Old Black Maggie – Episode 36

thKTGQBEDFA Far Away Place

Gary rode his bike to the drugstore. He parked the bike in the rear and walked around to the front door. He constantly looked around. He looked for anyone who might be a Gravedigger or Old Black Maggie. “This is no way to live,” he thought. Fear pumped through his body with each corpuscle of blood. He slid inside the drugstore like a hunted criminal. He ordered a Coke and waited for Beez; it was near time for him to show up.

In five minutes Beez strolled in. One look at Gary and he knew something was wrong. Gary appeared tense and distracted by every movement beyond the walls of the drugstore.

“What’s wrong?” Beez said.

“I’ll tell you after you order,” Gary said so the girl behind the counter would not interrupt or overhear.

After Beez got his coke Gary said, “Let’s move to a booth.”

In the booth Gary told Beez about the encounter with The Gravediggers, the problems with his parents, and reviewed all the circumstances surrounding Old Black Maggie.

Beez listened with great interest. At times he appeared in distress and full of empathy for Gary’s predicament.

“What do I do, Beez?” Gary said with glassy eyes. “You’re the only one I can talk to, you’ve been my only friend through this whole thing.”

“I don’t know off hand what I can do,” Beez said. “You may be in the best position to answer that. How far are you willing to go? What are you willing to do?”

“Beez,” Gary said. “Take me some place away from here, anyplace. You know places all over the world. Just someplace I can go until this all goes away. No one has to know.

I just disappear. My parents will be okay. They don’t have to know. In fact, it is best that way.”

“I don’t know if I can do that,” Beez said. “You don’t have a passport, you are a minor, and…” Beez stroked his chin. “I suppose something could be arranged, but this is risky business. I could get in a lot of trouble.”

“Please, Beez,” Gary said. He reached across the table and laid his hand on top of Beez’s hand.

Beez placed his other hand on top of Gary’s. “You know I love you and you love me. We can do this.”

“Can you be at my place at one in the morning?” Beez said. “Bring nothing; not even your bike, walk.”

“Do you have something in mind?” Gary said.

“Yes,” Beez said.

“Can you tell me anything about it?” Gary said.

Beez smiled. “Yes, it will be warm and far from here. You will like everything about it. You’re not afraid of flying are you?”

“I’ve never flown,” Gary said.

“It’s safer than walking through the park,” Beez said. “Your worries are over, right now. Just don’t worry anymore. You will never have to worry ever again.”

“Thank you, Beez,” Gary said. “I will do whatever you ask of me to repay you.”

Beez smiled and patted Gary’s hand. “Now let’s part and we’ll meet at my place at one.”


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Old Black Maggie – Episode 35


Gary ran home. He raced upstairs to his room. He reached inside his closet and grabbed a baseball bat. He was unsure what he might do with it, but it was going to be with him. At first he envisioned finding the boy alone who stole his bike and threatening him with the bat.

He thought about enlisting in some way the help of Beez. At this point it was impossible for him to reach out to his dad. He could not muster enough friends to confront The Gravediggers. Besides everyone was afraid of them.

With his beret snuggly on his head and a tight grip on the bat he walked toward the neighborhood of The Gravediggers.

Little was on his mind except for retrieving his bike. Not even Old Black Maggie was in his thoughts. At times he thought about Beez and if the bike was retrieved how proud he would be of him. He thought of Beez’s smile and approval. It was important to Gary. Success was vital.

From a distance of a half a block Gary saw a corner house with a grassy bank. On the bank were six bikes. He moved slowly and watched for any movement from the house.

He discerned the house must belong to one parents of a member of The Gravediggers. The door was open. There was no screen door. The house was in need of painting.

The porch had rotted boards. Weeds were in equal amounts with the grass.

Gary moved slowly and closer to the yard. He heard the boys inside the house talking loud, swearing. and laughing.

Gary spotted his bike. He grabbed it and moved it slowly and quietly to the side walk. He slowly pushed the kickstand down with his foot. He carefully adjusted it for a quick mount. He gripped the bat tightly with both hands. The sweet taste of revenge was tightly held between his teeth. He beat the bikes like a mad man beating a hoard of attacking rats. Saliva spewed from his mouth. Within a seconds spokes were broken, tires flattened, rims bent; every bike in sight received the culmination of his wrath.

