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Lighting Out for Lake Erie by Cliff Rhys James That Monday morning in 1942 dawned cool and early autumn crisp for on-the-mend Billy James. His still-tender nose, while at last free of the brace and bandages, remained in a state of fragile repair, as evidenced by the celery green tint yet coloring the skin around his eyes. Wearing an unlined jacket against the morning chill, he rushed out the back kitchen door, skidded across the frost-slicked patio and almost went down but braced himself against the side of the garage. He made a hard left turn and then beat it south through the alley. Every thing was cool and fine; everything was morning crunchy ~ especially the frozen puddles that slipped beneath his skidding feet. The black ice ballet was back in town, and broken honker or no, he meant to get his money’s worth of careening spin-outs. Why would anyone choose to cautiously avoid a patch of ice when the thrill of cheating friction was right there for the taking ~ free of charge and twice as much fun? Seven days recovering home alone had left him with a bad case of cabin fever, and it felt great to get back outside into the slipstream of life ~ even if it meant he was heading

back to school. Or was he? He lived seven city blocks from Ben Franklin Jr. High School, and experience had shown that a lot could happen between this place and that. Those seven blocks were chock full of sidetracking potential, and each weekday morning he approached them with high hopes for unexpected possibilities ~ something, anything. Where the alley dumped him out onto Stanton Avenue, Billy veered right, beginning his reluctant trek west to the school campus. This was the stretch where it usually happened; where if any conceivable diversion from school could be discovered, uncovered or manufactured, it would be. Random detours and radical departures from plan were a recurrent feature of most of his travels, of his very existence, in fact. Why should getting to school in the morning be any different? And while he didn’t envy all the regular folk, he did wonder now and then about the more predictable patterns of their normal lives and what it must be like to live them. Grown-up men in knee-length overcoats were scraping frost from their windshields while idling car exhausts pumped white billows of thick

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September 2015 ttimes web magazine  

Tidewater Times September 2015

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