h1

Chapter 4

January 16, 2010

by Dahni

© Copyright 1/16/09

all rights reserved

Early Morning July 5th, 1966.

Besides knowing he felt cursed with the names he was given at birth; names of dead people that wore silly white powdered wigs and dressed funny, Ben knew little about the country he lived in and cared even less. He knew there were 13 original colonies and they were rebel rousers. Still stinging from the missile burn on the back of his head and at thirteen, he felt rebellious, but maybe 13 was unlucky after all. “No way,” Ben answered his own question, “I’ll make my own luck.”

Ben was born while President Eisenhower was still in office, a Republican. The next president would be a Democrat, but each had a vision which would forever shape Ben’s future.

During the administration of Eisenhower, the Interstate Highway System was set in motion. Even though this was essentially a military plan to move planes, troops, equipment and supplies during an emergency or threat of war, the entire country opened up to commerce, trade and travel. This new road system definitely helped Ben’s father and increased his earnings and that had a positive effect, on the whole family and Ben as well. The town they lived in was, of medium size, but still had several colleges and an even a university. It’s location in the center of the state and its proximity to the Interstate, brought a lot of people here. This made it possible for an amusement park to be built, which just happened to be adjacent to property, owned by Ben’s cousins. Motels sprung up, gas stations and fast food restaurants would soon be found at almost every exit off the highways. People began to explore the country, including the Silent family, for their annual summer vacation. The car and truck industry flourished, both with commercial and passenger vehicles.

The next administration had, a Democrat in the White House and his vision opened up space exploration, which culminated with men landing on the moon. But the real story here was how this was made possible. In a word it was – technology. In another single word, all this was made possible by, computers. Ben’s father’s business was moving and storage. He often brought home things given to him that were no longer needed, wanted or left behind, from moving people and their stuff, all across the country. One time, he brought home a used Texas Instrument Computer. It was crude and mostly just had games, but it was like the granddaddy of the personal computer or PC. Ben was the fortunate recipient of this item and he instantly took a great interest in computers.

For once in his life, Ben was at the right place and at the right time and not just once, but twice. These two visions, by two different men, from two different parties, opened new roads and new vistas to Ben. Travel and computers would remain a part of Ben’s life and his knowledge of these two subjects, would serve him well, later on.

His parents were Democrats and it seemed the whole town was as well. Ben could remember debating for his candidate in the first grade right, before they had a mock election. His candidate was John F. Kennedy. Ben recalled saying something like Nixon was creepy and Kennedy was cool. Not much of a debate, but Kennedy won in their election, just as he did in the real election.

Democrats were supposed to be, for the “little people,” the everyday common people and the Republicans were, for the rich people and big business. This is what Ben believed at the time. In a few years later he was in the 3rd grade and in class, when news came that this young president had been shot. Classmates and teachers and other adults in the whole school were in shock and weeping. He never liked his third grade teacher, but he sure admired her then, in how she kept everyone together during such, a horrible time.

If he despised American History and knew so little about it then, he hated politics now, because as far as Ben was concerned, it could kill you!

Ben did the only thing he could do. He put the whole thing out of his mind and just dreamed about possibility and opportunity and how great he would make his future.

American History came up again in the 7th grade with the presidential notebook he was supposed to make. But that was over; 7th grade was finished and it was summer. Today was the day of independence even though it was, just minutes away from being over. But Ben was declaring his independence.

Despite the twin stings of pain and embarrassment over wearing a patch over the back of his head, he was feeling rebellious. If he could have worn a hat to hide it, he would have. He did have a hat and it was summer, too hot to wear one. He only hoped that in the darkness, no one would notice the back of his head or he was not stopped by the police in route to his rendezvous with destiny. Yep, he was in a rebelling mood and there was more rebelling in store.

Ben knew he was rebelling against the authority of his parent’s rules and maybe even police authority. He knew, he would most likely have to invent something if he were caught by the police and for his folks, if they found out. He knew, he was rebelling, not only in sneaking out, but in hanging out with those he was meeting. He also knew that if he made it home and was not found out, he would be keeping secret, the lies of his true actions. There would be more rebellion and more secrets to hide, before this night was over.

Ben grabbed his bicycle and quietly walked it out of his back yard and down the street, for about a half of a block. Then he jumped on and pedaled like crazy, careful to avoid major streets. He traveled with the shadows and knew all the back ways, through fields and down hills, to get to the closed public park, where the group was to meet. He was almost there and was flying down the last hill, when behind him he heard a high pitched whistle. At the bottom of the hill he heard, “Hey Ben, wait up!”

The voice was a blast from his past. Ben waited and then one of his best friends from first grade, came into view.

