|The Adventures of|
Several Unknown People
- - -I. An Old Man's Afternoon- - -
Troy Wakeman was sitting reading the morning paper. It was something he
always did and he always did it at the same time. After he had eaten lunch
and just before he went to his bedroom for an afternoon nap, he read the paper.
He had a very set and somewhat curious way of reading. First came
sports,then the comics, followed by the world news. And finally he would
carefully scan the obituaries. If he found the report of a particular death
exceptionally fascinating, he would read it over several times.
Troy didn't realize that he had a certain way of reading the paper, he just
did it. Nor did he realize that he always read the paper right before he
took his nap. What almost any person observing Troy would have found most
strange, is that he had been reading the same paper every day for six years.
These habits of his, if one could call them that, had been going on for the
six years since Troy's wife had died. His wife's name had been Amelia.
Although she was 77 years old when she passed away, her death had not been
expected. She did not have any illness and she hadn't suffered for a long
period of time, as many people her age do. Amelia had actually been in
excellent health. And except for the occasional cold or attack of arthritic
pain, she was as healthy as a newborn.
That is, until that April morning. It was on that typical, rather typically
disastrous morning that she was driving her rust-laden orange roadster
towards home, returning from a trip to town. She had gone in to buy the
paper for Troy as she did everyday. She was happier than normal that morning
because her sister from Dumont, New Jersey, was going to arrive in town that
day for a visit. She hadn't seen her sister Emily in nearly five years. That
was how long it had been since their brother had died. They had seen each
other the day of the funeral and not once since.
She was in an overly cheery mood. So cheery, in fact, that as she drove
down Pendlemanger rd., she didn't see the fire truck coming and she failed
to brake at the stop sign. The fire truck broadsided her Roadster with all
the force of a falling meteor, totaling her car and turning her body into a
crumpled ball of bloody flesh.
Amelia didn't know who was driving that truck when she saw it a split
second before the end of her life. Had she known, she would have probably
said that she was not at all surprised. She said that a lot when she was
alive. Whenever Troy related a story to her that he found particularly mind
twisting, which was often, she said, "You know Troy, I'm not at all surprised."
The person who drove the truck and took Troy's wife away from him was none
other than Ernie Barts. The very same Ernie Barts who, as a bully in Troy's
sixth grade class, had beaten him up. The cause of their altercations was
Troy's persistent refusal to part with his lunch, or lunch money, as the
case might be on a specific day.
Troy didn't remember Ernie or the incident in sixth grade. It is unlikely
he would have realized it was the same Ernie Barts even if he did remember.
It was really by sheer coincidence that Troy and Ernie ended up in the same
town so many years after sixth grade. Ernie's family had moved to a
different state after eighth grade. Merely by chance or dumb luck, Troy and
Amelia had settled there the year after Troy's enlistment in the service had
Had Troy known that it was the same Ernie Barts he would not have cared
in the least. It is true that Ernie had taken Troy's lunch or money every day
for about two months. But Troy was not one to remember what he considered
minor incidents. He was also not one to hold a grudge very long. Troy was
oblivious to many things. The most positive sign he showed of this was that
he read the same issue of the paper every day without noticing. He found the
paper informative every time he read it. He could often be heard commenting
to himself while reading certain stories.
"You don't say, well I'll be darned," The list of comments he made seemed
to change everyday.
The lead story was about a town in Maine where there had been flash floods
the day before. Every time he read it he had a reaction along the lines of
feeling sorry for the people and wishing there was something he could do.
And every time he read the sports page and found out that the New York
Yankees had won the World Series, he was content inside. In addition to
those things, the comics amused him each and every time he read them. And he
always felt particularly sorry for the survivors of the people listed in the
The newspaper itself was the same one his wife had bought the day she
left earth. A police officer by the name of Amos Delton went to Troy's apartment
to give him the bad news about his wife. This is what he said:
"Uh...Mr. Wakeman, sir...uh, I hate to tell you this but we believe your
wife passed away in a car accident, about an hour ago. We would appreciate
it, if you could come down to identify the body as soon as you feel up to it."
Troy had no immediate reaction to his wife's death, as far as the officer
could tell. He went down to the morgue with Delton right away and identified
the remains as Mrs. Wakeman. After signing a piece of paper he began to walk
out. The police officer stopped him and said,
"Mr. Wakeman we found these near the wreckage, we assumed
they were your wife's"
Delton handed Troy a bag containing a coat, a purse, and the issue of the
newspaper he was to begin reading that day.
