September 19, 2018

No News From Doodlebug Island…by William F Jordan

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For three men so remarkably different from one another, Nebs Dolfinger, Howard Doaks, and Tracy Burliner were alike in at least one thing. They all wanted to know how the parking meter got from its moorings in front of the First National Bank of Doodlebug into the back of Rick Nesbitt’s truck. And Rick wasn’t saying.

Island policeman Nebs Dolfinger rather thought it signaled a new wave of street crime. Prosecuting attorney Howard Doaks was of the opinion Rick had put it there himself, intending to rob it later; while Judge Tracy Burliner thought it could be either of these but was more likely a prank. The judge was right, although that judgment would never be confirmed for him. He fined Rick a hefty three-hundred dollars and warned him against any further funny business involving parking meters.

To the surprise of the three gentlemen mentioned, Rick seemed almost relieved to pay the fine. He shook hands all around, promised to behave himself, and left smiling. Outside, he felt so elated that he was unmindful of his surroundings and almost collided with Quincy Widegirth who was delivering mail to the court house. Now, Quincy is a man who lives up to his name, being about as round as he is tall, and Rick had to do some fancy footwork to avoid that kind of bulk. Still, he did it with aplomb and with the same convivial smile he’d shown in the courtroom. He fairly danced around Quincy, contented in the knowledge that at last his friend Blaine Gaspart had forgiven him for the very mean trick he’d pulled on him two months earlier. That was what the meter in the back of his pickup really meant, he knew. Blaine was willing to let bygones be bygones, and he was using this means of showing it. Expensive but effective.

“I wouldn’t blame him if he’d never spoken to me again,” mused Rick, relieved that his old friend had communicated with him even in this obtuse way. “After what I did to him, this meter business is small payback.”

Rick was right. He had, indeed, “done something” that bordered on the unforgivable, and maybe exceeded it by several degrees. Together with several buddies, he had shivareed Blaine on his wedding night, driven him around Sedona for a time trussed up like a prisoner on his way to Alcatraz, then taken him back to Doodlebug Island where he and the others handcuffed him around a lamppost on Main Street and Prosperity Avenue, the center of downtown Doodlebug. Blaine was stripped of his pants and left there for five hours.

Rick had meant to free Blaine after only a short time, but in the melee which ensued when they struggled to attach him to the post, the key was somehow lost. Rick spent the next few hours trying to find another one. By the time Rick located another key, it was three o’lock in the morning, and he knew with certainty that the job of unlocking those handcuffs would have to be handled by someone other than himself. Friendship was no match for what he knew would be the seething, fulminating, incalculable anger of a man treated as Blaine had been.

He gave the key to his dad and asked the latter to open the cuffs and explain the delay. Rick himself blew out of town for the healthier climate of San Diego where he enjoyed the balmy sea breezes for four weeks while storm clouds and hurricane winds were hurling themselves against the red cliffs of home. When he thought it safe, he returned but not to the old haunts where he knew he would encounter Blaine, and never with the conviction that something dire wasn’t waiting for him just around the next corner.

Anticipation of those consequences dogged him, made his life miserable. He wished with all his heart he hadn’t thought of that foolish prank to pull on Blaine. Too late, he learned that anticipation is the undoing of moral courage, and that wrong is like tons of dead weight suspended from the heart. It was at this moment of despair and self-deprecation that the parking
meter found its way into the back of his pickup. And that single act would forever remain one of the most wonderful events of Rick’s life.

“I hope that’s the end of retaliation,” he said to himself. “Still, if I ever find the girl who’ll have me, I believe we’ll forego the amenities and just elope!”

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