Sunday, January 24, 2016


Copyright (c) 2015 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.


By R. Peterson

A stream of smoke rose from the toaster just as Ellen Sullenger finished buttering the first two Wonder bread slices. Jan hurried past and grabbed a buttered one, tearing off chunks and stuffing them into her mouth so she wouldn’t smear her lipstick. Ellen handed the other buttered-slice to Alvin. He stared at it with a dismal expression, then his face crumpled. Ellen sighed and opened the fridge. Her youngest child demanded exactly one and a half spoonful’s of strawberry-jam on his toast … always. “I put tuna-fish sandwiches in your lunchbox along with cookies and a dime to buy fresh milk. No chocolate!” Keith walked past and grabbed a burnt slice from the toaster ignoring the charcoal as he chewed it dry. She spread jam on Alvin’s toast “Don’t you want me to scrape the burned bits from that?”
“No time.” Keith left mumbled crumbs on her cheek when he kissed her. “Rudford says everyone has to come in early all week. The mill has a new order and the processed lumber has to be finished by Friday.” He was already out the door. “Love you!”
“Daddy’s driving me. Love you Momma!” Jan was skipping through leaves on a front lawn as she headed toward the Nash.
 “Keep your coat buttoned until you get to school.” It was cold in September 1958 and Ellen worried about her youngest. Alvin was extremely smart and did well academically. It was the other fourth-graders that had her concerned. Alvin had been born with water on the brain and severe coordination problems. After a half-dozen operations, the scars on his head made him look like a pint-sized Frankenstein. Alvin had wobbled home on his spindly legs several times last year with a bleeding nose. He said he’d tripped, but Ellen didn’t think so. Children could be cruel to anyone labeled different, and Alvin certainly was.
Ellen grabbed his new jacket, the one the Sears man said everyone would be wearing, but Alvin shook his head. “No mama! The hood! I want the hood-coat.”
“You don’t want this new one? It’s your favorite color … red!” When Alvin set his mind to something he would not be detoured.
“No Mama. I want socking and hood-coat!” Ellen sighed and pulled a stocking cap from the shelf in the hallway closet and tugged it over his extra-large head, then pulled out last year’s ragged coat. “My you’re certainly bundled up!” She said as she helped him with the zipper. His ear-to-ear grin made her smile. She turned on the radio and watched Alvin wobble down the sidewalk as she scraped the last piece of burnt toast over the sink. After a commercial for Dash soap, Perry Como sang Catch a Falling Star.

Voices came from the other side of a large house when Alvin was almost to the corner. Terrell Adams and Mike Lee spotted him before he could duck behind Mrs. Descombey’s snowball bushes. “Hey Egghead! What do you eat for breakfast?” They were running toward him. Mike Lee laughed at his friend’s joke.
“I like toast with strawberry jam,” Alvin said, as if this information would satisfy the bullies. Terrell Adams, who’d skipped three years of school for medical reasons and was thirteen, always gave off a smell of almonds that Alvin associated with State Hospital North, Cloverdale’s mental health facility.
“You can’t eat eggs,” Terrell continued. “That would make you a cannibal … Egghead, Egghead, Egghead!” he taunted. Mike Lee snickered.
“My name is not Egghead,” Alvin stammered. “It’s Alvin … Alvin Sullenger.”
“I heard your name is Frankie …” Mike Lee pushed forward enjoying the look of confusion and fear on the younger child’s face, “…Frankie Stein!” Mike Lee laughed and looked at Terrell, but the older boy was rubbing his neck, perhaps he had another headache. Mike shoved Alvin into the bushes and Alvin’s lunch-box spilled on the sidewalk.
Egghead likes tuna-fish!” Terrell shook his head and then stomped on the Saran-wrapped sandwich. Tuna, pickles and mayonnaise spattered onto the concrete and the bottom of Terrell’s boot. “Yuck!” He wiped his heel on Alvin’s pants and put the cookies in his pocket.
“Look a dime!” Mike Lee held up the milk money.
“Dib’s!” Terrell snatched the coin, and then knelt beside a sobbing Alvin. His eyes were evil. “You tell a parent, a teacher, or anyone …” Alvin pulled down the stocking cap and twisted the hood over his face as the bully began to batter his head, “… and you’ll cry a lot more!”
Terrell picked up the lunch box with a masked and caped Guy Williams riding a rearing black stallion on the front. “Just so you remember …” Terrell used a switch-blade knife to scratch a large jagged “Z” in the thin metal. “That stands for zero not Zorro,” he said. “That’s the number of people you are going to blab to!”
By the time Alvin wiggled from the bushes, he was the last one to board the bus. Lucky his glasses hadn’t been broken. “You need to get here quicker,” Mr. Cranston complained. “I almost left you!” Alvin sat in the first seat next to the driver. He rubbed his swollen face and nose. “I like socking and hood-coat,” Alvin jabbered as he looked at his clean hand. This time there was no blood.
Mr. Cranston shook his head as the bus rumbled away. Why did they make retards go to school?


