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 28

"'Twit', I regret to say that you ain’t getting’ much younger. You’re beginning to look out of the corners of your eyes at things that aren’t there. You’re having headaches and eating fizz pill for the gas on your stomach. And it all adds up to too much work.”

Dr. Decker Todd was severe with Congressman Otten.

“What’s more, you creep in here mouse fashion as if you were afraid some voter might see you go to a doctor.”

“I’m a little tired,” admitted Congressman Otten.

“Then lie down,” said Decker Todd.

“If I do I’ll see a fire that wasn’t there,” said Morris T. Otten.

“That damn kid is scary, all right, and yet he’s so normal and plain nice,” mused Dr. Todd.

Normal, nice and ordinary, thought Congressman Otten. Empires fall, but shoes won’t stay on unless laces are tied. All the little things that added up to living in Marterville or anywhere were really riddles. Shoes, socks, scraps of conversation, going to bed, going to work, going to school, eating breakfast…why, the world hid in little things, and nobody ever really knew what a little thing was anyhow. The smallest thing could be a nudge from the hand of God, and a person would walk right by it and say “yeah, yeah, yeah.” Mrs. Tuftworthy Simmons who cleaned his house in Marterville for him once a week without leaving any signs of it could be told that the impeachment of the President was a big thing. It would be mighty little to her compared with the fact that her grubfaced daughter had gotten a passing grade in reading.

“Beetle Bailiff says that Woodie was chosen for a mission, and as soon as the kid finds out what it is, he’ll complete it,” said Congressman Otten.

“Beetle is pretty damn scary too. He is so far out that he has an address in the Milky Way,” said Decker Todd. “What does he expect from the kid anyhow, a nuclear explosion?” “Beetle doesn’t know exactly, but he says whatever it is could be done so quietly it might never be recognized as any big thing at all.”

“Well, I’ve got a date at the hospital as soon as you leave my office. Get out. Go home. Take a nap. Forget Washington.”

“Never, and certainly never as long as I am on the House Judiciary Committee,” said Congressman Otten. “You gonna give me anything for my miseries?”

“Only a bill,” said Dr. Todd grinning.

In Washington the new Special Prosecutor appointed to take the place of the one the President fired was doing as well as the man he replaced which wasn’t all that good. He had the same problems. But the awesome process of impeaching a president was under way in the House of Representatives.

The chairman of the Judiciary Committee which would prepare the House to vote or not vote on impeachment made a statement.

He said, “Whatever the result, whatever we learn or conclude, let us now proceed with such care and decency and thoroughness and honor that the vast majority of the American people, and their children after them will say: 'That was the right course. There was no other way.'

“There’s a right way and a wrong way to keep a blocking contact, Tinker,” yelled Coach Doyle Fisher. “And you’re going to learn the right way if it takes all winter. Don’t hold the man … no, no, no…and don’t lock your elbow on him. That’s holding. And, if you catch a fifteen-yard penalty for holding, I will kill you dead, Tubbs…dead, dead, dead!”

Mervie Beach and Woodie were throwing endless pass patterns to the ends and backs.

Emily was standing on the sideline waiting for Woodie who only had another hour to practice before darkness closed the field. Marterville did have lights around its stadium. Due to the energy crisis they would not be turned on unless Coach Doyle Fisher dropped a dime. Emily was also listening to Rumpelstiltskin Gomez explain wind.

“Thee weend from thee sea ees steady, no? From that part of thee field ees at your back weeth strengt’. Thee bol ess good for ten more yards eef you get heem high, no? Bot thee weend ees not straight, si? It blow som’ crosswise too, so cut the face of thee bol weeth thee fut to make up for these, an’ bongo. It put thee Puerto Rican on thee bol, no?”

“English. You put some English on the ball,” said Emily.

“I put on thee Puerto Rican.”

“What do you do when the wind is all swirly and gusty and picks up junk from the field like it gets in that Baldwin High School stadium where we play this Saturday?”

“I tell Woodie ees hees fault for no hold thee bol right eef I mees thee keeck, si? I tell heem that everytime anyhow, no?”

“And what does Woodie say?”

“He say you little spic bum I keel you eef you mees thee keeck, an’ keep thee head down until you follow through thee keeck.”