After the first grade, someone or something saw fit to separate Ben, Larry & Luke, the three Amigos. The three all went to the same elementary school, Jr. High School and high school. They all lived in the same neighborhood and just a few houses away from each other. In later years, Ben would discover that all three would end up operating their own small, home improvement businesses. But that’s about all they had in common. Larry and Luke would enjoy golf, but not Ben.  Ben always seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. Even among these three, his name started with a different letter in the Alphabet, than the other two. And a little silver hair that he inherited from his all white-haired grandmother, made him an oddity, just like his name. Ben would later ponder how odd it was that he never saw Luke again, even though they lived just a few houses away from each other, for many years.

But this voice, Ben had not heard or had not even seen this face since they were forbidden to see each other again, one summer afternoon after 6th grade. Larry’s father had caught them sitting on top of the roof of a bathroom in a park, smoking.

But for now and after nearly two years, here was Larry, another example of Ben’s rebellion. Larry called out to him, “Hey Ben, where you going?”

Ben told Larry he was meeting some friends at Egan Park. “Really,” Larry spoke with enthusiasm, “How cool is this, that’s where I’m going.”

Maybe Larry did not notice the patch on his head or maybe he just never said anything about it. Ben was grateful, for what ever the reason and they rode silently together, the rest of the way to the park.

Egan Park was closed at 11:00 PM each night. The one road which led to the center pavilion was closed by a padlocked chain link gate. The park was surrounded by trees so it offered plenty of cover. Once in awhile, a police officer would park the patrol car at the street and walk up the hill, just to get some exercise or drive to the chain fence, get out and check on things around the pavilion. But a shining flashlight, always gave one plenty of notice to hide among the trees. None came this night, at least while they were there.

At the pavilion, there were just a few others. A few more stragglers showed up and hid their bikes among the dense forest, surrounding the shelter. Everyone was waiting for Ted, the leader or instigator of this band of misfits. Anyone with the guts to plant a bag of real ‘weeds’ in his locker and cause such a commotion, certainly deserved to be the leader. At least, he had the respect of everyone, waiting for him at the park.

Suddenly, they saw car headlights and it was coming up the gravel road toward them. Fearing the possibility that this was the police, they all ran for cover.

Nearly blinded by the headlights, no one could see what type of car this was. Then the lights went off and the driver side door opened. It was Ted. “Hey you guys hiding or what,” he called out into the darkness, “Let’s get this party started!”

The front seat passenger door opened and another guy, Ben did not know, got out. Ben was the first to come out of the shadows and soon everyone else followed. There were a total of 13 hellions, all around thirteen in age, including Ted and this other guy, standing in front of the car. The engine was still running.

“Where’d ya get the cool ride Ted,” Ben asked?

“It’s my old man’s,” Ted replied.

Incredulously, Ben went on to inquire, “You mean your Dad let you borrow his car?”

“Oh, hell no, he’s asleep. Me and my friend Scott here, opened the garage door, rolled it out, pushed it into the street, rolled it down the hill about a block from my house, then I popped the clutch and well, here we are,” Ted explained.

In those days, if the vehicle had a manual transmission, the only thing you needed a key for was, if you did not have a downhill incline or sufficient ‘people-push-power’ to get it up to speed, to pop the clutch and engage the engine. Ted didn’t have a key. And he wasn’t even old enough to drive.

Ben was closest to the car and it was a good thing. Ted spoke again, “Four in front and four in back, the rest of you guys are out of luck.” With that, there was a mad scramble to get a seat in the car. Of course, Ted was driving, so he had his. Scott guarded his seat by holding onto the door he got out of, so everyone else knew, he was riding ‘shotgun.’ Ben ran to the rear door, on the driver’s side and claimed, “Window seat is mine!”

Soon the car was full and they were off, leaving the rest staring, disappointed and disgusted as the car backed down the long gravel road and then disappeared.

One such left youth was vocal in his displeasure. “Why the hell did Ted invite us, if we don’t get to do anything?” There was a swift reply to his question.

“You’re not too smart are you? Everyone knows you invite more people to a party than necessary, because, not everyone will show up!”

The first one that spoke, came beck with this: “Well, I wonder how many he invited?”

  1. answered, “Now this is the odd thing, exactly the same number that showed up!”

K.’s real name was Kahil, but most people had trouble pronouncing it, so he was just K. His full name is, Kahil Christopher Abrams. He was given his first name by his mother because, she admired the poet, Kahil Gibran. If Ben had his problems with his name, he had no clue what real problems are, when it comes to names! Kahil’s mother is a Muslim and his father is Jewish. K. supposed they were just real progressive parents as they threw in the Christian name of Christopher, right in the middle. But like Ben, he understood what it felt like to be treated as an outsider; different. He, along with everyone invited to this outing, were all odd-balls. But being part of a group, any group, even this group, had appeal and some comfort in, just belonging.

