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The Inglorious Brotherhood

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© Copyright 2013, Rod Fisher

 

The characters and events portrayed in this

book are fictitious. Any resemblance

to people and circumstances is

probably totally

coincidental.

 

Illustrations by the Author

 

Thanks to

Carrie, Zo, Ivy and Dain

For Editing and Suggestions

 

 

 

CHAPTERS

1 A Few Good Men

2 Killing Time

3 Monster on the Loose

4 The Water Rats

5 Power of the Press

6 Armed But Dangerous

7 The Hatsumotos

8 Original Sin

9 Banky Hanky Panky

10 A Plot Is Bubbling

11 Gunsmiths

12 What’s For Dinner

13 Was It Murder?

14 Sex in the Boiler Room

15 Cruise of the Derelict

16 Hard Questions

17 Expanding the Fleet

18 Kickapoo Joy Juice

19 Midnight Banging

20 The Flagship

21 Beaver Island

22 Motor Skills

23 The Supernatural

24 The Old Schoolhouse

25 The Dark Spector

26 Melting Lead

27 Momentous Discovery

28 The Smell of Romance

Chapter 1

 

A Few Good Men

 

PINNED DOWN by the Nazi machine gun nest, Captain Lance Carpenter realized too late that they should have dug a deeper trench. He took a quick look over the shallow dirt rampart and yelled at Private Rosie, “Throw your grenade!”

 

Rosie looked at him, expressionless, waiting for more explicit orders. The Captain looked at the grenade in his hand, pointedly looked at the Private, then threw his grenade using the official overhand John Wayne pitch he’d seen in the movies.

 

That did the trick. Rosie followed suit with a mighty heave, lobbing her dangerous missile about ten feet into no-man’s land. Sergeant Grinner laughed at her effort and got a blank look from her in return.

 

“Fix bayonets,” the captain commanded, “We’re going over the top.”

They fastened pretend bayonets on their wooden rifles as he blew the whistle that signaled “Charge!”

They were a fearless squad. They slashed bravely at the tall milkweeds blocking their advance towards enemy lines. White sap oozed thick and pale from the leafy death that marked their forward progress.

“Get down! Get down! There are too many of them,” Lance yelled.

Dropping to their bellies they crawled back to the shelter of their lines. “What’ll we do now,” Sergeant Grinner asked, breathless.

Captain Lance rolled to retrieve a scrap of paper from his worn jeans pocket and wrote on it quickly with a chewed pencil stub.

“Private Rosie,” he ordered, “I need you to undertake a very dangerous mission. We need reinforcements. Take this dispatch to KennyBenny. Be careful! Watch for cars crossing the street and keep low. There’s an enemy sniper in the Anderson’s apple tree.”

If there was one military maneuver that the five-year-old excelled at, it was delivering official dispatches. Rosie didn’t say much. She hardly ever cracked a smile, or cried. Her expressions were in her eyes—big and round under the over-sized WWI doughboy helmet. Lance’s mother said Rosie’s eyes didn’t look very Japanese, though she did think she made a very cute little soldier.

But Lance’s mother didn’t know how battle-tested Rosie was. She was a good marcher—stayed in line, stood straight, and held her rifle on the proper shoulder. Today, with the unit pinned down in the dirt with the hot sun beating down on them, Lance could have used a hundred like her.

“It’s just you and me now, Sarge. We’ve got to hold this position until help arrives.”

Grinner scootched down and sighted his weapon over the edge of the trench. “Gotcha, Captain. If one of those dirty Heinies shows so much as an eyeball I’ll blow him to kingdom come.” He licked his finger and wet his front sight just like Sergeant York would have done.

Even though Pearl Harbor was just last winter they always fought those dirty Nazis instead of the dirty Nips. Since Lance’s squad was recruited from the Hatsumoto family next door it seemed like the best thing to do.

They were still pinned down when Private Rosie returned. She came running, bent low to avoid enemy fire, her steel helmet bobbing on her head.

