FANS Chapter Nine Excerpt


by Barbara Anne Helberg

FANS Chapter Nine Excerpt — An Opportunity

I waved away his concern. My wife’s illness was long and unpredictable, as cancer can be, like a constant predator. “The key was an invitation to make up your mind,” I said. “You didn’t come back to West Central to stay?” I watched the conflict play across his face and had no idea who had the privilege of being the players of the moment.

Rodd hung his head. “Guess I don’t know why I came back. Spur of the moment.”

“Something must have triggered your decision. We haven’t seen you around here since –”

“Yeah.” Rodd’s look cut me off. He shrugged. “The Blade ran a two-incher on Coach Archmiller. I…I felt…strange.”

“Yes. We all do. It’s a sad thing. Herm was part of the community. It’s a shock.” I pointed to my spare chair, said, “It doesn’t get crazy around here for another hour. Take a load off. Relax.” I took a slow dive into my high back desk lounger, my tattered pride and joy whose purchase had celebrated my acquisition of the very healthy Town Crier some twenty years gone by.

“Any ideas what happened?” Rodd asked.

He took an uneasy position in the chair I’d indicated, but I quickly tuned into his obvious and natural curiosity. There was no hesitation, no shaky indecision. It was a glass smooth tone of interest from a long gone reporter type. A light bulb turned on in the dimmest part of my brain. “The police haven’t said anything new,” I told Rodd. I tapped a pencil on my desktop and looked at him.

Rodd chewed on the information while I chewed on the possibilities. Why not? I thought. Nothing lost if it doesn’t work out. A lot gained if it does. “Rodd, you just asked me all five of the classic questions on a mystery situation we already shared.”

“What?” Rodd’s face pinched together, then relaxed. “Yeah. I sorta did, didn’t I?”

“We already shared ‘who’, before you asked ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘where’, ‘when’, and ‘how’.  The reporter’s six-question Bible. Why did you come back, Rodd? And what will you do?”

Rodd shook his closely-cropped head. “I don’t know, and I don’t know.”

“You came back because you couldn’t stay away. You want to find out what happened to Coach Archmiller, and you had nothing keeping you anywhere else.”

Rodd fidgeted in the chair, his meatless bones scraping. “That’s true,” he said after a long consideration. He squeezed it out around what appeared to be embarrassment over his displacement. I remembered suddenly how I’d always felt my fatherly instincts kick in whenever I was in the presence of this mild-mannered, highly vulnerable and talented high school athlete. I was doing it again. He seemed to need it desperately now. His last layer of tough, grin and bear it was worn through. I, perhaps, could provide a little push in the right direction. “Rodd, you’ve got a nose for this business. How about hiring on for a bit of freelance snooping?”

Rodd fidgeted again. The false leg thumped against the bottom chair rail.



*** Credit:
FANS Excerpt and Artwork from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg, Author of “FANS”



Spooky Stats


They are the Champions!

My son sent me this T-shirt, a duplicate of the one the Cleveland Cavaliers wore during their 1.3 million-fan-strong parade in Cleveland June 22, 2016, after they won the city’s first ever NBA (National Basketball Association) title.

Now, what are the spooky stats?

Here’s something for you fans and gamers. This is spooky:
Cleveland amassed 610 points through the first six games of the series, while the Golden State Warriors scored a total of 610 points through the first six games of the series. Then, in the final Game 7, the two teams were tied 89-89 with less than a minute to play! And that means each team had scored 699 total points in the series to that final minute, even though all the first six games were runaways in winning point margins.

Cleveland persevered on a three-point shot by Kyrie Irving and a final free throw by LeBron James to win the title, 93-89, in Game 7.

Four points separated the two teams in total for the seven-game series!

Do the math: Game One
Golden State, 104; Cleveland, 89

Game Two
Golden State, 110; Cleveland, 77

Game Three
Cleveland, 120; Golden State, 90

Game Four
Golden State, 108; Cleveland, 97

Game Five
Cleveland, 112; Golden State, 97

Game Six
Cleveland, 115; Golden State, 101

Game Seven
Cleveland, 93; Golden State, 89

Cleveland, 703; Golden State, 699.

In addition, Golden State failed to score another point over the last 4:30+ minutes of Game 7; their point total for the series was already stalled at 699.

For frosting on the cake, Cleveland completed the first ever NBA Finals comeback to win after going down three games to one in the first four contests.


+++ Credit:
Photo from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

FANS Chapter Seven Excerpt


by Barbara Anne Helberg

FANS Chapter Seven Excerpt — Destiny?

