TBone Ditty, creator of the QuickTurtle® Band (continued)

Golfing Turtle

When the Buzz Cuts disbanded, TBone joined the golf team.  He quickly established himself as a scrappy competitor willing to take the risks to win.  He became less serious and more happy-go-lucky.  His performances on the golf course seemed to be a placebo for his need to entertain.  He was soon dubbed with the nickname, Turtle Woods.

Musically, TBone journeyed more into himself.  He wasn’t particularly in a funk, he was just very introspective after dealing with the difficulties of trying to hold together two bands at such an early age.  Yes, bands were fun, but they were all encompassing entities that were as fickle as the weather.  He had needed a break and golf afforded that outlet.

While working his way up the leaderboards, TBone spent his downtime focusing more on song writing.  He learned the piano.  He dabbled in the blues and had developed a special liking for punk music, but in the end his tendency was the down home feel and sound of folk.  His lyrics were oriented around the social issues of the day and the escapades of falling in and out of love.  He would often pull out his acoustic guitar and play a few ditties for the golf team while they were holed up in some cheap motel on the road.  It was his first foray into what it would be like to be out on tour in a touring band.

On senior ‘Skip Day’, TBone hauled his guitar and an old banjo down to the park.  He soon became the focal point for the more artistic crowd as he played some of the popular hits of the day.  He interspersed the hits with some of his own creations and got lots of compliments especially from the girls.  His song writing had matured along with his performance skills from the hours and hours he had seemingly spent in front of a mirror.  Having the attention of a rapt crowd rekindled the performance bug and his dire need for a band.  He didn’t have the makings of going it alone; he considered it just too lonely.

Fortunately for TBone, Robbie Slade had decided that he’d had enough of Algebra and skipped off to the park with the seniors.  It was a very brave thing to do as a sophomore, not only because he was going to get detention but also because he was traipsing into senior territory where no male sophomore had a right to go.  Robbie looked like a geek.  He was sarcastic and strong willed with a short fuse.

It was a blessing that TBone had everyone’s attention when Robbie showed up in the park because Robbie walked unscathed and ignored.  No one saw the need to confront him or chase him off as he slowly edged his way to the front.  He listened attentively to several songs before he latched onto one of TBone’s originals.  He had brought along his harmonica and boldly pulled it out.  He skillfully bent some notes and folded them subtly into the second verse of TBone’s; Too Fat Shuffle.

TBone was quite impressed.  He quickly taught Robbie another of his songs and once again Robbie wove the harmonica in superbly.  They intuitively began to play off of each other with skill and comfort.  They played for over an hour, egged on and applauded by the gathered crowd.

As the seniors finally wrapped up their ‘Skip Day’ in the park, TBone didn’t hesitate to invite Robbie over to his garage for a little jam session.  He was intrigued by the skinny sophomore and not only did they hit it off musically but they were also bonding as friends.

The seeds for the QuickTurtle Band sprouted that day in TBone’s heart.

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

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I saw It Coming, Part 6

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Two fingers Kim had been sitting at a table near the door to Tin Man’s doughnuts when the old Indian walked passed and out the door.  He had watched the Indian and the kid with the cast do their little dance and it didn’t add up.  Why would the old guy write a check to a punk kid?  The little prick had actually smiled and kissed the check.  Something was going down.

Two fingers slipped out of his chair and followed the Indian.

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

I Saw It Coming, Part 5

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Skinny didn’t need to turn around to know who was standing behind him, but he turned anyway and stood up to face me on his broken ankle.  We were about the same height.  He wasn’t a bad looking kid.  He had long eyelashes that any woman would have envied.  He also had high cheekbones that gave him an exotic look.  His downfall was his perpetual sneer.

“I knew this day was comin,” he said quietly.  “I have a rep, old man.  You planing to step on me?”

Our noses were almost touching so we were virtually privately engaged in our conversation.

“Not today,” I replied, “I want you to keep your rep, so no, I won’t stand on you.”

“That be cool,” he said and relaxed noticeably.

“I’m interested in making a deal with you,” I said.  “Care to hear me out?”

Skinny looked around Tin Man’s.  Several of his peers were having coffee and trying to keep their pants from falling all the way to the ground.  They were oblivious to our confrontation.

“Shoot.”  Skinny said.

“I’m offering you a high paying role in my new venture,” I explained, “It involves being a leader.  I need one.”

Skinny looked at me perplexed.

“You’re a natural,” I said.  “You have what it takes.  You have charisma.”

“Don’t know much about none of that,” he said.  “Besides I already got me a job.”

“I ain’t offering you a job.  I’m offering you a life.”  I said emphasizing life.

His eyelashes twitched.  “You want me to be an actor?”

“You’re already one of those, so no, I want you to be yourself.”

Again that puzzled look.  I hoped that I hadn’t overstepped myself with my sarcasm.

“You want me to be myself?  What kind of BS you talkin here anyway?”

“Not BS, I just need you to be yourself,” I said.  ‘You interested?”