“They can’t come.” she said.

“That’s no way to report, private. You’re supposed to salute and say it, like ‘Sir, they can’t come.’ “

Being the faithful and true soldier that she was, Rosie saluted and repeated her message. “Sir, they can’t come.”

“Why not?”

“Sir, because their mother said so, Sir”

KennyBenny, the unavailable reinforcements, were actually a twosome. They lived across the alley at the end of the block on the corner. For practical reasons the neighborhood considered Kenneth and Benjamin, the Anderson twins, one entity. Since they were always together, and a matched set, they became KennyBenny. It was very convenient when they were dressed alike and impossible to tell apart anyway. They were eloquent and imaginative and it was like watching a balloon ascend to hear one of their quixotic narratives. They talked in stereo, with each twin building on the other’s exaggerations.

If they happened to see a robin feeding worms to some hatchlings on the way to school, by recess time the story would become California condors and rattle snakes. And when they finished their story you could say, “. . . and then what happened?”, and off they’d soar to more elaborate heights of fantasy.

Captain Lance assessed the situation. “We can’t hold this position without help. We’ll make an orderly retreat back across the street.”

“I’m fursty,” Rosie announced.

Sergeant Grinner offered her a drink from the canteen hanging on his web belt.

Rosie pinned him with a big-eyed stare. “Yuk! Not that. I’m fursty for cold water.”

“Okay, okay . . . we’ll march. Line up!” Lance ordered. “Hut, two three four, hut two three four.” The brave squad trooped back to Railroad Street and around the corner to the Hatsumoto garden. They were surprised to see Grinner and Rosie’s father in a heated argument.

Lance had never seen Mr. Hatsumoto so violently mad. He repeatedly shoved another Japanese man out of his garden, pushing him in the chest and screaming in his face. Grinner stared wide-eyed and startled at his dad’s uncharacteristic behavior. Lance had never heard his dad say a cross word to Grinner or his sisters. He was always smiling and friendly although he didn’t know much English. To see him now, mad enough to get physical, was like watching a stranger.

The other man retreated and snarled something back at him as he stumbled away—something in Japanese that was obviously a threat.

Lance looked at Grinner who looked kind of pale. “Jeez . . . what’s going on? What did they say?”

Grinner just shrugged and looked embarrassed. Rosie ran into the house.

“Did you understand any of it?” Lance persisted.

“Nuh uh.” He hung his head and ran into his back door, apparently ashamed of the scene. His dad looked over, still scowling, but forced a smile and a nod before following Grinner in.

Mrs. Carpenter was watching from behind their bathroom window. She made a face at Lance, her mouth frozen in a ‘what’s happening?’ expression. Lance responded with a mystified shrug and went around to their back door. She was there, all concerned.

“What in the world was that all about, Lance?”

“I dunno. Grinner’s dad was sure mad about something. They jabbered

Jap talk so I don’t know what they were saying.”

“I was just shocked to see Mr. Hatsumoto so upset. I’ve never seen him angry . . . ever.”

Chapter 2

 

Killing Time

 

IT WAS the summer of 1942 and Lance Carpenter was now a sixth grader. With no school, Lance was enjoying the freedom of staying in bed. The bright sunshine of that June morning splashed through the window promising another joyous day of adventure. His mother called from the bottom of the stairs, “Lancey, I’m leaving for work. Grinner’s waiting in the yard.”

He went to the window and saw Grinner lolling around the woodshed.

“Hey . . . what’s up?”

Grinner lifted up a syrup pail and a hammer. “I got nails. We can build a clubhouse.”

“Great. I’ll be right down.” Lance pulled on his pants and did a staccato run down the narrow stairway. He grabbed a slice of toast left on the kitchen table and burst out the back door, ready to launch their new project.

“Did you draw up plans?” Grinner asked.

“Naw . . . I gottem in my head. We’ll use some leather hinges for the door. I want to make the window like those narrow ones in old castles. We’ll put a trap door on the roof for an escape hatch.”

Grinner was contemplative, trying to visualize the proposed club house.

“We’re gonna need more boards,” he observed.

“Yeah. I think we’ve got enough two-by-fours, but we’ll definitely have to scrounge up boards.”

“Maybe that scrap pile behind old Hansen’s place?”

“Good idea,” Lance agreed through a mouthful of toast. “He’ll never miss ‘em.”

“Well you better start by getting your shoes on.”

It took two days of sawing and hammering to build the clubhouse. KennyBenny joined the construction crew and they all worked feverishly, propelled by the joy of creation.

When it was finished Lance’s dad smiled and told them they’d done a good job. “Where’d you boys get the old boards?”

“They were some thrown away by old man Hansen,” Lance explained.

“I didn’t think Hansen ever threw anything away—judging from his junk yard,” his dad said.

Lance’s mother was not pleased. “That looks like an outhouse,” she declared.

Lance painted a skull and crossbones on the door and the words:

Private

Keep Out

The following morning promised another hot, cloudless day. In the new clubhouse Lance and Grinner were planning a new mission.

“We should go on a Commando raid,” Lance suggested.

“Where to?”

“I’m thinkin’ we could make a surprise attack on that Nazi fortress on the other side of the vidock.”

“I didn’t know there was one there.”

“You’ve seen it a hundred times,” Lance insisted, “that gray building. You know the one.”

“Oh yeah.” Grinner was on track. “We can hit it with grenades and then beat it out of there before they retaliate.”

They took a break to go into the kitchen for a drink of water. Mr. Carpenter was there making his specialty, potato soup. Lance’s dad liked to tease his son’s friends. He smiled at Grinner and asked, “Well, hello. How are things at the laundry?” Grinner was onto him. He just clammed up and did his imitation of an inscrutable oriental.

Lance’s dad knew none of the Jap kids got along with the Chinese kid at the laundry. They were enemies even before Pearl Harbor. Grinner didn’t respond so he dropped it and went back to stirring the soup with a satisfied smirk.

Lance filled his canteen at the sink.

“What’s your army up to today?” his dad asked.

“We gonna make a Commando raid on an enemy fortress.”

“Well, that sounds like an important mission. You know an army travels on its stomach. You Commandos better have some of my utterly delicious potato soup before you launch the attack.”

The soup was delicious and they slurped it down quickly, anxious to get on with their war.

Back outside, Captain Lance assembled his forces. “You go get Rosie,” he ordered, “and I’ll get KennyBenny. We’ll rendezvous in the rideaway at thirteen hundred hours.”

“When’s that?” Grinner asked.

“Soon as you get there. Tell Rosie she has to wear her helmet.”

 

They had advanced quietly through the brush and tall grass until the enemy fortress was in sight. They were on the perimeter and hunkered down. Lance sent Grinner to the east side of the viaduct, the overpass over the railroad tracks.

“Go establish our position on the other side of the vidock and give us a bird signal when you’re in place. Then I’ll bring the rest of the squad up.”

“Should I start shooting?”

“No! We don’t want to alert the sentries. You’re just the point man, so wait for the rest of the squad to close up.” The rest of the squad was little Rosie in her old olive-drab doughboy helmet and KennyBenny—all equipped with grenades, web belts, canteens and wooden rifles.

Sergeant Grinner moved out, staying low and taking advantage of the cover offered by the brush of the Northern Pacific Right-of-Way west of the viaduct.

The “rideaway” as they knew it was an area of about five acres between the “vidock” on the east, the roundhouse on the west, the railroad tracks on the north, and their neighborhood on the south. It served many purposes. It could be Sherwood Forest, Treasure Island, Bataan, the Khyber Pass, or just no man’s land for an afternoon of trench warfare. The railroad never messed with it so it stayed in a wild state of trees, brush and tall grass.

