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 29

The wind out of the northeast was blowing the first theme music of a nasty fall storm. It was wet and cold and a person could get a handful of moisture by grabbing and make up his own mind whether he had rain or sleet, or threatened snow.

“If you want me to sit on a concrete seat in Baldwin High School stadium to guess which lump of running mud is our son, I want to borrow your thermal long johns,” said Connie Knywood.

“You’ll stretch ‘em out of wack,” said Woodie Senior, “and I’ve only got two pair one of which is in use. I need all my thermals for duck hunting.”

“Do the ducks waddle up to your blind and ask if your long johns are snug or stretched?”

“We don’t let the ducks inspect us. They are game and must be kept in their place.”

“Besides you haven’t gone duck hunting for five years.”

“The fellow we used to buy apple whisky from died,” said Woodie Senior.

“I can see where that would kill the sport,” said his wife.

“Here. Put ‘em on over your head.”

The Baldwin High School stadium was built by government agency called the WPA back in 1936. The WPA was designed to give unemployed men jobs. In 1936 there were a lot of unemployed men so the stadium was made big enough to hold 25,000 people. The town of Baldwin only held 10,000 people at the time and the surrounding countryside was all farmland. The farms were not doing well because all the people who should have been working on the farms were working for the WPA building stadiums that would not be filled for years to come.

Baldwin’s was filled today

Marterville was tied for Regional Group III’s League lead.

The team it was tied with was Baldwin.

The tie still held at halftime.

The northeast wind, nudged by a one-degree drop in temperature, had decided to feature a drizzle of fine snow instead of rain or sleet. The mizzling snow had not yet made any of the concrete seats wet because every concrete seat was protected by a people. But it had made the game balls hard to handle. It had started to make bog of the playing field already scarred by a season’s churning which was taking some zip out of the running backs. And it had made both coaches hold their passing game to just enough throws to loosen the defenses.

The game was far from dull, however. The teams were disciplined, in good physical condition and tuned for lift-off. The hitting could be heard in the stands. Neither team had managed to get beyond the other’s thirty-five yard line with an offensive probe, although the mid-field action promised good things for both clubs.

The suspense began to lay heavy on the crowd.

It was a lead weight by the end of the third quarter.

Neither team had scored although Baldwin had come close with a drive to Marterville’s twenty that fizzled out with a fourth down pass that Tinker intercepted in the end zone for a touchback and possession of the ball.

Coach Doyle Fisher called a time out and abandoned his modified wishbone. He took Mervie Beach out and put Woodie in.

“Woodie, we are going to our modified T formation. I want you to stay in that pocket tight and hit somebody for even three or four yards a lick. We ain’t movin’ so good on the ground and you’re a little better sharpshooter than Mervie although his size had been a blessing today. And shake up those receivers, ends and backs. You got it?”

“I got it,” said Woodie.

He had it. He hit Jones for five, five again and five more right over the middle and they moved from the twenty to the thirty-five. He let his ends play decoy and hit his backs for ten and a first down, and another ten and they crossed mid-field.

When Baldwin started to drop off its ends and hold its linebackers to protect against the passes, he boomed Tinker up the middle for five and five more.

Baldwin blitzed and the pocket broke down and Woodie scrambled, but when the confusion settled down he wound up with is nose in a puddle and fifteen more fat yards of gain.

They were knocking on the door at Baldwin’s twenty and Baldwin called time out to halt their momentum.

It did too.

Tinker picked up five to the fifteen and they stalled. Woodie under-threw Jones who slipped in the gunk trying to come back for the ball. Tinker made the line of scrimmage with the next play.

And in came Rumpelstiltskin Gomez.

“Ees your fault for no hold thee bol right eef I mees these keeck, Woodie,” he said.

“You miss this kick and I’ll kill you, you little spic bum,” said Woodie. “Keep your head down and follow through.”

