There will be pictures in the book but for speed I left them out for the blog. The book is about a mystery taking place in Key West. The audience is focused on young people. Possibly teenagers. I need some insight and hope you will put them in comments. Thanks for your help. Barry
There was a trace of fog early in the morning as Barry drove to Key West. It was a ride of sorrow. Barry’s wife had passed away and he was in a deep funk, but his main concern was not himself but the two children who were sitting in the back of the car.
Philip and Missy were half asleep in the back seat. Two little ships lost on the sea. No words can describe the loss. Abandonment was felt but that was not the mother’s fault. She had died of a brain tumor. Her death was not swift but a long travel down the road of losing ability after ability. Finally, at the end with no escape the inevitable occurred. She drew her last breath early in the morning. The sun was just coming up and that seemed fitting. Surely, she would be ascending to heaven. But now the void was there, and it drown all who knew her.
Barry needed relieve. A change of pace. The house now was a mausoleum. He needed to take the children and escape to somewhere. He called his brother in Key West and asked if he could stay there for a while. With a yes, he loaded the car, took the children out of school and headed south.
Mile after mile passed with no conversation. In the back of his mind, Barry figured he would get mental health in Key West. He wondered if Pastor David was still there. He had forgot to ask his brother that question. He remembered Pastor David. A good listener and seemed to have some answers.
Philip, now approaching his thirteenth birthday finally spoke up. “Dad, I need to go to the bathroom.”
“Glad you told me now, for we will soon be on the Seven Mile Bridge and there are no rest rooms on it. We will stop at a convenience store on Knight’s Key.” Barry noted that the bathroom stops were now in the hundred times range.
Seven Mile Bridge
|Seven Mile Bridge with the original in the foreground|
During the stop at 7-11 they all got out of the car to stretch their legs. While Philip and Missy went to the bathroom he picked up some chips and drinks for the next phase of the trip. His wife would be pissed if she saw this. She had been a vegetarian and avoided such crap food. Even though she was a vegetarian the children had leaned the way of their father and ate some meat. It was a mixerd household and it did cause problems. Barry felt a slight pang of guilt but he allowed it to pass. He was in a hurry and healthy procedures were put on hold. After the children came out he directed them to stand by the counter in view of the clerk while he relieved himself.
In the car he passed Doritos and cans of Coke to his children. At first, they gave him that look of guilt. But neither said what was on their minds. Instead they ripped open the bag and started to eat the prohibited chips. The cans were opened, and the hiss of gas escaping could be heard in the car. For some reason this act seemed to break the tension.
Philip took a swig of the soda and then asked, “How long before we get there?”
“I would say at least five more hours depending on traffic. If there is a tie up on one of these bridges we could be in a mess for a long time.”
“We are heading to Uncle Ed. I do not remember you talking a lot about him.”
“Actually, that is because I have lost contact with my brother. Time changes things. We saw things that we never could understand, and the time was filled with strange things.”
“What things.?” Philip was intrigued.
Because of the situation and to break the silence Barry decided it was time to tell the story of his early days. “I guess I can tell you the story of what happened when the family moved to Key West.”
The two children seemed interested and he started the story with, “This story is real or at least what I remembered of that time. It has a few disturbing points to it. Are you game to hear it?”
Philip said, “I sure would like to hear it.” Missy just nodded. She was tired and started to nod off. Her interest faded with fatigue and the sugar of the soda did not revive her but made her tired. Barry noted this and put in the back of his mind that he needed to have a doctor investigate this.
“Philip why do you not move to the passenger seat and let your sister lay down and take a nap? Barry waved to the seat next to him. In the back of his mind was the fact that the story he was going to relate might be too complex for his young daughter.
Philip complied, and Missy lay down her head and within moments was asleep.
Where to begin? “Let me give you a little background before I start. The time was the beginning of the 60’s and America had a main enemy. Russia. This country had gotten nuclear weaponry and we were scared that they might take us on.” He took a fast look at Philip and realized he was losing him.
Better not get to much into history he thought to himself. “Hmm…” he hesitated. In his mind switched to a different way of starting the story.
“Do you ever have things happen to you, that you could not explain, and seemed weird to you at the time?”
“I am not sure. I once took a test and thought I had done well on it and it came back with a bad grade on it. You mean like that?”
Barry did not want to say no, so he lied. “Kind of. Well when I was your age, my dad and mom took this same trip we are on. We went to Key West because of my father’s job.”
“What was Grandpa’s job?”
“It is kind of hard to explain. I guess you can say he was in the spy game.”
Barry decided to keep Philips attention going so he said, “I guess you can say that. His job was to go to Key West and interview the Cubans who fled Cuba to get information from them. I believe the United States was thinking of invading Cuba and needed information about the island.”
“Did Granddad carry a gun?”
“Actually, he did. He constantly reminded me not to play with it. He kept it locked up when he was at home.” Barry wanted to get to the story and stay on topic, but he did not want Philip to shut down. This was good that the two of them were now talking.
