A heck of a good read. Coming coming of age in the fifties and sixties.
Character development was delightful; the insights and thoughts they had reflected some of mine.
I have always found my outlook on the world to be vastly improved when viewed from the height of a sturdy tree. Perhaps it is some atavistic quirk like a want of sanctuary from carnivores on the open Savannah. Or more likely a holdover from that day when I needed an escape and the only refuge I had was this old pine. Even today its smell of fresh pitch tumbles out my memories of a boy as I relax once more in its branches. It is almost as it was back then and for the moment I feel that I could, if I chose, climb back down and alight in that other time and stroll over to the creek where Floyd sits dreaming of the possibilities open to him.
A smear of rosin adds friction to my three-fingered grip. Looking back, it’s hard to believe a third of a century has slipped away. Lost to time. A time of campaigning for release of a three-time convicted killer from the state prison in Raiford. To spirit him upwards into the high Andes of Peru for unfinished business.
The circumstances had begun to form back during the Great Depression. Back in twenty-nine. Earlier even. I shudder thinking of it. By the time Floyd and I arrived on scene, the stage was set; dark and terrible. Forbidden. And we stumbled right into the middle of it. On this very spot. With me clinging to these same branches, breathing in the familiar fragrance of decaying vegetation as it floated in on the late summer breeze.
The dry bark crunches as I lean against the trunk. In the distance the beachfront remains unchanged. The bayou lies still and blue under the summer clouds. The scent of sedge and salt air hangs in the humid air. The old camphor on the point still billows skyward after having somehow drifted down through time, unchanged. And beyond – the place where Fluffy soared with the pigeons, if only briefly. It was all so brief.
Even today with our tell-all media we don’t speak of the crime. It still puzzles the locals when they recall it. If they recall it at all. Because the newspapers never got the whole story from either the sheriff or the FBI. It was a time most here viewed as idyllic but the town’s tranquil façade of civility merely cloaked that dark stratum buried deep within the community. A menace that has dogged civilization for millennia, loping along behind, tearing at its heels. Civilization has always struggled upwards and usually won. For a while I was part of that struggle. I’m still not sure whether I won or lost. Perhaps I should begin at the beginning.
We had moved to Pensacola toward the end of August of 1955, just prior to my starting the sixth grade. I didn’t know a soul there except for my cousins across the bayou. And they went to different schools and were in different grades anyway. And they were all girls.
It was the last day of summer vacation and, for me, a confusing time. I had abandoned all my old friends back in Tampa after a busy year of building forts in the palmettos and exploring the city sewer system from where we broke into it across the tracks behind our house. Now the games played along the warehouse roofs and the ransacking of Friday’s garbage pails for Hi-C bottle caps to get us into the Palma Cia for the Saturday cowboy matinee were closed to me forever. Even the terrain here seemed alien. I did the only thing that made any sense. I climbed to the top of the tallest tree I could find and stayed up there all day.
It must have been shortly after lunch when I first caught sight of Floyd. I recall the cookies I had commandeered for my Cub Scout knapsack were already gone. I had just leaned back to contemplate the horizon from high in the old pine when movement registered in the corner of my eye. I froze, naturally, so as to blend invisibly into the jungle canopy. Then a twig cracked somewhere below and to the left.
I slid carefully back along the limb until the central trunk concealed my presence. Floyd crossed over the sand bank a second later and paused in the midday heat surveying the tangle of wisteria and trumpet vines crisscrossing the open space beneath the leafy canopy. He looked about my age and radiated, even then, that indomitability of spirit I have never quite grasped. Mud coated his slender legs to mid-thigh. He wore khaki shorts with a large bulge in one pocket and a dirty white undershirt with the neck stretched halfway to his navel. The kind of stretch an undershirt gets when it’s been pulled out of shape in a fight. He glanced briefly back over his shoulder. Sunlight gleamed off the narrow dome of his head where sweat-plastered, light brown hair clung to his scalp. And when he turned toward the bayou I noticed the battered cast on his left forearm. I held my breath.
Floyd slogged down the sand bank gouging long, loose tracks on the slope. At the bottom he stooped over my own tracks where they crossed the little stream. I knew that water probably still seeped into them. A dead giveaway of recent intrusion to anyone knowing any kind of Indian lore at all. My heart pounded. Floyd reached out his good arm and prodded the closest imprint, one eye half closed, the opposite brow raised slightly in his Indian fighter pose. Except with Floyd it wasn’t a pose.
“Who’s there?” he called out into the undergrowth.
I pulled back behind the trunk and rested my forehead against the rough bark. Several ants marched across the area. I blew them away and peered carefully back around the edge of the tree.
Floyd was scanning the opposite stream bank now. Then a quick half turn as he swept the treetops. It was too late to move my head. Any motion whatsoever will immediately give you away according to the Cub Scout handbook. I didn’t even blink.
Finally, just as I thought my eyes would dry and crack, he waded on through the creek toward a hickory tree about halfway up the other bank. I blinked several times to ward off impending blindness while Floyd dug a flattened ball of string out of his pocket and tied it to the hickory. My arms ached now from the strain of hanging off the side of the pine. I shifted slightly to rest my butt on a small limb. Floyd whirled at the first scraping of bark against my Cub Scout pack. A shard of pine bark tore loose and sailed downward in loops and spirals but Floyd was wading back across the creek now paying out string behind him.
On the far side he sighted back along the twine as he held it up to various oak saplings until he somehow found one that met all his requirements and tied the string to its slender trunk. For the next quarter hour he paced through the underbrush to various points along the creek making sightings toward the string. Then he finished everything as suddenly as he had started. He rolled up his string, stuffed it into his pocket, and disappeared up the creek toward town.
I waited until the cracking and sloshing of his departure faded into the distance, then slid back out onto the main limb with a sigh of relief. Whoever he was, he obviously wasn’t much of a stalker.
Bull bats flitted under the street lamps as I trudged up the hill to my new house. From the dark street it didn’t look so bad. Dad had gotten a good deal on it. It needed a lot of work but, as he kept putting it, it had possibilities. Even if it was built back around 1910.
The old house blended into the gloom under the massive oaks at the top of the hill. From its dingy stucco walls, high casement windows stared darkly out into the evening. I climbed over the low stone coping at the top of the slope where the yard finally leveled off some ten to fifteen feet above the street. A dank moldering odor of decayed leaves rose from the soft earth to mingle with the cloying fragrance of the dangling honeysuckle. The porch, almost invisible under the shadows of the trees, spanned the fifty feet across the front where fat white columns supported the upstairs porch just above. That was where I slept after the first night. After the squirrels scared the shit out of me running up and down the inside of the walls and across the attic in the black of night. Nobody else woke up until I hollered and then the squirrels didn’t even breathe until everyone quit listening for them.
“You had a bad dream, Nathan. Go back to sleep. It’s just the house settling.”
“Yeah. Well it just settled all the way up the wall and across the ceiling. It sounded like some kind of skeleton rattling or something.”
“Well, go out on the front porch and sleep, then.”
So I dragged my mattress around all the unpacked boxes and clutter and lifted the big sliding window that served as the doorway to the upper porch. This window ran from the floor up into a recess in the ceiling and rumbled like distant thunder when you raised it. Things scurried all through the house as I dragged my bedding out onto the porch but everybody else had already fallen asleep again.
It smelled cleaner outside away from the forty year old dust and the peeling wallpaper that still clung to the plaster in the upstairs bedrooms. The street light on the corner cast blurry shadows of tree branches across the porch ceiling as I lay listening to dogs bark somewhere in the distance. I dreaded going to sleep. When I woke up, it would be time to go to school.
Wherever school was. I didn’t even know how to get to the store anymore for bubble gum and baseball cards. I didn’t know a living soul in the neighborhood. I wondered what the old gang back in Tampa would be doing tomorrow and thought about the new kids who had transferred into our school over the years. Strange kids from other places. We always went that extra mile to make their lives miserable. God knew that I had taken part in that. Now I would be one of those new kids. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Mom always said worrying just made you miserable while you waited. A little screech owl belted out his mellow purr into the fog as I finally drifted into a fitful sleep.
I needn’t have bothered myself fretting over school. I didn’t even get close to doing the thing justice.
Dad dropped me off in front on his way to work. I stepped out onto the sidewalk and clutched my lunch bag to my chest. It smelled the same way it had in Tampa – stale apples and bologna mixed with paper bag – strangely reassuring.
The school was a red brick two story affair with stone capping around the roof line and an arched entryway recessed under ornate concrete scroll work. Rows of empty windows stared back at me. The school yard consisted mostly of packed dirt with patches of red clay and scatterings of leaves from the stunted oaks along the street front. To the left of the sidewalk, a rusty flag pole leaned slightly out of plumb, its flag limp in the humid morning air.
A tall olive complexioned girl in a poodle skirt and blonde ponytail appraised me as I moved across the stage into my opening scene. I smiled. Relief flooded through me when she smiled back. Then she giggled. And her friends joined her as they eyed my new trousers. New to me at any rate. Mom had just bought them the day before at a neighborhood garage sale.
“They don’t make clothing like this anymore,” Mom had said. “This is real wool. Tweed. Expensive.”
She had pointed out the extraordinary features of my newly acquired pants. The triple pleats in front. The heavy-duty cuffs and belt loops. The watch pocket. She had managed to buy five pairs.
I had been particularly hopeful that these fine trousers would ease my integration into the new school. I figured not many other kids would have trousers like these. I continued on toward the front door resisting the urge to scratch my legs.
A huddle of boys met me at the base of the steps. I smiled again.
“Who’re you?” the one with the freshly pressed Arrow shirt inquired.
“Nathan Pickerel,” I said a little defensively as I took in their new Hagger slacks fresh with the smell of fabric that hadn’t been through the washer yet. The slacks with the buckle in back. The ones everybody else wore.
“Who’s your girlfriend?”
Girlfriend? I turned around to see if perhaps some strange girl had followed me up the walk. A girl these boys had mistaken as mine.
“Don’t cha have one?” Everybody chuckled.
“I just got into town.”
They eyed my new trousers. “No! Really?”
“Where you in from? Podunk?” another chimed in.
For some reason this generated gales of laughter.
“Well, tell us Nathaniel, you see anyone you might like for a girlfriend?” They directed my attention to the school yard.
Lordy. I looked over my shoulder. Girlfriend. When I left Tampa nobody would be caught dead with a girlfriend. Here, it seemed to be the only thing anyone wanted to know about you.
“That’s a pretty nice one over there,” I said, nodding toward the girl in the poodle skirt.
“That’s mine,” the boy in the Arrow shirt observed dryly.
I looked some more. “How about that one?” I asked nodding in the direction of a perky little girl just getting out of her mother’s car.
“That’s Judy Holiday. She’s my steady,” another said a little defensively.
Crap. This was getting ridiculous.
“How about Ouida?” the boy in the Arrow shirt asked.
I should have smelled a trap. I turned in the indicated direction. A plump waxy looking girl with frizzy hair and cheeks like grapefruit halves smiled coyly at me. “Not my type,” I said as though I had been appraising women for the better part of my life.
“Why not?” a voice from the rear of the huddle inquired.
The huddle parted.
I had seen this guy staring out over the rest of the crowd as I approached the front door. I had figured he was standing on the steps peering over their heads. In fact, he had been standing on the sidewalk along with the rest of them.
“Hey, Gerard, Nathaniel Pickle, says your sister’s fat.”
“Nathan Pickerel,” I corrected stupidly as I considered the wisdom of departing for home immediately. I could hole up in the basement until three o’clock. With luck and careful planning over the years I could probably pull that off all the way through high school.
But Gerard had me by the neck of my polo shirt now. I would have to work out how best to occupy the eight to three portion of my adolescent years in the basement later.
I stared up in confused wonder at the greasy lock of black hair dangling not three inches from my face. And just to either side, those dead pale, pale blue eyes considered me. Blue like the ancient Ponds Extract bottle Mom had found washed up on the beach last summer. Blue like the faded eyes of sharks mindlessly seeking prey. A blue that contrasted sharply with the blackheads and pimples scattered across great slabs of cheek. And those purple lips moving up and down. I tried to pay attention. After all, I was now the star attraction here at the new school.
For a moment I thought I had been hit in the face. The jolt was physical. Bright electrical streaks shot across my field of vision. Then I swayed gently on my feet again. The school bell clanged ominously on the wall just inside the portal. It took a moment for me to realize it had gone off, ringing in the new school year for me.
All I caught from Gerard as he released my shirt was, “I’ll be seeing you at play period, Pickle.”
I drifted with the crowd into the dark interior of school. Even the smells here were different – old varnish and mucilage. Then another shot to the adrenals. This time it was a pay phone hanging on the wall next to the principal’s office. Someone must have been calling a wrong number. I got my heart settled down to a hard series of irregular thumps and wandered along the corridor considering the way the neck of my polo shirt now hung halfway down my chest. It occurred to me I didn’t have the faintest idea where to go.
“There’ll be someone there to direct you,” Mom had reassured me as I departed the house in my new trousers. “Don’t you worry a bit. I’ve taken care of everything.”
A couple of minutes later I stood in the darkened corridor by myself. Rows of closed doors emitted muffled sounds as teachers welcomed students and handed out books and made everyone feel at home or whatever it was they did in this strange place.
It was clear. I would never fit in here. I didn’t even have a classroom. Light at the far end of the corridor indicated an exit. I headed for it. Now I would have the time to properly assess how best to hide out for the next six or seven years until high school was over. Maybe I could even convince my folks that school wasn’t really necessary. I could maybe get a job that didn’t require a lot in the way of reading or writing skills. I would work hard. It would be better than trying to get along here. Maybe I would never run across Gerard again if I kept a sharp eye out. As the years passed, he would probably forget I had ever called his sister fat. Maybe someday we could be friends. Even laugh over that silly little tiff out there on the front steps.
“You’re tardy, young man,” echoed down the hallway. I turned toward the far end of the corridor. Light from the opposite door winked on and off as something stalked through the darkness toward me.
“No, ma’am. I got here early this morning. I just don’t have a classroom yet. It’s some kind of mix-up I think. I was just leaving. I have another appointment in an hour,” I stammered.
“You’re that new kid, aren’t you? Nathan Pickle. Your mother called us last Friday to register you.” She loomed over me. “Yes. Yes. Pickle. You’re in Mister Commander’s class. Earl Commander. You’ll love him.”
This was a start. “Yes, ma’am. I was just going there.”
“Do you know where it is?”
I turned back down the hall. “Down there on the right, I think.”
“No, no, no. Here. Come with me.” She dragged me upstairs.
Mister Commander? A man? I had never heard of a man teacher. It just got stranger and stranger.
Mr. Commander’s was the first classroom on the right at the top of the stairwell. The large lady swung the door open and pushed me in. “Nathan Pickle,” she said. A general titter rose from the classroom. “I found him wandering around downstairs. He’s yours.”
Mr. Commander stopped writing on the blackboard and considered me. His brown leather belt must have been thirty sizes too large. The end tangled obscenely down the front of his trousers. He cleared his scrawny throat and shoved his glasses back up the narrow ridge of his nose. “Pickle. Yes. I believe I have you marked absent.”
“Pickerel,” I corrected.
Mr. Commander studied his roll book for a moment. “No. Pickle. I have it right here.” There was that titter again.
Thanks, Mom, I sighed to myself. You could have at least gotten our name right for my first day.
“Just have a seat there behind young James.” The boy in the Arrow shirt smiled at me from the front row. I slid into my seat behind him. Mr. Commander erased the black mark beside my name, Pickle’s name, and resumed.
Play period arrived at ten-thirty sharp.
Maybe I could stay in the classroom and get this Pickle affair straightened out. That would be preferable to having to go out on the playground and dealing with Gerard. But no. Mr. Commander was also playground monitor.