The pass from center was brisk and accurate. Woodie placed the ball firmly and held it steady. And there was Rumpel’s foot kicking through, and the ball rising.

It was straight enough, high enough, but…Woodie felt sick…it looked short…not enough oomph…

He could help that ball. All he had to do was…and that ball would be over that crossbar. Marterville would have a championship. The guys deserved it. They had worked hard, hung tough, and fought for it. And all he had to do was…Even as he thought the thought he locked it away. He didn’t remember all the wise saying about ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. He didn’t know any. But he knew how white power could become black power. And he knew that the kids from Baldwin had worked just as hard, hung just as tough, and fought just as roughly as his own teammates.

He watched Rumpel’s kick with all the other eyes in the stadium and held his breath.

The ball was coming down. It came down and plunked smakdab on the crossbar. It bounced. It bounced on the right side, out of the end zone into the end zone crowd.

Marterville had three points.

There was four minutes left in the game.

And suddenly, as though the wind had been a Baldwin rooter, it howled into the stadium.

No ball could stay on a tee in that blast. Coach Doyle Fisher left Woodie in to hold the ball for Rumpel’s kick-off. And as Rump skittered the ball somehow into the teeth of that wind, Woodie found himself running down field after it and the receiver.

He ran into two big Baldwin linemen head-on and a third threw a block at him on his way down.

The Baldwin players got up.

Woodie did not. He was unconscious and the wind lashed snow into his face.

He woke up in the Baldwin First Aid Squad ambulance. His mother and father and a Baldwin fireman with an ambulance jacket were with him.

“Now what?” he asked

“The team doctor thought it might be a concussion. He gave you a shot. We had them call Dr. Todd. We’re headed for the hospital, said his father.

“Not again,” said Woodie.

“It’s just for a checkup,” said his mother.

“Did the field goal hold up?”

“Final score 3 to goose egg. You win it.”

“Beautiful,” said Woodie. “No just tell Dr. Decker Todd I want to go home.”

“Oh, sure,” said his mother. “There’s one more game next week.”

“That too. But I’ve just remembered something important that I have to do.”

Dr. Decker Todd was waiting for them. Woodie decided not to tell him that he wanted to go home.

“Now what, you damn kid?” asked Dr. Todd. “What and what, indeed?”

For fifteen minutes he answered his own questions.

“You know,” he said,” the least you could do is to take off that filthy football suit before you come charging in here. I heard you won, incidentally, as I had a small fortune on the game. You won by a freak bounce I hear…hummnnm, hum…I am going to grab an x-ray and then you can go home, Woodie. The x-ray is only a precaution. I see no sense in your lying around here taking up a bed when I need a nap myself. Go home and crawl into your own bed and rest. If you have a headache, take some aspirin. Arise tomorrow and sing tral-la-la-la all that …But bed until then.”

“I have something to do,” said Woodie.

“Do it from a prone position,” said Dr. Todd. He nodded matter of fatly at Ballard Kynwood Senior and Connie. “Just knocked stiff,” he added, “but if I get upset about anything, I’ll call you. Once he’s cleaned up and in the sack, he’ll sleep a bit. He’s tired.”

Woodie was tired. The game had been rugged. The shower felt fine and the sheets felt even better. He dozed off, and while he slept his mother did battle with Emily who wanted to help him rest, with Coach Doyle Fisher who wanted to stop by, with Tinker and Tinker’s father who thought they’d drop in, and with Woodie Senior who thought it was time for her to get out of his long johns and into the kitchen.

“He’s okay, love," said Woodie Senior.

"Okay, love, my foot. You handle the phones and the doorbell then,” grunted Mrs. Woodie.

Woodie awakened around midnight, at 11.58 exactly, according to the glowing numerals on his clock radio. He felt refreshed. He shoved his lanky form rigid under the sheets, stretched and yawned. He felt peaceful, and maybe a bit hungry. But he had remembered what it was that he knew he knew. He saw no reason for waiting to share it usefully. He got out of bed, threw his bathrobe around his pajamas and padded barefooted to the door of his bedroom. The light was on in the living room. His father was still up and reading. He joined him.

