Wednesday, Woodie, Emily and Dr. Bailif went to Washington for the farewell dinner being given for Rembrantdt Rutherford Roberts the retiring executive director of the President’s council for Physical Fitness and sports.

Connie Kynwood and Mrs. Terence Todhunter Nation, Clara Nation, Emily’s mother, drove them to the Newark airport to catch a shuttle plane to the Capital. Clara Nation was a handsome, composed brunette woman with a nice easy smile. Connie suspected her of owning a fey sense of humor.

“I never know whether to call my Emily dear or dimwit,” she said. “But you’ll be glad to know that I locked up the hockey stick with all my emerald and diamond tiaras in the broom closet. Emily thinks that there may be an international conspiracy afoot to pinch her stick, and that Pinkerton guards may be necessary until she gets back.”

“Emily is a love,” said Connie Kynwood.

“She is nonetheless a very irksome bird,” said Clara Nation. “I suppose she will be put on a leash and taken for walks in Washington.”

“Not to worry,” said Connie. She jerked a thumb to the rear of the Nova where Dr. Bailiff took up so much room that Emily and Woodie sat perched like wrens on a twig. “And Congressman Otten will take them in tow when they arrive. They’ll go to the dinner tonight, roost in the Statler, and fly back tomorrow. As you see, Woodie Senior and I aren’t going down either.”

“Her father, of course, fears dire things.”

“Sounds natural enough for a father,” said Connie.

“Oh, not for Emily, for Washington and its environs.”

Connie giggled.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Nation, “He’s very like his daughter.”

“And so, I think, you are,” said Connie softly.

Marius Scopton, the young “intern” from Congressman Otten’s office, met them at the airport and drove them to the Statler Hotel.

“You’ve got three rooms in a row with connecting doors. You’re already registered and I’ve got your keys in my pocket. The dinner is at six in the Carlton Hotel, which is just across the street. Black tie for Dr. Bailiff. And you don’t have a whole lot of time to get pretty. Congressman Otten will meet you there with your tickets and credentials. And, yes, he says, the President will drop by for a few minutes.

“Now, in case I forgot, hello. It’s nice to see you. And, Woodie, I understand you’ve got a football team up there this year to go with that track team.”

“Lots of games yet to play,” said Woodie.

“They’ll love me the way I am,” said Reginald B. Bailiff.

“What’s that, sir?” asked Marius Scopton.

“No black tie,” said Dr. Bailiff.

Their rooms were in the middle of a corridor on the fourth floor. They conducted a mutual inspection of all of them, put Emily in the middle one, and left the connecting doors unlocked so they could shout at each other or visit. They took showers and dressed.

Woodie and Emily visited each other in their underwear, and Emily showed him her new blue half-slip, which had a teensy thing ruffle at the bottom.

Dr. Bailiff stuck his massive head in at them and rumbled.

“Honi soit qui mal y pense,” he rumbled. It was a French saying that was the motto of some English club called the Order of the Garter and it meant ‘shamed be the one who thinks evil of it’.

Emily and Woodie did not know that Dr. Bailiff was speaking French. Maybe only a Caribbean Frenchman from Haiti or Martinique would have known that Dr. Bailiff was speaking French.

Dr. Bailiff rumbled some more. “I am ready,” he said. He looked like a blue worsted bus. He wore a startling orange necktie.

“Wow,” said Woodie when he saw it. “That tie won’t do, sir,” he said.

“You been seeing Decker Todd?” asked Dr. bailiff suspiciously.

“You got a hot summer sunset lighting up your throat,” said Emily.

Dr. Bailiff withdrew to his quarters. He put on a silver gray necktie with small red dragons in the design.

Woodie wore an oxford gray prep model suit that his mother and father bought for him at Brooks Brothers in New York. He hung out of its sleeves and his anklebones were prominent at the ends of his trousers, but the suit was still fine for church, funerals, graduation exercises and formal dinner parties. Woodie did not wear it often. Further, he had outgrown it, but he could not escape it.

“We will use it until it rots,” said Ballard Kynwood Senior. “It may be the only proof of my single period of solvency during your boyhood. And, if I shrink enough with my old age I may wear it myself.”

“You look nice, Woodie,” said Emily.

Woodie looked at her. He nodded.

“I suppose that’s your idea of high praise,” said Emily. “But I feel very pleased with myself as a girl.”

Emily was a poem in simplicity. Her dress was Williamsburg blue. A plain ruff of white collar encircled her throat and from it a line of quarter-sized white buttons marched south to her hemline, which flared ever so slightly as she moved. And her shiny black shoes had heels. She put a dark blue coat over her dress.

The three of them moved down the corridor toward the elevator.

“We don’t need coats to walk across the street, Woodie,” said Dr. Bailiff.

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 Four Chapter Twenty Six
Chapter Twenty Seven Chapter Twenty Eight Chapter Twenty Nine Chapter Thirty
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