The Linear Canvas
This journal is about the wrongs and rights of the world, as I see them.

The Linear Canvas

Running from Rocks

November 28th, 2004 . by Alexander Fisher

Mr. Boogey Man
As I was growing up in London, Ohio, my family lived in several neighborhoods. In 1969, when I was in the fifth grade, I moved to North Oak Street. Nothing was unusual about this neighborhood at all, for London. Most of the houses were two story single-family homes, plus a few duplexes. One street over from North Oak Street was a street called North Madison Road. The houses were very similar to the ones on my street. Most of them probably had been built around 1900.

About two blocks south of my house on North Madison Road, lived an old man named Ted Roberts. Mr. Roberts was a black man, about seventy-five years old. He always wore an old dark green coat and a wide brimmed dark hat. They were probably very stylish in the 1930’s, but were very old and dirty by the 1970’s. He had been a barber in London for many years and had been retired for quite a while. He had family close by, but he lived alone. People that knew him would mostly say kind things about him. Several people I knew had said their fathers had taken them over to his house and he cut their hair. My dad knew him, but luckily, my dad took me to the local prison to get my haircuts, where it was safe. Lucky me.

 

There were quite a few kids in my neighborhood then. Most were between ten and fifteen years old. I am not sure when and where all this started, but by the time I moved to North Oak Street, it had been going on for some time. For fun, or out of boredom, the mischievous kids, plus about everybody else, would ride quickly past Mr. Roberts’ house on their bikes and some would yell out “BOOGEY MAN” (bogeyman?). I am not sure if I ever yelled it, I don’t think I did, but I know we always referred to Mr. Roberts as “BOOGEY”.  As far as I know we didn’t call him that as a racial slur. To us it was just a common reference to Mr. Roberts. No one would’ve known who you were talking about had you said “Mr. Roberts”. I know I had a neighbor once in another neighborhood that the kids called Boogey Man, and he was a white guy. I called him Uncle John, although I wasn’t related to him.

Anyway, most kids that teased Mr. Roberts didn’t even know his name. One kid I knew was caught by the police and taken up to Mr. Roberts’ door. When the policeman made him apologize to Mr. Roberts, the kid said “I’m sorry Mr. Boogey Man”. I doubt if that helped matters much.

Armed and Dangerous
Mr. Roberts was agitated to no end by the children in our neighborhood teasing him. He evidently had had enough of the abuse and began carrying weapons. He always carried two canes because he didn’t walk very well. But I always heard that one cane was a BB gun and the other was really a sword. I doubt if either was anything other than a cane, but no one really knew for sure.

The one thing that was certain, Mr. Roberts had the best slingshots that money could buy. His coat had deep pockets and he could get some pretty darn big slingshots in them, along with lots of rocks. In a time before Internet shopping and over-night delivery, he must’ve had to travel to far off places like Columbus, Dayton, or Springfield to get such high quality weaponry. If he had wanted to get along with my group of kids, he could’ve just shown us his cool slingshots. Every kid in my neighborhood would admire them, as we were running from him and dodging the rocks he was shooting at us.

That happened quite a lot really. You didn’t even have to be involved with the people that were teasing him to have him start firing rocks at you. You just had to be in the general vicinity and be the first kid that he saw after he got loaded up with ammunition. Several of my friends lived within a block of Mr. Roberts, so you had to be on the lookout no matter what you were doing.

The Oak Street Surprise
One day, about six of my friends and I were sitting on our bicycles on North Oak, by a street that intersected North Madison Road where Mr. Roberts lived. It wasn’t a very long street and you could see Mr. Roberts’ house from where I was standing. Someone must have ridden past his house and did something. However, my group of friends had not done a thing to him, that day. All I remember was looking up as someone yelled, “It’s Boogey!!!” I was frozen, as were the other kids that were there. Mr. Roberts was standing about ten feet from us. His pro model slingshot was cocked and ready to fire. There was an oblong rock in the slingshot about six inches long. Luckily, Mr. Roberts had evidently failed to read the directions that came with the slingshot about not using a six-inch oblong rock. Had he done so, he might have hurt one of us pretty badly. He fired the rock and it fell about three feet in front of him. Before he had a chance to reload, we all scattered in different directions. I didn’t see any of my friends again that day. I think everyone was hiding.