I eased out the rear double fire door into the morning glare of the playground and spotted Gerard at the same time he spotted me. I checked the layout of the yard. A hard pan of red clay made up the back of the school. Large pines dotted the swing set area and hung over the twisted backstop of the little baseball diamond. Up against the rear of the school a neglected row of scrawny azaleas clung to life amidst scattered patches of Bahia grass and rusted bicycle racks. A brown tool shed and several plywood classrooms lined the street running directly behind. Mr. Commander busied himself hauling out a faded duffel bag of baseball mitts and bats from the tool shed. I started over toward him when I saw Floyd.
Or rather I saw the cast on his arm and identified him as the only living soul on the playground that I even remotely knew who wasn’t already a proven threat. Another skinny boy and a kid with an overlarge head and a shaggy haircut knelt in the dirt next to Floyd following some sort of diagram Floyd scratched into the ground with a discarded Popsicle stick. I hurried over.
“Hey. It’s Pickle,” the skinny boy said.
Floyd looked up, Indian scout fashion, and studied me for a moment with those large brown eyes. I figured then that I would be known as Pickle for the rest of my life. It would probably be on my head stone. ‘R.I.P. Nathan Pickle. The new boy at school.’ It was just one of many times in my life when I have been absolutely sure of something only to be proven dead wrong a moment later.
“Well, well. If it isn’t the monkey up the pine tree.”
“Monkey? What are you talking about?” I asked as casually as I could.
“Down at Fuller’s Creek yesterday. You didn’t think I saw you up there did you, Monkey?”
“Oh, that. Yeah, I was checking out the territory. Always do that when I move somewhere new. You were the one taking all the sightings around the creek. I remember now. You made a lot of noise when you left. You sounded like ten tenderfeet marching through a garbage dump.”
“I did that on purpose, Monkey. Just so you’d think I was leaving. But I doubled back around and checked you out good. You never knew I was there, did you?”
I started to say that I did, but then maybe he was lying about it. The setup with Ouida still influenced my thinking process. I wouldn’t make that mistake again. “What were you measuring down there?”
“I’m preparing plans for a hydroelectric dam project.”
“You’re going to build a dam across the creek?” I was impressed. But, then, everyone was impressed when they first met Floyd. Some, like me, were impressed favorably. Others, like my dad, were skeptical about anything that came out of Floyd’s mouth. It’s not like Dad wasn’t a good judge of character. He was. But Floyd didn’t fit the mold. Floyd knew about space, and the Civil War, and how to use tools to make stuff that actually worked. But when Floyd began talking, you just had to believe he was making it up as he went along. And sometimes he was – when the situation called for it. But mostly he knew exactly what he was talking about. I tried to convince Dad of this a couple of times but when the topic came up, Dad just said if Floyd was as smart as he let on, they’d have had him on the 64,000 Dollar Question and Dad hadn’t seen him on TV lately, so there; end of discussion. But I still look back on Floyd as a lost prodigy. A modern day Mozart, maybe. Or a Tesla. Except Floyd never got channeled right. Then again, I was in the half he impressed favorably.
“A hydroelectric dam, Monkey. I’m working on the generator in my garage now. I think I can generate enough electricity to sell to the rest of the neighborhood. I could retire early if things work out. I see you met Gerard already,” he added, nodding at my stretched polo shirt.
“Monkey already called his sister fat,” the big-headed boy offered.
Floyd studied me with a new expression this time. His mouth fell open for one unguarded moment then slowly closed as he cut through all the extraneous signals and got down to the core of the Monkey. “That’s hard to believe.”
“He did, though. I heard him do it.” Unabashed pleasure accompanied Big Head’s revelation. There was an excellent chance here that the boring routine would be broken by that best of all possible entertainments, a new kid getting his teeth bashed in.
“Must be some kind of mistake, huh, Monkey?”
“No. I did it all right.” Might as well get credit for it. There was no way I could undo the thing now.
