The birth was normal but somehow the baby was strangely misshapen. One leg was shorter than the other and he twisted a bit to one side. “He’s a crooked little fellow,” the doctor muttered.
“Oh, no, he’s beautiful,” his mother insisted. “I’m so proud of him!” And to prove how much she loved her baby she gave him a strange name, as mothers sometimes do.
“Jack My love Bartholomew” the nurse wrote on the chart. “Are you sure you want to give this boy a strange name like that? He’s going to have a hard enough time in the world.”
His mom was insistent and the name stayed. Of course, in his early years Jack’s full name was rarely used. Only when his mother was mad did she call him Jack My love Bartholomew and then there were other names liberally sprinkled in.
When he entered school the situation changed. The kids taunted him because of his crooked way of smiling and the way he walked. His name became a special target and he learned to endure the bullies and their little slaves. Jack always thought of the helpers as slaves because they were afraid to challenge any decision made. Suggestions from bullies were commands to be carried out.
“Jack My love”, do this. “Jack My love”, do that. Jack grew tired of hearing his name in jest and sometimes he ignored the tease or refused to answer anything other than Jack.
In high school he began getting recognition in sports as an excellent runner. As a running back in football his slants and cutbacks were different. His crooked way of running gave him unusual opportunities. In cross country and track he became known for his “crooked” miles.
His opponents and some of his teammates asked the coaches to “Make him run right”. He ran at angles but within bounds. Although his coaches listened to complaints they saw how his awkward style led to wins. It was not in their best interests to change him. Therefore the coaches left him alone.
In addition to his talents in sports his writing skills were superior. Because he had spent hours brooding about the taunts and teasing, he kept a journal. At first his teachers tried to change his penmanship because it was so horribly crooked and even left handed students refused to accept him.
As a consequence of his crooked writing his papers were hard to read and were often marked down drastically. Eventually his teachers adapted and began discovering his raw talent. His poems and short stories were wonderful though decidedly crooked. They, not Jack, petitioned the school board for a laptop Jack could carry with him.
Jack’s romantic life was simply nonexistent. Girls remarked that Jack walked funny and when he smiled, his smile was crooked. They would say, “You’re a good friend but………….. and Jack would listen to a range of excuses but never got a date.
After college he thought about becoming a politician but since he was already “the crooked man” he thought that might be a bad idea. He became a lawyer instead.
Jack’s success as a county prosecutor brought publicity about his relentless pursuit of those on the wrong side of the law. His fame spread and he obtained a certain measure of respect but people still made references to his odd name and his peculiar way of walking.
Jack bought an old house on the outskirts of town. It needed renovation and repairs and he went right to work restoring the old mansion. Once it had been a beautiful landmark in town but a series of mobsters had lived there briefly and left it in disrepair. Townsfolk said it was filled with bullet holes and weird stories. Jack was the only one brave enough to buy it and move in.
It was located, oddly enough, on South Crooked Way and situated on the side of a small hill. Everyone who saw it claimed it leaned to one side. For that and other reasons they referred to it as “the crooked house”.
During this time Jack acquired a few animals, hereafter referred to as one crooked dog and one crooked cat. Field mice in the vicinity were decimated by the crooked cat, although there were rumors about town that a couple of malformed mice were ignored by the cat. The crooked dog looked ferocious and strangers did not venture down his road without making a hasty departure.
Jack was lonely, especially at night when the crickets started chirping and the moon rose up full of bright promise. He tried internet dating sites but he could not keep a normal schedule. His “ewomen” gradually drifted away into cyberspace.
During a Purple Passion Poetry posting contest Jack decided to compete and see if his writing talent would give him a chance at winning. He had forgotten one aspect of the contest. The top five writers were required to make a public appearance and read a few poems in front of a live audience.
One of the judges took him aside and asked, “Jack, could you please wear a specially built shoe so you look normal? Oh, and would you please take the time to work on that crooked smile?”
He won the contest which upset most of the long time gentry. While onstage at the awards presentation Jack enraged them more by removing his uncomfortable shoe and smiling at the audience.
The next day newspaper banners read, “Crooked Man Wins Contest!” When some people objected to a crooked man winning, one of the judges was quoted as saying, “I had no choice. It was crooked all the way!”
Jack was not at all pleased with the publicity and the way the public treated him. In spite of the publicity he was offered a partnership with a local law firm that wanted a crooked lawyer. When he accepted their offer he received a large increase of pay, his income doubling immediately.
His crooked smile was front page news in the local paper and one of the top ten internet stories. “Crooked Lawyer Leaves Public Practice to Defend Crooks.”
“Why don’t you sue those insensitive clods on the newspaper?” his partners asked. “They’ve gone way too far. If you won’t do it for yourself, then sue for the sake of all those kids who have to face bullies. Then donate the money to charity.”