I don’t remember ever yelling anything at Mr. Roberts. That said, I wasn’t a big fan of his either. Having to keep a constant watch out at all times just in case I was in his slingshot sights, did not make for stress-free play time. He was obviously a lonely old man and probably didn’t deserve to be treated like that after all the years he had lived and worked. Once I saw several kids ride by and tease him while he was having a family gathering at his house. I thought that was so cruel. He must have been so embarrassed. I didn’t stick around to tell him how sorry I was for him though. I ran away as I knew the hornet’s nest had been stirred once again.

Trapped at the State Restaurant
When I was in school, the choices to eat lunch were to go home, the school cafeteria, brown bag it, or go uptown to one of the restaurants on Main Street. My parents would only give me enough money to eat in the cafeteria each day. For that much money I could also go to the State Restaurant where I’d order a bowl of chili and a glass of water. There were also a couple of other restaurants that I could get something to eat for the money that I had.

One day I decided to go to the State Restaurant by myself. Sometimes I would go there with other kids I knew. This day, I was the only student there. I sat down at a table and ordered my bowl of chili. I finished eating and was just about ready to go back to school when Mr. Roberts walked through the door and sat down at the counter. A waitress there greeted him by name and he ordered a cup of coffee. He was obviously a regular, as he seemed to know everyone’s name.

I was terrified. Here I was sitting ten feet from Boogey Man! I was so close to him I could smell the musty odor of his old coat. I didn’t know what to do. If I got up and walked past him, he might decide to follow and shoot rocks at me. If I sat there much longer, I would be late for class. I stayed right where I was, hoping that he wouldn’t notice me. I leaned against the back of the booth and made as little noise as I could. I could hear him talking to the waitress about mostly general things. Then he began to talk about the kids that teased him. He began describing things that I had never heard, about the cruel things kids were doing to him and his property. I began to feel bad for him. I had never heard his side of the story before. All I knew was running from him and dodging rocks. He was a human being, like the rest of us, tortured by groups of kids for apparently no good reason. I felt like going up to him and apologizing, for everyone. I heard him tell the waitress that he thought the cruelest thing that the kids were doing to him, was stealing the rubber tips off his canes. I thought whoever was doing that to this poor old man was so heartless.

After about ten minutes, Mr. Roberts finished his coffee and got up to leave. I was so relieved because now I could go back to school. I watched him as he got up. Then he reached over and picked up his canes as he turned around to go. When he did, both rubber tips slid off the canes, fell to the floor and rolled away behind the counter stools. After a moment, I understood exactly what that meant. As soon as Mr. Roberts got outside, I am sure he would realize his tips were gone. Then he would probably recall seeing me lurking suspiciously at that table, load up his slingshot and come after me. Not wanting to be attacked by him in that restaurant, I immediately got up and ran through the kitchen and out the back door. I didn’t stop running until I got to school, late by five minutes.

I always figured that sometime later that day, there was some kid minding his own business riding his bike somewhere, when Mr. Roberts came out of the shadows firing rocks as fast as he could load them. I’m sure Mr. Roberts would be thinking he was getting revenge for losing his cane tips and the kid would be running away wondering what he had done to Boogey Man, that day.

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Democracy?

November 19th, 2004 . by Alexander Fisher

I am a little mad about the election having been stolen again. The theft was not necessarily from hacking or miscounting (but probably was), but from lies and half-truths. I think both political parties did some lying. The Republicans by far did it the most, they then disavowed the lies with a smirk, while never really denouncing the lies. Why do they need to lie? It is because the truth would make them very unpopular.

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