Pretty soon they heard Grinner’s bird imitation. Lance motioned the squad forward and they crept into position to storm the fortress. It wasn’t much of a fortress except in their imaginations. It was actually a long, low gray barracks-like building that was cheap housing for Japanese track workers with no families. Capt. Lance’s plan was to heave some grenades and run like hell. In preparation for the attack they had fashioned their grenades out of clay mud balls so they were well armed. Rosie jumped the gun by throwing her grenade with the straight over-arm swing Lance had shown her. Fortunately, she couldn’t throw it more than about six feet. It was a dud and the imaginary explosion didn’t alert the defenses.

“Wait,” Lance hissed, “wait for my command. When I blow the whistle, we’ll all lob our grenades and then retreat to the other side of the vidock on the double.”

He had their attention. All eyes were on him, waiting orders. He slowly raised the whistle hanging around his neck to his mouth, milking the situation for all the possible drama.

Lance, a veteran commander of the Blue Bay railway field wars, had learned that operations never go as planned. A good Captain has to be prepared for the unexpected. Rain can melt your grenades on the way to the war. When moms want to, they can yell so loud that you know it’ll be a paddle for you if you don’t get home quick! But right then, with the whistle to his lips, the most unexpected thing happened.

Two men came crashing out the side door screaming at each other in Japanese. The smaller stocky man knocked the other one to the ground and his glasses went flying. Lance recognized him as the same man Mr. Hatsumoto had argued with the week before.

A couple of frightened faces appeared in the doorway. The stocky man pulled a revolver from somewhere and the fallen man started crabbing backwards when he saw the weapon.

BANG! BANG! BANG! Three loud shots echoed from the only real gun on the battle field. The man on the ground quit moving.

Lance fought his first inclination to start running. His squad was in a perilous circumstance and he had to keep a cool head. He put his finger to his lips to signal quiet and they retreated stealthily to the other side of the viaduct.

“Wow . . . he killed him!” Lance was trembling inside.

“Bang, bang,” Rosie said, pointing her wooden rifle in the direction of the killing. She was still role-playing, not realizing what they’d seen was real.

“We gotta go tell somebody.” Grinner was wild-eyed and fidgety.

“See ya later,” KennyBenny said in stereo. “We’re getting out of here!” And they took off for home.

Grinner, Rosie and Lance were right behind them.

Then they heard someone crashing through the brush between them and the tracks. “Down!” Lance hissed. They crouched down as the stocky killer ran past, heading toward the tracks. He was still carrying the gun in his hand and he looked right at them but kept on running. They were frozen with fear for a few seconds. Then they took off, all charged with adrenaline, in the opposite direction. Grinner and Lance pulled little Rosie between them. Her feet were off the ground half the time. Leaving the woods, they all ran down Railroad Street like the Hounds of Hell were in pursuit. Lance yelled at the twins who were ahead of them.

 

“Go to the clubhouse. We’ve got to have a debriefing!”

They piled into the clubhouse and

barred the door. Lance climbed up and stuck his head through the roof hatch to see if they’d been followed.

The killer was nowhere in sight.

“Do you see him? Do you see him?” Grinner wanted to know.

“Nope. He’s probably over in the yards looking for a boxcar to hide in.” Lance answered as he dropped back down.

Everybody was chattering at once.

“Hold it! We’ve got to use our heads. He seen us and he may want to come for us if he thinks we saw the murder.”

“Yeah,” KennyBenny offered. “We could be witnesses at his murder trial.”

That possibility stunned them into silence. Lance’s mind was whirling with portentous scenarios.

“We should go tell the cops,” KennyBenny One said.

“Yeah. We’d get our names in the paper. We’d be heroes!” KennyBenny Two chimed in.

“Oh, great plan,” Lance snorted sarcastically. “I don’t think so. Then that killer would know exactly who fingered him. “

“I know something,” Grinner confided quietly. “That man he killed. He’s the one my dad argued with. He’s a tax collector for the Japanese government.”

