Growing Pains

Walter Crown's Observing/Narrating:

The dried leaves of the year's Fall season had formed a small mount against one of the rock wall foundations that held up the wooden footpath bridge. The swollen creek,that ran beneath it, filled with rainwater from the neighboring mountains, making the structure, far too unstable for any pedestrian traffic. The county engineers' halted any restorations on the structure years ago; they barricaded both entrances and left it to dilapidate with each passing season.

Henry disregarded the dangers and utilized this passage as a short-cut to his lair. That's what he called it. He saw himself as a predator. In essence, he was not too far from the truth by labeling himself this,  Monster would have been more appropriate. It was in this, "lair" he would evolve, perfect and master the craft of torture. At the young age of 10, he had killed his first victim. A menacing rabbit that had plagued him throughout that Spring season, by helping himself to nearly every vegetable Henry had managed to grow in that garden.  Henry resigned himself into cultivating  a magnificent vegetable garden,  to help cut down living expenses for the family. A welcome distraction from the dark imagery his shadow self would reveal during the night hours. A crucial time in his young life. When hormonal imbalances, wreak havoc on a young man's insides, sending an already fragile mind, into a state of  unpredictability and obscurity, that lingered on, forever.  Henry only knew what his mother had been telling him all along. "It's just growing pains! Perfectly natural to feel this way!" So, he moved along in life with the understanding that these nightmares and impulses to act upon them  would pass.  They never did!

As each new day arrived, Henry  toiled at a feverish pace taking careful measurements for every row needed to accommodate the seedling, nurturing it's soil until it was ready to be seeded with an assortment of garden variety vegetables he had selected to plant.  A labor of love!  Henry's first feelings of accomplishment for a job well-done and his first encounter with the feeling of taking a life, Poor Bunny! If you look at Henry's key chain, that rabbit's foot he has attached to it's ring, is not for luck.  This was Henry's introduction to murder.  After that, he always kept soveniers from his victums, then proudly displayed, the chosen part, on the rock walls inside of his, "den of the dead." 

Henry  rarely experienced joy or even a moments peace. Who could blame him?  Henry was born into a family who's father could hardly conjure up a smile on any given morning, without taking a slug of bourbon first,  and a mother who buried his empty bourbon bottles behind the barn; as fast as he could drink them.  Henry's father was your typical functioning alcoholic. I've always liked that term, "functional alcoholic. It's a term created by Wall Street talking heads to justify their miscalculations of the market, by blaming the double they just tossed back before 10:00 a.m... but were able to make the cash back by the end of the day!" Beautiful, Just Beautiful!

Henry's father could have done just about anything with his life. Now, here's a man who had alot of choices growing-up. He was an All-Star quarterback in High School. The scout's from the best college's would travel miles, just to see if this young man was a flash in the pan or the real thing!  He didn't disappoint them!   He was a dynamo!   Another Joe Namath.  So, Why did he remain behind in this ghost town?  I'm glad you asked!   The answer is simple.  Henry's mother!   She wasn't a beauty queen, But, she was incredibly smart . The one thing she possessed that was strong enough to keep this young man from having it all was:  Murder.  That's right, Murder.  Just like ole' Henry, Eli was as mad as a hatter and nearly killed this girl when he learned that she had become pregnant and now expected him to marry her and throw away, "A once in a lifetime"chance opportunity as a First-Draft pick for one of the nation's leading college.

Shanon Wilkerson was one of those girls who would do just about anything to be seen with Eli James.  She would go to every home game, alone, of course. Just to watch him play.  Shanon kept to herself most of the time during high school. She managed to keep her grades up, despite the fact she hardly slept a wink. She suffered from insomnia. So,  she spent her nights studying or painting.   It was during English class that Eli James first noticed her. She sat just in front of him, and although the scent of her hair smelled like Harvest Apples, he never gave her a second look.   Until, he happened to look down at her back pack and noticed a charcoal drawing of him on the football field sticking out of the flap. He pretended to reach down to tie his bootlaces up, then reaching over with his right hand,  he opened up the flap just a bit more, to peek inside. There,... in all it's glory, was a drawing so true to life of the winning touchdown pass he had thrown,  at last weeks championship game.  The spectators in the crowd cheering him on, were draw so realistically. He was astonished at this girls talent.   Slowly, he closed the flap to her backpack and sat back up without being detected.  He spent the remaining minutes of class staring at the backpack.  The bell rang,  Eli remained seated as the other students quickly rose up out of their chairs, gathered up their notes and books, then battled each other out of the room.  Shanon was always the last one to leave. She looked back at him with her button eyes, then quickly turned away. She wondered why he hadn't left with all the others? Usually, he's the first one out the door!  He sat up and offered to carry her heavy backpack to the next class. This kind offer coming from her knight in shining armor was all she'd ever dreamed of.  Now that the moment had finally arrived, she froze with terror. The only thing she wanted to do was to flee, as fast as she could. She reached for her backpack that lie on the green, dull tile flooring that blanketed the entire school, and darted for the exit as quickly as she could.

