The sky was deep blue as Orangie walked out onto the sidewalk, a big paper bag in each arm. He found himself whistling “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino, including all the background stuff after each melody line, which is part of what made it such a cool song.
Orangie’s very first record that was his own, bought with his own one dollar of allowance money, had been the Fats Domino recording of “Ain’t That A Shame” that he had found in “Rockin’ Records,” a new and used record store over on Palm Street.
That was about a year ago, and since then he had collected more than thirty records, all rock and roll, from Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to Little Richard and, of course Fats Domino, his all-time favorite. Maybe it was because he liked the beat, or maybe that sweet voice over it, plus the great saxophone work, or maybe it was the fact that his dad loved Fats Domino so much; Orangie couldn’t say exactly why he was so drawn to his music.
As he made his way home along 7th Street past the various shops, the big Bank of America building, the library with its wide concrete steps and the Shell gas station on the corner, Orangie was in deep thought, remembering a dream he had had the night before. It was about his mom, and she actually was in an alien spacecraft and the aliens were poking around at her as she was strapped to a shiny table.
In the dream Orangie was standing, terrified, behind some big round column that was covered in lights, gauges and levers. He knew that if they detected his presence he would be doomed, but he also knew that somehow he had to save his mother from the aliens.
He woke up sweating, and really glad it was just a dream. But still, he thought, maybe it was possible that his mom had been taken in a spaceship for real, even though the doctors on the psychiatric ward of the hospital only had some theory that went along with their own way of thinking about the mind, that it was just a bunch of chemical and electrical stuff to be treated with chemicals and maybe electric shock.
Couldn’t his mom have been so scared by something that her brain went haywire? And what if what scared her so much was being abducted by aliens? Orangie couldn’t tell. But one thing for sure, he hoped that she would be okay and get to come home pretty soon.
As he turned the corner onto DeWitt Street for the home stretch of his grocery assignment, still pondering what might happen with his mom, Orangie looked up ahead and saw a group of older boys on bicycles.
Dread welled up in his chest as he recognized them: Eddy “Meat Loaf” Brewington, a big fat 12-year old with broken teeth and scotch-taped together glasses who liked to burn moths on light bulbs and torture small dogs and cats; Jimmy Winters, a really tall skinny kid who liked to do every mean thing that Eddy could think of; and Joey “Pounder” Jefferson, who was in the sixth grade with Eddy and Jimmy, but already had sort of a mustache, big muscles and no brains, and Orangie figured him to be at least fifteen years old.
Orangie considered ducking into the vacant lot to his right, but it was already too late. The tough guys had seen him. His father’s words of advice ran through his mind: “Don’t let a bully know that you’re afraid – it’ll only make the bully bolder,” and “A sharp wit and humor are much more powerful than your fists.”
But, Orangie thought, wond’r’if my wits are any match for Pounder’s fists? Or Jimmy’s or Meat Loaf’s? All three of them together???
“Hey, Nolan, whatcha got in the bags? Anything good?”
“Nah, just some boring old groceries,” Orangie responded to Meat Loaf’s inquiry. “Nothin’ you guys’d be interested in.”
“Lemme see, moron!” demanded Meat Loaf.
“Okay, but I have to warn you – if anything happens to any of these groceries, never mind to me, I know for a fact that my Uncle Billy is gonna sic Johnny Robles and his buddies on you guys!”
Meat Loaf and his henchmen backed off just a taste then.
“Oh yeah, is that so?”
“Yep, and remember that Johnny was middleweight champion at San Quentin and he’d do anything Billy asks him to,” Orangie came back hopefully, acting as fearless as he could. “He broke a guy’s jaw in the last fistfight he was in! He might hit you so hard that your head would fly off and then he’d let his pals use it for a soccer ball and they’d all be laughing the whole time!”
To Orangie’s amazement, Meat Loaf, Jimmy and Pounder all started laughing, and not in their usual taunting tone, but like they really thought it was pretty funny, about the soccer game and all.
“Hey Nolan, that’s pretty funny. You ought to make a TV show or somethin’ outta that stuff.”
“Yeah, maybe I will. I’ll get all the guys in the neighborhood to be the stars of the show and everybody could get paid like a million dollars apiece but all your friends would have to donate their shares just to pay the doctors to sew your head back on!”
Orangie didn’t waste any time after that, walking briskly away as the “three stooges” were laughing.
To follow all of Orangie’s adventures over the coming weeks, click here.
David Novell was born and raised in and around Fresno, and has lived in North Fork since 1978. David is a local building contractor and has been part of the musical group “Sugar Pine,” entertaining around the area and at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad for over 35 years.
“Like any kid growing up in the little San Joaquin Valley towns of Centerville, Sanger, Reedley, Selma, Kingsburg, Exeter, Dinuba, and all the rest, I was privileged to have many innocent ‘adventures.’ Overgrown back yards, vacant lots, and deserted storage sheds were magical places where anything was possible.
“To follow, in this and subsequent issues of Sierra News Online, are some stories loosely based on my experiences as a young boy. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them.” ~ David Novell