The latest

It’s been a while since I last posted and there’s a reason for that (maybe not a good reason but it’s all I got.)

Last March a week or two before my nasal surgery, I had my annual eye exam (since I’m diabetic it’s necessary.) The doc found newly formed but still very small cataracts; she said they are usually slow growing and would follow up at my next appointment. By August I realized my sight was failing. I had planned to drive to Austin for the Recon reunion in September but wasn’t comfortable being on the freeway with cloudy vision. As soon as I returned from Austin, I called the eye doc but couldn’t get in until mid September.

She discovered the cataracts were growing rapidly (I asked her if that made me special since cataracts usually grow slow) and she put me in for surgery. Finally got an appointment in late December. I didn’t realize it at the time but was exactly 90 days out.

At about that time I hung up my car keys since my vision was failing so fast. I missed many of my grandson’s basketball games as I was unable to tell who the kids were. I could only read with help from a magnifying glass so I cached a few hundred emails until I could read again without staring through the glass.

The doc’s office called a few days before my appointment and said he would be out of the office that day; they rescheduled me for late March – exactly 90 days out. I discovered in February that this is the tactic the VA uses when there isn’t a slot available – but if they maintain the 90-day appointment requirement, the administrators get their bonuses.

I was losing my sight so rapidly we decided to go private (my wife was tired of driving me around.) Only problem was I don’t have insurance and Medicare basic doesn’t cover out-patient surgery. So that set us back $7,500.

But, I can see again.

I’m not sure if it’s one of the drugs I take for various ailments or just old age, but my energy level has been about 75 percent of what it used to be and my brain seems fuzzy. As a result, I haven’t been writing. My brain seems to be improving (or adapting) and I have one story finished and ideas for a few more.

Here’s my latest. Hope you enjoy it.

Bad day at Oakton

It was a beautiful spring day in Oakton. A gentle morning rain had cleared dust and pollens from the air. The temperature had peaked at 78 and now, in late afternoon, was beginning to decline. Flowers were in bloom and the lawn in Courthouse Park was freshly mowed, supplying pleasing fragrances to the little town. Noise pollution was limited to a few local residents talking quietly, birds singing, and automobiles obeying the 25-mile per hour speed limit.

Richard Davis Winchester III, known as Richie, was perched atop a picnic table under in a century-old oak tree about twenty feet from Oak Street; his feet were planted on the bench and his bicycle, with the ball bag attached, leaned against the table next to him. His face was grim as he repeatedly pounded the baseball glove encasing his left hand. A deputy stood behind the lad between the table and the tree. Fifty feet beyond the oak was another massive oak with a two-year old 1959 Cadillac crumpled against it; the latter was the loser of the battle and the front axle was shoved half-way toward the passenger cabin. Several people, most in the uniform of the county sheriff’s department, were busy inspecting the car and taking photographs and measurements.

In his shame, Richie refused to look up as people walked by along the sidewalk, many of them speaking or waving to him.

Boy, I hope I don’t go to jail, he thought.

Over an hour ago he had been told by a cop to stay there and he had, refusing to look at the carnage behind him.

Only a few more minutes elapsed when a man wearing an almost new Sears suit and well-tooled cowboy boots seated himself next to Richie. “My name’s Detective Romero with the sheriff’s office. I called your coach and told him you’d miss practice today and he told me you’re scheduled to pitch tomorrow. Me and Coach Harlan go back a long way starting in grade school. We were both in the National Guard when we were called up for Korea. Your dad went with us.

“Are you eleven?”

Richie, still refusing to make eye contact with anyone, nodded.

“So, another year of Little League?”

Richie nodded again.

“Do you plan on playing Babe Ruth ball?”

Another nod.

“Good. Are you ready to tell me what happened?”

Richie gulped and finally looked at Detective Romero. “I w-w-was on my way to baseball practice and was walkin’ my bike a-a-along the sidewalk on Oak Street like I’m supposed to do when I ran into S-S-Suzie Cummings in front of Miller’s Hardware–do you know her?”

“I just interviewed her. She’s pretty cute. Smart too.” A slight smile appeared on Richie’s face. “Go on, son, you’re doing fine. Just relax.”

“Well, she asked to see the new glove that my mom and dad got me so I dug it out of my bat bag and handed it to her. That’s when we heard Mister Cooper yellin’ down by the bank and then car doors slammin’ and a gunshot and the Caddy peeling out….”

“You only heard one gunshot? Are you familiar with guns?”

“I heard one shot. It sounded like a .38. Our family goes out to grampa’s farm to shoot all the time–even my little sister. I even have my own rifle. It’s a Higgins .22 semi-automatic. Mom has a .38 and I’ve shot it but it kicks a little too much for me to handle. Dad won’t let me shoot his .45 ‘til I get older.”

“You’ll grow into it. What happened next?”

“Well, the Caddy took off really pickin’ up speed on Oak Street but when it got to Second Avenue old Mister Axelrod double parked his pickup in front of Bailey’s Grocery to drop off a load of produce from his farm and the Caddy had to slow down and go into the other lane but Missus Granger was pullin’ out of a parking space and the Caddy clipped the front end and slowed some more but Missus Goldberg was crossing the street in front of Mister Axelrod’s truck when the Caddy nearly hit her so she threw the pie she was carryin’ and hit the guy in the back seat in the face.” He had to pause to catch his breath.

“Yeah, Missus Goldberg isn’t happy to have a perfectly good banana cream pie ruined. She was taking it over to the diner. Go on.”

“By then the car was gettin’ close to me and Suzie and I was mad at ‘em for hittin’ Missus Granger’s car and almost hittin’ Missus Goldberg, so I grabbed the ball out of the glove and wound up and pitched it at the driver. I think I hit him in the head and the Caddie veered off and jumped over the sidewalk and straight into the tree.” He looked down at the grass and gulped several times before speaking in a barely audible voice. “Did I kill him?”

“Nope. But that was a hel… uh, a great pitch. You hit him right in the temple and knocked him out. They weren’t going fast enough for anyone to go through the windshield but both men in the front seat dented it and the guy in the back went over the seat and landed on top of the other two. Deputy Strong was on the other side of the courthouse and heard the shot and the collision and got here before the criminals were able to disentangle themselves. It’s a shame that Caddie was destroyed.”

Still speaking softly Richie asked, “Do I have to go to jail now?”

“Jail? Is that what you’re worried about? No, sir, young man. You’re the hero of the day. You single-handedly captured the Johnson Gang. They’re wanted in four states for bank robbery and car theft and a lot of other charges.” He stood and extended his hand and Richie did the same as the two shook hands.

“Good job, son. There will be a good amount of reward money for you, too. But I have to keep the ball since it’s evidence. Now get on home. And tell your mom and dad I said hi.”

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5 Responses to The latest

  1. Sherrie Sheets says:

    Mike, you never disappoint!! I loved every word!

  2. Harvey says:

    Good story, Mike.

  3. Mary Ann Canady says:

    Mike, I enjoy your stories – have missed them!

  4. Charlie P. (old AVS guy) says:

    Mike – Glad to be informed your sight is back. Didn’t know about that. Good story! Stay well.

  5. Mike says:

    Thanks for the comments, ya’all. It’s nice to know someone is reading my stories. Charlie, the whole episode was less than a year and for a good part of that time I was too blind to write. Just another episode in my life.

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