“Did your dad tell you that?” Lance asked.

“No. He doesn’t know enough English and I don’t understand enough Japanese. My sister Mary can talk to him and he told her that guy was an agent that had always forced the Japanese families to pay money that he sent to Japan. But none of the families will pay it now that they are in the war. He was probably at the track house trying to make those workers pay up.”

Lance thought about that for a minute. “Then he was probably a spy, too . . . not just a tax collector. Shooting him was probably a patriotic act. Maybe we should just keep our mouths shut and leave well enough alone.”

“We could make it classified intelligence and keep the paperwork hidden here in the clubhouse,” KennyBenny suggested.

“What paperwork?” Grinner asked.

“KennyBenny’s right,” Lance agreed. “We need to write up a secret report. This is important stuff and needs to be on file.”

“We’ve got a file?” Grinner wondered.

“Sure,” Lance said. “An official one. We just haven’t started it yet.”

Chapter 3

 

Monster on the Loose

 

THE NEXT day the town was buzzing about the murder. The boys had made a pact and each signed Lance’s official paperwork, pledging to keep their role in the incident top secret. Lance was finishing his scrambled eggs when Grinner banged on the kitchen screen door. “Hurry up, you’re on my side!”

“For what?”

“It’s me and you against KennyBenny for shinny stick!”

They beat the tin can up and down Railroad Street until they worked up a sweat. Lance called it quits. “I’m tired of this. Let’s do something else.”

KennyBenny laughed at him. “You wanna quit ‘cuz we’re beating you.”

“It’s just dumb—whacking a can back and forth . . .”

They stood around undecided, waiting for Lance to broach a new plan. An old truck came around the corner and honked them aside.

Old man Hansen drove his rig to the end of the block and set up to saw cordwood. The boys walked down to watch. He had a new helper. For a couple years while Mr. Carpenter was unemployed he had worked for old Hansen. They’d take his old Jewett flatbed truck into the woods and cut firewood; then, at the home of the buyer, they’d convert the truck into a sawing monster and cut the logs into short pieces that would fit a cook stove or heater.

Old man Hansen was stingy, mean and dirty. The neighborhood kids called him old man Hansen because he was skinny and stooped and leathery faced with hollow cheeks, plus he always stank like the Smokehouse Bar when you got near him. He probably wasn’t even middle-aged. He seemed to live on Corby’s whiskey and Campbell soups, judging from his garbage, and he always looked like his stringy frame had just emerged from solitary confinement.

He was spitting tobacco juice and snarling at his new helper, John Delman, a gawky high school kid.

“When I get the wheel jacked off the ground, you crawl down there and put that chunk of wood under the frame.”

He cranked on the jack handle until the back wheel was a few inches off the ground. The kid crawled under and put the block in place.

“Now, get your butt out of there and we’ll do the other side.” He lowered the jack until the axle rested on the block and they repeated the process. With the back wheels off the ground and the engine running in reverse gear, the truck became the power source for the big four-foot circular saw blade. It was the monster machine that drew the boys’ interest. It was noisy with a high-pitched whine and threw chips and sawdust around as it chewed swiftly through the logs. The right back wheel had a pulley thing welded to it. A belt was placed over that and over another one on the side of the flat bed where the blade was mounted. Old man Hansen got the belt hitched on.

“Get me that adjustable crescent out of the toolbox,” he ordered the kid.

Lance could tell by the blank look on the kid’s face he didn’t know what that was. But he went and brought back a wrench.

“Hellfire, Delman, don’tchoo know the difference between a crescent and a monkey wrench?” He spit a stream of tobacco juice, jerked the monkey wrench away from the kid, and went to the toolbox himself.

“Stupid, damn iggorunt useless sonsabitches . . . “ he was still muttering as he pulled the bed pulley until the belt was taut. Then he tightened the bolts.

