h1

Chapter 5

January 28, 2010

by Dahni

© Copyright 1/28/09

all rights reserved

Stop the Presses – Early Morning July 5th, 1966.

Maybe it was the smell of bacon cooking or the sounds his brother made in their room getting dressed, but Ben was awake and it was still dark outside. One lamp lit the room and he turned to see his brother packing last minute items into a duffle bag. He would be leaving soon, for a two-week Boy Scout camp. Ben got up and dressed and ventured towards the kitchen and the breakfast table. Mom was finishing up the eggs. Dad was already seated at the table and so was Ben’s little sister, already completely dressed. Soon, his brother joined them and they were all seated around the traditional ‘meals-always-together,’ Silent household.

Breakfast with the family was always in this manner and even at its normal time of six o’clock, it was early enough. But since Dad had to drop off his brother and was leaving himself for a long distance move, breakfast a half hour early, was really early, especially since Ben had only been asleep for a couple hours.

Breakfast was over and after the bye-bye-kiss-kiss-hug thing, his Dad and brother were gone by six. His little sister left the kitchen and was coloring in the living room. Maybe Ben felt a little guilty about what he had been involved with just a few hours earlier? Maybe there was some fear that he might somehow still be found out. Did he look guilty of anything? Was it somehow showing on his face? Whatever the reasons, he helped his mother clear the table, even without having to be asked. His mom apparently took notice, as she paused and glanced at Ben’s new found and un-asked-for helpfulness, but she said nothing and continued her work.

When the table had been cleared and wiped down, his mother said, “Thank you Ben, for your help, I’ve got it now, you can go.”

Ben returned to his room and just messed around with this and that for a couple of hours.  He was still tired, but his mind was still engaged in re-living his previous clandestine activities.

Eventually, the room was full of daylight, beaming through the many windows of his room. He heard his mother call his name. As he walked down the hall, he could see his sister now, in her room, on top of the bed, talking to and playing with her dolls and stuffed animals. He turned the corner, walked into the dining room and then into the kitchen. His mother had hand washed all the dishes, prepared lunch for later and was now working on the dinner meal. His mom was always like this, always busy and always preparing for whatever was next to do.

“Yeh Mom, what do you want?”

“Yeh’, Ben? Is Yeh’, a word in the English language mister,” his mom with sarcasm asked?

“No Mom, sorry, I meant yes. What can I do for you?”

“That is much better sir. Ben, could you go and check and see if the newspaper has been left on the porch, it wasn’t there earlier when you father left.”

“Sure Mom, no problem.”

Ben went into the living room and opened the front door, just as the doorbell rang. Standing in front of him on the porch were 5 or six little kids. He recognized one of them. The familiar kid,  lived in the neighborhood and had been at the 4th of July picnic the day before. Before Ben could ask what they wanted, the neighborhood boy spoke.

“Hi Mr. Ben, we’ll give you a quarter if we can see the hole in your head.”

Ben just stared at them. His eyes dropped and he saw the rolled newspaper, bent over, picked it up, turned away and walked back inside, closing the door behind him and he never said a word.

Back inside his mother called from the kitchen, “Who was at the door Ben?”

“Just some stupid little kids Mom.”

“Well, what did they want?”

“They offered me money to see where I burned my head yesterday.”

“Well, did you take it?”

Ben could see his mother laughing and trying to hide it. He wasn’t sure if she thought it was funny to her about the money or the whole ordeal that left him with a burnt spot on his scalp, now covered with a patch. He never answered her and it was good. She seemed to sense his anxiety and quickly changed the subject. “Was the paper on the porch?”

“Yes, Mom I have it.”

Ben sat down on the couch, removed the rubber band from the rolled up newspaper, and placed it on one of the end tables. Was he just being nice and doing this little favor for his Mom? Maybe sub-consciously, he was trying to earn some points with her, just in case his secret was found out? Ben was conflicted with various emotions.

Part of him was still excited over what he had participated in, had not be been caught at, and had not been found out, at least not at this point. Part of him was relieved that he had not been caught.

There was guilt and disgust that he had willfully done these things and laughed about it, even tossing that statue off a bridge and almost hitting a truck.

He was complicit in breaking curfew, trespassing, theft, destruction of private property and in hiding this secret, wasn’t he even guilty of lying too?