But before this night, neither Kahil or Ben had ever met nor even knew the other existed. Even this night, they still never met and would hold no memory of seeing each other here. But years later, in high school, they would meet and the connection started from that they were both here, this night.

The joy-ride- crew, drove around side streets and avoided any major roads or intersections. Several were smoking and then Ted produced a single  can of beer, he had lifted from home. One beer shared among eight was not going to do much, but it was still exciting.

After driving up the longest and steepest road in town, they turned the corner and Ted turned off the lights and slowly drove past the largest house in town. Even at night, it was the most beautiful home, Ben had ever seen. Soon, the car pulled to the side of the road and stopped. Ted opened his door and said, “Scott, you stay here and drive if it’s needed. The rest of you guys, let’s go.”

Everyone was thinking it, but no one asked, ‘Go where?’ They would find out soon enough. Ben was close to Ted now and wondered, “Hey Ted, whose house is that big white mansion back there?”

“Oh, that’s old man Peterson’s house and that’s where we’re going.”

The instructions were given explicitly and with precision. Ted barked out orders like a general –

“You two guys, go scout out a wagon, there’s plenty of kids that live around here. Go find a wagon or cart and bring it back here. The rest of you follow me and keep quiet.”

Fortunately for Ben, he was right next to Ted and there was no way he wasn’t going to go along with him, just to see what he was cooking up.

This was years before security systems, motion detectors, outside lighting and spot lights would become common. The large estate sat on an acre of land, but there was no wall or fence surrounding it. The grounds were nicely landscaped with trees, partially bordering the property; ornamental trees, shrubs and flower beds surrounded the house. The driveway to the house was partially obscured by trees, but the house could still be seen from the road.

Peterson’s estate was dark except an area about twenty feet from the front door. A single gas lamp around ten feet tall, cast its soft glow upon a ornately tiled patio, ten feet long by ten feet wide. The lamp and uncovered patio had been placed here for a reason. In the center of the patio was a white statue. It was not until they got closer that Ben was able to make out the form.

As if anticipating Ben’s question, Ted whispered, “Don’t worry, Peterson doesn’t have any dogs.”

The cloud covered moon, streetlights and the lamp near the patio provided both sufficient light and enough darkness, to make and hide their approach. They waited behind some bushes near the patio. Ted sent one of them back to see if the other two guys had found a wagon yet. In a soft, but stern voice, Ted told him to go get the other two, “Bring the wagon back here. Be quick and quiet about it. We’ll wait right here until, you get back.”

Just after the one guy left was when, Ben saw the form of the statue on the patio. It was a white, concrete elephant, about three foot tall, prominently displayed in the center of the patio. It obviously had some meaning and importance to Peterson, but Ben had no idea what it was.

While the rest waited for the other three to return, a couple of them lit cigarettes, including Ben. Hiding in the bushes, they were far enough away from the street and from the house to be seen.

Soon, the other three returned with a child’s red wagon. The group moved slowly and quietly into position around the patio. Ted directed with gestures and pointed at each person. It took four of them to lift the elephant and place it into the wagon. Ben and another, held the wagon steady. It was good that it had not rained for sometime and the ground was dry. Otherwise, it would have been difficult to pull and push the wagon through the grass, making ruts or worse, getting it stuck.

Pushing and pulling the wagon, they made it to the street. Scott got out of the driver’s side of the car. Ted opened the back door on the driver’s side and grabbed a screwdriver, laying on the floor board in the backseat. With the screwdriver, he was able to pop the trunk like a professional carjacker. The elephant was carefully lifted from the wagon and laid on its side in the trunk. The wagon was left behind a bush, just off the street, in someone’s yard. Ted closed the trunk lid. The group got back into the car, slowly drove about a block from view of Peterson’s house and then Ted turned on the headlights.

There was just laughing and meaningless banter inside, while Ted seemed to be driving with purpose. They kept to side streets and back roads. Soon, lights faded in the distance behind them. The road was dark and there were no other lights except for their head lights.

It looked as if they were driving somewhere out in the country. After nearly 20 minutes, they had not seen another vehicle on this road.

They went up a small hill, Ted turned off the lights and the car came to a stop in the center of, an older one lane bridge, little used, but well maintained. This particular bridge was just a few miles outside of city limits and it crossed over the Interstate highway, around thirty feet below.

