Norma’s world was a far cry different from the world that Neal was accustomed to. Her answer surprised Neal. “I think that I’d do somethin’that I’ve always wanted to do but never found the time.”
“What would that be?” Neal wondered out loud.
“Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to go to the beach and collect sea shells,” Norma stated matter-of-factly as she caught herself dreaming off into a childhood fantasy.
“Yeah, but what would happen then after you collected all of the sea shells that you ever wanted to collect?”
Norma let her mind wander off. “I would grab my crochet bag and walk up and down the beach somewhere in North or South Carolina,” Norma said, her mind off in never-never land. “You ever been there?”
Neal shook his head back and forth. “No, can’t say that I have.”
“My grandmother took me there when I was a little bitty girl,” Norma said as she momentarily focused back on Neal.
“It must have made quite an impression on you,” Neal responded.
“The light-colored sand and the dunes and the tall, wispy grass blowin’ in the ocean breeze,” Norma recited as she imagined the site in her mind, “and all of the houses on stilts to protect themselves from the risin’ water.” She closed her eyes and allowed her mind to take her back to those childhood memories.
“That sort of makes me feel guilty about giving you an extra dollar for a tip,” Neal deadpanned.
“Why would you say that?” Norma snapped back to the reality of the morning in the diner.
“If I did make a bunch of money on selling out, then I feel like I would have to share a little with you to make your dreams come true,” Neal rationalized.
“Well, whatever it is won’t be like winnin’ the Powerball or the Big Game or anything like that,” Norma shot back. “Now you’ve got my mind back to all of this crap in the diner.” She picked up a damp towel and wiped down the countertop.
“You never know. Maybe I’ll leave you a real big tip someday,” Neal threw out, “something more than that measly dollar.”
“Don’t tease me unless you mean it,” Norma chastised him.
“Oh if something like that did happen, it wouldn’t be enough to get you a place on the ocean,” Neal backpedaled. “But maybe someday I can help you out on the daily expenditures for all the good service you’ve done for me over the years.”
Norma smiled at him, appreciative of the gesture. “You’re gonna do it, aren’t you?”
Neal shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t know the final answer to that just yet. I still want to find out about what you’re going to do with the sea shells and what you’re going to do after you collect all of the ones that you want.”
Norma quickly drifted off to her dreams. In a trance-like recital she started back up. “I would empty the crotchet bag every day and pick out the very best ones. Then I would wash the sand out of them and polish up the good ones and put them in a chest with glass doors.”
“And what would you do after you collected all of the shells that you could ever dream of?” Neal probed further. He repeated his point as if on a mission.
Without missing a beat Norma said, “Then I would go out on the deck in back of my house and listen to the chimes as they blew in the wind. And I would get out my paints and paint a pretty picture on a canvas as it sat on the easel. And just relax as the ocean breeze blew over my body and the waves pounded on the shore.”
“Look how many years Booker worked on cracking that case. The last thing I’d want to do is not make him feel welcome over here,” Curt added.
“That was the first time that I had met the other two guys,” J Dub admitted.
“And they looked like two nice guys,” Curt said innocently enough.
“I know that Coach has talked about the ref before,” J Dub remarked.
“He was proud that one of his student athletes had gone on to choose a refereeing profession.”
“And I know that the other guy . . . Tuey . . . was all-everything in college,” Curt continued. “I think he ended up being an All-American in football or track or something. And he almost won that Mr. Swineskin trophy.”
“What better group of guys would you want to have out here?” J Dub reiterated. “The good Lord doesn’t make them any nicer than those guys.”
“I’ll say something to Captain Jer one of these days. The last thing that I want to do is get into some sort of a race war out here. I mean, gee whiz, it’s all about coming out here on a day off and having some fun,” Curt said to his brother.
“More than anything else that was the booze talking,” J Dub theorized.
“Maybe we need to cut him down to a six-pack per eighteen holes,” Curt suggested.
“If we did that we might kill him,” J Dub laughed. “He needs beer in his system about like you need the chemo in your IV.”