Gary stopped. He breathed heavy and looked up toward the house hoping one lone Gravedigger might challenge him. Suddenly the house was quiet. A face pulled back a torn and tattered curtain in the front window.

Gary stared at him defiantly and hastened to his bike. “Take that! Come out and get me you freaks! You’re cowards by yourself. Bak, bak, bak! Chickens! Here, chicky. Her chicky.” For some unknown reason he whirled the bat overhead and flung it toward the window. It crashed through the window. Gary stood on the peddle of his bike, pushed off with one leg and thrust all his weight downward with the other. He sped away without looking back.

It was more fearsome and exhilarating than the night at Old Black Maggie’s As the distance became great between him and The Gravedigger‘s house he became aware he was now marked. He would no longer be safe either from Old Black Maggie who might try to capture the stolen beret or The Gravediggers who would for certain seek vengeance.

More than ever he needed to get away. Beez was the only one that could possibly help. The law or parents would be out of the question since both of his deeds were illegal.



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Old Black Maggie – Episode 34

thQK7Y04T7The Bike

The next day Gary wore the beret. It was more to do with wanting to have Old Black Maggie see him with it than defiance against parental control. It had taken on a symbolic meaning. I signified his bravery and freedom from Old Black Maggie. If for no one but himself it made him feel better.

Donnie and Whipper were sworn to secrecy, yet they treated him with respect and honor. Without them saying why, others noticed and he appeared a notch ahead of others. There was nothing Gary excelled in and this gave him a cause for pride in himself – he was an individual, a brave individual.

He rode his bike toward the drugstore through the park, a familiar pathway. He tucked his beret in his shirt after it hand blown off his head. He turned in a bend in the pathway, ahead of him five boys on bikes were near the path. There was a sixth without a bike. From a distance they looked familiar. They were boys from another neighborhood, from closer to downtown. He didn’t know their names, only their reputations, tough guys – a gang.

Gary did not want to appear cowardly and turn around. He peddled forward. As he approached them they converged on the pathway and blocked him in.

Gary stood straddling his bike. “What do you guys want?”

The boy without the bike walked around Gary’s bike inspecting it like he was buying a used car. “That looks like it,” he said, “that looks like my bike. Where did you get this bike?”

“My parents bought it for me,” Gary said.

“You got you’re name on it or a receipt to show it was paid for?” the boy said.

“Nobody keeps those things,” Gary said.

“You should,” the boy said, “You never know when you’ll need it.”

“I think if I had one right now it still wouldn’t do me any good,” Gary said.

The boy looked at Gary scornfully. He did not like Gary’s tone. He shoved Gary violently in the chest. He fell to the ground. Gary stood and the boy grabbed the bike.

“This is my bike,” the boy said.

Gary looked at the other five boys on bikes. He heard of them. They were a gang. The called themselves The Gravediggers. It was rumored they would kill.

“Sure,” Gary said. “You’re right. If I can’t prove it’s mine that’s my problem. It’s a good bike. I hope you enjoy it. That front tire may have a slow leak in it so I’d keep an eye on it if I were you.”

The boy smiled gleefully. He swung his leg over the bike and they rode away.

With his pride shattered Gary watched them ride away laughing. He was sick in his heart. He invented ways in which to tell others his bike was ‘stolen.’

He walked along the pathway and came to a park bench. He pulled the beret from inside his shirt and fitted it tightly on his head. He was happy not to be wearing it. That would have only fueled the flames further. “They will not get away with this,” Gary vowed.


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Old Black Maggie – Episode 33

thE91FU8I2Times Are Changing

Shortly after supper Gary’s father walked in the bed room and sat on the edge of the bed.

Gary stared at the ceiling.

“I want to make one thing certain from the outset,” Gary’s father said. “In this house no child will leave the table without first being excused. If you should live under my roof until you are thirty you are still my child. Even if I leave the table before your mother I asked to be excused. A family meal is a sacred occasion. Now what is wrong with you?”

“Nothing,” Gary said. “I’m just growing up. I don’t like being treated like a kid anymore.”

“What brought this all about?” Gary’s dad said.

“You get to a certain age and you start to figure things out for yourself,” Gary said.

“Tell me,” Gary’s father said. “What is the thing with the beret?”

“Kids wear caps,” Gary said.

“But you are a kid,” Gary’s father said, “a beret doesn’t change that. It doesn’t make you older or smarter. It just makes you look weird.”

“So you’re saying I’m weird?” Gary said.

“Well as of late you have been acting weird,” Gary’s father said. “Do you have new friends or did you see a movie or read a book? Because nobody wakes up one morning and says ‘I think today is the day I wear a beret and start acting like Salvador Dali”

“Whose that?” Gary said.

“Some weirdo artist who wears a beret,” Gary’s dad said. “I can’t even get you to lift a brush to paint the trim on the house.”

“You just can’t handle the fact I’ve got a mind of my own and I help plenty around here,” Gary said.

“You mow the grass,” Gary’s father said.

There was a moment of silence.

“That sound you here is what else you do,” Gary’s father said.

Gary turned away from his dad. Resentment simmered. The last few days he had done nothing but worry about his family. “If only they knew,” he thought, “but that is not the point. They should love me more and appreciate me just because I risk my life for them? They should love and respect me no matter what.”

“I’ll give you a few days to think things over,” Gary’s dad said, “and if there isn’t some sort of change I will have to make some changes.”

“What does that mean?” Gary said.

Gary’s dad stood and left the room.


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Old Black Maggie – Episode 32

thML6UEE4HWhen in Paris…

“We were about to have supper without you,” Gary’s mom said and quickly added surprised, “What is that on your head?”

“It’s a beret,” Gary said. “The French wear them all the time.”

Gary’s dad came in the kitchen with the newspaper in his hands. “But this is not France.”

They sat down to eat.

“Would you mind removing your hat?” Gary’s dad said.

“It’s a beret,” Gary said.

“I beg your pardon,” Gary’s dad said. “Removez-vous your beret pour favor.”

Gary removed the beret and tucked it under him.

“That’s better,” Gary said.

Gary’s parents looked at each other as they noticed Gary eating elegantly and using the utensils with savoir-vivre.

“Have you seen a movie?” Gary’s mother said. “Where did you learn to eat like that?”

“There’s nothing wrong with being refined,” Gary said.

They continued eating. Gary’s parents continued confused.

They asked about the beret. He told them only about purchasing it at Waxman’s

“I’m just growing up,” Gary said. “I’m starting to make choices on my own. I have my own tastes.”

“That’s fine,” Gary’s dad said, “but you don’t want people looking at you funny. We got this guy down at the factory, McFarland. He’s from Scotland. He don’t come to work wearing kilts. What is that, ‘when in Rome do as the Romans?’ If it’s a beret you want to wear, go to Paris.”

Gary smiled. “I just may do that.”

“Someday you might,” Gary’s mother said.

“One never knows,” Gary said.

Gary finished eating and left the table.

Before he left the dinning room his mother said, “Aren’t you going to ask to be excused.”

“Mom,” Gary said. “I can see that kind of stuff when I’m a kid, but I getting older, can’t you give me just a little respect.”

Gary waited for a reply.

“You’re excused,” Gary’s father said tersely.

Just as Gary reached the steps to go upstairs he overheard his father say to his mother, “That boy has changed. He’s getting too big for his britches.”

“You better have a talk with him,” Gary’s mother said.

Gary laid in his bed looking at the ceiling waiting for his father to talk to him.


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Old Black Maggie – Episode 31

A New Man

Early evening Gary met with Donnie and Whipper at Russell’s Market. He told them about what happened the night before and the reason for wearing the black beret.

“That’s hogwash!” Whipper said, “there’s no way.”

Gary pulled Old Black Maggie’s black beret from inside his shirt and handed it to Whipper.

Whipper’s eyes peeled wide. “That’s it!”

“You are a legend,” Donnie said.

“But you guys can’t tell anyone,” Gary said.

“Are you kidding me,” Whipper said. “There’s no way I’m saying a word. Who knows what power that thing has!”

“Can I touch it?” Donnie said.

Gary handed it to him.

“This thing has to be fifty years old,” Donnie said. “I’d put it on but I’m afraid it might have bugs.”

Gary heard the squeaks in the floor from Russell walking toward the door. He grabbed the beret form Donnie and stuffed it back inside his shirt.

