7.05.2019

Home on the range


Mr. Krieg, the Vice Principal of Poverty Valley High School was an unhappy man. Today he was unhappy about a car in the main hallway of the High school administration building, specifically, a snazzy little Fiat convertible belonging to Mr. Hope the Science Teacher. The vehicle had suffered a mechanical issue the day before, and Mr. Hope had left it overnight either intending to recover it the following day or hoping someone would steal it thus ridding him of a Fiat. The car, apparently reluctant to spend the night outside, was found in the main hallway the next morning. Somehow it had not only managed to move without a working carburetor but had opened the doors and removed the centerpiece called an “astragal” by those who attended door college and managed to replace it once inside.  To add insult to injury, the pin holding the astragal in place had been damaged in to process, and the car was trapped until Mr. Modeous, a pyromaniac employed by the school district as a welder could be summoned with a cutting torch.
As was standard practice whenever anything unusual occurred on campus myself, Joe Park and the mysterious Double Dee were summoned to Mr. Krieg’s office for questioning. Rather than the usual harangue, he simply stared at us through steepled fingers as if his mind was elsewhere, looking back I suspect he was mentally cataloging places to hide three bodies that were within convenient driving distance. The man had issues, perhaps the dual burdens of work and overprotecting his teenage daughter had taken their toll on his nerves.
Once released due to lack of evidence, we decided that poor Mr. Krieg, a widower needed company. His daughter Jenny, a classmate of ours revealed her father had a fondness for dogs, in fact, their pet of many years a Poodle named Lucky, had recently run out of luck and succeeded in intercepting an apple truck.  Deducing that the loss of the inaptly named canine was the cause of his depression, we located a suitable replacement companion, a stray of indeterminate breed and exuberant disposition that had somehow become locked in a local salvage yard.  The damaged front door worked in our favor, needing a replacement part to be restored to full function and we placed h Mr. Krieg's new best friend in his office before he arrived the next morning. Unfortunately, the dog's excitement exceeded Mr. Krieg’s by a considerable margin, and the dog was returned to his previous employer.
About a week later, we greeted him as we passed in the hallway. He followed after us gibbering some nonsense about "truancy" insisting that we return to class even though we had obviously just left. His behavior became so disconcerting that we felt compelled to humor him. Something had to be done, but we couldn't think of anything suitable until Joe recalled Mr. Krieg’s love of golf. It was a shame we decided that he had to pay those expensive fees at the country club when his country home possessed a spacious yard, so we decided that we would install a custom driving range and putting green so that he could save money and perhaps afford some counseling. Some later unkindly suggested we were tormenting Mr. Krieg, in our defense, I note that we completed the project without recompense and carried out our activities at night to better surprise him with our gift, knowing that all true charity is anonymous.  Unfortunately, he was not the only one who ended up being surprised.
The first surprise was that golf balls cost upward of five dollars a dozen at the local sporting goods store. Premium varieties were also available, apparently driven on the hoof all the way from Scotland, we abandoned store-bought golf balls and sought to adopt feral ones. Golf balls we discovered, are dangerous in the wild, but through careful study, we determined that the yellow "driving range" species was the most easily captured. This presented difficulties of its own as they were a protected species inhabiting an enclosed reserve. If approached during daylight hours they would defend themselves, leaping high into the air before diving down with considerable force in a manner, not unlike artillery fire. To make matters worse, they were protected by a game warden who would appear from nowhere and force the release of any we had managed to capture. This resistance forced us to hunt after dark when they were asleep.
Things proceeded remarkably well, and we made two successful sorties on successive Saturday nights, each time adopting dozens of the beasts, But we still felt that without further specimens Mr. Krieg would be insufficiently surprised. Complicating matters Mr. Krieg seemed more mindful of our movements, possibly because of the ongoing interest occurring between Double Dee and Mr. Krieg’s daughter. Alarmingly, DD began to lose interest in the project and strangely spoke endlessly about Jenny's cat. Joe and I thought this odd as we all knew full well the Krieg’s had no cat, but I digress.   With the project in jeopardy, we plotted one last expedition in the hopes finishing quickly.
The final expedition followed the same pattern as the others. We wore whatever dark clothing was available and parked DD’s beastly old Datsun truck in an orchard nearby. We jumped a split rail fence and headed to our first target the open "green" area. We wanted to make the balls feel at home in their new habitat, so we collected several of those silly flags with the numbers on them to better simulate their natural habitat. With these in hand, we made our way to the driving range and began the task of sneaking up on the balls one by one and stuffing them into our pockets. Joe, having displayed more forethought than most of us, had brought a large plastic garbage bag and was working his way along methodically stuffing balls into his bag when the expedition came to an abrupt end.
In retrospect, we realized that striking three Saturday's in a row was perhaps a bit predictable. This realization came with the simultaneous activation of the numerous powerful floodlights that illuminated the driving range. One moment we were going about our task, and the next, I had a distinct impression that an atomic bomb had gone off. I looked up to see the silhouettes of my compatriots, silhouetted against a background of blinding light. I recall hearing someone yell and Joe later told me that it was the game warden telling us to freeze as he jacked a shell into his 12 gauge shotgun.  Taking direction was not our strong suit, and we bolted like cockroaches.  
DD and I being closest to the perimeter, made our escape, vaulting the fence and fleeing into the orchard. We had just made the tree line when we heard the unmistakable blast of the shotgun. I looked over my shoulder and saw Joe flung bodily over the fence to slam into the ground and lie still. My next surprise was that I was neither dismayed or angered by the apparent demise of my friend.  Instead, DD and I found this to be intensely motivational, and we sped toward the truck and relative safety at record speed.
I don't know how Joe got the idea that we abandoned him, a slander that he persists with to this day. The game warden had used rock salt rather than a standard shotgun load, and Joe managed to regain his feet and limp away, chasing the fading red light of DD’s one functional taillight. Knowing that pursuit was inevitable, he fled into a residential area and made his escape aided by the confusion that a limping, 6’6 creature dressed entirely in black produced as it crossed various backyards. The presence of the screaming man a golf cart, waving a shotgun and screaming that “those rotten kids took my balls!” did nothing to calm the neighbors and was reported to the sheriff as an armed man pursuing a sasquatch. None realized it at the time, but it would not be the first time he would be mistaken for such. Deputies converged on the area and unsurprisingly chose to focus on the enraged man waving the shotgun, allowing Joe to limp away into the night.
We had just reached DD’s house when Joe called from a pay phone demanding rescue, We were ecstatic at Joe’s escape despite the vile slander that we had left him for dead. He was still pouting the next evening and declined to accompany us when we installed the golf course in Mr. Krieg’s yard, Claiming that he was too busy trying to explain his perforated appearance to his parents.