An annoying squeal howled out from the airwaves of the television set that was hooked up to a satellite feed. SPECIAL REPORT flashed on the screen. “The GRS killer has struck for the fourth time. The latest victim was located in East Lansing, Michigan. Now we’ll turn live to Michelle Larrigan for a live report . . .”
“They need to catch that guy!” Pork Chop yelled. “He’s out of control.”
“But you don’t know where he’s going to be,” Dr. DV replied.
“They’ve been scattered all over the place, haven’t they?” J Dub said.
“I know there was one in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” Fred mentioned. “My sister’s friend lives down there and they were petrified for a while.”
“Then there was that one around Nashville,” Dr. DV added.
“Yeah, it was in Brentwood on the south side,” Curt said.
“Well’s it’s my gift ta da city.” He reached down into the wagon and grabbed a couple of more items. “Now I’s gots anudda gift fo’ da mayor.”
“I think that we’ve have enough presents for the night,” Mayor Leavitt barked.
“Dere’s jus’ what’s left fo’ you’s,” Tuey said as he approached the podium. He handed the mayor a mask similar to what the Lone Ranger would wear. “Dis is cuz you’s is sum sorta bandit.” Then he handed the bunch of bananas to the mayor. “An’ dese is cuz you’s mus’ tink dat I’s sum sorta monkey.” Tuey turned and went back to his seat.
“Tuey, Tuey, Tuey. Must we have to be at odds with all of this?” Mayor Leavitt said, totally exasperated.
Tuey was quite prepared with his response. With conviction he announced to the entire room, “Dere comes uh time when you’s crackers has ta knows whens ta git off uh my bumpa!” He paused to let his words sink in. “I’s tired uh bein’ played! Aws uh you’s fokes been comin’ at me’s crooked.” He reached into the wagon and grabbed the pumpkin. “I’s had enough!” With that statement he defiantly threw the pumpkin onto the floor and watched as it smashed into tiny pieces. “Dat’s what’s you’s peoples be doin’ ta me an’ my family.”
Mayor Leavitt nodded his head to Festus. Bucky had run in from the exterior door. “Please escort this gentleman out of the meeting.” The two enforcers grabbed Tuey by the elbows. The mayor turned to Reeves. “R. W. is there anything to cite?”
“Disorderly conduct among other things.”
“Write it up,” Mayor Leavitt said. Reeves gave a head nod to Big Bertha. “And then we’ll have to think about banning him from future meetings.”
The men at the front table scurried to clean up the mess. They slipped and slid through the smashed pumpkin matter as Tuey was led out the door. Borrowing a phrase from Reverend Ostrahemial Puld, Tuey shouted over his shoulder. “Have mercy on you!”
“What are we going to do with the rest of the meeting?” city attorney Ficke asked the mayor.
“The question and answer period for Harold’s development proposal will last three seconds tonight. We’ll vote on the rezoning next month. Then we’ll have a motion for an adjournment.” Mayor Leavitt sat down in his chair, leaned back, and took a deep breath. “I think that everyone has had enough for one night.”
Father Blair fumbled around in his pocket for Scottie’s number. “Here’s his card. He’ll play every day if he can.”
Ricki thanked the monsignor. “Let me get Harold for you.” Seconds later the banker emerged from his private office. Ricki started laughing hysterically. The two men turned and looked at her in bewilderment.
“What has gotten into you?” Harold asked.
“It’s just been a while.”
“A while for what?”
“A while since I saw you two next to each other.” Father Blair towered a foot higher than the banker and he weighed almost twice as much.
Harold waved his hand impassively at his assistant and shook his head sideways. He led the priest into his office and shut the door. “Have I got a deal for you!” the banker started, barely able to contain his own excitement. He flopped himself onto the cushion that occupied the seat of his chair.
Alpha Bear poured his massive body into a seat across the desk from Harold. “One thing at a time. I came in here to talk to you about the new high school project.”
Harold was bubbling with energy. “That can wait for a few minutes.” He thought that he had finally figured out a way to get the money back into the account of Mrs. Harris.
