Friday, January 18, 2013

Pedestrian Points

Boyd pedaled his bike quickly, anxious to get home. Twenty-four minutes earlier his team had obliterated those loudmouths in the neighborhood behind his in a baseball game to decide the kings of the subdivision. "Obliterated" was an apt term. At the top of the fifth inning the score was twenty-six runs to two; at the last pitch in the bottom of the ninth it was twenty-six to five. The best part was when Tony threw up all over himself, the victim of four chili dogs at SilverMart an hour before the game. Boyd had hated Tony with an indescribable passion ever since the fat kid, who had failed the fifth grade and was sent to his class, had begun taunting Boyd for being an excellent student even if a poor athlete. "Hey pwetty Boyd", Tony had taunted him during physical education. "How's about a little game of pickup?", lifting the smaller boy and tossing him to the gym floor last September. Tony, a fat bully with breath not unlike sulphur and a real pain in the ass, never seemed to learn from experience -not even when Sam (short for Samantha) had beaten him up last summer behind the grammar school for pushing her off of a swing. Boyd remembered, with a sneer and disgust, how Tony had ended up on the ground, with a swollen eye, a fat lip, dirt all over his face, and blubbering like a baby. Boyd's dad had taught him to ignore guys like Tony. Apparently, Sam's dad -a retired semiprofessional boxer and former Army Ranger- hadn't.

Turning his Schwinn now onto Layne Avenue, Boyd squeezed the brake handle as Old Lady Inman's '64 Electra 225, with her dead upper torso hanging over the driver's door, cruised lazily past him at perhaps ten miles per hour. He found himself dry-heaving as her head literally exploded when the out-of-control Buick sideswiped someone's Fairlane. What really scared the boy wasn't the minor impact, as it were, that that had on him. Layne Ave, littered with no fewer than four burning cars, was also strewn with perhaps a dozen dead bodies which had once belonged to his neighbors. One of them, clad in a nightie and curlers, was the crossdressing attorney named Pascal whom the entire neighborhood had both feared and ridiculed. Not that that was a problem anymore; the lawyer had seriously large holes in his abdominal region courtesy of someone with an attitude and a powerful weapon. Probably dead before he hit the ground, it occurred to young Boyd.

Gripped with an overpowering sense of mortal fear, the young right fielder stomped on his pedals with all his rapidly blood sugar-depleting body could muster. He shifted through all five gears, hoping that the rear derailleur purchased at Kaplav's the other morning wouldn't fail him as the last one did a couple of weeks ago. The only objective now was getting out of that street and getting home, not that he was sure what might await him there. Boyd lived on Rasper Street, two blocks, one corner, and an eternity away. It was right before he made the final turn onto Rasper that he became aware of it.

He heard it before he saw it.

Headed his way -directly in his path- was the ice cream truck which only a couple of hours ago he had anticipated with the joy that only a child can conjure. That joy seemed a hundred years in the past. Instead a deliverer of death awaited him, a monstrosity of a man who had only been know as "Carl One Ear" due to being stone deaf in his left ear. Carl, not known for being especially kind to those customers of his who were grownups (in fact, he was a real bastard, to tell the truth), had paid half of his inheritance to cover up his psychiatric history and the two mental hospitals he had been committed to for trying to remove his right hand with a chainsaw once after hearing a minister tell a congregation "if a part of your body causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away". Carl was no Christian, preferring to freelance that which he dully misperceived as "justice". To say he didn't comprehend the meaning of that message would have been laughably underestimated. The man had been caught at the last second by a deputy who was patrolling the alley right behind Carl's shed, cuffed, and summarily committed involuntarily to the state's worst mental hospital over in Penobscot.

One Ear, espying his latest prey, cranked up "Three Blind Mice" to volume six over the antiquated speaker atop the red-striped old truck. Boyd juked his five-speed between two cars less than half of a second before both were sideswiped by the maniac who was, pun intended, in no good humor. Boyd now pedaled with all of his remaining adrenaline. One Ear, the crazy bastard, was laughing maniacally, announcing his impending arrival on the Sting Ray's rear tire over his PA system installed the week prior by Paula, a burly woman whose size and vocation led the less educated to draw inappropriate conclusions about her sexuality. The mechanic, whose awards and accolades preceded her like rush hour traffic in DC, had actually built the entire system so that One Ear's voice could either automatically cut out the music while he announced the vast array of flavors in the freezer behind him or sing along like a twenty mile per hour karaoke machine. "Boooooooyyyyyd..." hissed the driver-turned-killer. "We have flavors for YOU todaaaayyy... wait until you see all the pretty colorssss..." trailed mockingly behind the rapidly retreating youth.  Boyd cut across someone's lawn and through the back yard, nearly running into a headless dog now hanging by a rear leg at an awkward angle from a poplar.

Not to be outdone, One Ear was determined to cut off the kid's escape route. Not that his Greener shotgun wasn't up to the task, but the ice cream vendor was going for a perfect record. If only he could catch this one last straggler, home almost before the popsicle pusher had tattooed Mrs. Rhoades and her laundry hung out to dry with the right side BF Goodrich radials on the old Ford.

Yes, one more...

Running over the victims counted more than any other means of killing them, you see. Oh, sure, the  Rottweiler's head was shotgunned a few minutes before, but dogs didn't count as much in the game. He did the dog because he had read somewhere that it's psychologically advantageous to put an exclamation point on your work -makes a statement, according to all the major college football coaches.

One Ear never attained his perfect record. Boyd slipped through the boards ripped out of the rotting old fence by Mr. Carlson's claw hammer in late May after his wife, a binge drinker, had managed to throw her Polara in reverse, and the rear bumper into approximately five boards and two two by fours. He had meant to get around to repairing that, George Carlson had, but with baseball season really getting started, time slipped by and the Cards were on a roll. Where Boyd was able to navigate, the ice cream vendor wasn't. The killer got the truck jammed in the gap, now immobilized by the weight of the rotted old thing which was now pressing in on the truck from both directions. One Ear began screaming a litany of coarse language, slowly at first but gaining in tempo even as he cranked the PA to "Volume 10 Max."

By this time, of course, the police department, led by its SWAT team, was on the scene. Boyd had been able to get to safety behind two cruisers before One Ear could offer him an orange sherbet laced with various bodily componenets of his neighbors. One Ear, Greener in hand, was warned no fewer than three times to drop his weapon and drop to the ground nearby the Garwick's recently-built swimming pool before small explosions from several locations contributed to the quick demise of a man once loved by every kid in the subdivision. Boyd was returned to his parents, both of whom dropped to their knees and cried profoundly at their son's safe return.

In the days ahead, the town began a painful return to recovery as best it could. The killing spree was the largest on record in the tri-state area. Forensics psychologists and sociologists speculated the motivation for the attacks. Some argued that it was of frustration built up over the years. Others postulated that the reason for One Ear's death-spreading romp was envy over the fact that he, a man whose income never rose above the poverty level, was envious of the upper middle class customers whom he served. It would be quite some time before anyone pieced together the real reason for the bloodbath.

And, while detectives worked around the clock seeking some rationale, in another town not so far away, Kerry pedaled his bike quickly, anxious to get home...

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