“Okay, bring the blade here . . . and don’t goddamn well cut yourself on it!” He got the blade bolted on and started the truck. “Get back from that blade, kid.” he yelled and then put the gears in reverse. The whining monster started up and the potential danger of that spinning saw had the boys holding their breath. It was very like the one that had threatened the life of Pauline in one of the “Perils of Pauline” episodes.

Old man Hansen came to the back and they started to pull a log into position for cutting. Pulling on that log was all it took to get the old truck vibrating unexpectedly. The left block fell over and the spinning wheel dug into the ground. Old man Hanson gave his helper a reeling push onto the street and leaped after him as the other side hit the ground. The truck took off in reverse charging backwards, crashing and sawing its way through a nice white picket fence, taking out a platform with some garbage cans that went flying and finally stopping against the side of the neighbor’s house where it sawed it’s way into the siding until the blade bound up and killed the engine.

It was a great show. A real-life slapstick comedy routine worthy of Buster Keaton, with old man Hansen and John Delman running after it screaming and yelling like the Keystone Kops.

“Old man Hansen’s gonna get his comeuppance now,” Lance told Grinner. “He’s gonna have to pay for all that damage. That’ll kill him.”

Grinner agreed. “Yeah, he won’t be able to buy whiskey or plug tobacco for a month.”

“Look at him. He’s having a fit! I sure wouldn’t want to be in that kid’s shoes.”

Pretty soon the neighbor lady was in the middle of it. They were all yelling at each other and making a helluva fuss. The high school kid looked like he was about to bawl, but Lance and Grinner were falling down in hysterics. It tickled them to see old man Hansen in trouble. He hated kids.

He lived in a squalid little shack in the hollow behind the Lindell Hotel where he hoarded junk in his yard along with his garbage. It was hard to distinguish his prized salvage from the garbage. KennyBenny and Lance discovered the difference, when they liberated a couple wheels from a broken baby carriage for their cannon. They were certain it was part of his garbage and not his precious junk. But he told KennyBenny’s dad that he suspected the twins had stolen them. He threatened police action if he ever proved it.

Chapter 4

 

Brotherhood of the Water Rats

LANCE and Grinner walked down the riverbank to see what Carl Dunne and some kids from Carl’s neighborhood west of the river were doing.

“You guys building a raft?” Lance asked.

“We’re gonna have a war with the Lakeside Gang,” Elwood Cole piped up. He and Gerbel were pounding spikes, fixing boards across a couple of logs. Ronny, Donny and Mickey were scrounging up old boards and dragging them through the brush to the makeshift shipyard. Marilee, the only girl, was shadowing Ronny.

“Yep. First ship in our navy. You wanna join our gang?” The invitation was extended by Carl. “We’re the Brotherhood of the Water Rats.”

“I didn’t know you had a gang,” Lance replied.

“Everything this side of the foot bridge is our territory,” Carl explained. “We’re at war with the Bork Boys who think they own the river south of the footbridge, as well as with the Lakeside Gang.”

“When we get the raft done we’re gonna go over to the skating pond and cut cattails for spears,” Elwood announced.

Elwood was the shortest kid in Lance’s class, and the dirtiest. Not in the way of a sleazy mind set, but just an affinity for dirt, grime, mud, and any substance that could cling or cake to a boy. His clothes read like a menu. You could tell he had mustard two days ago and orange marmalade this morning. Having the last name, Cole, didn’t help his cause. The gang tried to come up with some kind of “coal” nickname to brand him. Unfortunately, being dirty was his only memorable quality. Otherwise he was bland, quiet, unobtrusive and pretty much invisible. He hung out with Carl and his buddies but never really participated or contributed much to their ingenious schemes.

Lance’s mother said Elwood’s mother was a lazy housekeeper and that his dad was always drunk. Even so, they lived in a better house and in a more respectable neighborhood than the Carpenters. Lance had trouble equating those assets with his mother’s opinion.

Carl Dunne was loosely in charge of the raft project. His plan wasn’t too complicated—nail the boards to the logs. He was a year older than anyone else but had flunked the fourth grade. Not because he wasn’t smart, he was just too busy planning his next exploit to do school work. He was not only tall, but he had big feet that wouldn’t stop growing. His mother bemoaned the inevitable new shoes that replaced those hardly worn. His dad, an avid hunter, told him he would take him elk hunting when Carl’s shoes were the same size as his. It looked like he had about a year to go.

Somewhere in his young years Carl had lost an eye. He wore a glass eye, perfect for irritating his teacher. He would take it out and roll it like a marble up his slanted desk, then let it roll back down, getting a tittering reaction from the girls around him.

His masterstroke, his tour de force, came on the last day of school that spring. He removed his eye, spit on his fingers and wet the empty socket. He turned around to get the attention of the shy little girl, Eileen, who sat behind him. She was writing, head down, absorbed in her work. Carl tapped on her desk and when she looked up he held his nose and blew a bubble out of his empty eye. Eileen screamed and went white.

Even with her back turned, the teacher, Mrs. Heidel, knew exactly who was behind it. She was a short, plump lady of Teutonic extraction with a fierce temperament.

“Carl Dunne! You put that eye back in your head and stand up!” she ordered. Then she strode down the aisle, reached up and grabbed Carl by one ear, and marched him to the corner. He spent the last two hours of the school year there, giggling quietly to himself.

Now, under Carl’s direction, the last board was nailed down on the raft. The boys shoved and pried until they had it floating in the river. Carl held a rope to keep it from floating off with the current. Gerbel was the first to jump on. The raft tilted and water sluiced over the boards.

“Whoa!” Gerbel caught his balance. “How we gonna make it go, Carl? Poles or Paddles?”

While Carl thought about the propulsion, Mickey got aboard. The raft, already awash, immediately sank under their weight, leaving both boys up to their knees in ugly river water.

“You guys get off,” Carl ordered. “I wanna try it.” Not ready to admit failure, he picked up a length of board for a paddle and gingerly took their place, being careful not to tilt it. The water came up over his shoes but he pushed off and started paddling. But the raft kept sinking and before he had gone ten yards it slid sideways out from under him and he had to splash his way back to shore fully clothed.

Lance and Grinner never really committed to joining the Water Rats but after the raft incident they went along to the skating pond and helped cut cattail spears. After that it was assumed, both by them and the others, that they were part of the gang.

Every gang needs foot soldiers—vanilla grunts that go blindly where they are led with a constant unshakable mien and solid devotion to duty. The Water Rats had two—Donny Gardner and Ronny Toler. They filled those requirements nicely. They were, in a word, bland. Together, they had about the personality of a faithful spaniel. They were friendly, courteous, not lazy, not talkative, and overall amazingly dull.

They came from solid families in solid family homes and their fathers had worked on the Northern Pacific straight through the depression years so they probably never had a hungry day or had to wear hand-me-down clothes or worn-out shoes. Their destiny was plain to predict. They would be solid citizens with successful careers following a C average high school experience and a C average college education.

Donny never thought things through. He never anticipated the possible consequences of his rash decisions. This mental deficiency frequently landed him in unexpected trouble. He was not destined to be a chess player.

Ronny was steadfast and methodical. He had one advantage over Donny. He had a girlfriend, although he didn’t seem aware of it. Marilee McTavish had latched on to him as a potter attacks a mound of wet clay on the wheel. She was on a mission to correct Ronny’s deficiencies and she trailed him throughout the day, checking and making adjustments. Ronny didn’t seem to mind at all.

She didn’t bother the rest of the gang. She just insinuated herself into the “brotherhood” and tagged along to give Ronny advice and fend off bad influences. She liked to show off her vocabulary and superior intellect by using polysyllabic words.

