by Barbara Anne Helberg
FANS Chapter Six Excerpt — Newsprint
The pouring of a second cup of coffee after the usual supper of chili and chips was routine until Rodd’s browsing brown eyes fell on the news item on page twelve of the quarter folded Toledo Blade. The item that stopped him in mid-pour was a two-inch story datelined “West Central, OH”.
The hot coffee missed Rodd’s cup, splashed onto the countertop, bounced back up in large drops to scald his cheek and lips, for he had bent low toward the paper to read. Nearly dropping the heavy-bottomed glass pot, he managed to control its remaining descent enough to avert wholesale spillage. His left hand, freed from the pot, brushed at his stinging lips, but his eyes re-glued themselves to The Blade neatly folded under a right hand that somehow had not budged from a spread-fingered grip on the newsprint. It was as though protecting the two inches of black-on-white had been paramount even above balancing the burning liquid in its glass cage.
West Central, Ohio, was his hometown. Long lost, Rodd thought. By fourteen years.
But those dateline words were not the ones that had altered the delivery of his liquid refreshment. The next nine had. “A high school boys’ basketball coach was found dead…” was about the juncture at which Rodd’s coffee derailed from its straight line journey from pot to cup.
Rodd grabbed a red-lined pattered kitchen towel, instinctively dabbed his face with it, then swiped the towel across the countertop, leaving brown trails of tiny beads in his haste. He felt his heart swell and gain a tick, or two, as he completed — successfully, this time — the filling of his cup. Scooping up the cup and carrying The Blade, he returned to the diminutive, square, chrome-trimmed kitchen table with its two chrome chairs that claimed most of the usable space in the room.
Lowering himself into a chair, he read: “West Central, OH — A high school boys’ basketball coach was found dead in the lockerroom of the high school gymnasium in this rural farm town yesterday.
“Local police said Herman Archmiller, 56, a 24-year varsity boys’ basketball coach at West Central High School, was discovered shot to death at 8:15 p.m. last evening. Charles Westgate, a school custodian, found the body.”
FANS Excerpt and Artwork from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg