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Books by Mark M Lichterman
The ClimbingBoy15: lightning
By Mark M Lichterman
Posted: Friday, December 23, 2011
Last edited: Thursday, August 16, 2012
This short story is rated "G" by the Author.
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_________________________________________________

His fingers touching the silky lining, he felt the round

hardness of the hat’s inner crown. Shaking his head as if

coming out of a trance, his glazed eyes focused and…

knock—knock, he rapped his knuckles on the hard surface

of the hat and the bar beneath. Smiling, he looked up into

the magician’s face and his eyes. “Yeah! Ya b-b-be’s nothin’

b-b-but a ol’ f-f…”

 

The young man’s smile disappeared as suddenly the crown

of the hat and the bar beneath fell away, and his arm sunk to

the elbow.

___________________________________________________

Climbing Boy 15: lightning

London, England

December 24, 1843

                             Christmas Eve

  The people in the pub gasped, for the distance from the

tip of Lewis’ fingers to the crook of his elbow was

approximately eighteen inches. The hat was no more then

seven inches high, and yet, even though he stretched and

wiggled his outstretched fingers, he was still unable to touch

bottom; a look of disbelief came to his face.

                                                                                                                                                  

 “Come, come, Lewis…”

 

The hollow voice seemingly coming from a long

distance away…

 

“…It’s only a ‘t-t-t-trick.’”

 

Obediently, Lewis moved his arm downward, past his

elbow, until he was leaning over the bar, his armpit just

above the rim of the hat…

 

He touched something…

 

The tips of his stretching fingers felt… what?

 

Bewildered, it was…

 

Familiar. Smooth and rounded, and there was a fissure…

 

Soft.

 

Lewis’ bewildered look was replaced by pleasure,

because… soft… what he was feeling was soft and warm

and his hand caressed it, familiarly.

 

“Silbie!” Lewis looked stupidly over his shoulder, at one

of the women at the table. “Silbie! Lord, if’in it ain’t your

arse!” This said without a hint of a stutter.

 

Laughter rippled throughout the pub.

 

But now, the smile slowly faded from his face, because…

 

The feel of smooth, warm flesh was replaced by…

 

Bewildered again, looking at Garibaldi, “What is it?”

Lewis asked softly, but…

 

Garibaldi said nothing.

 

“What is it?” His voice rising, questioning, “What is it?”

Lewis repeated, his fingers touching, he felt… he felt a

cool dampness.

 

But no, what Lewis felt was not damp, it was dry.

It was smooth.

 

But no, it was not smooth, not really smooth.

 

His probing fingers touched a small aperture,

and another.

 

Moving his fingers a bit lower he felt a slight, dry tickle

on the web of flesh between thumb and forefinger.

Stretching… Stretching. Compelled, Lewis moved his

arm lower…

 

No! Oh, Lord!”

 

Suddenly, his eyes opening wide, filled with terror, Lewis

looked at Garibaldi.

 

Smiling his sardonic smile, “A trick, Lewis?” Garibaldi

whispered.

 

“Oh, Lord!”

 

Jerking backwards, “Oh, Lord,” trying to pull his arm

from the hat.

 

“‘elp me!” Pleading, “‘elp me!” the young man looked

from Garibaldi to Flizzer to the barkeep. “‘elp me!”

 

Suddenly, moving in a wide circle, the magician’s hat

began to shake violently.

 

Lifting his glass of gin and bitters, with a quick flick of

his elbow, Garibaldi swallowed the contents.

 

“It’s got me! ‘elp me!” Begging, “It’s the snake!” Pleading,

he turned to his friends at the table, but, frozen in their

chairs, their mouths agape, his friends were powerless to

help, even if they had the nerve to help.

 

“Save me! Lord ‘elp me! It’s got me arm!”

 

Terrified, Lewis looked at Garibaldi. Pleading, wild with

fear. “Please, make it let go!” Straining against the thing

that was trying to pull him down, the thing that was trying

to pull him into the magician’s hat, Lewis’ complexion, that

only moments before had been ruddy red, was now chalk

white.

 

“Pleeease, make it let go!”

 

It did.

 

Suddenly released, with both arms flailing the air, flying

backward, Lewis’ momentum flung him into the table

occupied by his friends.

 

Crashing into the man and two women, falling over the

chairs, all four fell onto the floor amidst bottles, glasses,

and chair legs. Within moments, when they were able to

detach themselves from each other, they sat on the floor

staring dumbly at the magician.

 

“Now, Lewis? Now do you believe in my magic?”

 

Wiping his face with his sleeve, “Aye,” Lewis said, numbly

nodding his head up and down.

 

As Garibaldi turned back to the bar, “For the show.

Thanks, Gov.” The barkeep sent a drink slithering down the

length of the bar. “On the house!”

 

Nimbly plucking it up and tossing it down, Garibaldi held

the empty glass towards the bartender. “Thank you, my

good man.”

 

Looking straightforward, whispering through the corner

of his mouth, “Matt, think this be a good time for an exit?”

 

“Bravo!” Flizzer whispered back.

 

All eyes watched as, reaching into his pocket, removing

a bill, Garibaldi put it onto the bar, picked up the top hat,

placed it upon his head and, looking into the mirror behind

the bar, tapped it straight.

 

Turning from the bar, knowing all eyes were on him, the

magician attempted to maintain the dignity of a sober man

by trying to walk straight, but instead drunkenly wobbled

as he walked across the room to the coat rack alongside

the door.

