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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Old Black Maggie – Episode 29

thM9Z05T6NThe Beret

Gary turned the clock on the stand next to his bed so he could read the time, midnight. He slid from bed and slowly put on his cloths. He stuffed his pillow under the covers to give the appearance someone was in bed. He slipped out the window and onto the roof of the kitchen and laundry room. He hunched down and walked to the edge of the roof where a ladder was waiting that he placed there earlier. He slowly climbed down the ladder.

Soon he was riding his bike through the allies and side streets cautious not to be on the main streets for fear he may be noticed by the police. There was a mysterious exhilaration about it. He felt free and purposeful.

A half hour later he placed his bike under some hedges at the property next to Old Black Maggie’s apartment. Stealthily he moved along the hedges that bordered the two properties and dashed to a huge oak. Its limbs hung over Old Black Maggie’s apartment.

Her apartment was dark. The thought crossed Gary’s mind that she may not even be home. He bent low and walked quickly to the outside wall of the apartment and pasted himself flat against it. He moved slowly to a window, the one he peeked in before. There was just enough moon light for Gary to see inside. No one was in the living room.

He ducked under the window and to the other side so he could peek in to see if Old Black Maggie’s beret hung on the hook. There it was. “How could she be so careless to leave it in plain sight and unprotected,” Gary thought.

Gary tried to slide the window up. It appeared to be painted shut. It would not budge.
He stooped low and walked along the side of the house and to the back door. He twisted the doorknob. It was locked.

Again he stooped low and retraced his steps and went to the front of the house. He stepped easily on the porch. A board squeaked low and long. He leaned flat next to the door and twisted the knob. It turned open. He opened the door slowly. It squeaked quietly. He opened it only far enough to slide through sideways.

Gary was now in a foyer and there was yet another door. There was something slithering around his ankles. He fought every instinct to cry out. He looked down expecting to see Old Black Maggie laying on the floor wrapping her arms around him. It was a cat. There was a purr and a restful meow. He stepped in the cat’s dish. It sounded like an avalanche. He clung to the wall next to the door. He waited for a light to come or the sound of Old Black Maggie stirring around.

It was silent, so silent Gary could hear the bones in his neck and the beat of his heart. He waited to be certain Old Black Maggie was still in a deep sleep. He could hear her snore.

He reached out and twisted the door knob it moved slightly and stopped. He applied a little more force. It clicked and opened. The cat slithered in first.

The moonlight shone through the window that Gary had peered though. He waited for his eyes to adjust more fully to the darkness. He opened the door enough to move in sideways.

Gary was certain his heart beat would awaken Old Black Maggie. For an instant he envisioned her in a shadow of the room next to her beret waiting with a hatchet.

There was a sudden sound coming from the stand next to a chair. Gary’s eyes sprung wide open. The cat leaped onto the stand. It crossed over into the chair and back onto the floor.

Gary moved slowly towards the beret that hung on a hook on the wall. He felt along the wall his hands searching like the legs of a spider. He glanced away. The cat slowly crept into Old Black Maggie’s bedroom.

Gary ran his hand up and down on the wall until at last he felt the beret. He hesitated. “What power does it hold?” he thought. “What if it should hold a power I’m not aware. What if it should shock me or strike me paralyzed right here and now?” Gary reached back and wiped beads of perspiration from his forehead and above his upper lip. His eyes closed to gather the courage needed.

“What are you doing in here little Mittens.”

Gary nearly collapsed. It was the voice of Old Black Maggie. It was the voice of a kindly grandmother not the old hag she appears beyond her apartment.

“I thought I put you out for the evening,” Old Black Maggie said and cleared her throat. “Let me put you out again.”

Gary seized the beret. He hesitated, waiting for something to happen. Nothing. He turned toward the door that was cracked open and measured his escape. He swallowed and moved one step towards the door. A light flashed on. It was blinding. He bolted for the door. Old Black Maggie screamed fearfully. Gary bumped into the doors edge and staggered. He opened it wide and dashed through it and the other door also.

He ran along the hedges.

Old Black Maggie was yelling, “Police! Police! A robber! Somebody call the police!”

Gary got to the sidewalk and headed to where he laid his bike. He lifted it from beneath the hedges, hoped on it, and sped away.

He could still hear Old Black Maggie’s screams echoing through the moonlit night. “Call out for your demons,” Gary murmured. He turned down an alley to allude any possible meeting with the police.

“The beret!” he said looking at his hands. “Where is it?”

He skid to stop in the gravel alley and turned his bike around. He had to find it. “I must have dropped it,” he thought.

The bike was laid against a garage next to the alley and Gary slowly made his way bent low back down the alley searching for the missing beret. Suddenly he smiled and straightened. He felt inside his shirt. There it was. In the excitement he tucked it into his shirt.

Gary returned home, climbed up the ladder, and back into his room. He stuffed Old Black Maggie’s beret behind the book that was hidden away in his closet.

Sleep did not come that night; not because of fear or fright, but because of accomplishment and exhilaration.

 

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Old Black Maggie – Episode 28

thM9Z05T6NDefeating a Witch

Fifteen minutes after leaving Russell’s Market all three boys were in Gary’s bed room reading his book on witchcraft.

“Let me show you something on page 127,” Gary said. Gary read. “One way in which a person who has had a spell cast upon them by a witch or warlock is to find something that is in their possession that is dear to them. It may be trinket, amulet, or something like that. Those things usually have special power and significance to the witch or warlock, but little value to anyone else. Yet witches and warlocks are suspicious and paranoid by nature and will assume the holder of that object has the power it contains.

As long as it is in the possession of that person they have nothing to fear from the witch or warlock, they are rendered powerless.”

“What does that mean?” Whipper said.

“It means I have to get something that is valuable to her,” Gary said.

“Like what?” Donnie said.

“I’ve had some time to think about it,” Gary said. “She will wear different clothing. Sometimes it’s black other times it’s brown. She’ll have different sweaters but what does she always wear that never changes?”

“That black beret,” Donnie said. “She always wears it, winter or summer.”

“That must be important to her,” Gary said. “If I get that I got her; she can’t do anything to me or my friends.”

“How are you going to get it,” Whipper said, “run up and snatch it from he head?”

“The book says I can not take it from her grasp, I have to take it without her noticing it,” Gary said.

“How are you going to do that?” Donnie said.

“When I followed her home that one night she took the beret off and hung it on a hook in her dinning room,” Gary said. “I’ve got to go to her home again. When she’s asleep, sneak into her place, and take the beret.”

“That’s suicide!” Donnie said.

“It has to be done,” Gary said.

“Don’t expect us to help you,” Donnie said

“Don’t worry,” Gary said. “This is something only I can do.”

“When are you going to do it?” Whipper said.

“It has to be soon,” Gary said. “There’s one thing I can’t figure out; why is she doing this to me?”

Whipper ruffled the hair on Gary’s head. “Maybe it’s your curly red hair.”

The boys read other excerpts from the book and soon Gary returned it to its hiding place. Donnie and Whipper left and Gary laid in bed planning how to gain possession of

Old Black Maggie’s beret.

That night he laid with eyes wide open, never attempting sleep; planning, scheming, and reviewing possible scenarios that might lead to failure and how to react. “Once I have the beret the game is over.”

It was another night that sleep seemed to escape Gary. He heard his dad awaken and leave for work, slept briefly, and heard his mother leave for work.

As peculiar as it seemed he walked about all day long as if he had a good nights sleep. He mowed a couple of lawns in the morning, slept briefly in the afternoon, and felt refreshed when his mother and father came home from work.

There was excitement and anxiety, tonight would be the night.

 

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