“He’d do it too,” said Emily thoughtfully.

“So I doan mees.”

Marterville was about its business. The Chief of Police had just come back from the Exxon gas station where he had denied a gun permit for the owner who needed it to shoot customers who couldn’t get gasoline whether it were an odd or even day or not because he didn’t have any gas. He was reading an article about ‘decadent rock’ in the FM Guide and wondering how many of the local fourteen year-olds would qualify as ‘groupies’ who dressed up in lurex tops, organdy skirts and platform boots and wore lipstick and pincurls to hide the fact that they were boys. After that, he was going to read an article about how best to bust thirteen year-old pushers using the school recess breaks to peddle drugs. And, after that, he was going to take a ride around the college and shed a crocodile tear or two for the rioters of the ‘60’s who were now having trouble getting up the rent money and learning about paper pampers.

Dimmy Doubleton was back in Caravelli’s barbershop to get the winning number of the daily New Jersey lottery ticket. He told Sandusky Kropokin who had just been laid off in North Jersey because nobody wanted a big automobiles from the GM plant there that he had a new score on Watergate.

“What with interlocking investigations and trials, I make it criminal charges against twenty-nine persons and nine corporations. The bag, so far, includes two former Cabinet members, nine officials of the President’s administration staff. Let’s see,” said Dimmy.

“Eighteen entered guilty pleas, one no-contest, and two condemned after trial. Eight are still waiting trial, and nine have gone to the jug with six still there. One under sentence is free pending an appeal. Four guilties are waiting sentencing. Fines have been levied against eight corporations and seven of their top officers…”

“Dimmy,” said Tony Caravelli, “get lost.”

Woodie walked with Emily in the dusk. She whanged a tin can which said Hi-C Grape with her hockey stick, and around them in the gloaming were voices calling: “Buster, get in here. Your father will be home any minute.” And “Doris Dexter Dubbins, you throw that dead bird away and get in here. Your father will be home any minute,” and “Johnathon Damper Kopeski, stop kicking your sister and put the wagon away. Just wait ‘til your father gets home, young man.”

At the corner of Campus Drive and Garfield Avenue, just before Emily peeled off to head for her house and Woodie for his they ran into Fingers Goldfarb. He was carrying a length of half-inch hose from the chemistry laboratory and a gallon jug.

“Hi, Woodie. Hi, Emily,” he said.

“Where are you going with the equipment, Fingers?” asked Woodie. “Out to ease the gas shortage?”

“That’s against the law,” said Emily.

“Frankly, no,” said Fingers. “I am going over to Mafia Mazzarello’s. His grandfather makes wine and keeps it in a barrel in the cellar. Mafia says his grandfather and his mother and father and ten of his sisters are out for the evening. We thought we would have a glass of wine. Italian kids drink wine when they are three years old.

“Through a siphon and from a jug?” asked Woodie.

“I am not Italian. I am Jewish. How do I know how three year-old Italian kids drink wine?”

“It is still stealing,” said Emily.

“Miss Kretch my history teacher says it is a country of thieves and founded by bums that could not abide by the law in their own countries,” said Fingers.

“She never did,” said Emily.

“Not in so many words, but I can read you know.”

“In case Coach Doyle Fisher wants to know where his lab hose is, I’ll tell him to ask you for it, Fingers,” said Woodie.

“Okay, okay, back to eight-channel stereo,” said Fingers.

“I’m going home.”

Woodie’s parents seemed a trifle subdued he thought.

“You seem a little quiet, Mother, and you too, Dad.

“We were remembering a year ago about this time when you were being more quiet than we liked,” said his father. And I guess we were thinking how lucky we all are.”

“That’s nice,” said Woodie. “I thought for a second or two that you were hiding a fight.”

“When we fight, young man, we don’t hide it,” said his mother.

“Yeah, well,” said Woodie Junior softly. “I remember that hospital myself…And the reason you are so quiet is that you both still think I came home with something you’d just as soon I didn’t have. I must have had it when I went in, you know.”

“I baked a cake but it looked so terrible I put a lot of chocolate icing on it to hide the sag,” said Connie Kynwood.