He had gone on for awhile, two years, perhaps. What had he gone on with after that? After the truck accident, he had shriveled, turned his back on life and the pursuit of anything worthy. His wife and son had suffered the results of his quitting. He had let the devastation track him. A bit of fate, he had said bitterly. Destiny…a dead sister, sweet little Sarah, a broken marriage after the accident, a distant son, the divorce. His effort in his short-lived marriage had mocked the tried and true forty-year union of his hard-working, loving parents. His failure with a vengeance to pick up the pieces after the accident had fed his bitterness and cost him everything. Pumping gas, drinking, chili and chips loneliness, Lizzie and Mark left in the ashes of his burning non-response. That’s what he’d gone on to. Some destiny, he thought.

Destiny? Rodd queried himself. His life had been more like forced imprisonment in a cycle of sorrow, bitterness, and impotency in every niche of his existence. He hadn’t seen his parents, or even corresponded with them in a decade, since his attachment to the bottle had detached him from his previous living experiences. His dad couldn’t find an excuse for him. His mother expressed her sweet love for him. He turned away. Grief over Sarah’s passing was explainable, they said. They had all suffered that and each of them had reconciled his feelings and put them aside, let go and moved on. After his college drop-out, over which they argued, then his inexcusable recession into continuous drunken bouts and neglect of his family, over which they parted ways, his parents, already in their sixties, had chosen retirement in Florida. Rodd hadn’t seen them again.

He hadn’t tipped a bottle once over the last ten months, and the question of his destiny, recently, had been a daily replay. He wanted to see Mark.

Rodd stared at The Blade page. Destiny, he thought. Herman Archmiller is dead at fifty-six — his destiny? To die in a locker room at West Central High School? Or someone else’s game plan? Why? Tapping his fingers on The Blade, looking straight at the wall, Rodd made up his mind.



*** Credit:
FANS Excerpt and Artwork from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

FANS Chapter Six Excerpt


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.”



*** Credit:
FANS Excerpt and Artwork from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

FANS Chapter Four Excerpt


by Barbara Anne Helberg

FANS Chapter Four Excerpt — The Accident

Freezing rain jammed the flimsy windshield wipers on the beaten Hardbakin’ Bakery Chevy truck. Rodd didn’t see the sliding tractor-trailer until it curved through the light-controlled intersection outside Findlay.

Panic-stricken, Rodd tried daringly to avoid the semi-truck, but there was no chance at all for either driver to bring tons of steel and iron under control in time to avert a crash.

The tractor-trailer cab wrenched loose, careened into the opposite lane of traffic, while the trailer sliced away the right half of the Chevy and took most of Rodd’s right leg with it. But Rodd didn’t remember inclusively. While the driver of the semi departed from life, a childless thirty-four-year-old married Kentuckian, Rodd learned later, in an instant of pain, opened veins and blood-curdling screams; while two other cars crashed into the loosened cab and disassembled vehicle in a noisy, glassy metallic storm; while metal and human parts littered the highway; while red flashing lights canvassed the scene and yellow lamps crisscrossed the darkened skies; while sirens screeched their sing-song warnings and policemen and orange-jacketed emergency rescue workers filled the dark, blocked roadway in orderly, trained movements… While all this ensued, Rodd was mercifully rendered nearly unconscious, so that he didn’t remember the horrifying details but only snatches of it and of his personal chaos. For that he was grateful.

Each time just before he woke from the nightmare that caused him to sweat through his clothing, Rodd glanced back at the West Central fan to see the letters on the emblazoned chest change from West Central to “Loser.”



*** Credit:
FANS Excerpt and Artwork from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

FANS Chapter One Excerpt


by Barbara Anne Helberg

FANS Chapter One Excerpt — That Was Then

I’d had the privilege of seeing Roddell Lawson, “Hot Rodd”, my news copy name for him, in his high school hey-day and to write about him for the West Central population, 1,007 strong, in the local Town Crier. I had oozed superlatives and invented new adjective phrases like “hoopsicord in motion” to describe his hardcourt talent and to keep the fans rushing in for more.

Hot Rodd went across state to Toledo College, cracked the senior starting lineup there as a sophomore and took off like a rocket we all never wanted to see land.

That was then.

The accident changed everything.

Soon, I learned there was, still, his sports spirit… The fire of desire burned on low flame in the back of his eyes. It was there to see if you knew him like I did.

Later, I learned, too, there was his son, waiting.



*** Credit:
Story and Artwork from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg