FANS Chapter Nine Excerpt

002

FANS
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.

007

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

 

FANS Chapter Four Excerpt

002

FANS
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.”

007

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

FANS Chapter One Excerpt

002

FANS
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.

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