Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Boiling over on Blanton Boulevard - Part 1

Story and characters © Jason Cassee 2009

Newt has the unfortunate appearance to match his nickname – slick, oily skin and bulging eyes. But behind the façade, he is an even better match with his true name: Newton Galileo Oppenheimer. This morning, Newt is on a mission, and so focused on getting to the shop early that nothing is going to get in his way, or put a damper on his day…

Thadeaus Eugene Glick III can’t believe his luck this day, but then Thad is in disbelief much of the time. Thick and solidly built, his bowler is pulled low over heavy brows and dark intimidating eyes. Thad arrived at an empty trolley stop, a first for him, which almost certainly assures him of a seat this time. Smiling, he savors this small victory, one that makes the extra 3 blocks to this spot –a stop before his typical boarding – well worth the effort. He chuckles to himself almost gleefully, rubbing his hands together and shifting his feet in the chill morning air…

Birgitte Espinoza, known as Bess to her friends, is distracted by her aching left knee. She can’t think of anything else as she slowly makes her way up a short side street toward the trolley stop. She mutters to herself as she works her way forward, one painful step at a time. “Why does it have to hurt this much today?” she mutters. “Today, of all days.”


It’s late fall, 1978 and Newt sits in a half-empty classroom on a dreary, stormy day. Half empty because Miss Jenny is out again with early morning sickness. And made doubly dreary as he and his fellow students are subjected to the grainy movie that is showing on the tattered sheet hung over the green, flaking chalk board.

As bad as this is, the real miracle was that the movie is showing at all. If Newt hadn’t been able to get the finicky projector working, the kids would now be hunched over their science textbooks for the umpteenth time this month. But after 10 minutes separating frayed power cord wires, the film is now clacking its way over the reels and, blessedly, there is something more to do than sit and read once again.

Miss Jenny has been out so often that much of the class now finds other things to do during third period. And nobody seems to notice, or much less care. This morning is just another example. No substitute has been found and fifteen minutes ago old Miss Johnson, the school secretary, made a most cursory stop by the room to inform the few students left that they should again pull out their books. That is, unless someone is “industrious enough to get this going” she challenged while dropping the dented, steel film disk on the table.

So now Newt is shifting between watching the old black and white piece - something about electricity - and peering dejectedly at the drenching downpour outside. Nearly despondent, he finds himself wondering, “What am I going to do?” Of course, things now take a turn for the worse.

“That looks like Newt.”

Newt turns back to the screen to see lightning flashing behind a lumbering, monstrous figure stumbled towards him on the screen. Likely, it is a cut-scene used to illustrate some basic electrical principle, but the figure on the screen breaks the somber mood like a clanging bell.

From behind him, the snickering grows louder. The girl to Newt’s left turns from the screen, squints at him over round, rimmed glasses and laughs shrilly. “It really does look like you,” she confirms.

From the group at the back he hears Billie Heaton yell “Hey, Newtonstein. I didn’t know you were a movie star. Can I have your autograph?” And he rises from behind his desk and plods forward, arm stretched in front of him mimicking the visage on the screen.

“Newtonstein. Newtonstein.” rings, jeeringly around the classroom.

Newt flushes crimson and finds he is unable to speak. Sobbing, he stumbles from his chair, trips over a leg and staggers for a few steps. The lurching and stumbling only reinforce the connection to the image just witnessed and brings a fresh fit of laughter and jeering.

Without stopping for his books or coat Newt runs for the door followed amidst the din. Jerking the knob toward him his shaking fingers slip and he thumps to the floor prompting another wave of laughter. Tears stream down his face as regains his feet and quickly escapes into the hallway.


To be continued...

Cheers! - Jason

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