the random walk by jmforceton

13 Mar

Once a month at about one o’clock in the afternoon, Tim Jenkins puts on his Boston Red Socks baseball cap to cover his balding head and takes a random walk the mile and a half to his principal’s meeting at the Board of Education building. He thinks of it as wandering, a momentary escape. As principal of a city high school, his life is otherwise, in everyway, a very structured path. For his special half hour he prides himself on never taking the same journey through these low-income neighborhoods. Over the years he’s met some very interesting people on his walks.

Today he takes a left off School Street onto Oak Street. There is a foot-wide strip of wet dirt and gravel between the sidewalk and the curb where a mix of modest cars and luxury sedans are parked along the potholed road. A dozen purple and yellow crocuses have sprouted alongside an old black Mercedes. He stops for just a few seconds to admire them. Snow lingers in black and brown speckled heaps scattered along the street, and water from the melting snow pools in places across the sidewalk. Up ahead is the barn board façade of the Whiteboard Café, a biker bar of doubtful distinction.

Walking briskly now, approaching the door of the bar he hears the growing shriek of sirens, passing cars splashing through puddles, and birds chirping on wires overhead.

Inside the bar, the massive 6’5” owner, his enormous white rippled gut hanging over his belt and out from under a stained tee shirt, ambles around the end of the bar shouting, “Hey Buddy, I’m not going to tell you again. Take it easy on her”. With the distraction, Melinda breaks free of her ex-husband Freddy, runs between tables, knocks over chairs, pushes the front door open, catches her foot on the rotted two-inch lip of the doorframe, and begins to fall.

Fifteen minutes earlier, at about the same time Tim started his walk, Freddy had been waiting for her in the parking lot when she left her luncheon meeting at the elementary school across town. No one saw him grab her as he pulled her into the van driven by a heavily tattooed figure. All he said was, “You’re coming with me. We’re going to talk.” When the van stopped behind the bar and he pulled her through the back door, she was terrified. This was the once happy but socially awkward actuary she had married. With two beautiful children and nearly $400,000 in income, for a time, their marriage had been predictable. Then the divorce papers were served, he bought the low rider Harley, and she found the crack hidden in his basement workshop. Two years later she ran into him on Broadway in New York City with the fifty-something blond. They were both wearing his gang’s scull covered black leather jackets.

Melinda falls out the door, trying to hold onto the door’s push bar and feels hands grope her as someone grabs her from behind. She screams, “Get your hands off me”.

Tim is shaken by the scream but awkwardly manages to catch her under her arms to break her fall. It takes him only a second to realize it’s Melinda Throckmorton, the Superintendent of Schools for the district. Patrol cars from both directions come to abrupt stops behind him, as officers run towards him, guns drawn, leaving their lights flashing and doors open. “Get your hands up and move away from her. Now.” A mobile unit from local Channel 3 News is just turning off School Street onto Oak as several more patrol cars scream past them.

“That must be the woman that was being assaulted. Joey, start shooting now. I don’t care if we’re three blocks away. Get whatever you can. We haven’t posted a story in four days. Ok, here I go.  “This is Gloria Solaris reporting live from Oak Street, downtown at the scene of…”

Behind the bar, on the street running parallel to Oak, a white van slowly drives away, turns left on Fremont, and gets on the ramp for the interstate.

Hands up against the barn board wall, Tim is looking over his shoulder at Melinda, confused by the officers’ rapid questions and conversation, his eyes jerk quickly from place to place, and then as neighbors and small children come out of doorways and watch from the street, he drops his head. The spotlights from the news truck turn on and he looks up to see a young redheaded woman he recognizes step out, talking into a hand microphone, and pointing at him. Within all the noise, the bar owner stops shouting, “That’s not the fuckin’ guy, a’holes”, and is leaning against the door of the bar shaking his head. Tim, head down again, keeps saying to no one in particular, “I was just walking by.”

*   *   *   *

Tim arrives back at his school forty-five minutes later. The police, once they realized the Principal and Superintendent were involved, had ordered all city schools into lockdown. Tim has talked to his wife. She has already seen the live breaking news story on television after friends had called her at her office.

Since the incident, Tim Jenkins still puts his Red Socks hat on occasionally and high-fives kids in the hallways, but he doesn’t take another random walk for two years.

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2 Responses to “the random walk by jmforceton”

  1. ingridfnl March 13, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    i hope you know i think you are wonderful.

    i am still too jet lagged to add mine, but will work on it tomorrow…

    thank you for your story jon!

    • jmforceton March 14, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

      Thanks for your generous comments. I appreciate your efforts to maintain this blog each week.

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