Thursday, September 07, 2017

Charlie Swanson's Bland Angelic Face

FROG HOSPITAL -- Sept. 7, 2017

By Fred Owens

But first the news. Harvey has been surpassed by Irma. Houston is off the media radar as Irma comes swooping down. This is actually kind -- to let the people of Houston work on their recovery without the harsh glare of national press.

DACA and the Dreamers......Trump will lose this one in a big way. Never mind the legal and social arguments against him, Trump loses on the optics. Just the name makes them winners -- the Dreamers! How can you be against them? The Dreamers are earnest young men and woman who speak English as well as you and I do.  They clearly don't belong anywhere else but here. They know and love this country. We gave them the keys long ago. We gave them this gift of American freedom and there is no taking it back.

Charlie Swanson's Bland Angelic Face

By Fred Owens

This an excerpt form a book I'm writing about when I was ten years old.

I rode my bike up Forest Ave, past MacGregor’s red brick house, past where the Mays lived in a small wooden house with a large number of blonde-haired dimwitted children with runny noses, if they were young, or hot rod autos under repair if they were teenagers, past Mr. Schaeffer’s house, who worked at the post office and who hired me to help mow lawns in his part-time landscape business – but that was years later in high school. Past Schaeffer’s house and right across the street was Mr. Linke’s house.  Mr. Linke had a wife and one or two children. They must have loved him because he was exceedingly ugly, like he got a bad case of acne when he was a teenager and every year after that it got worse until he was fifty and his face was scar-ravaged like a tropical disease, and his watery blue eyes, and his misbegotten rotten teeth.
But he smiled so much. He always smiled and laughed when he pushed the mop and bucket down the terrazzo floors of the school. Mr. Linke was the school janitor. And the house he lived in came with the job.
Past his house because next was the convent where the Franciscan nuns lived, must have been twenty of them. They never came out and you could see nothing through the closed windows with drapes and shades pulled down.
There was a street entrance to the convent with concrete steps leading to a formal front door with a knocker and a door bell. I never saw anybody come in or out that door.  That was the convent made of tawny brick, two stories, built in the mid 1930s.
Past the cemetery, a small cemetery, where my older sister Mary Elizabeth was buried in 1974, but I am getting ahead of myself now, because in 1956 she was alive and well and the oldest of five children.
Past the cemetery where the American Legion soldiers fired their guns with blank ammunition after the Memorial Day parade.
Past the cemetery to the Drugstore to buy candy bars.  They cost a nickel. I threw my bike on the sidewalk, took two steps up to the door, entering the drugstore, and then two more steps up to the counter where the candy bars were. I picked a Snickers or a Milky Way often enough. Three Musketeers was bigger but not as tasty. I liked Clark bars now and then and sometimes tried a few others, but most often it was Snickers or a Milky Way.
And you gave her the nickel, her being the tall grey-haired woman behind the counter, who never smiled or frowned. She just took your nickel. It didn’t matter to her. I got orange popsicles for 8 cents, the kind with two sticks. I liked root beer popsicles the best, but they were often sold out, and so I got orange and sometimes cherry.
I don’t know where I got this idea because nobody else did it. Or nobody told me about it, but I started stealing candy bars. And not from the Drugstore. I was dimly aware not to crap in my own sweet spot and leave the Drugstore for honest candy. Besides that, the tall, grey-haired lady was always watching behind the counter.  No, I stole from the grocery store over across Lake Street. I could put a couple of Milky Ways in my pants pocket down the aisle where no one was looking and just waltz right out of the store. Free candy. I kept stealing candy bars and I never told my friends, just ate them myself.
Charlie Swanson lived two houses down from the grocery store in a tall and narrow wooden house, lived there with his older sister and his parents.  He was an altar boy with an angelic pose. He had this kind of bland personality, not too much fun. I didn’t play with him. But there he was one day just standing outside the door of the grocery store when I came out with pockets bulging with Milky Ways, and I made the mistake of bragging – that’s how you always get caught – “Charlie, look what I got, and I stole them. Just took them. Do you want some?”  
If Charlie was shocked it didn’t show on his bland, angelic face. He said, “That’s wrong. That’s stealing. You shouldn’t take candy bars like that. I’m going to tell the manager you stole them.”
I turned red as a beet and got really scared. I knew it was wrong, and now he knew, and pretty soon the manager would know and then my parents. I was scared. I ran off, around the corner to the front of the Drugstore. I ate the candy bars quickly.  I never stole candy bars again after that.
It was not like Charlie Swanson was my best friend or anything. He was just someone in my class and I went over to his house a few times. But this kind of put a strain on things. Telling on me!
Two years later, Mrs. Swanson was getting out of her bathtub. She slipped and fell, banged her head on the side of the bath tub and died, just like that. We all went to the funeral. Charlie followed his mother’s coffin with his bland, angelic face. Of course he was sorrowful but it didn’t show.  I wasn’t mad at him anymore for telling on me.
My whole life changed because of Mrs. Swanson dying in her own bathroom, a perfectly healthy mom, and then she died. I became an adventurer and risk taker. I roamed the world as a man and took my chances, some very foolish chances and all because of Mrs. Swanson -- because why play it safe? Why stay home? You could die in your bathtub.

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thank you,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

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