Chapter Five- Gentle Mabel Took a Life
It was almost dinner time this summer day. I was covered with dirt after spending the day with Terry, Brad, Steven, the Kluss boys and the Jensen brothers digging a fort in the gully. Mom was sharing a cup of coffee with the next door neighbor, Mabel, who was holding her head in her hands with her elbows on the table for some reason. Mom took one look at me and cried, “Hold it right there, mister. Don't you dare track that dirt in my clean house. I'll get the broom. Excuse me Mabel.”
She hustled to the closet, snatched the broom, closed the door and stepped out on the porch.
“Bobby, I need to talk with Mabel in private for a few minutes. Do you want to go ride your bike to Carlson's and have a burger, fries and a shake for dinner?” she said as she swept me from top to bottom.
“Really? Oh, yeah, you bet I do."
“You'll have to bring some back for John and Dad too.”
“But what do you want Mom?” She smiled at me and patted my head. She gave me a last sweep, stared at me for a long second or two and then suddenly hugged me. I was surprised as Mom usually wasn't the hugging type, thank goodness.
“Get me one of those foot-long hotdogs and some curly fries. Now, shoo and don't stop at the bowling alley or the willow trees.”
“What's wrong with Mabel?” I asked.
Mom looked around as if someone was listening to us and whispered in my ear, “ Mabel had a tragedy.”
She waved at me, handed me some money and pointed toward my bike. The new, clean me jumped on my trusty bike and zoomed off. I pretended I was being chased by Gus Monrose, the villain in the latest Hardy Boy mystery, The Shore Road , that Mike Jensen had given to me two days ago. I got the order from Carlson's Drive-In and didn't think it would hurt to make a quick stop at Imperial Bowl to get a Mountain Dew and take a wizz. I chugged the pop and resisted playing a few games of pin-ball. I pumped up the last hill with Gus still on my trail and coasted into the carport. I busted through the back door. Mom looked up and pointed downstairs. Mabel was still there.
That was fine with me as the basement was dark and cool. Besides, it was time for one of my favorite shows to come on. I flipped on the black and white console TV and wolved down my burger and fries.
I must have dozed off watching Maverick and woke up when my older brother, John, smacked me on the head with his knuckle. “Where's the food, Bonehead?” I pointed at the sacks, he grabbed them and disappeared upstairs.
I heard Dad leaving later for a meeting. Shortly after the Nash took off, Mom came downstairs, carrying a laundry basket. After starting the washing machine she came over and sat down.
“Mabel killed a little boy today,” she said.
“What?" I yelled jumping up.
“Take it easy, Bobby.”
“Why did she do that, Mom?”
“It was an accident. She hit him up on Thain Road while driving home in her Plymouth. He rode his bike out in front of her and she couldn't stop in time,” Mom said.
“Is she going to jail?” I asked.
“No, but there's a problem. She was speeding. Look, Bobby, it's going to be in the paper tomorrow so I am counting on you to make sure none of your buddies starts saying anything bad about Mabel. She's a gentle, wonderful lady and a good friend. She needs our help.”
“I'll pound anyone who says anything rotten about her,” I said.
“I don't want any fighting! Some people will talk; they always do. Remember, she lost her only son six years ago and still isn't over it. This is a real tragedy, not a TV show. Not only for that poor little boy and his parents but for poor Mabel. I am worried she may never be able to forgive herself,” she said while dabbing her eyes.
I was taking the trash out to the burning barrel that night when I heard some sobs coming from Mabel's back patio. I tired not to spy but saw Ernie, her husband, holding Mabel in his arms. She was crying which for some reason made me start tearing up too. I crept away. I wasn't used to seeing grownups cry.
The next day, I saw Ernie drive away in the Plymouth. Mabel never drove a car again that I remember.