Ben also wondered who Peterson was. Why was he targeted or was it just random, a fluke, luck of the draw or what? And what was the big deal to Peterson, about that stupid elephant anyway?

Thoughts seemed to be running at breakneck speed. Perhaps this was the first time or the first time Ben was aware of, of so many different thoughts and feelings, all happening at the same moment in time.

On top of all this, Ben was a little fearful that his thoughts and inner feelings would be stolen by his face and show up there, revealing the whole thing!

All of these thoughts and emotions were like a bunch of rubber balls, bouncing off the roof of his brain and all at the same time.

Ben rarely read anything from the paper unless it was for some school assignment. He liked the funnies, but they were only in color on Sunday, just black and white for the rest of the week and fewer in number, than on Sunday. But since it was here and he had it in his hands, he might as well look and see if there was anything ‘funny’ today.

Ben turned the unrolled, but still half-folded paper to the front. His eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw the bold typeface headline and the large picture on its cover.

PRANKSTERS PILFER PETERSON’S PACHYDERM

   The picture said it all as Ben instantly recognized that this was the scene he had been part of, just a few hours earlier. But on that pad in front of Peterson’s house, the elephant had been replaced with something else, of near equal size and color. It was a white, concrete, donkey statue!

Ben had to read the entire article, word for word now! It began with a note from the editor of the newspaper.

   Dear Readers: We apologize for your paper being delivered later this morning than is our custom, but late breaking news compelled us to stop the presses, in order for this cover story to be inserted. Listening to a police scanner, our paper sent a reporter to deliver to you the following story. We felt this story important enough to halt printing, in order to alleviate any further concerns that might arise, because of it.

-editor

Police, responding to several calls from concerned citizens around 4:30 am this morning, were dispatched to the Greenwood and Slocum neighborhood, in the north east section of town.

Neighbors were startled from their slumber by a loud boom. When officers arrived on scene, lights were on throughout the neighborhood. Neighbors were mulling around; most still in their sleepwear, bathrobes and slippers; some were standing in the street and talking to each other.

Initially, it appeared as if theft was a motivation, as items seemed to have been stolen. In all actuality, kid’s bicycles, one red wagon, and other items that had been left outside of individual homes were not stolen, just moved. Even an entire child’s swing set had been moved from one house to an empty lot close by. An elderly couple with no children or grandchildren found a little girl’s pink bicycle, left in their driveway. A lawnmower, belonging to one neighbor was found next door. That neighbor, found their lawnmower, at another neighbor’s home.

The moved swing set had apparently been used to set off a miniature fireworks display. In front of the swing set was a hole about 2 feet across and almost as deep. Police determined that this hole and the sound that woke up the neighborhood was, most likely, caused by an exploding M-80, an illegal firework in city limits,  equivalent to about an 1/8th of, a stick of dynamite.

No witnesses or physical evidence that would lead to the identity of the culprits were discovered by the police.

All items thought to have been missing were found, with one exception.

Officer Mike O’Malley was first to arrive on the scene. One of the first calls to the station came from Owen Peterson, a local businessman and local chairman of the Republican Party. An icon or symbol of his political party is the elephant. Mr. Peterson HAD a small, white, concrete, elephant statue, sitting on a pad outside of his home. It was missing, but in its place was left a donkey of approximately the same size, weight and color. The donkey is the icon or symbol of, the Democratic Party.

When asked by Officer O’Malley if he thought this was politically motivated, Mr. Peterson responded, “No, not at all. I think it was just some pranksters, some juvenile delinquents, having some misguided fun.”

The police department completed their investigation and left. The neighbors dispersed and went back into their homes. It was assumed that most went back to bed, judging by the lights being turned back off. One officer was the last to leave. Your reporter stopped Officer Bill Strickland as, he was about to get into his patrol car.

Officer Strickland was asked about his thoughts on what crimes had been committed here. “That’s a good question,” Officer Strickland said. He continued.

“Nothing was determined to have been stolen, just moved around and later found. I’m not even sure this could be considered vandalism as nothing was really damaged except, for leaving a hole in an empty lot. The use of illegal fireworks is against the law, but that’s about all we could charge anyone with. Mr. Peterson has no wall or fence around his property and no signs posted, but I suppose if caught and he was of a mind to press charges, the person or persons responsible, could be charged with trespassing.”

