Ready or not, here comes the next free instalment of the backwoods novella BAT IN A WHIRLWIND. In this chapter Ben feels the usual woes of being a bright boy in a fairly dim world, reminisces about a moment nearly near Annette, and then gets blown away by a weird thought about best buddy Danny. The following excerpt is when the whirlwind hits.

To read BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Chapter 3.  SMART ALECK, right click here and select “Open,” or to download as a free pdf file to read at home, select “Save Target (or Link) As.”


Excerpt from Chapter 3. – Smart Aleck

            As usual, I wandered over to the café in the evening, got me a Dr. Pepper, and went to play some pinball. Daddy had about six different fun machines in the little room at the end of the building, a popular place for kids to hang out. No one was there right now, and I started playing on the Ace of Hearts machine, distracted by the shiny ball and flashing lights. I kept up a bounce game with my left flipper and a bonus bumper for a good while.

From the doorway I heard a wolf-whistle and “Hi ya, Benny boy.” It was Danny, looking very cool, with Terry right behind, who nodded hi and went over to the Carnival machine down the way. My buddy came over to mine and tousled my head in greeting. …

…        Sitting on the chain out front, Danny remarked, “Mickey told me you were great in English class today.” So I recited “The Raven” again with much drama for my very best friend. Leaning close, I intoned the verses. When I got to Is there—is there balm in Gilead? Danny looked at me with such sad eyes. On each stanza, he chimed in ominously on the “nevermores.”

Then, just as I got to talking about the cute puppies Duchess just had by Lobo—Maybe he’d like one?—some cars pulled up, and a whole passel of Lockjaw kids piled out, all old chums from when I went to school up there. I waved, but Danny didn’t know them, of course.

We stayed out on the chain while he smoked his cigar. The stars were real bright over the pines in our front yard. Maybe it was Jupiter just over the roof of the garage. “What do you call a bunch of stars?” Danny asked. Of course I said it was a constellation, but he protested, “No, I bet it’s a splendor of stars.” I was more than willing to take his word for it.

Then we just swung on the chain, rubbing shoulders, while he smoked his cigar. We didn’t have to talk all the time. Just being together was enough. Eventually, he stubbed the Roi-Tan out on the concrete post and suggested, “Let’s go see what the Terror is up to.”

The Lockjaw kids were scattered around the booths and counter, and Daddy had most of them served already. The juke box was blaring something country. Terry was down in number four making friends with Flossie, Patsy, and Liz. Danny scrunched in next to Flossie, and I pulled up a chair beside him. Both Flossie and Patsy looked real interested in my pal. Terry was making up to Liz and whispering with her.

Suddenly he got up and dragged Danny and me over by the Wurlitzer. He popped in a quarter and said to me, “You pick something.” Then he pulled Danny in close to us and whispered, “Look, Liz says her and Flossie want to go riding. Which one of you wants her?”

I stared at the selection board without reading. Danny was silent too, but then he leaned close whispering, “You oughtta, Benny. You need some lovin’.” Still speechless, I quick punched some random songs, telling myself there was no connection between this sex stuff and love. But if I went riding with Flossie, I’d have to sneak off without Daddy knowing.

Impatient, Terry got sarcastic. “Maybe you two should go parking together.” Danny glared and took a half-hearted swing at him, missing by a mile.

“No fighting!” Daddy boomed out from over by the candy case.

Danny turned back to me with a huge blush, and I bet I was blushing too at the thought of making out with him.   Terry looked sympathetic as he summed it up: “So Danny will go riding with the doll. Let’s go.”

We went back to number four, and Danny sat with his leg up over my knee. Rubbing his strong calf, I couldn’t pay attention to what they were talking, too overwhelmed by that thought of kissing my buddy, bewildered by the sensation. Ricky Nelson started singing about “Poor little fool, oh yeh!” Danny looked so handsome there laughing with Flossie, and I felt like a darned fool for even thinking of such things. Made me wonder if maybe there wasn’t a bat or two loose in my belfry.


To read BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Chapter 3.  SMART ALECK, right click here and select “Open,” or to download as a free pdf file to read at home, select “Save Target (or Link) As.”

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