Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summer Part 9 - What Shelley Saw - Conclusion

What Shelley Saw - Conclusion

My dad, my quiet father, broke into a run and screamed Greg’s name as he tried to cover the last few steps between him and the crazed neighbor man-child. He raised the bat with his right arm when it became clear that he could not reach Farley’s hatchet-wielding arm in time.

The shadow from the dirt hill reached the edge of the sandbox as the sun crept slowly across the vacant lot. Metal and wood and bone became players in an unscheduled summer production in a theater that lacked script and staging and sound. Mr. Mollinger collapsed in the sand.

* * * * *

Greg’s momentary silence rippled across the sandbox and into adjacent yards. Motionless observers heard a metallic clang as the hatchet’s blade tumbled across the weed-infested ground, coming to a rest at the base of the hill sixty feet away. The nerves in Greg’s hand and forearm vibrated in a jolting cascade from the blow that loosened his grip on the broken tool, now lying at his feet.

“That was my Uncle’s!” he shouted. “My father’s gonna KILL you!”

He grasped his throbbing wrist and rubbed it to dampen the fire in his arm.

The force he exerted to swing the bat turned my father half around. He regained his balance and let the wooden club fall to the ground at his side. He leaned on it for support but allowed his hand to regain a firm grip on the slender handle.

Greg was red-faced and looked about to shed a tumbler of tears in an emotional cocktail of embarrassment, anger and pain. The man-child turned to face the man in a display that caused us to wonder if another line was about to be crossed.

Dad took control.

“You go GET your father. And your Goddam UNCLE too for all I care” my dad yelled back, tapping into boy-thoughts at the forefront of Greg’s man-sized but broken self-esteem.

“If you EVER try a stunt like that again, so help me FARLEY, I’ll use this bat on your HEAD, I swear to God!”

To punctuate his threat, Dad lifted the bat and dropped it a couple of times emphatically into the open palm of his other hand.

“You go home!” he finished.

Greg looked around the vacant lot, compiling a menacing inventory of witnesses, then spat on the ground at my father’s feet and walked away.

Mr. Mollinger cradled Ricky in his arms and rocked him on the sand. “You son of a bitch!” he muttered as Farley sauntered past.

Farley turned and glared. Ricky said “Hey Daddy,” and drove his army truck up his father’s leg.

Mike had returned on his father’s heels. He slowly approached the sandbox as most others quietly headed home. Shelley continued to mindlessly turn the wheel of her inverted tricycle while Dad headed into the garage and returned the baseball bat to a bucket of random sports gear. I soon saw the glowing orange tip of a cigarette moving up and down beyond the darkened window next to the garage door as he tried to compose himself. He hadn’t smoked in years, but kept a pack of Kools and a book of matches on a high shelf.

I took Shelley’s hand and led her away from the vacant lot to the safety of our house. Her tears dried as the indifferent shadow from the dirt hill signaled the approaching end of another eventful summer day. The tricycle’s wheel slowed to a stop with a squeak, and a handful of fresh grass settled to the bottom of the inverted fender.


  1. How carefully we store the details of events that occur because someone has acted out of character. You might never have witnessed this if your dad had strolled instead of broke into a run. Beautifully told.