“It’s a nice night to lie around and digest,” said her husband.

“I’ve got some homework, and then I think I’ll rack in early too,” said Woodie.

It had been a long time. Dr. Bailiff had warned him against it. “They know it isn’t Emily now, and that leaves only you,” said Dr. Bailiff. “You’re the only possibility that had had contact with their boy.” He left anyhow. He stood a moment looking down at his body, and then eased out through his partially opened window and soared.

The lights of Marterville, not many as town lights go these days, winked below him. To the east lay the sea and he could pick up its road signs, the Ambrose Tower, the blinking nun buoys spotting the Shrewsbury Rocks and a large square torch which was a cruise liner going south to warmer waters. The skyline of New York was a picket fence surrounding a hive of fireflies. He was one with the wind and it blew him south, south, and there was Washington and Congressman Otten’s apartment house and his apartment with the window open as he slipped in and watched from a silent corner.

Congressman Otten was speaking to two men seated at a round table while he paced.

“He is the most dangerous of all men to the country and to himself. He is a man with a perfectly controlled and perfectly rationalized obsession.

“You know he will pick lint from any part of the law he selects. His people will claim that the only grounds for impeachment is an indictable offense, a criminal charge…that he must preserve the office of the Presidency itself for future presidents. Of course, the House will impeach on whatever grounds that justice demands…”

One of the two men with Congressman Otten was small and gray. He had a scar over one eye and he scratched at it. The other man was lean and sad looking.

He seemed to chew his words as he spoke.

“There is hard evidence somewhere, much more than we have now, and we need it.”

“I agree but it is either destroyed by now or hidden so well that only the man himself would know where to find it again,” said the small gray man.

“Woodie drifted from his corner and left. There it was again with the gray man’s words. Something he knew that he knew, and it nibbled at him as it waited for form and words. And the wind was in his ears, and he was part of the night and so much of its business that he could hear a dog fox bark and the flutter of an owls’ wing and the beep of a taxicab horn and the sigh of a baby turning over in its sleep.

Dr. Bailiff was no baby nor did he sleep nor keep special hours for his work. There were lights on in his laboratory office, and Dr. Bailiff was hunched over his desk like a great, polished ebony idol pushing a pen over paper.

Woodie rattled his window and Dr. Bailiff turned his head and stared out at darkness. He rose from his desk and opened the window. And Woodie circled the room and mussed the papers on the desk, and felt the sharp edges of Dr. Bailiff’s concern.

“Get home, boy, and stay there.”

And as Woodie went, Dr. Bailiff continued to mutter.

“An eagle can be trained to walk but he can never forget that he knows how to fly.”

Woodie’s mother mumbled in her sleep. His father got up and made a sleep-walking trip to the bathroom. And Woodie rejoined Woodie and fell deep into eiderdown darkness while the hundred-billion parts of him renewed themselves for oncoming day.

He slept fine.

His father was making a survey of his surroundings as though he were surprised to find them unchanged during the night. He was sipping coffee as though he’d never tasted it before, and might not like it. He even studied his mother as though she were a new and startling presence in the kitchen.

Woodie liked this quality in his father. It made him feel as though there was always a discovery around the corner. He suspected that his father just took that for granted and inspected each day because he wasn’t sure of what kind of a discovery awaited.

“Morning, Mother. Morning, Dad,” he said. “I hope this is a lot of cocoa day.”

“Why, dear?’ asked his mother.

“Because it wouldn’t surprise me if Emily dropped in for breakfast.”

“She does get an early start,” said his mother.

“What ails that kid?” asked his father.

Nobody answered him. Emily was knocking on the front door with her hockey stick.

“And that’s the sort of stuff that scares me to death,” said Ballard Knywood Senior.

“How did you know that Emily was coming, dear?” asked Connie Kynwood scrambling two costly eggs for her husband.

“She told me she would, Mother…with her very own mouth, Father. What do you think I am? Some kind of a wizard?”

“I’m going to be one if I make my eight o’clock class,” said Woodie's father.

“Don’t talk around your bun, dear,” said his wife.

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 Five
Chapter Twenty Six Chapter Twenty Seven Chapter Twenty Nine Chapter Thirty
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