At this point, Officer Strickland removed his hat and stared briefly skyward as if to, formulate his next words.

“Now,  Mr. Peterson’s elephant is missing, but whoever did this, they put a donkey in its place. Maybe it is of equal value? Who knows, maybe we’ll get a call about a missing donkey, replaced with Mr. Peterson’s elephant? If not, then I guess it has been stolen. Personally, I think it was some kids that did this and thought it was funny. In a way, it kind of is. But this is, sure one case to remember, I’ll say that!”

Officer Bill Strickland

Police are requesting any information about this incident, about the perpetrators and if anyone knows the whereabouts of Mr. Peterson’s property. Mr. Peterson laughed, smiled and said, “I just want my elephant back. I don’t think my party will appreciate this donkey, sitting in my front yard.”

   Ben was in near total shock as he finished reading the article. For one brief moment, he thought about hiding or getting rid of the paper, fearing his mother might put him somehow, into the picture. Then he wondered if the missing paper might make him appear suspicious and then he would have to give her a reason, for the missing paper. He did turn it over face down on the sofa as if, she might not read it or it would give him some extra time before she did.  Time, what did he need time for? Ben needed time to calm down, time to think and time, not to look suspicious and appear guilty, if his face was so found to, betray him.

He quickly stood up and loudly announced, “Mom, I’m going out for a while.”

“Alright Ben, be back in time for lunch.”

“OK, Mom.”

Ben walked out of the front door and down the street, not actually knowing where he was going and still in a daze over the article and his part in it.

Just a few houses down from his, sitting on the stoop of his front porch was Larry, who had been with him, just hours earlier.

As Ben was in direct line of the sidewalk leading up to Larry’s house, he heard his name being called.

“Hey, Ben, what’s up?”

“Hey Larry, nothing, I’m just taking a walk. What are you doing?”

“Oh, I’m waiting for my Dad to get home. I’m grounded now and he will probably make it even for longer, when he gets here.”

Curiously Ben asked, “Why, what did you do?”

“Well, when I got in this morning, everything was cool. I was just heading to my room when my Mom scared me, standing in the dark in the hallway and asked me where I had been.”

Ben was a little nervous now as he asked, “What did you tell her?”

“Oh, its OK, I just said I woke up early and went to Bob’s Corner Market to get a ‘Coke’ from the vending machine.”

“Did she believe you,” Ben wondered?

“Yeh, sure, I had the ‘Coke in my hand when she was asking me. My dad is gonna’ ground me for awhile, for being out past curfew, but Wow Ben, you sure missed a lot after you left last night! It was too funny! We took stuff from some houses and moved it to other houses. We blew off an M-80 and we even found this donkey and put it on the pad where Peterson’s elephant was. It was all sooooooo cool!”

“I know,” answered Ben.

“Well, what do you mean by that, this all happened after you left?”

“It’s in today’s newspaper.”

“Really, we don’t get the paper delivered. My old man picks one up when he goes to work. Well, what did it say?”

“The paper said pretty much what you already know, but the police have no clues about who did it.”

“Well, that’s cool Ben.”

At that moment, Larry’s dad pulled into the driveway. “See you Ben.”

Ben gave Larry a half-arm wave without speaking, walked off and a little list of never(s) was made.

Ben never saw Larry again, from that moment on, throughout the remainder of Jr. High School or high school, even though he lived just three houses away. It just worked out that way.

Ben would never again hang out with the ‘Bad Boys.’ He’d avoid contact, speaking with any of them or make some excuse if they ever invited him to anything again or even if, they spoke to him.

Ben made it home for lunch this day and on time, but his mother never suspected him. She never said a word to him about that article.

   Never was anyone involved with this incident, ever suspected or ever caught.

Ben would never talk about this with anyone except for one person, but that would be almost thirteen years later.

There was just four more never(s) in this list to be mentioned here. Ben would never be able to forget about this event and he would never forget two words from the article he read – “politically motivated.”

So on this fateful day, through cause and effect, Ben entered into the political area of thought and process, but he would never join either major party or any party and he was never invited to join any either. It just all worked out this way. But a strange future, for Ben was, beginning to unfold.

 

Chapter 5 Coming Soon

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