 

Searching a moment, he found his coat under a dozen

others and, with an ostentatious flourish, twirled it cape like,

across his shoulders then pulled his long hair out from

beneath the collar. Reaching for the door handle, turning

around, he looked at Lewis and his friends, who, still sitting

on the floor, were still staring at the magician. Smugly

tapping the top of his hat once again, turning away, he

opened the door…

 

Outside, sleet and rain were falling. Lightening made

bright, iridescent flashes behind thick, moisture-laden clouds

and there was the low grumble of near-constant rolling

thunder.

 

Stepping outside, the door to the pub was blown shut.

 

Buffeted by a strong gust of cold wind, Garibaldi hung

onto his hat with one hand while holding the coat closed

around his throat with the other. The velocity of the sleet

forcing him to turn his head from the wind, looking to the

side, he stepped into the road, as…

 

A great bolt of crackling lightning split the air directly

overhead and a loud clap of thunder simultaneously shook

the earth below, as…

 

Frightened by the combined sally of lightning and

thunder, struggling against the weight of an overloaded dray,

the terrified horse broke free from the driver’s clasp on

the reins.

 

Stamping on the brake lever, “Whoa!” the driver

screamed at the wild-eyed beast. “Whoa!”

 

The noise of the runaway wagon muffled by the sounds

of the storm, bouncing wildly, sparks shooting from beneath

ironclad hoofs and wheels, the dray careened over the

cobblestone street.

 

The velocity of the sleet forcing him to turn his head from

the wind, looking to the side, Garibaldi sensed the runaway

wagon’s approach before he saw or heard it. Another bolt

of lightning illuminating the night, he lifted his head as,

transfixed, he tried to move but, the frenzied horse upon

him, shrieking, “Nooo!” the magician instinctively threw his

arms upward in a futile effort to protect his head. Blowing,

Garibaldi’s long, white hair streamed furiously outward for

the split second before being struck and dragged beneath

hoofs and wheels.

 

Following immediately behind Garibaldi, his mouth open

in a soundless scream, Matthew Flizzer stood frozen as,

powerless to help, he could only watch as his friend was

struck by the wild horse and drawn beneath the heavy

wagon. Turning back into the pub, “Help!” he screamed.

“Get a physician! Please, find a physician!”

 

Finally able to pull the runaway wagon to a halt several

yards down the road, jumping from the seat, the driver ran

back to see if he could give aid.

 

Hearing Flizzer’s screams, knots of people, mostly from

the pub, stood looking at the mangled body as two

magistrates elbowed their way through the gawking group.

Within minutes, most of the crowd, chilled by the sleet

and rain, dissipated.

 

Turning from his companion, one of the two young men

still standing over the body looked downward and,

searching, walked about in a widening circle till, “‘ere

n-nnow,” he said, “‘ere it is!” Stooping, lifting the black

object, Lewis returned to his friend. “I g-g-g-guess ‘is

m-m-m-magic ‘at wasn’t m-m-m-magic enough to make

that wagon d-ddisappear, eh?”

 

About to put the hat onto the chest of the body of Garibaldi,

changing his mind, turning from the body, walking back into

the Boar’s Tooth Pub, Lewis put the magician’s now bent

and dented top hat onto his head. “Aye, Silbie,” he said

without a trace of a stutter, “I found ‘is lordship’s ‘at!”

 

“An’ elegant it makes ya’ look, too, Lewis,” Silvia replied.

 

                                         *****

Johnson knew of a great number of pubs between Hobbins’

Funeral Parlor and the dirt road leading to the shack and,

licking his lips, imagining the free drinks he’d soon be

enjoying, he intended to visit each one.

 

Now that what he considered to be “his” share of the

work was finished, quickly packing the equipment into the

tool box, “Ey, boy,” pointing his finger, looking sternly at

Zachariah, “you finish ‘ere,” motioning with his thumb at

the fireplace and vaguely around the entire parlor, “an’ be

sure to get the pay from the…” looking towards the basement

stairway, “…ol’ bastard, an’ then ya get ya arse on ‘ome! Ya

`ear what I’m sayin’?”

 

On his hands and knees inside the firebox, turning his

body so he could see Johnson, “Aye, Sir.”

 

Posed as a statement rather than a question, “Ya knows

‘ow to get ‘ome from ‘ere!”

 

“Aye, Sir.”

 

“Mind ya,” starting to cough, “finish the job good an’

proper like or ol’ ‘obbins, the bloody tightwad bastard ‘e is,

‘ll try to squeeze out’a payin’ ya!” Turning away, Johnson

turned back, “An’ don’t’ya be tellin’ ‘im where I’m off to!”

 

“Aye, Sir.”

 

He looked at the boy for a second or two, then, grasping

the handle, lifting it with a grunt, swinging it, Johnson

hoisted the toolbox onto his right shoulder.

 

Having a somewhat disquieted sensation in the pit of his

stomach, Maybe I ought not be leavin’ the boy a second time

this day. Feeling vaguely guilty over leaving Zachariah once

again, Eh, tis nothin’! Rationalizing, ‘e’ll do what ‘e must

an’ find ‘is way ‘ome without me ‘elp. Mentally brushing the

sensation away, turning away, Johnson took a step toward

the doorway, stopped, considering a moment, then turned

back and, lifting it off the drop cloth, placed the bandoleer

of brushes around his shoulder. “That’ll leave ya just the

cloths, the scrapper an’ brush an’ the rope to be carryin’,”

he said magnanimously. “An’ if the ol’ bastard asks where

I’m at, tell ‘im I ‘ad a ‘nother ‘pointment.”

 

 

 


Web Site: mmlichterman.com  


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