“What can be so important to put that on the back burner?” The priest knew that Harold had a penchant for making money and had invested with him on a several occasions. He was willing to listen.
“I’m helping someone and they owe me a favor,” Harold started. “It’s a lock, solid winner.”
“There are no sure things in life.”
“This is,” Harold insisted. “We’re on the inside making it happen.”
“Making what happen?”
“Fixing college football games,” Harold blurted out.
“I don’t want anything to do with something like that,” Alpha Bear answered.
Harold grabbed a legal scratch pad. “It’s better if I draw out the scenario. I’ve got everything all figured out.”
“That’s what concerns me,” the priest admitted.
“Picketing on public property without a permit,” the city attorney responded. “It’s another ordinance violation.”
“What diff ’ence duz one mo’ make?” Tuey wondered out loud. “I’s awready got’s at least two hunnerd uh dem.”
Ficke fidgeted some more. He was at a loss for what to do. He spit some more sunflower seeds on the ground. “Hold on.”
“I’s ain’t goin’ nowhere.” Tuey stared at the attorney. “You’s oughta be gettin’ uh ticket fo’ litterin’.”
Ficke looked at Tuey and shook his head in frustration. “These are biodegradable.”
“I’s don’t cares what dey is. Dey’s makin’ uh mess.”
“Never mind.” He walked toward city hall. “I’ll be right back.”
“Have mercy on you, frien’.”
Before Ficke got inside the door, council members Lamar Dalton and Hank Hardin approached Tuey as they returned from lunch. Lamar was especially confrontational. He could be outright nasty. “Why don’t you pack up and get out of here?” he challenged.
“I’s exercisin’ my’s right ta free speech.” Tuey said as he kept marching down the sidewalk.
“That’s not going to do you a bit of good,” Lamar said.
“It wills git some uh dis stuff off uh my chest.”
“Then let me get something off of my chest. Follow the law. Pay your fines. And conform to the rules of society,” Lamar said sternly.
Tuey glared at the councilman. “Why’s don’t ya come uh li’l closa an’ say dat ta me.” He took a step toward Lamar. “Or is ya afraid uh what might happen ta ya?”
Lamar firmly stood his ground. The old codger would be no match for Tuey in a physical confrontation. Hank grabbed his arm and whispered, “Save it for another day. Let him go. This will pass.”
It turned out that Lamar’s bark was worse than his bite. His mind took control of his emotions. “You’re going about it all wrong, Tuey.”
“I’s goin’ ’bout it da only ways dat I’s knows how.”
The two men turned and continued toward city hall. “Let me talk to the mayor and get some help dropping all the fines,” Hank suggested.
“I’s heard dat befo’ from aw uh you’s crackers.” Tuey waved his sign at the two men. “An’ nuttin’ ne’er happens.”
J Dub hopped on the John Deere and sloshed his way out to the creek to check on Tuey. The crew was up to their knees in mud as the water rushed downstream. “Do you have anything special going on for the holidays?” J Dub asked after he parked the vehicle and approached Tuey.
“It’s jus’ uh nudda day,” Tuey started. “LeVournique has gotsta work.”
“On Christmas Day?” J Dub asked impervious to that fact that employers would make employees work on the sacred holiday.
“Dose casinos . . . dey’s neva close down,” Tuey replied.
“I thought that I was the only one that would have to do that,” J Dub said.
“Even if it snows?” Tuey asked.
J Dub laughed. “No, not then. But you’d be surprised how many guys will show up if the weather stays warm.”
“Duz ya goes ta da church service?”
“Marcia and I will take the kids to the Christmas Eve production. That’s when they play the songs I like,” J Dub answered.
“Maybe dat’s what I’s will do at dat church dat D. Wayne got’s me goin’ to,” Tuey said.
“Do they have a Christmas Eve service there?”
“I’s guesses dat dey duz,” Tuey said. “I’s needs ta axt dat ta da Reverend Puld.”
“If they don’t offer a service then you’re welcome to join us,” J Dub offered wanting Tuey to feel welcome.
“Tanks fo’ dat offa dere J Dub, buts I’s jus’ stay wit’ my kind,” Tuey said as he politely declined. “I’s like dat new church dat D. Wayne got’s me goin’ to.”
“Whatever works,” J Dub said as he shrugged his shoulders. “Hop in. I want to show you something.”
“Where’s ya goin’ ta be takin’ me?” Tuey asked as he climbed into the passenger seat of the utility vehicle.
“We’re going to go over to the lake,” J Dub said as he pulled away from Asia and Fanbelt. The duo was toiling in the creek and intent on fitting a section of PVC pipe together. “I’ve got to do a few things that I’ve waited way too long to do this winter.”
As J Dub pulled the utility vehicle to a stop Tuey asked, “What’s you’s gonna be showin’ me?”
Father Alphonso Blair and companion Scottie P. Lampe, along with landowner Neal Brownfield were in attendance for the good news. All of the city council members were prompt. Harold was in a lively mood as he bounced around the room. When he shook hands with Festus, the Sergeant of Arms, he slipped a twenty dollar bill into the palm of his hand and thanked him for all of his help. When the guard mildly balked Harold shook his head, crumpled the bill in his hand, and let it fall to the ground. Festus grinned and picked up the litter as the banker turned away.
After the call to order Festus slinked his way to the front of the room and led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance. Mayor Leavitt quickly advanced to the podium. “We have a full agenda this evening,” he began, “however we’re going to deviate from the normal procedure. A special request came across my desk this afternoon so I’d like to start the meeting with an announcement.” The mayor turned and welcomed the Public Works Director, R. W. Reeves to the lectern. “R. W.”
R. W. opened a file after reaching the podium. “I’d like to thank the mayor for allowing this brief announcement.” He grabbed a single sheet of paper out of the manila folder and began to read a prepared statement. “After much thought and many weeks of hesitation I offered my resignation to the mayor this afternoon. I’d like to thank Mayor Leavitt and the council members for the opportunity to serve the city.” Mild disbelief fell through the room. Reeves looked toward Big Bertha.
“I’d also like to take this time to invite Bertha Taylor to the podium.”
The fair-skinned, heavy set woman waddled to the front of the room. It was evident from the start that she had copped an attitude. “I’ll make it short and sweet.” The large lady paused and then blurted loudly. “I quit!”
Tillie Vinton, the Ward One council woman with the horrendous overbite, was visibly shaken. “What has brought all of this on, R. W.?”
“Let’s just say that there’s been an ongoing misjustice over the years,” R. W. explained. “Big Bertha and I no longer want to be a part of what I’ll term ‘Leavitt’s Lever’.” He looked at each and every council member. “I think that all of you are aware of what I am talking about.” He placed the paper into the folder. “I’m willing to be man enough to admit that what has been going on is wrong. Big Bertha feels the same way.”
“The bigot attitudes that I’ve had to enforce have gone too far,” the large woman emphasized. “I got another job and I’m moving on.”
Racial tension had been building for years near Prairie Winds Golf Course on the east side of St. Louis. Can the game of golf resolve the issue?
Tuey O’Tweety faced the brunt of the discrimination. How does a man deal with the constant frustrations associated with harassment? Corrupt politicians, manipulated city council members and hypocritical community leaders abound. Will the federal government intervene? Or will court decisions and ordinance requirements supersede?
How can an eclectic group of golfing misfits offer assistance? Will the golf course property provide safe harbor? What support can Tuey’s wife, an evangelistic preacher, and the deacon of a sectional church offer?
Join head golf pro J Dub Schroeder and his brother Curt, as they open their doors to a man trying to find his way out of an impoverished situation. Weave through the actions of a Catholic priest, a greedy banker and controlled city officials. See how the lives of a retired luxury car dealer, a local farmer, a Japanese businessman and a college football referee become unintentionally intertwined. Explore the tortuous path through the fairways of Prairie Winds Golf Course that has become “Tuey’s Course.”
The collection of books by James Ross is for the avid reader. They are delivered from Prairie Winds Golf Course which sits high atop the Mississippi river bluffs east of St. Louis.