She was cute enough. Lance liked her looks, and her pigtails were always neatly tied with little velvet ribbons. Her folks were from British Columbia and liked to make sure every one knew how Scotch they were. Marilee always wore a plaid skirt as family advertising. She was partnered with Lance by their fifth grade dance teacher, but they proved incompatible. She wanted to lead but she had no rhythm: Lance wanted to lead and he was on the beat. So they made an awkward couple.

She took a fancy to Lance and wanted to adjust him but discovered he wasn’t adjustable. At first he was flattered by her interest. But he didn’t respond with any enthusiasm—if at all—to her attempts to make him more perfect. As her pursuit went on her enchantment wavered with each rejection. Finally, discouraged, she moved on to Ronny.

She probably never considered Ronny an eligible catch for her marital future. To her, he was a project. And Ronny didn’t consider her in any romantic way. He just didn’t mind her following everywhere he went. To him she was just an attachment, something extra like suspender buttons on pants with belt loops.

Lance had his own secret crush in the fifth grade. Her name was Charity—Charity Albright. She sat across the room and he would hold his book in a way that he could take a secret look at her. To Lance she was an untouchable object to be worshipped from afar. Once he dreamed that he was a Canadian Mountie and had rescued her and was taking her to safety through deep snow in his dogsled. But Charity didn’t seem to know he existed.

 

Lance had a special bond with another member of the gang through their mutual fascination with World War One fighter planes and the French Foreign Legion. Mickey Maguire was a black-haired wiry kid with a pug nose and boundless energy. He had a natural polite charm that made old ladies beam at him.

Lance was good at drawing planes, cars, tanks, and ships—anything mechanical. Inspired by a library book about the Lafayette Escadrille, he drew plans for Spads and Fokkers like those available in the kits. The two boys had finished several of these. They would place the balsa strips and glue them together to make the frameworks for fuselage and wings. Colored tissue paper made the skins. They were not meant to fly; they were only about six inches long and wouldn’t even glide. But they could zoom them around and pepper each other with verbal machine guns.

They also had a small army of hand-drawn Legionnaires with a French name and rank penciled on the back. These were garrisoned in a cardboard Fort Zinderneuf like in the novel, “Beau Geste”.

Mickey’s dad, who worked at the bank, admired their creative efforts. He could be depended on to finance another tube of airplane glue or some more balsa wood.

Gerbel was the innovator of the gang. To the kids he was Gerbel, but his real name was Gerald Bellows. Gerbel had a creative mechanical way of solving situations and his inventive mind was always active. There was an enigmatic twinkle in his eyes, a harbinger of mischief. He was the “Tom Swift” of the gang. He was also the best at practical jokes and hair-brained schemes. On those dog days of summer when they played out all the obvious possibilities for amusement, Gerbel would fill in the void with a plan that sounded reasonable, sensible and possible. Gerbel’s dad ran a service station so he always had access to some tool they needed. He stoically took the heat when one came up missing.

Chapter 5

 

Power of the Press

 

IT’S A UNIVERSAL truth that the politician who controls the media holds the power. Lance wasn’t privy to that knowledge as a sixth-grader, but it proved out in microcosm. Donny had made a homemade mimeograph. It consisted of a mixture of gelatin and stuff set up in a cookie sheet that he learned how to do in cub scouts. To use it, you wrote on special paper with special ink and laid that on the surface. After that a few sheets of regular paper could be pressed on it to make copies.

This new technology fit right into Lance’s latest idea, an idea inspired by The Three Musketeers movie. Lance drew up a map of an island kingdom and separated it into princedoms, dukedoms, earldoms and so on. Each had a different color and different name. Lance showed it to Carl.

***

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The Inglorious Brotherhood

  • Author: Rod Fisher
  • Published: 2017-07-26 03:35:10
  • Words: 31733
The Inglorious Brotherhood The Inglorious Brotherhood