Saturday, March 5, 2016

Personal Challenge #4 - The Second of February, 1948

With both Mom and Dad away at work, Charlie cranked up the radio Father had bought them when he finally returned from Warm Springs, Georgia... the station was playing a current favorite: Civilization (Bongo Bongo Bongo) by Danny Kaye and the Andrews Sisters. 

This is a work of fiction; anything resembling reality is a figment of your imagination.

To see the image sources for the photos, go Here and scroll down.

Uncle Harrison, Harry for short, Mom's younger brother, would be here in a half hour to sit with Charlie, at which time he would be ordered to 'turn off that racket!'... Charlie was hoping his super duper favorite, Buddy Rich, would come on before his uncle's arrival. Mom had taken a job watching Mrs. Cameron's twins two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, to help pay the hospital and doctor bills. The fees for rehabilitation at Warm Springs had been paid for by what was now being called the March of Dimes. President Roosevelt, who'd also had polio, had started the charity before he died. It helped a lot of people, adults and kids both, and he'd had a lot of friends there. He'd had a lot of friends here before he got the polio, but two years in the hospital and rehabilitation plus being stuck inside in this big, old wheelchair left him out of things. His old friends had come once or twice but he could tell they were gagging to get outside, so he'd waved them off and watched wistfully from the window as they leapt from the porch and ran off to join in a game of street ball. It wasn't long before they stopped coming around.

Hearing the back door open, Charlie turned off the radio; Uncle Harry had been awfully funny about loud noise since coming back from the Pacific Theater. The refrigerator opened, snicked shut, and today's lunch was shoved into the oven before a tall, thin man with graying ginger hair came through to the living room. " Brought you a new Kid Colt Outlaw comic, Charlie." The older man's voice was quiet, not the booming laughter-filled voice Charlie remembered filling the house when he was younger... "Found you a new aggie too; try to remember not to leave it on the windowsill this time." He placed comic and marble on the table beside the wheelchair and turned to go. "Hey, want to play some chess after lunch, Uncle H?" Charlie called after him. "Sure Charlie, whatever you want..." his uncle said, then left.

Lunch, chess and being helped to the bathroom (Charlie was over being embarrassed by the latter after two years of it) filled two hours, but the remainder of a long, long day needed to be filled. Unable to attend school because of all the stairs, Charlie was taught at home in a rather hit or miss fashion. A pity; since he couldn't use his body to dissipate all his immense energy, he needed something to fasten his mind on instead. Sitting by his bedroom window, eating a Moon Pie and peanuts and tossing the shells to the ground below, he stared outside; watching the crow which had stolen his best aggie three weeks before. A crow he called Winston but only to himself, of course. 'Why he's got my aggie!' he thought, 'what is that crazy crow up to?'

And crazy is exactly how Winston looked: swooping to the ground, tilting his head back and forth as he hopped up and down, then suddenly taking to the air; backwinging at times before landing a little further off. Sure enough, Charlie's old aggie was flashing in Winston's beak.



As afternoon turned to dusk, Charlie heard his parents return to the house; neither of them worked far from home, so they walked rather than take the car. Soft-voiced conversation began between the three adults as soon as they all reached the kitchen, probably about him, but the boy took little notice because he heard scrabbling in the bushes outside his bedroom. Grabbing his flashlight, he aimed it and caught a chubby little mischief maker in it's beam.



Winston flew to the windowsill, flapped twice - blowing Charlie's hair in his eyes - and dropped the aggie into the boy's hand, before grabbing a peanut and tossing it to the waiting raccoon. 'Costello' thought Charlie, 'Costello Coon because he reminds me of Lou Costello'. Charlie could imagine the raccoon saying "I'm a baaaaaaaaad boy!" just like Lou Costello did, and laughed for the first time in months.

The adult's voices were abruptly silenced as three sets of footsteps hurried toward his door. "Everything okay in there, Charlie?" came his mother's voice, as his father swung open the door. Not knowing what to say, Charlie just nodded as he pointed out the window, where Winston had joined Costello; then held his old aggie out on the palm of his hand. Uncle Harry startled them all by chuckling a big, fat, juicy chuckle before turning to his sister: "Well, Martha, unless I'm sorely mistaken our nephew Joey will be showing up soon, looking for his pet raccoon."

"Well, Lord have mercy," drawled Charlie's mother, a slow smile spreading over her face, " another redheaded boy? They'll eat me out of house and home."