His partners were urging him to sue but that wasn’t Jack’s style. They became more insistent, telling Jack he had to be ruthless if he continued with their firm. He resigned and opened an office on the main street of town. The sign above it read simply “THE CROOKED LAWYER”. Rather than fight with those who were ridiculing him, he took the insult as a badge of honor.
The building was nondescript and there were no flashy directions to his office. People would say, “It’s located on the third floor somewhere. You’ll know it when you see it.” Sure enough when visitors made it to the third floor they saw hand painted signs with arrows pointing the way. One sign said, “Love instead of sue.” Another was more dramatic. “Love first, shoot last.”
Across the country the name caught fire. People laughed but when they needed legal help they remembered his sign. Jack’s reputation and his tenacity brought in more clients. It seemed almost everyone wanted the most hardworking, most honest crooked lawyer in the business.
Mob bosses, ministers, thieves, rich men, and poor men wanted Jack to represent them. In his normal crooked way Jack would put up a brilliant defense as he paced back and forth, similar to the slants of his football glory days. The jury was always mesmerized and his victories continued to mount. For Jack it wasn’t all about the money. He wanted to believe in his clients and get them respect.
Because of this honest crooked lawyer many of his crooked clients decided to go straight. They continued to prosper in spite of being honest in their dealings. More importantly, they vowed to remember all that Jack had done for them.
Next door to his office was a quaint coffee shop. Jack enjoyed reading the newspaper and checking the internet over a cup of coffee. There Jack met Melissa, a waitress, who did interest him. As she poured him a coffee each day she talked about her world and wanted to know about his. She never mentioned Jack’s crooked smile. She just seemed happier when he smiled at her. She knew he had an odd way of walking but that didn’t really matter. She saw him go out of his way to say kind words to people and to pet dogs and cats.
The world came alive to Melissa when Jack was there. “Jack My love” took on new meaning after she said, “I love your name.” He excited her and made her feel comfortable at the same time. He, in turn, began sharing his childhood and found she had a genuine interest in this life. Their friendship blossomed. Shortly thereafter they married and lived together in the big crooked house.
It wasn’t long before Jack’s name was bandied about in political circles. “He was okay as a crooked lawyer,” one woman said. “I think he would make an excellent crooked politician.”
Sometimes I would take Roxy and Pixie, my two labs, down to the river for long walks and let them explore. Not only was it a change of scenery but it was a time for me to reflect about life in general. During one of those outings I observed how life works for me and why I never seemed to get ahead. After watching the dogs in their endeavors I decided that I’ve always chased rabbits.
Roxy was the faster of the two dogs and also the more skilled hunter. She would make wide sweeps through the brush and flush rabbits that were hiding there. Pixie would go ahead and wait for the rabbits to come her way.
A rabbit would jump out of the brush and race for shelter somewhere else, always with Roxy in hot pursuit. Pixie would always be ready but somehow the rabbits would outmaneuver or jump at the right time and escape. I didn’t pay much attention at first but I noticed the results were the same each and every time.
I set up an observation point so I could watch the entire chase. The chase went smoothly and their efforts proved fruitless. Somehow, though, I had a hunch that deception was taking place right before my eyes and I was missing a key ingredient of the action. I needed more information to come up with a reasonable explanation.
Several missions later I brought my camcorder and got ready for action. Roxy flushed a rabbit. It ran and increased its lead for a moment. Roxy gained and drew closer. Pixie waited and then dashed in just when the rabbit arrived. The rabbit found a sudden burst of energy and got away. At least it seemed that way as I watched in real time.
Later as I reviewed the movie I had taken of the chase, I noticed a few strange details. The rabbit getting away was not the rabbit at the beginning of the chase. After studying the movie in slow motion I came to the conclusion there were four rabbits, and they were in a relay. The first rabbit would get a big lead, slow down and hide. The second rabbit would leap up and repeat the process. Each rabbit in turn would take over at the appropriate time, leaving the last rabbit to make a clean getaway.
I could almost hear each rabbit snickering behind the bushes. “Heh, heh, heh. I can hardly wait for my turn. They’ll eat my dust as I show those dogs my speed.”
All my life I’ve been in pursuit of one rabbit after another. Just when I thought life was under control, something else would leap to the front and distract me, leaving me to always be the chaser but never getting ahead. By watching the dogs I learned to keep my eyes on my target. When it stops I need to take a moment to rest and regain strength. And then be ready to run again. Oh, yes, and to have fun. I don’t have to catch anything today. Tomorrow will be a new day and there will be more rabbits.
the usual sound of mice running up and down inside the walls. It wasn’t the sound of bats as they pushed
for favorite positions. Something else
was stirring things up again tonight. Jeremy
didn’t care what it was. He needed his
sleep. This was the third night that he had been
roused from his sleep by shrieks, by laughter, and by noisy gulps. Each night at midnight something, either a
mouse or a bat, tried to scramble away. Its
tiny feet scrabbled against the wall in desperation, but always the resolution
was the same. Eventually it was devoured
slowly by something, and the something enjoyed it very much.
thought he could hear faint laughter after each kill. He didn’t mind having the
rodent or bat population reduced, but night was his time to rest and gather
strength. Enough was enough! Tomorrow he would not wait idly by and listen
as something attacked. He would enact his plan.