Ted was the first to get out and everyone else followed his lead. Once again, he popped the trunk. They lifted the elephant out, carried it and lifted it and then balanced it on the handrail of the bridge. Then they pushed it off. As it fell, a semi-truck crested the top of the hill on the highway and came barreling down the highway, towards them. The elephant smashed into innumerable pieces and scattered all across the two-lane highway. Just another second or two and it would have hit the truck. The truck drove right over the broken pieces, seemingly without any problems.

Ted raced back to the car and got in, with everyone quickly doing the same thing. They backed off the bridge, turned the car around and headed back to where they came from.

It was real animated and vocal inside the car now. “WOW, I can’t believe it,” was one comment. Another said, “Yeh that was too cool.”

They ‘high-fived’ and slapped each other on the back; congratulating each other for a job well done. There was laughter and cajoling and even Ben participated, but? But he silently wondered if anyone else, felt like he did?

Ben had never done anything like this before. He had broken some stuff belonging to his older brother and tried to hide it, but always got caught. He had snuck out of the house before and with his brother. He smoked cigarettes and even once in awhile, stole some change from his Dad’s pocket or from his mother’s purse, but, but never anything like this. He tried to mask his true feelings, growing now inside of him and just went along with the ridiculous chatter inside the car. Yes, he had gone along with the whole thing. He was disgusted about it, disappointed in himself and was in shock over what they had just done.

Soon, it grew quiet inside the car and Ben was feeling quite uncomfortable. He saw an opportunity and took it. “Hey Ted, could you drop me off at the park. My brother and my Dad both have to get up real early and I need to get home before they wake up.”

“Yeh, sure dude, no problem,” Ted answered. It all seemed to be  an acceptable and plausible reason, for him to end the night of mischief. He could detect no suspicious feelings among the group that he just really wanted, to leave this all behind.

As they approached the gravel road to Eagan Park, Ted said, “Hey Ben, how’s this, I’ll even give you curb-service.” “Cool, Thanks Ted,” Ben replied.

They drove up the road and stopped at the locked chain link gate, stretched across the road. The lights were doused. As Ben got out of the back seat, incredulously, the same five guys they left, all emerged from the shadows. Ben did not know any of them, only that there were five. His mind was on just getting away from this car, getting home and getting rid of this whole experience, leaving it far behind!

Ben walked up to the driver’s window and said to Ted, “Hey, Thanks Ted.”

“Yeh, sure, dude.” The words no sooner had left Ted’s lips when he turned towards the other five and said,  “Got room for one more of you dudes.”

One got in, the car backed down the road. His friend (formerly separated since first grade and that he was banned from seeing since the 6th grade friend) Larry, from his neighborhood, stayed in the car. Ben never looked back or said another word to the other four guys, left standing at the pavilion. He grabbed his bike and took off for home. The other four, including Kahil, all went home, their separate ways.

After getting back home, going through the basement window and changing back into his pajamas, Ben quietly walked past his parent’s bed, his heart racing from biking and from a little fear that they might either be awake or wake up as he walked past their bed.  He opened the door to his room and got into bed. He glanced at the clock on his night stand. It was right at three O’clock in the morning.

Ben had snuck out and snuck back in, without being caught. He had navigated to Eagan Park without detection. The juvenile group he joined, had successfully stolen a car, a can of beer, cigarettes, a white elephant, a kid’s wagon and hurled that elephant off a bridge, watching it smash into bits and all without encountering the police or any other adult. That’s all pretty huge and full of, plenty of reasons to celebrate and to be proud. But the grin on Ben’s face soon soured and as he stared at the ceiling, reality came crashing down.

Why had he done this? Was it just to be part of a group; to be accepted? He did not know this Peterson person. He did not purposely enjoy destroying stuff, especially if it belonged to others and for no reason. Ben gasped at the possibility of that truck driver being hit by the elephant. What if it did; what if it caused an accident or worse, what if the driver had been injured or even killed? Ben remembered laughing about this along with everyone else in the car. It wasn’t so funny to him now.

Ben knew it would only be a couple of hours, before his brother and his Dad would be up and that meant, everyone would have to be awake and eat breakfast together. Two hours of sleep was not much and Ben’s brain was running at breakneck speed, thinking on these things.

Still, somehow, he finally drifted off to sleep. The last three things he thought about were wondering what else the group did after he left, why was that elephant so important to Peterson and who was he anyway?

 

Click here to: Chapter 5

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3 comments

  1. […] American Eagle Just another WordPress.com weblog « Chapter 2 Chapter 4 » Chapter 3 July 10, 2009 by […]


  2. Good points, I think I will definitely subscribe! I’ll go and read some more! What do you see the future of this being?


    • Keep Reading. This is fiction with facts and function. It leads to Liberty.



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