“Any rate, there was danger in Key West. We were worried about spies and you were not sure about people. We got down here and moved into the house that the government had rented for us. It was near the beach. It had two stories. I remember two bedrooms were on the second story. Your grandma was angry because she did not like the kitchen. I remember her saying it was to small. But we were under the assumption that we would not be there for a long period of time before Dad would be reassigned to somewhere else.”
“Did Grandpa ever shoot anyone? Philip was awed by the thought Grandpa was a super spy.
“To my knowledge no. But then he would not bring work home with him or even speak about his adventures.” Barry hated to lead on his son but if that was what made the story interesting he would bend the truth a little.
“I remember that after we moved in that I should acquaint myself with the area. I decided to walk a little bit on the beach. I noted that there were a few houses on the block we had moved into. They all had the skirts of intertwined wood on the bottom of them.
I learned later that the reason for that was in case a storm came in and the water raised up that the houses would not suffer water damage. They called this area a crawl space. Later in the story you will understand why I bring this up. I went to the beach and there was an old man there. He was fishing.”
Philip perked up. He never had gone fishing and he wondered if his Dad would let him try his hand at that task. “When we get to Key West, can we go fishing.?
“We can try our hand at it.”
At first, I feared this guy. He was an American Indian. He had this pole rod with him.
“This guy was fly fishing. He would cast his line into the pool of water that was created by a cove near the home we just had rented.
It was just off the beach and it with access to the sea, fish swam in the cove and out. He would flip his line in and every occasionally, a fish would grab his bait. He had three or four fish he caught in a bucket next to his leg. I watched him for a while. Finally I got the nerve to go over to him.
“What kind of fish do you catch here,” I asked him.
He smiled. “Wonder when you would ask me that.?” He had been watching him and saw him slowly edge over to him. His face was filled with lines like he had spent a lot of time in the hot sun and his face had cracked with the heat. He was old. Barry guessed at least eighty but maybe older. He had a slight bend in his back like he was always leaning over.
“I got a couple of redfish and a snook. The kind of fishing I do is angling. You snap the rod forward and flip the line into the water. Then you slowly reel it in and hopefully a fish in the shallow flats will grab it. It takes a long time to get the hang of it, but once you do you can get some good tasting fish.”
“Can I give it a shot?” Barry asked cautiously.
“Tell you what I can do. I will bring a second rod with me tomorrow and you be here at seven in the morning. Just as the sun comes up. I believe tomorrow is Sunday. Right?”
Barry thought it was strange that this man would not know the day of the week, but he answered, “It will be Sunday.”
“When you do not have a regular nine to five job you kind of lose track of the days. I will meet you at seven and I will show you how to cast a rod. I will bring my little rod, so you can have better control.”
Barry was excited. But then the Indian said something that bothered him. “I think we should keep this to ourselves. Barry did not understand why.
Barry had no idea what that meant. “By the way, I did not catch your name.”
“They call me Red Cloud. And you?”
“They call me Barry.”
And with that conversation Barry met his first friend in Key West.
Barry looked over at his son and realized his son was drifting off to sleep. He stopped telling the story. Better to let Phillie sleep. But in his mind, he remembered the past.
He remembered the school that he had to go to. Since his father was FBI and pretty much undercover he was placed in the regular school on the island. Horace O’Bryant school was less than a mile from the house. He was enrolled there in October 1960. At the time there was four hundred and twelve students in the whole school. He remembered his home room and the weird makeup of the students in his class.
The teachers name was Mrs. O’brien. She was old. At least to a twelve-year-old boy she appeared to be old. But, she was in her forties. The class had a mixture of half a dozen Key West children who had been born on the island and lived their full time. Then there were a few Black children. Funny he thought to himself. He would have called him colored but now they were called Black. Time marches on and words and thoughts change.
There was also a few Cubans in the class. These Cuban children were from rather wealthy people who came over to avoid the Revolution that was taking place in Cuba. Many of them were Batista’s people who got nervous and felt the islands were no longer safe. They came over by plane. Later after Castro took over many Cubans escaped by rickety boats traveling over the ninety water miles to settle in Key West as refugees. But that happened much later.
The New School but the old clicks.
“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
― Thomas A. Edison
Barry was enrolled into Horace O’Bryan School going into the seventh grade that Monday. As far as schools go it was in fairly good shape. It had been built to standard to avoid a weather flare up and was painted recently. There was no air conditioning. Instead large windows were open during the hot months. That was primarily the entire year. The class he was assigned to be a class of about sixteen students. Evenly split with boys and girls. There were some Black students for integration was starting to be implemented. There was a half dozen Cubans. Most of the Cubans spoke some English but there were some words that baffled them and the white kids made fun of them. The Whites handled the Blacks as subservient because they grew up with them. Their mothers were the maids and cleaners of the town. But the new group of Cubans stuck together and were considered as interlopers to the American classroom which proudly displayed the American Flag. The Supreme Court had made the decision in Brown versus the Board of Education that the classrooms would be integrated and by 1960 this was in full swing in the country. First period was English. The teacher was beside herself for everyone was on a different level. The Cuban students worked hard and tried to learn the nuances of English, but the White kids did not try to help them. They treated them like outsiders and disliked them as if they were getting extras in a country that did not want them. Hatred existed. Barry did not want to join any group and therefore was also considered an outsider.