Jeremy had thought long and hard.
Sleep deprivation had driven him to the sheer boldness of it. He would not run or question. This was a matter of having sheer nerve.
so tired he called in sick for work. Since
he still couldn’t sleep he took the time to draw a Cartesian plane stretching
from ceiling to floor, wall to wall.
Strategic points were labeled and marked. To the left of zero were the negative numbers
and to the right, the positive numbers.
Numbers above zero on the y axis, being positive represented things that
flew. Numbers below zero would represent
things that crawled or walked. He toiled
through the day, painting his wall with all kinds of imaginary creatures. Then he waited for the sounds to begin.
As he lay on the bed he checked the weapons he
had gathered: One large hunting knife
with serrated blade, a pistol he had found after a rival shootout, and a pick
he had discovered near an unfinished burial plot. Maybe they weren’t capable of taking care of
something, but they were better than nothing.
He had also taken some precautions.
In the local church Jeremy had filled a small bottle with holy
water. He had sprinkled some on his weapons,
some on himself, and saved some to baptize a demon or an angel.
seemed longer than usual and Jeremy found himself fighting sleep. Then the faint sounds began. First quadrant! He gripped the knife. Second quadrant! The sounds were moving…or were they coming
from both at the same time? He listened
intently. Fourth quadrant, then the third. All four quadrants were vibrating and full of
were silent and the bats were still, yet two large objects were in the wall, moving
away and back again. Jeremy lunged with
the knife and stabbed the thin wall. The serrated blade slid easily through and
plunged into something thicker. A gasp
and a tiny cry, and then blood spurted high.
The knife shook and disappeared into the wall. He held the pistol and aimed. One shot and a hit. Something collapsed and slid downward to the right. Jeremy chuckled. “A negative linear equation forms a line
slanting down to the right. My algebra
teacher would be so proud of me. My plan
worked. I think I got a demon or two.”
All was silent
for a long time until the faint sounds of mice running inside the wall caught
his attention. He fell asleep
again. He could sleep with mice racing
inside the walls or even across the bed.
Bats stirred and fluttered their wings. Their minute noises were
annoying but would not keep him awake.
Something larger moved about. “I
can sleep peacefully with angels guarding me,” he said aloud.
A snicker, a chortle, and a deep belly laugh
followed. “Then why did you stab and
shoot the two guardian angels?” a gruff voice asked. Jeremy’s eyes popped open just in time to see
a demon tearing at the sides of the hole made by the knife. He grabbed for the pick. His fingers found nothing.
looking for this?” a voice asked behind him.
“It should be stuck in zero. You
do know your luck is now zero, don’t you?”
found the small bottle. In a wide circle
he swung the holy water and drops splashed about the room but not in time to
save Jeremy. Even though his fate was
sealed his bottle of water was already cleaning everything evil from the room.
A neighbor called the police and when they
arrived the scene had already changed.
roped off the scene and began their investigation. The younger detective shook his head. “I
think it’s a clear sign of someone going berserk. Why he would stab and shoot the wall is
His partner frowned and said, “Living in this
dump is enough to drive anyone insane.
We’ve only been here a short while and already this place is bothering
me. There are sounds in the wall and
when we first got here I thought blood was dripping from that hole over
there. And what’s with this Cartesian
plane? What does it signify? There are two lines slanting down to the
right and when we first arrived there was only one. Don’t tell the captain but I think there’s
more to this story. Was this a suicide
or murder? I’ll let the coroner decide
away in a small house two newlyweds lay talking about their future. “We’ve been married for six weeks. We found this house and it’s perfect for us,”
“Yes,” he replied, “But remind me to call an
exterminator. The last three nights I’ve
heard sounds in the wall. A mouse or two
can be taken care of easily but I’ll see how much it costs. I might get rid of the pests myself as soon
as I have time. Sweet dreams, my
love. I’ll lie awake all night making
sure you’re protected.”
waited patiently on one side of the roof. A short distance away two angels also
waited. One of the angels said, “You
might have won the last battle, but we’re determined to win this one. Just because it’s getting close to Halloween
doesn’t mean we going to let you take a few more souls.”
smiled and one of them said, “People help us this time of year. Can’t you see all the mean tricks they’re
playing? They’re trying to get even with
each other and having fun. If we just
make a few noises and scare a few people they’ll go completely crazy. Forget about love. It doesn’t exist this time of year.” He paused for a moment. “Happy Halloween!”