            Alvin was the last one to totter into Mrs. Dern’s fourth-grade classroom. He had to wait for the crowds to thin-out in the halls or he would get knocked down in the bustle. Chloe O’Brian’s pigtailed and ribbon-tied hair tickled his nose as he sat in the assigned seat behind her. Alvin closed his eyes and imagined he was Clark Jensen. He had watched the tallest kid in the elementary kiss Chloe on the playground. Her light-brown hair always smelled like Halo shampoo and her voice sounded like Bridgett Bardot.
            “We will do our science lessons first …” the students moaned and Mrs. Dern slapped her desktop with a yardstick, “Does anyone remember who Sir. Isaac Newton was?”
            “Yeah,” Terrell Adams raised his hand and spoke without being called on. “He’s the man who invented gravity.”
            “That’s not quite correct,” Mrs. Dern said. “He experimented with gravity and discovered some interesting things. Who can tell me what some of them are?”
            “That an apple will fall on your head if you sit under a tree,” Ben Hicks blurted and the class laughed.
Alvin waved his thin arm. Mrs. Dern looked around the classroom but his was the only raised hand. She reluctantly chose him. “Yes, Alvin.”
“Every object in the Universe attracts every other object with a force directed along the line of centers for the two objects …” Alvin spoke like a talking encyclopedia. “…that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the separation between the two objects.”
“That’s more than correct Alvin.” Mrs. Durn turned and drew two circles with chalk on the blackboard- one large and one small. “Objects attract each other!”
Terrell Adams, leering on the back row, took the opportunity to hit the back of Alvin’s head with a spitball. “Your head is big enough to have its own gravity, Egghead!” he hissed. Several girls in the classroom giggled. Chloe turned and looked, but she wasn’t laughing. Alvin didn’t raise his hand again, even though he knew all the answers to Mrs. Dern’s questions.
Later, Mrs. Dern had just finished reading Three Billy Goats Gruff when the bell rang for morning recess. Terrell Adams stood up as if in a trance, foam ran from the corner of his mouth but no-one saw before he swiped it away with his tongue.  Alvin could almost taste the almonds lingering around Adams. He lingered in his seat but Mrs. Dern insisted he follow the other children out to play.
Finally Terrell stumbled outside holding his head and Alvin could breathe easier. The girls jumped rope on one side of the school while the boys played baseball on the other side. Terrell Adams and Brian Hicks were taking turns choosing teams. “Whoever ends up with Alvin bats first,” Hicks suggested. Alvin would much rather have played on the swing-set or on the old Merry-go-round, the one he’d gotten a finger caught in last year, than listen to the jeers and taunts of the other boys in his class. He listened as each boy in his class was selected. When he was the last child standing, the team captains didn’t even bother to call his name, Brian Hicks just shouted, “We bat first!”
Terrell Adams struck-out two batters and walked one before Hicks slammed the ball across the back-fence for a home run. Two other boys hit singles. The bases were loaded when it came time for Alvin to walk to the plate. “It’s not fair!” Hicks shouted. “This happens every time we play because we get stuck with this loser!” He kicked dirt on the boy with the big head picking up a bat and wobbling on thin legs toward home plate.
            “Easy out! Easy out!” The outfielders began to chant. Alvin had always been afraid of the fast moving hard-ball. His arms were trembling and he had a hard time holding the bat in the correct position.
            “Come on Egghead! Hit the ball for once,” one of Alvin’s teammates shouted.
Terrell Adams seemed out of focus as he threw the first ball low and inside. Alvin was so terrified he closed his eyes and waved the bat. The reaction was just as he expected. He heard his own teammates groan and the opposing team laugh. Someone on his own team yelled “You dork!” When Alvin opened his eyes the catcher was throwing the ball back to Adams.
The second pitch was at least a foot over his head. Alvin swung anyway. Both teams laughed.
            Alvin tried to remember all the things he’d read about baseball: The velocity of the ball, the angle at which it struck a fast-moving object and the opposing force behind the bat. He knew all the geometry and physics involved in playing the game, he just didn’t have the physical ability. Alvin squinted at the pitcher through his thick pop-bottle glasses. Terrell Adams liked to play ball, but he also had a sadistic side to him. He often threw the ball inside because he liked to see fear in others. Was there any way to defeat him? Alvin tottered a step back from the plate and choked–up (gripped it higher on the handle) to stop it from shaking. Every object in the Universe attracts every other object …
Adams grunted and stomped on the pitcher’s mound. “This little goat thinks he’s going to get past me!” The resident bully of Cloverdale Elementary wound-up like his hero New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen and threw the ball viciously toward the plate but Alvin didn’t swing, instead he focused on the ball and stuck out the bat, holding it as firmly as he could along the line of centers for the two objects. The bat and the ball connected with a sound like a rifle shot. Alvin felt the force of the collision tear the wooden-bat from his hands. His team all seemed to be shouting at once. Alvin squinted at the ball bouncing high on the grass toward Mrs. Fowler’s fence. Brian Hicks grabbed Alvin spinning him around and shoving him toward first-base, just as the runner on third came charging into home. “Run you idiot,” he screamed.
The ball would have bounced over the fence if Kurt Smith hadn’t leaped into the air and caught it. He was too far out to throw to first, so he threw the ball to the pitcher.
            Alvin looked like a toddler as he stumbled toward first-base. A million thoughts ran through his over-large head. What if he made it? Did he have to stand on the base? He’s seen lots of other boys run past. Was it okay if you just stepped on it?
Terrell Adams caught the ball and spun around looking toward first base furious that the goat had somehow got a hit off from him. What should have been at least a triple now looked like it might even be a base hit for the biggest-loser in the school. This wasn’t the way life was supposed to work. If Alvin Sullenger made it to first-base his reputation as a ball player might be forever tarnished. The little goat was trip-tripping along, less than two yards from the base. What if first baseman Dan Reed missed the throw? Adams hurtled the baseball with all the venom and force he could muster.
Alvin’s wobbly legs were just a half-dozen tottering steps from success when the baseball slammed into his head. The world spun for only a second before he fell, but to Alvin it was eternity … the sound of children playing turned soft … and then became black.