“Hi buddy,” said Ballard Senior.

“Dad, do you think Congressman Otten is home this weekend? And could I call him and ask him to come over?

“It’s midnight,” said his father. “Are you sure you feel okay? I think Otten’s home. He comes home most weekends. He was probably at the game. But he’s an early bedder, you know. How about if we try in the morning?”

“He’ll be busy in the morning,” said Woodie. “Very, very busy.”

His father looked at him, and in a simple action that endeared him to Woodie Junior forever, went to the telephone, poked through the directory, and called Congressman Otten.

“Can you come over here now?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Morris T. Otten with equal simplicity, pausing only to rub the sleepies from his eyes.

“Anything else, Woodie?” asked his father softly.

“Dr. Bailiff is on his way over too, Dad,” said Woodie.

“Well, then, I’ll get your mother to rattle the coffee pot. I assume you summoned Dr. Bailiff by some rare old African drum?”

“Something like that,” said Woodie.

It was all so commonplace with the exception of the time, although midnight is sort of high noon in some supernatural circles, just four adults sitting around drinking coffee and listening to an almost adult. The house was just an ordinary house in a middling size town full of middling Americans sleeping through a night like any other night or getting up to see if the baby was all right or groping to the bathroom or dozing in chairs in front of the late television garbage. But yet, if you stop and think, there is nothing common about the commonplace. That which is familiar doesn’t lack for drama and mystery just because it is familiar. If history teaches anything it teaches that the booming thunders of great events can be first heard in any old picayune town like Marterville or Appomattox Court House or a bend in the road like Waterloo. Come to think of it the business of plain living or dying would call out the bands and the drums and the great ceremonies every morning if so many people weren’t living and dying and seeing nothing much to get excited about or anything unusual either.

“Sugar?” Woodie’s mother asked Dr. Bailiff.

“Black suits me,” he said.

Woodie wasted no time.

“Congressman Otten, do you remember last week and the meeting you had with those two men in your apartment, the little gray man and that skinny sad looking fellow?”

“My God, that was the best kept secret in Washington,” said ‘Twit’ Otten.

“You said he was the most dangerous man in the country because he controlled and rationalized his obsession. And the little gray man said you needed hard evidence, and the skinny sad man said it was either destroyed or hidden.”

“We were the only three people in the room,” said Congressman Otten.

“I was there,” said Woodie bluntly.

“And he stopped by to visit me on his way home,” said Dr. Bailiff calmly.

Woodie’s mother and father were pale and thin-faced.

“You were home in bed and asleep,” said Connie Kynwood.

“That too,” said Woodie.

“You remembered the thing you knew you knew,” said Dr. Bailiff. “Maybe that belt in the head this afternoon during the game, eh? What was it?”

“Just this,” said Woodie. “Look in the clock.”

“Of course, of course,” said Dr. Bailiff. “I saw it twice when I read you and never thought any farther.”

“Will somebody tell me what this is all about?” asked Woodie’s father.

“I’m his mother,” said Connie.

“And I’m baffled,” said Congressman Otten.

“You shouldn’t be all that baffled. You and Dr. Bailiff set everything up for me to read the President. Did you think you could hide that from me?”

“Tell, son,” said his father gently.

Woodie told. “It’s his secret place, you know…”

He told about the little white frame house and the stairs and the sloping hill and the church and the great grandfather’s clock with the carved panel that lifted out. He told about the man who was so secret that he hid secrets from himself. And that was all.

“Whatever’s there is there,” he said.

“Look in the clock,” mused Woodie’s mother. That’s very clever and somehow sad. Look in the clock because time hides everything late or soon.”

“That’s a thing called irony, Woodie. Look it up," said Kynwood Senior.

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 Eight Chapter Thirty
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