OUR STORY BEGINS: Havertown High School- 1975/English 1

"Wait!,  I just wanted to talk!" Eli shouted out to Shanon, as she hurried towards the doors. She knocked over the plack that was displayed on the teacher's desk, breaking off one of the pegs, as it smashed to the ground.  "Shanon Wilkerson!" yells the teacher, Mr. Wong. "Oh, No..I'm..I'm sorry." Shanon offered,  as she continued on with her hurried pace. "I'll fix it tomorrow Mr. Wong!...I promise!" she yelled back.  "You had better, young lady!... Now, Why are you still here Eli?" he asked sharply. "I'm not going to give you a pass for your next class, So, you'd better get going!" he added.  Eli gathered his books and team jacket, then left the room without saying a word. He was still in a state of confusion over the fast-moving events that were quickly unfolding.  He had one minute to make it to the next building and up the flight of stairs before he would be considered, "late for class."  Being a star athlete had it's perks, but being late for Mrs. Saunders Chemistry quiz was the last thing he wanted.  She was just waiting for this to happen.  Mrs. Saunders was a stickler when it came to "punctuality" especially if you were a "Star quarterback."  She just hated the idea, that a student could enter college with a scholarship from any physical sport, just so long as they could maintain a decent grade average, but excel as a star athlete.  Eli managed to do the impossible, in seconds flat.  He'd just made it to her classroom, but not before he flew into the room, leaping into his seat. The late buzzer sounds off. Eli's classmates began clapping and cheering him on, for his incredible entrance.

Mrs. Saunders' was seated at the back of the classroom. Her eyes fixed on the front entrance to the classroom, just waiting for the chance to send Eli James down to the office for being tardy. She stared at the wall clock, watching the second hand tick towards the minute hand, waiting for the All-Star to arrive, late.  Suddenly, Eli flew through the door, sliding into his desk, as if he had rehearsed this moment,  a thousand times before. She was astonished to see that he had not only managed to make to her class on-time, but his grace and agility, while in motion, was truly a sight to behold.  She allowed the class to have their fun for only a few seconds, before she raised her voice in protest.  "Alright!...Alright!...That will be all!" she demanded. "Mr. James?  Thank you for that amazing display of grace under pressure!"  Eli knew not to respond back to her with a boasting reply.  He just smiled, ever-so-slightly at a few of his  team-mates that just happened to be in the same classroom, then solemnly looked away.  Mrs. Saunder's quickly made her way towards the front of the classroom,as she handed out the exam papers to the students who sat in the front rows and instructed them to, "Take one and pass the rest back."   When she approached Eli's desk she cleared her throat, in an attempt to get his attention.  He reached up and took the stack of paper from her. "Take one. Pass the rest back please, Mr. James."  she spoke sternly. "I'd like to speak to you before the period is over?" she asked.  Eli's elevated mood from the waves of adulation from his peers, quickly turned meloncholy.  He'd knew that Mrs. Saunders had it in for him and it seems now, he had given her just enough rope to linch him.  The football season was finished for the year. Wrestling was starting in under a week and he'd been training hard after-school to keep in shape by weight training and swimming at the local gym.  He loved keeping in shape and worked very hard to maintain his weight and stamina. Football was his passion, so if Mrs. Saunders wanted to find a way to throw a wrench in the wheel, by having him suspended from a few wrestling matches, he could live with that.

"Yes, Ma'am!" Eli respectfully replied to Mrs. Saunders, she knoded, then walked slowly back towards her desk in the back of the class, as she watched her students anxiously begin testing. Eli was an "A" student, in all of his classes, except for this study period.  Mrs. Saunders never gave anyone an "A" in her class.  Not one of the students in her entire career at Havertown High School had she been so impressed with, that she just had to give em' a GPA of 4.0. Ever! Maybe, if one of her students managed to fiqure out how to make Helium 3, without the use of the sun's gravity and nuclear fusion from hydrogen atoms, Perhaps she'd be compelled to sign-off on a report card that bears the forever forgotten, "Letter A."  