            Alvin’s mind moved through a vast emptiness pushed by a heavy shadow from a place of less. There was no sight, sound, smell, touch or taste … only awareness of awareness. He was cognizant of the force from which all things are created … the God Power; the ultimate power of nothing.  Without matter and energy, and their negative counterparts, the fabric of space-time does not exist. He reached out with his mind and felt what scientists would later call dark matter and he was awe-struck at the implications. He knew the universe was in exacting balance. In order to have more than nothing, he realized you must also have less. Those who search for anything always stop when they find nothing, but Alvin now realized that you must keep looking … or you will never find the less that makes up 68% of the cosmos dark energy the anti-gravity force that expands the universe.
Alvin became aware of something appearing just beyond the event horizon he had been pushed from.  Had it been energy, the change would have been millions of light years away. But without light he still had eons to search for the less … but still he must hurry.  He became aware of various size holes in the nothing and he found he could differentiate them … He thought about the one-hundred eighteen known elements and looked for the opposite properties. The something was moving closer at a very high rate of speed. The first dark element he found, the opposite of hydrogen he named Melantha after the Greek female name for dark flower. Instead of a single electron orbiting a proton and neutron, Melantha had a brace spanning a single hole to keep it from closing. The second element he called Adelphé, the sister with two holes and two braces at right angles to each other. He discovered the more holes the dark element had, the more braces it took to keep the dark energy flowing.
Alvin had identified and named eighty-six dark elements, dark sisters, before the something moving toward him arrived … and there was light!


            “We thought we’d lost you for a moment!” Mrs. Dern bent over Alvin on the playground.
            “Alvin ran right into the ball!” Terrill Adams was throwing his mitt on the ground, picking it up and throwing it down again. “Why does that damn goat always try to cross my bridge?”
            “Alvin Sullenger is a valuable member of society too,” Mrs. Dern said as she picked up and carried the now conscious boy toward the school. “I’d be happy to walk Alvin home,” Chloe O’Brian called. “I know his mother is always without a car.”
A group of girls had crowded around the baseball diamond. “What if Alvin dies?” one of the girls gasped.
            “So what if he does?” Terrill Adams smirked. “It’s his own fault he ran into the ball.”
            “I saw you throw that baseball right at him,” Chloe O’Brian stepped from the crowd and spoke up. “Alvin wasn’t anywhere near first-base. You hit him on purpose. If Alvin dies, that’s going to make it murder.”
Just then the bell rang. Terrell Adams was still glaring at Chloe as he followed the crowd into the building. Foam ran from the corners of his mouth. Adams knew one thing. Even if Alvin didn’t die, he wasn’t going to have someone trip-tripping on his future as a professional baseball player because of what Alvin, Mrs. Dern or that damn girl said.
Someone had placed a pan of almonds on a stove somewhere and the smell was sickly delicious. Terrell took a deep breath … and then many more. He smiled. Chloe usually walked home from school and so did Alvin. He’d watched them many times, and they had to cross several bridges before they arrived. Terrell thrust a hand deep in his pocket. The switch-blade knife he’d swiped from his father’s workroom drawer at home felt warm in his hand. There just might be a Great Ugly Troll waiting for one or more of the three goats when they got to a good place.

To be continued …


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