"Thanks, I appreciate it," was all Troy said as he walked out and
After going home he ate lunch, read the paper, and then took a nap. He
didn't realize that he had just started a routine that would last close to
Later in the day his sister-in-law called to be picked up at the airport.
Troy told her what happened, and she decided to stay at a hotel.
"In that case I'll stay at a hotel. I don't think I could stand seeing your
place without Amelia there," she said.
She stayed for the funeral and then went back to New Jersey. Troy did not
go to the funeral. He told his sister-in-law he was too busy. She realized
that it was because Troy could not accept the loss of his wife yet. Although
his sister-in-law tried writing him on sever occasions, Troy never wrote back.
From the day his wife died, Troy only left the apartment to buy necessities
or get his hair cut. Being retired did have it's good points, he thought. At
least he didn't have to go to work.
But although he didn't know it yet, things were going to change. And even
though that very afternoon about six years after his wife's death he would
become whole again, he had no clue.
He felt very warm right before he started reading the paper so he opened a
window. And as he sat there reading the paper his attention was drawn
outside. As he looked out the dusty window he saw kids, many kids. They were
all out in the street playing stick ball. And at that instant a smile spread
across Troy's face for the first time in almost six years. Up until that
point a smile had not been even hinted at on the face of Troy Wakeman since
the day his wife had died. Actually, he had not smiled that often when his
wife had been alive.
He did not even have time to realize that he was smiling. Because as he did
his mind was filled with heartfelt memories. They were of his youth. It was
during that time when a bully such as Ernie Barts could put a dent in his
day but not totally ruin it. The reason for this is that no matter how Troy
felt, there was one truth in his life. He knew that when he went home after
school he could play stick ball, This thought alone was enough to get him
through the worst day at school, and through all that characters like Barts
could dish out.
Troy would go home, and along with his brother Teddy and friends Barney and
Ed, they would play. The game would last until it got too dark to play or
until one of their mothers yelled out that it was time to come home for
dinner. But until that time came, they played on. The street was their
field. The rules were understood by all and amended when necessary. There
were different types of necessity in the sport they so enjoyed.
There were seemingly foolish things which made it interesting. Like the
Maber's green car blocking off the right field area, but becoming the marker
to clear for a home run. Troy and his friends didn't much like the Mabers
back then. The Mabers parked their car in right field on a consistent basis.
Yet they were compelled to complain if a ball hit their green hunk of shit.
The Maber's car really was no prize. Over the years, because it was old,
green and in need of a new muffler, it became a neighborhood joke even among
the adults of the area. The only thing funnier than their car was the way
Mr. Maber dressed. Though a fairly successful owner of his own shoe store,
Maber had a laughable look to him.
He always had the very latest in footwear. But the rest of his outfit made
one forget his shoes. Checkered pants with bright colors were his standard.
With these he usually wore a striped shirt, polka dot tie and a vest of
brown and grey material. The vest was the same every day. It was as far from
being hip as his shoes were close to being hip. He topped it all off with a
hat that any senior citizen would be proud of. Little did he know that the
entire neighborhood was laughing at him.
But the Maber's car was only one of the reasons why they might be forced to
adjust the rules. Spring cleaning always brought huge pile of garbage out of
the neighbors/ house onto the curbs. They quickly became bases or home run
markers. But no matter what the rules or how long they played, they had fun.
That was what Troy remembered. Fun. He felt good and longed to be a kid
again so he could have fun. But then a thought struck him. What if he went
outside and asked the kids to let him play? They seemed nice. They wouldn't
turn down an old man, would they? So Troy changed into some comfortable
clothes and ran outside....
- - -II. End Of The Line- - -
Dell Parker dressed quickly. He needed to get ready and begin work on that
project his boss had assigned. It hadn't been a good week at work. Dell had
heard rumors that if this report he had to prepare was not all the boss
expected, he would be canned. That, along with his breakup the night before
with his girlfriend of two years, and his dog running away was really
putting a damper on his week. Dell finally got dressed and walked into the
kitchen of his cramped apartment. He would work here so as not to be
disturbed by people at work. He sat down and began to compute figures and
consult manuals relating to the report when the phone rang, It was his
"Listen Glen, I'd really love to talk but I'm really swamped with work,"
Dell said. Glen didn't say anything for a moment and them he said,
"It's Ralph. He was killed in a fire early this morning. I thought I should
call and tell you."
"Oh my God, that can't be," was Dell's only reaction to the death of one of
his close friends.