Floyd stood up. He was just a little smaller than the rest of us. Wiry, though. “You scared?”
I checked Gerard. He was busy grab-assing with some of his friends. He’d probably already forgotten the whole thing. He didn’t look smart enough to dwell on anything longer than maybe half an hour.
“Naw. I’m not worried.”
“You know judo or something or are you just stupid?”
“It’s no big deal. How did someone that big end up in the sixth grade, anyway?”
“It’s his third time. He did two years in third grade, too.”
“Yeah, I thought so. Big and stupid. He’s probably forgotten it already.”
“I don’t think so. Coming out the door he said you were going home without teeth after school today. Jeeze. I can’t believe you’re not scared shitless. The last kid he beat up lost his hearing in one ear. I gotta hand it to you, Monkey. You got nerve.”
“Oh, oh,” Big Head said. “Here he comes.”
And he was, too. Him and two others strutting right beside him and a gaggle of onlookers straggling along behind, the lovely Ouida gracing their left flank. Ice water flowed from my heart into my chest. I sought Mr. Commander. He had vanished.
I steeled myself. Better to have it out here on the playground than after school, I reasoned. At least now there was a chance some teacher would notice the blood and put a stop to it before I lost my hearing. Maybe then that would be the end of it. I got myself ready for humiliation in front of my peers. And the worst part was that these goons were dressed better than me.
Gerard got right up in my face again. My polo shirt, already enlarged at the neck, gave Gerard a better hand hold than this morning.
“Better watch yourself, Gerard, the monkey knows judo,” the skinny boy offered.
Gerard shook me like a rat. “That right… Monkey?”
How fleeting the appellation Pickle.
“Just start something and find out, Fat Face.” Now where had that come from? I had lost control of my mouth. The whole sixth grade drew in a collective breath.
“All right, all right, break it up.” Mr. Commander lumbered across the yard, his loose belt end flopping against his pants. “What’s going on here? Let him go, Gerard.”
The grip on my polo shirt loosened a fraction then I staggered backwards as Gerard released me. I drew up a few feet away and tried to out glare my tormentors. That didn’t seem to be working so I switched my attention to Mr. Commander. His long arms protruded from his shirt-sleeves. A hank of thinning hair hung off the side of his forehead. Everything about him seemed to dangle. Thank goodness he’d arrived. He dressed a lot like me.
“He called my sister a fat pig, Mr. Commander. Nobody calls my sister a fat pig.” Gerard’s cheeks puffed out. A bead of sweat rolled down his temple.
“Is that right, Pickle?”
“Not exactly, sir.”
“What do you mean ‘not exactly’? Did you or didn’t you?”
“He did, Mr. Commander, I heard him. He called her a fat pig. Right out in front of the whole school.”
“Thank you, James. So, Mr. Pickle. Your first day in our school and you’re already insulting the little girls.”
James in the Arrow shirt crossed his arms over his chest and grinned widely. Justice would be carried out.
After the final bell I cornered Ouida in the rear of the class room. It was the first really good look I had gotten of her. Her tiny, pursed, little mouth wedged in between hemispheric cheeks like a tidy pink bow tie. Her hair, parted down the middle, lay in tight corrugations stretched taut by opposing yellow plastic berets. Beyond the pinch of the berets it kind of frizzed out into a toilet brush effect that encircled her head like a wreath. And from the middle of all this, those dead fish eyes regarded me warily from beneath a smooth, domed forehead. She tilted her head back defensively and fluttered her eyelids at me, her pink crinoline dress crinkling daintily as she drew away.
“Whadda you want?”
I tried to explain, to apologize. “I didn’t mean it like it came out, Ouida. I was tricked. Can’t we be friends?”
“Not in a million years, Pickle.”
“Monkey,” I corrected. But I was suddenly taken by her mouth. It was so small. And she had that stale, sweetish fat girl smell. Was it a chemical they excreted through the skin, I wondered? But she was starting to yell now.
“I’m never going to forget how you called me a fat pig in front of the whole school. And neither is Gerard. I’m going to make sure of that. I’m going to remind him every day for as long as I live. And he’s waiting for you out in the playground right now. I hope he kills you and you rot in hell, Pickle.”
