|By Alias ||
Posted 05-04-2004 at 18:36:27
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Old Tom - Part Three
Now, that would not be the last time Tom pulled my fat out of the fire. No sir, there was one other time when crazy Frank McCloud came charging after me with a butcher knife. Hereís how it came about. But, before I tell you about that particular incident, Iíd best lay a little ground work so you will understand how and why it happened.
Now if you left our house on Cherry Street and walked north youíd come to the intersection of Johnson Avenue. Then If you turned left and went down the hill a short distance, youíd come to the McCloud residence. As far as I ever knew, there were only two people there. And, that would be, Old Mrs. McCloud and her son Frank. Now, Frank was a big ole boy, or more correctly, I should say man. Because he was about thirty years old and he was six feet tall or better. He wasnít grossly overweight but he carried a few extra pounds around his mid section. And, while Frank took up a lot of room in the physical department, he hardly took up any at all in the mental area. For, something happened to him when he was about five years old, and the inner workings of his brain didnít keep pace with his body. So, what he became was a near giant of a man with the mentality of a very little boy. But, despite his condition, his mother loved and cared for him as best she could.
Sometimes, out of loneliness and the need for other human contact, Frank would come up to Cherry Street with his wheelbarrow, which he pretended was a car. And, he thought it funny to try to run us down with his make-believe vehicle. So, he would rev it up and charge toward us making a vooodun, - voooodunn, - vooooodunnn sound with his mouth. It was a sight to see when he would hold the handle with only one hand and pretend to steer his car with the other. Whenever he attempted this maneuver the wheel borrow would invariably travel in a semi-circle and start to lay over on itís side. Then, Frank would stop steering and with both hands on the handles, he would bring his car into an upright position. Following that, heíd put on a show for us on the proper way to use the brakes on a car. Now, in order to start his performance, Frank would back his car, looking back over his shoulder to get to the starting line. And just to make sure no one got in his way, he would momentarily take his hand from the handle and push downward with the palm of his hand and make a beep-beep sound with his mouth.
Once in position at his imaginary starting line, he would do the rev up bit with his mouth and use his feet as though he were spinning tires. as he moved his feet in a standing run he struck the road so fiercely as to back-kick cinders and gravel for ten or more feet. Then when he thought he had revved her up just enough, he take off and make a sound not unlike tires squealing on blacktop. All the while kicking up more gravel as he picked up speed with his trusty, rusty wheel-barrow-car. Then to culminate his display, when he had built up sufficient speed, he would apply the brakes by twisting his ankles to the right and swing the WB-car around to the left and making a screeching sound similar to drum on asbestos brake shoes. All the while a billow of dust and gravel swelled around Frank.
My parents and Old tom told all us kids to stay out of hands reach of Frank. Their theory was that one could never know what went on in a disturbed mind. So, to be on the safe side, never give Frank an opportunity to hurt you, they would say. And, I followed their advise to the letter but Frank didnít. You see, my older Brother Wayne did a little trading with with a fellow and came away from the deal with a radio that only needed one tube and a bicycle, which he gave to me. Now, if you want to talk about a youngster walking in tall cotton, I was it. The only other kid in the neighborhood with a bike was Walter Gilliam. And we went biking almost every day. I spent so much time riding all over the town and the surrounding country side, I neglected to spend time fishing with Tom.
Of course, I didnít know it but seeing me on that bike stirred a kind of resentment in Frank McCloud. I suppose he wanted something a little shinier that would go fast without so much wear and tear on his shoe leather. At any rate, he must have mused long and often about climbing aboard my bike and speeding down the road. Because, he pondered the situation and with his limited capacity decided heíd take the bike from me. But, he didnít see me as someone much smaller than himself. No, his little boy brain perceived me as bigger stronger and more fearless. And, in his own way of thinking, he needed something that would give him the edge. So, he went to his mothers kitchen and withdrew a knife from the drawer.
I was out under one of the big Maple trees that set in our front yard trying to tighten the sprocket chain on my bike, and Tom was on his front porch. We had been talking just moments earlier when old tom asked if I needed any help. I wasnít sure exactly what I needed but I didnít want to appear dumb so I said, Iíll play around with it for awhile. Tom must have understood my plight so he came back with, well if you run into a problem, let me know and maybe the two of us can figure it out. No more was said on the subject and I kept studying the problem.
When All of a sudden, Old Tom jumped down from his porch and started running toward me like a rabid dog. He had a strange look in his eye as he went by. I twisted around on my heels just in time to see Tom holding Frankís arm and hand with the butcher knife up in the air. That old man who was seventy years or older showed what great strength was all about. He shook Frankís hand so violently that the knife fell to the ground. Next, Tom wrestled Frankís wrist behind the younger manís back and held him as he walked him all the way back to the McCloud house. All the while, Frankís eyes were glazed over like a mad man, and he struggled to get free from his captor. But, Tom would have none of it. He held his grip firm until Mrs. McCloud took charge of her boy. It would be weeks before we again saw Frank. And to the best of my knowledge, he never again went wheel barrowing on cherry street.