Eli had finished the exam several minutes before this timed test was due. He circled around the room, scanning the scenery for anything that looked remotely interesting.  The glass tubes containing colored chemicals, hung suspended from the clamps that held them in place over the unlite Bunson Burners.  Behind the twisted maze of glass and steel was the dry eraser board filled with equations and computations for numerous experiments that were due the following week.  Eli copied each one down into his notebook, then quietly placed it into his backpack.  He looked towards the back of the room where Mrs. Saunders was seated.  She jestured to him to come to the back of the class. The moment of truth had arrived, at last! 

Eli rose up from his aging steel framed desk and made his way towards the back of the classroom. He glanced over at his one of his team-mates, Melvin Ross, who was also, an All-Star athlete and Eli's point man on the field, his runningback. Melvin smiled at Eli, then ran his finger across his throat, all Eli could do was to smile back at him. The other students that were still agonizing away at the test looked up at Eli when he squeezed pass them through the narrow rows.  They did this  to get an "up close and personal" view at the school's All-Star jock and future New England Patriots' Quarterback. 

As Eli approached Mrs. Saunder's desk, an uneasy feeling over-came him. A feeling he was not comfortable with, or even familiar with, washed over him like rouge wave making him nervous and ill-prepared for what was about to take place.  Eli handed his completed test to her, she reached up her hand, without looking up at him, taking the paper from him.  This made Eli feel even more uncomfortable.  When she'd finished writing, she glanced up at Eli,  her glasses setting dangerously close to the edge of her nose.  "Come with me!" she stated firmly, as her wrinkled hand and finger pointed towards the rear-room exit, and raised up from her desk.

The strong, yet fragrant scent of clean laundry trailed behind her.  Eli's mind began racing, as he walked behind her, wondering what will she say or do?  The classroom students watched intently, as the two of them left the room.  The heavy wooden door that was mounted in the door frame to the classroom, let out an eerie sound from it's steel hinges and swung outward into the empty hallway.  Mrs. Saunder's quickly moved through it, holding the door for Eli, before closing it.  She looked down the corridor for any sign of faculty or students before speaking.  "Mr. James?  I understand how important, competition is to you. However, before you can achieve greatness, you must first understand, responsibility.  I have spoken to many of your other teachers', and while I must confess, in all of my years as an educater, I've never heard so many of our teachers' praise a student for their efforts and achievements."  she offered, "So, Having said this, I'd like nothing more, then to recipricate their accolades for you, but while you continue to show up for my classroom period with seconds to spare before your marked, "late", I'm forced to recommend to your coaches, that you be withheld from participating  in the next several games.  I'm sorry! But, you leave me no choice!"  she firmly stated aloud, her voice echoing down the empty corridor.  She usually wears a hearing aid, but today, it's not there. Eli looked around to see if anyone had heard her shouting.  "Mrs. Saunder's?  How many times have I been late for your period? If I am allowed to ask?"  Eli asked curiously.  "Today makes twice?"  she replied quickly. "Mrs. Saunder's?  I was a freshman when that happened!"  he said, "That was over 3 years ago?   You can't be serious? he asked. "Today, I wasn't even late? Ma'ame."  Eli was beginning to wonder whether or not, Mrs. Saunder's had completely lost her marbles.  "Why?"...Eli hesitates. "Your going to look awfully stupid in front of all of your colleges, if you tell them you would like me suspended from competing based on the fact, that I was late for class when I was a freshman!  Mrs. Saunder's?  Are you ok?"  Eli seemed confused by her reasons for wanting him suspended from competeing.  Mrs. Saunder's face grew pale as all of the blood had drained away from her head, her eyes gazed back at Eli with an empty stare.  "Mrs. Saunders?  What's wrong!" Eli asked once more.  Suddenly, it became clear to Eli.  Mrs. Saunders was having a stroke.  He quickly ran back into the room and pressed the intercom button to the main office.  A voice came over the speaker. "Yes, Mrs. Saunders?  What is it?"  "Ahh, this is Eli James.  I think Mrs. Saunder's needs to go to the hospital!"  Eli nervously replied back.   "Please!.... Send someone quickly!... Hurry!" as he shouted back into the intercom mic.