He hung up the phone with Glen only a few moments later and returned to do
his work. That's all I needed, another distraction, was the only real
thought going through his mind. He didn't feel as bad about his friends'
death as he had a moment before. He was angry that Ralph could be so
uncaring as to die when Dell had so many other problems to worry about.
But even as he tried not to care, he felt the pressure build. He needed to
relax and he didn't know how. He tried turning on the television and found
that the only interesting thing there was to watch was an old television
movie called Rescue From Gilligan's Island. After watching that for half an
hour he became restless and started flipping channels. He turned on the news
and was further irked when he found out that his favorite prime time show,
which had been on for eight years, had just been canceled. It wasn't the
most important thing in the world, but added to his other problems, it
really pissed him off.
Dell decided that a drive might be just the thing to calm his nerves. So he
hopped in his Beetle and made his way down the road. After he had gone about
two miles he realized that he had a flat tire. He didn't have a spare. Dell
got out of the car and walked away. He had no desire to call a tow truck.
And besides, even if he had wanted to he didn't have any money. As he walked
home the rage built up inside him. He picked up stones and just threw them
as far as he could. He got angrier and angrier when he couldn't throw a
stone as far as the imaginary marker he had set up for each one.
He finally got home and found a message on his answering machine that the
dog he had reported lost the day before had been found dead.
"I can't believe my fucking dog is dead," were the only words he said. He
felt that his dog, Dartaniun, was the only one who really understood him.
And now Dartaniun was gone.
Dell finally decided to reach into his liquor cabinet for a drink. That
would really help. He pulled out a bottle of Jack Daniels. His friend Jack
had never let him down yet, so he was hoping he wouldn't start now. Dell
drank until the bottle was gone. Some he mixed with coke and some he drank
straight but he drank almost a whole fifth of J.D. He started to walk around
but he slipped and fell in front of the liquor cabinet. He pulled out a
bottle of Absolut Vodka and began drinking from it. He didn't need a glass.
He wouldn't have been able to find one anyway. Eventually he passed out.
The next thing he heard was,
"Dell, Dell wake up!" It was his ex-girlfriend.
"What the fuck do you want, you whore?" Dell asked from where he was lying
in a pool of vodka.
"I came here to try and mend things up with you and that's how you react.
Well to hell with you, you prick. Don't even try to call me!" She said as
she raged from the house.
After she had gone he got up and realized that he felt like shit. Did he
really need all this? What was the use? Maybe he should have another drink.
No, he knew that wouldn't help. So he went over and sat by the window. He
had a headache that he figured was going to last the better part of the
week. He opened the window because it was warm. He sat there wondering what
he had to live for. His friend was dead, his dog was dead, he'd probably
lose his job, his girlfriend was gone for good and he had no idea where his
Then he started to hear really loud noise coming from outside. It was
those bratty neighborhood kids playing stick ball again. He always hated
that game, even as a kid. He yelled down for them to shut up but nothing
changed. His head was pounding and those kids weren't helping him. He'd shut
them up no matter what he had to do. He returned to his cramped kitchen and
pulled out a meat cleaver. As he was making his way through his living room,
he grabbed a bottle of liquor and took a swig from it. Then he ran toward
the street with the meat cleaver in his hand....
- - -III. Fifth Grade Blues- - -
"Who can tell me what happened in the story we read for homework last
night?" Mrs. Dildunkle said. Toby sat at his desk and secretly hoped the
teacher wouldn't call on him. He hadn't read the story. And to put it in his
own words, he didn't want to look like a goofball.
"Mark, do you know the answer?" The teacher asked.
"It's about this guy who steals money from rich people and gives it to poor
people," Mark said.
"No mark that's Robin Hood. We read that last week. Now go see Principal
Parker. You can explain to him why you didn't do your homework," Mrs.
Dildunkle said in an annoyed tone of voice.
Toby realized that if he was called on he would have to go see the
principal again. He'd already gone to see him three times and it was only
Wednesday. Toby didn't do his homework anymore. He used to do his homework
when it was easy. No one seemed to understand that fifth grade was a lot
harder than fourth. There were all sorts of things he had to learn: Social
Studies, Math, Spelling and Reading.
Toby thought fourth grade had been a lot easier. He didn't have as much
homework to do then. And when he did have a lot his mom helped him. His mom
didn't help him with his homework anymore. She died last year during his
summer vacation. His whole family was supposed to go to Disneyland. But when
his mom died they canceled the trip.