And now: A bit about Charlie, before he was sick; many thanks to Elephant's Child for the Words For Wednesday inspiration. (Click on the blog title to visit her.)

Young Charles was a freckle-faced imp of a ginger, eight years old and 'full of the devil' as his grandmother often said. His mother was always on the hunt for ways to ENHANCE his school holidays, preferably somewhere FAR from the house for at least part of every day. 

It wasn't so much that Charlie was bad as much as it was purely rambunctious cussedness and he was clever with it; nearly as clever as he thought he was. There was, f'rinstance, the time he decided to SEEK treasure by digging in Mr. Hamblin's garden. (His father's hand had to CONNECT rather firmly to Charlie's backside before he could be persuaded to stop.) Then there was the time he caught a young skunk and tried to get it to spray Miss Dean's three-legged dog, Tippy...

Sighing, Charlie's mother pushed her hair out of her eyes. 'This should work' she thought to herself, before calling her ENERGETIC son down from the apple tree. Trailing her to the shed at the back of the garden, expecting to have to clean it, he reluctantly pulled open the door. Once his eyes had adjusted to the gloom of the miraculously clean shed Charlie gave a great shout; inside sat the most desirable INSTRUMENT for bored, energetic little boys: a set of gleaming drums!



23 comments:

  1. haha drums sure can amuse, as long as they are far far away from the house and neighbors.

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    1. That's why they were stuck in the shed at the back of the garden, lol.

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  2. Love the post-WW2 setting. I wondered why he was told not to leave the second aggie on the windowsill . . . .

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  3. I wish you were around to tell me bedtime stories when I was young. You're amazing!

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    1. I practiced on the kidlings; there was a particular night, telling stories beneath a misty full moon with my arms full of kidlings just on the cusp of being 'too old'... Possibly my favourite memory. =)

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  4. Wow.
    I love the direction that Charlie's story has taken - and the humour and pathos that the story is PACKED with.

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    1. EC, thank you so much! WFW inspired this particular tale, after all.

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  5. Loved the story. Especially the humour. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

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  6. I loved reading about Charlie, and Winston seems like he's becoming Charlie's friend, which is nice. Sad that he is confined to a wheelchair, perhaps the adult conversations were about finding some sort of therapy to help him?

    Enjoyed the drum battle, but have to say I think Buddy Rich's drums sound better.
    I really like the header picture of the old house :D

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    1. Thank you River! There wasn't room to include all the information I would have liked, but the late President Roosevelt's facility at Warm Springs, Georgia was the foremost rehabilitation facility (primarily for polio) of the time. Methinks Charlie and Joey... the owner of Costello the raccoon... are destined to become friends as well, at least the adults seem to think so. I agree with you about Buddy Rich.
      Isn't that a great old house? Sadly, it's abandoned.

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  7. I do so love drums and have done since I was a small child. Since those days so long ago I've always been a Gene Krupa fan...a huge Krupa fan. I had a glossy photo of him on my bedroom wall when I was a child.

    I love your story...I love your use of the words...I love that house!

    Well done on all counts! :)

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  8. A school friend of mine had Polio, and it left him with a useless dangling left arm which just hung. He went on to become a professor of Chinese studies at Oxford University.

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    1. A similar story here Cro, (btw, what's a nice man like you doing hanging around a place like this??) a schoolmate and longtime friend caught Polio in the last big wave here in the US. Her left leg is a little over three inches shorter than her right, but it hasn't slowed her down a bit. She currently runs the city and county probation and rehabilitation services as well as being a very active grandmother.

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  9. This is written so wonderfully! Took me right in and made me feel like I was reading the books I loved years ago when I actually took the time to sit down and read.

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    1. Thanks Rosey, glad to see you here!

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  10. very inspiring to read this, wish I could write like that. And love the photos too.

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    1. And I wish I could take photos like you do! Thank you. =)

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  11. Not sure which I loved more, the story or those drums! I played the video twice. Charlie seems pretty quick minded and creative. Great story!

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  12. a really really beautiful and very interesting portrait of amazing words ,enjoyed each turn of it dear thank you for lovely sharing

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  13. Everyone's talking about the drums and I'm still sitting here singing, "Bongo bongo bongo I don't want to leave the Congo oh no no no no nooo..."

    I love the story, I love Charlie as a character (poor kid), and I especially love the setting/old references. Any kid that loves Abbott and Costello is okay by us.

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C'mon, be cranky and let 'er rip!