The students that were seated inside of the room, quickly stopped writing, and turned back to look back towards Eli.  "Hey, Bro? What's going on?"  Melvin Ross shouted across the room, to Eli.   The noise level inside of the room increased dramatically, as each of the students began shouting out one another.  When Eli returned to the hallway, Mrs. Saunders had fallen to her knees, and began weeping, softly.  He quickly lowered his body down towards this fallen creature who now is at the mercy of her own, misaligned neuro-system,  and held her close to him.  "You're going to be ok, Mrs. Saunders.  Help is on the way!"  Mrs. Saunders eyes look up towards the young man, as the tears streamed down her soft, pale skin, reaching up with her right hand, placing onto his cheek.   The other students pushed their way passed each other, through the narrow doorway,  forming a protective circle around the both of them.  Some of the female students began crying outloud, the image to powerful for them to wrap their un-matured minds around.  While others made inappropriate comments.  Eli was quick to respond to them. "Hey, Eli! Is this why she called you out into the hallway? Did you have to tell her she was too old for you and the ole' bag could take the rejection!"  someone from the mob shouted.  "Who ever said that?  Is a deadman!" El replied back, as he continued to comfort Mrs. Saunders in his arms.    Melvin Ross pushed the rival student back into the lockers, and clasped his fists around his shirt collar.  "You and me, Stoner!  Outside! Afterschool! You got it!  he said, snapping his teeth back at the student. "Oh, I got it, Alright. Melvin!" Andy Wanes answered back. "Now, If you don't mind? Get your dam paws off of my new shirt!" he demanded.   Melvin shoved Andy back into the lockers, again.  "Sure Thing, Pal!" 

Andy Wanes just smiled back at Melvin, then fixed his collar. "You need a lesson in manners, Boy! You picked the wrong day to get on my bad side!" he said to Melvin, as he turned to walk away. Melvin grabbed Andy by the back of his jacket, then tossed him back into the lockers. Andy began laughing at Melvin, with each punch he landed into his jaw. "That's all you got! Boy!" he shouted, his rotted teeth now stained with blood.   Melvin then thrust his forehead forward into Andy's, his eyes swirled around inside of head, like a spinning top. He let out a quick laugh, before collasping onto the hall floor

.  Just then, the high school's security team that had accompanied the first-responders,  tackled Melvin, then placed him into a choke-hold. Meanwhile, the emergency EMT's  that were close behind,  were unable to get to the elderly stroke victum, because the student's were so tightly woven together, making it impassable.    The school principle,  Dr. Adam. P. Joule' pushed his way past his students that were now piling up on top of each other, just to get a glimpse of the chaos that had escalated into a brawl, between a school jocks and a burn-out.  "Step Aside!  Please, Everyone!...Clear this hallway or each and everyone of you will be sent to detention!... Now, Move It!" he ordered.  Slowly, a path was cleared. 

Melvin Ross, who's face was now pressed down on the hard, tile flooring,  tried desperately to break-free from the strong-hold of the security guards. He grunted angrily, as the muscular duo refused to loosen up their grip around his head and neck.  "Get that student out of here and down in my office now!" Mr. Joule' demanded. "As for Mr. Wanes?  Throw him over your shoulder and get him down to the infirmary. I'll have one of the EMT's take a look at his injuries! Move it!  Move it!" he shouted at the two new security guards. 

The EMT's began working on Mrs. Saunders, as they lifted her onto the gurney and began setting up EKG electrodes and monitors. "We'll take it from here, Son!  Hey, Your Eli James, Right?" the lead technician asked. "Yeah, I'm Eli James." he said.  "You really are  on your way to greatness!  First, you throw the winning touchdown and now this!  Man, you really are a hero!  You should be proud son!  Real proud."  Eli didn't know what to say to that.  He never thought of himself as a "star" or even a "hero."  He was just doing what came very naturally to him when he was out on the field throwing Hail Mary touchdowns to his best friend, who is now behind the eight ball for having smoked that freak, Andy Wanes.  He will most certainly be suspended, and maybe even charged with aggrevated assult? But, highly unlikely.  You see, Melvin's father is the town's sheriff and Andy Wanes certainly had it coming.  Melvin's father will find a legal loophole to get his son off the hook.  Andy Wanes has had his share of legal troubles, but Melvin's father could never find enough evidence to link Andy and that band of gypsies, he hung around with to the crimes.  So, needless to say, Sheriff Ross wasn't about to have anyone charge his only son with offense against some, punk kid who's luck was about to run out. 


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