Since the time his mom died, Toby's dad didn't go out any more. He only
goes to work. All he does when he gets home is cook dinner for Toby and his
little sister Suzie. Then he drinks a lot of beer.
Toby doesn't like the way his father acts when he drinks beer. One time his
dad drank a lot of beer. Then he beat up Toby and Suzie. Toby didn't know
why, he hadn't done anything wrong.
"Toby, do you know what happened in the story?" The teacher asked.
"No I don't Mrs. Dildunkle," Toby said as he shrank back into his chair.
"Well, you can go to principal Parker too," she responded.
Toby got up from his chair and slowly made his way towards principal
Parker's office. He knew the routine by now. In fact he could practically
recite word for word, what the principal would say to him. First he would
have him sit down. Then after he looked at Toby for a few moments, trying to
make him nervous, he'd speak.
"What are we going to do with you, young man?" He'd ask Toby.
"You just can't continue like this," he'd add. Usually after this second
line Toby would speak up,
"Principal Parker, I promise I'll try harder."
"Well Toby, I hope so, but you realize I'll have to give you a detention
for not doing your work. Hopefully, if you straighten yourself out, this
will be the last time. You know I don't like doing this, but I have no
choice," the principal usually said.
That was the part that really bothered Toby: detention. It wasn't, however,
the detention itself that bothered him. He didn't enjoy sitting in a room
for an hour staring at the walls, but he could live with it. It was what he
might miss that upset him.
Every afternoon Toby and a few of his friends got together to play stick
ball. The only time they didn't play was when the weather was really bad.
Usually, they started right after school and played for nine innings. The
only time they played more or less than nine innings was when they had to.
They only had to if they got rained out or if they went extra innings
because of a tie.
When Toby had detention, he usually missed most of the game.
As he walked, he hoped that principal Parker wouldn't give him a detention
this time, but he did. After getting his usual speech and detention, Toby
returned to class.
For the rest of the day, Toby paid no attention to what Mrs. Dildunkle had
to say. He really didn't care about school. His mother's death had left him
with nothing to love but stick ball. His father was usually too drunk to pay
him any attention. And his sister was too young to understand. He wished he
could skip school and play stick ball all day.
Toby counted the seconds to the end of the school day. He then marched off
to the detention room and took his usual chair by the door.
For sixty minutes Toby practically stared at his watch, hoping for
detention to end. Finally Mr. Blindle the teacher whose turn it was to watch
the kids said,
"Detention is over. I hope you all learned your lesson. You can go now."
Toby ran from the room, the school, and towards home to play stick ball....
- - -Epilogue- - -
Troy Wakeman went outside and asked the kids to let him play stick ball.
The captain from each of the two teams, Jerry and Randy, had a meeting.
"What do you think Jerry?" Randy asked.
"Well, it's kind of weird to play with an old guy. But if he wants to play,
maybe he's cool," answered Jerry.
"I guess so. We'll let him play and see how it goes," said Randy.
They told Troy he could play, and he practically jumped for joy. The only
problem was that Troy's participation would make the teams uneven in number.
Just as they were about to flip a coin to see who would get the extra man
Toby ran up.
"I finally got out of detention guys," Toby said. When he saw Troy and said
kind of quietly to Randy,
"Who's the old guy?"
"That's Mr. Wakeman Toby. He wants to play stick ball so we said okay,"
"I guess it's alright. Well, let's get started. I'll be on Jerry's team," Toby said.
Just as they began playing Dell Parker came running and screaming out of
his apartment with the meat cleaver in his hands. As soon as they saw him
they froze in their tracks. Well, all of them but Toby. As Dell ran towards
them, Toby approached Dell.
"Would you stop it? We're trying to play stick ball," Toby said.
"Yes, please don't interrupt our game sir," Troy said.
"Shut up you old fool!" Dell screamed as he threw the meat cleaver through
the air, in no particular direction. At the same moment Toby ran into Dell
trying to tackle him. Dell however picked him up and threw him aside causing
him to bang his head severely on a fire hydrant.
As blood poured from Toby's skull the meat cleaver hit Troy in the
chest and sent him to the pavement.
A police vehicle arrived shortly thereafter with an ambulance. Troy and
Toby were taken to the hospital. Dell was arrested and placed under
psychiatric care. He died in a mental institute, by his own hand at the age of 53.
Troy died peacefully several days later and went on to meet his wife in the
afterlife. His blood was used to save Toby's life.
The incident during the stick ball game made Toby appreciate life again. He
went on to...