She hit one of the desks a glancing blow with her hip on her way out. The desk skidded to a stop as Mr. Commander came back in.
“Still here, Pickle? I thought you had an appointment out in the school yard. Something about an affair of honor.”
“My name’s not Pickle, sir. It’s Pickerel. You got it wrong there in your book.”
Mr. Commander leaned over his desk and studied the roll book for nearly a minute. “This is straight out of the Principal’s office. I’m afraid I’m not authorized to change it without proper documentation.”
“But it’s wrong, sir.”
He closed the book with a little plop and dropped it in his desk drawer and extracted a Payday candy bar in the same movement. “You know something?” He leaned back in his chair and peeled the paper wrapper off the candy. “I haven’t seen trousers like those on a kid in a long time. Harris Tweed, aren’t they? I have a pair at home. Expensive. But they last for years and years.”
As I rounded the bend in the stairwell, a figure stepped out of the shadows. I jumped like a shot dog.
“Monk. It’s me.” Floyd grabbed my arm. “Gerard’s waiting for you out back. He’s got Rabbit Flatt and Artie Suggs with him. What’re you gonna do?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re not gonna try to take ’em all on at one time are you?”
This Floyd kid made sense. “No. I don’t suppose that would be wise.” I remembered Rabbit from play period. A meaty redheaded kid with a belligerent attitude and a cruelly twisted harelip.
“No. I don’t think so either. Even with your judo they’re likely to kill you. Listen, go out another door and I’ll tell ’em you’re still in with Mr. Commander discussing the feasibility of putting on a martial arts demo at play period tomorrow.”
I crept out the front way like a whipped puppy. As I skirted around the block, I saw a couple dozen kids milling around on the playground. Gerard and his two henchmen were grappling with each other in a show of prowess. I was never so glad to get home in my life.
“That you, Nathan?” my mother called as I slammed the kitchen door. “How was school today?”
Character development was delightful; the insights and thoughts they had reflected some of mine.
Nobody writes a story about growing up along the Florida coast quite like Jerry. From the first page to the last, you will be enthralled by the characters and their adventures.
Merritt’s books are full of surprising plot twists. This novel started out like The Wonder Years, then veered off into Deliverance, before ending with The Shawshank Redemption. Anything but predictable. As usual, Merritt’s characters as fully formed . . . . This guy knows how to spin a yarn.
This is the fourth book written by Jerry Merritt I’ve read this week. All have been great. Always stayed several steps ahead of me. I hope he keeps writing for a long time.
A mixture of Norman Rockwell setting, and gripping suspense and terror that is impossible to put down. My new favorite author after only two books.
Ok Merritt, I am assuming you do not write your books using the typical cookie cutter plan! This is the third Merritt book I have read and I must say it too was well worth the time! You have managed, so far, to keep me reading well into the nights! At this point I am wondering just how diverse the other books will be!
A great read. The freedom and trials of youth touching the dark underbelly of society. Justice is elusive and takes great perseverance to attain. Living is great provided you don’t weaken. The people are recogniseable as we have encountered such people ourselves. The liars who are believed, the optimists who think the just will triumph always, and the ruthless.
Jerry Merritt has written some super books – excellent personas, the wonders of childhood, kids just being kids, and some very interesting scenarios in which they live. Jerry, write more books!
Mr. Merritt again and again spins masterfully-woven tales with twists and turns aplenty, ample science when needed, researched properly every time. Most importantly, his stories weave you in and don’t release you ’till he’s done. Leap into great reading pleasure!
A remarkably crafted and related story that had me captured from the first. So many highs and lows, such realism in the telling, such deep insight into the mind of mid-century adolescents, such technical accuracy and clear descriptions. Characters were deeply developed through actions and dialogue . . . . One of the best examples of a first person narrative I know. This is a book I would place in the best few I have ever read.
Another winner by a great author. Heartwarming, horrible, and hilarious is a tough formula to pull off, but this book does it.