“It’s time you guys move along,” Russell said. “I’ve been getting complaints about you guys. Go hang around down at the school or park.”

“That place doesn’t have the ambiance that this place does,” Gary said.

Russell looked at Gary scornfully. “Where did you learn talk like that? That kind of talk will get your ears boxed.”

“It’s a compliment,” Gary said.

“It’s sarcasm,” Russell said.

“Where did you learn that word,” Gary said and walked away.

“I think you’re getting to big for your britches,” Russell said. “And by the way, you look like a French Fag in that thing on your head.”

Gary, Donnie, and Whipper had a few laughs as they walked away. They parted and said they would see each other the next day. Gary walked home.

As Gary walked along he felt quite proud of himself. His esteem soured. Donnie and Whipper looked up to him. He felt superior to Russell who had become nothing more than a simple minded store clerk. He could hardly wait to try his new persona at home. “They will be confused at first,” Gary thought. “But they must come to realize I am my own man.”

His parents were home so he hid Old Black Maggie’s beret in the garage under his dad’s work bench. He adjusted his new beret to fit smart and snuggly cocked to one side.

Gary walked confidently through the back door.


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Old Black Maggie – Episode 30

thDJ9H29N0Gary is Free

The next day composure returned to Gary. He mowed a few lawns and doing so thought about the implications of his deed.

It was important that Old Black Maggie know who had possession of the beret. It was not enough for her to know it was taken. If she thought it was someone else evil still might be misdirected toward Gary. Although disastrous for Old Black Maggie it could be likewise for Gary or any of his friends or family.

Yet, if she became aware she could turn him in to the police for breaking and entering and robbery.

Gary finished his lawns by noon. He devised another plan; find another black beret. He could wear it so she would notice. If she reported him to the police they would see it was newly purchased. Old Black Maggie would know that Gary was the one who had possession of her beret, but could not prove it. He relished the thought of taunting her.

That afternoon, after shopping in at least a half dozen stores, Gary found a black beret at Waxman’s Men’s Clothing. It cost him $4.99, but worth every penny.

Gary walked from the store wearing the beret. He was proud of it. He felt protected, but also cavalier and sophisticated, much like Beez. He had to show it to Beez.

Beez lived only a few blocks from the store.

Gary peddled his bike toward Beez’s apartment and on the way hoped he might even see Old Black Maggie. She would know the beret was not hers, but also know that it would be too much of a coincidence that Gary would be wearing one so soon after hers was stolen. She would have to know that Gary had possession of her beret. Her power over Gary would be null.

Gary leaned his bike next to the entrance of Beez’s apartment and sprung up the steps. He knocked at Beez‘s door.

He heard two voices; both men. It was certain the knock was heard. Gary waited for a few moments. Beez opened the door and a man in his mid twenties left with a polite goodbye to Beez and a cordial smile to Gary.

“Come in, Gary,” Beez said smiling, “what is that you are sporting on your head?”

“It’s my new look,” Gary said. “Don’t you think it’s continental?”

“What?” Beez said.

“That’s what the clerk at Waxman’s said,” Gary said.

“Well,” Beez said, “he ought to know.”

“Tell me the story behind your new chapeau,” Beez said. “But first some refreshment, tea again?”

“That will be great,” Gary said. “Who was the guy who was here?”

“Merely an associate,” Beez said going into the kitchen. “Make yourself at home.”

Beez brought the trey of tea into the room and Gary related the previous evening between sips. Beez was nearly horrified at times.

“You adventuresome little rascal,” Beez said. “You have spunk.”

Gary shyly smiled.

“Let’s go out to the racetrack again,” Beez said. “What do you say!”

“Let’s do it!” Gary said.

“You are such a free spirit,” Beez said. “Nothing holds you back. I see great and good things for you.”

“Really!” Gary said.

“Yep,” Beez said. “And if you will allow me, I’ll guide you along the way. I‘ll not bridle you, only direct.”

“Like how?” Gary said.

“Like at the racetrack,” Beez said. “I’ll point you in the right direction, you drive, have all the fun, and I’ll get a kick out of watching you.”

The afternoon at the racetrack was topped-off by a drive to a nearby town that had a good restaurant.


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