The Cubans came over under the code name Pedro Pan. These children were the wealthier parents who wanted out of Cuba and fled pre- Fidel Castro regime. The class was divided into three groups. Whites, many of them prejudice, the Blacks forced to be there by integration policies and the Cubans forced to be there by the fleeing of their homeland.
Three girls stuck together in the class. They were dressed a little better than some of the other children. One of them Maria Sanchez came from a family that wanted to go back to the island and get rid of Castro. Her father was big in the take back movement known as the ”resistance”. Barry’s father was trying to be involved with him. Unfortunately, he disappeared just as Barry’s family got to Key West. One of the duties assigned to Barry’s father was to locate him or worse find his remains. But Barry was unaware of that at that time. Rumors had it that Marie’s dad was on an undercover mission and it involved invading Cuba.
Chapter three: A science experiment gone awry.
Albert Einstein: ‘Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe…
Mr. Greenberg was the science teacher for class 7 C. He did his best and tried to get his class involved and moving rather than sitting and just reading from the book. Mr. Greenberg had set up a unit on nuclear power. In his notes were the A-bomb and the threats of nuclear war. He wanted the students to understand the concept of radiation. For that reason, he set up an experiment with radioactive material.
He had connections with the military establishment on the Keys and had borrowed a Geiger counter and a trace of radioactive material from the medical facility at the base. It was barely a trace, but it did register slightly on the counter.
He had picked Barry to go around the room with the counter and find the trace that he had hidden in the room. The rads from the trace were smaller than one would get at a dental x-ray so there were no health issues.
Any rate, Barry walked around the room. He watched the dial. When he passed Maria, it did a slight jump. He did not say anything figuring it was mistake. A few seconds later he got the real reading and found the little box with the trace radioactive stuff in it. But he kept the Maria reading to himself.
At lunch he went to the table where Maria and her two friends were. He asked to speak to her, but she snubbed him. He later learned that was not correct protocol and he was being a little disrespectful. He always noted that Maria was dressed nicely. A nice skirt and blouse and a large cross worn around her neck. He figured she was a good “Catholic girl” and that was the end of it.
Boy was he wrong.
Since Barry came into the class after it was formed, he was sat in the back of the room next to the class bully. George Freeman was quite large for his age. A redneck. A child who gave the teachers a run for their money.
Barry came in the first day with a bag filled with a sandwich, a cookie and a little money for a drink that he was to purchase when the class went to lunch.
George saw the bag. Barry had placed it in the desk, but George saw it.
“Looks like you have a lunch with you.?”
Barry did not know what to say. “Yeah” was all he could get out.
“I am hungry and forgot my lunch. I figure that you should let me have half of what you got. What do you say, Friend.?”
Barry did not like the way he said friend. If he shared the lunch, he was safe and if not, would he now have an enemy?
“It is just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” Barry said hoping that would turn George off.
“Hey, that is better than nothing.”
And with that Barry split his sandwich and gave his cookie to the bully at lunch.
In the next few days the same routine happened.
Barry tried to figure a way out of this mess. He even bought two sandwiches, but the bully wanted more. The more he brought in the more George wanted. Now, even Barry’s mom started to question what was going on. Barry wanted to keep this low profile. All he could see was that eventually George would be pounding him into the floor. He had to find a way out of this mess.
A situation existed which he could not talk about. Dad was constantly at work and mom was constantly with his baby brother. Even at four years old he was a hand full. He would have to take care of this problem himself.
Chapter 4: Conflict
Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke. Benjamin Disraeli
A week into going to the new school Barry had it. It was a fight or take a chance and tell the teacher. Instead and with much thinking Barry came up with a plan.
The morning of the incident Barry made two sandwiches. On both he put in the hot tamale peppers that his dad liked for seasoning. He never understood how his father could take the heat, but he seemed to like it. Barry on the other hand would gag on the pepper. He hoped George would have the same reaction and would make a commotion in the lunchroom. He had placed the jalapenos on both sandwiches for he feared George would pick the wrong sandwich. This way he was sure that George would get seasoned sandwich. He would not eat his and hoped George would not notice that.
|Immature jalapeños still on the plant|
At eleven thirty the class went to lunch. As usual George motioned for the sandwich. Barry complied, and George sat down and opened the confiscated meal.
A bite was all he could take. He yelled and ran to the water fountain to sooth the burning sensation in his mouth. Unfortunately for him another large kid was slurping water from the fountain. George grabbed him and pushed him away to get to the refreshing water. But the other kid would not stand for it. A fight ensued, and both were suspended.
Now as an adult he thought maybe he had done wrong. Maybe there was a better way to handle the problem. But deep down he was smug and glad he did what he did. And then there was Marie. She saw him in the hallway. She went up to him and said, “Thank you, for putting that bully in place.”
His heart skipped a beat. He was recognized by the girl he secretly liked. What could be better than that?