Skinny stared at me with his sneer in place.  “This high pay, how much you talkin?”

“If you are in, I’d say $1,600.00 a week to begin with.”  I said.

“You deal’n drugs or what, old man?  I’m not into being served up as jail bait.”

“This has nothing to do with selling drugs or anything else against the law.”

“What is it I got to do for this money?”

“Meet with my partner and I.  We’ll fill you in.  I know it’ll be a bit cumbersome with your foot in a cast, but we’ll work it out.”  I extended my hand.

Skinny stared at me long and hard then tentatively shook it.

“You have a bank account?”  I asked him.

“Of course,” he said.

I pulled out my checkbook and wrote him a check for sixteen hundred dollars.

“First week’s pay in advance,” I said.  “We’ll meet this Friday.  Be here at noon and I’ll come and get you.”

Skinny almost gave up his perpetual sneer and snapped the check.  He stuck it under his nose, took a long whiff and kissed it.  Then in a flash it disappeared into his pocket.

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

I Saw It Coming, Part 4

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I ran into The Vulture as he was coming out of Mrs. Cooley’s market.  He was carrying a paper bag with an assortment of healthy looking greens sticking out of the top.

“Good stuff.”  I remarked, gesturing toward the bag.

His eyes darted right, then left two or three times before he backpedaled.  Then he realized he had nowhere to go but out through me.

“How’s Skinny’s ankle?” I asked, hoping to disarm some of his mistrust.

The Vulture wanted no part of it.  He sidled further away.

“He been bothering you any?” I asked.

The Vulture stepped toward me and  feigned like he was going to scuttle out past me, but I didn’t budge.

“Those for your mother?”  I asked, pointing to the greens.

He mustered a slight nod of his head.

“Good lady.  Tell her Sugar says hi and wishes her a happy birthday.”

The Vulture dropped his guard slightly and a wry smile twitched his lips.

I turned to the side and let him scuttle past.  He rocketed up the street like a worried crab.

I had already decided that I needed to pay Skinny a visit and my encounter with The Vulture reminded me I had better confront the matter directly.  I needed him.  He was one of the cornerstones for Ned’s and my endeavor though I hadn’t confessed this point to Ned.

Skinny was fairly smart and in the scheme of things I knew that could be his downfall.  I needed to find out if his intelligence could be redirected toward a greater good and that would have a lot to do with how he perceived weakness and strength in himself and in others.  I was hopeful after what had transpired in the alley by Gordo’s Liquor Store that I had a running chance.

I found him down at Tin Man’s Doughnuts.  It was a popular hangout for many reasons.  Mostly it was cheap but the doughnuts were actually pretty good and the coffee was rich and flavorful.  The place was also lively.  There were always chess games and people playing cards.  It was populated by a mixed bag of gamers, gangsters, bookies and cops.  It seemed that everyone got along while indulging in gambling and sweets at the Tin Man’s.

I hadn’t been there for a few months, but nothing had changed.  it smelled of sugar and stale grease.  The Tin Man was parked behind the counter lording over the cash register.  He was very large, probably six foot five and 280 pounds.  I think that is why everyone seemingly got along.

He cordially nodded at me and I nodded back.

Skinny was at the counter with a pair of crutches leaning against the wall a few feet to his right.  His ankle was in a cast.  I’d heard rumors that he’d invented a story about how he had been the victim of a nasty skateboard fall.

“I hear you fell off your board,” I said standing directly behind him.

“Yah, took a good one over on Petrero.”  He said without turning around to see who I was.  “I really busted up my ankle.”

“Tough hill to skate,” I said.

“Not so much,” he replied, “I just don’t give a shit.”

“Me either,” I said, “your version is as good as gold to me.”

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

I Saw It Coming, Part 3

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Life itself is a calculated risk.  You never fully know the consequences of your actions or inactions until after the fact.  Those with honor do their best.  Those with the heart of a snake become corporate bullies, psychiatrists or politicians.  They do not kill before they eat.  They simply poison and swallow you whole.

That is what happened to Berlinski’s Hardware.  Ned stood and tried to fight the snake when he should have run.  It swallowed him.  He could have sold the property for half a fortune when Home Depot wanted it, but Ned hung on because he loved his business and its place in the community in which he had invested his life.

He was also stubborn.

“I don’t need any of your charity, nor do I want it,” he said shaking his head.

“It is not charity I’m offering.  We can make good use of the property and I also need your help,”  I consoled.

“Bullshit.”

“Bullshit right back at yah.  Look, I got accosted by those little punks.  You know as well as I do it’ll happen again.  If it hadn’t been me things would have turned out badly.”

Ned stared at the floor.

I pressed on.

“We can make something of this, Ned.  Let go of the past.  It’s time to move on.”

He sighed.

“You built something once, you can do it again.  I believe in you and I believe in myself, and that’s not bullshit.”

“Okay!  Okay, I’ll listen.  I ain’t saying yes and I ain’t saying no.  I’m just saying.”

“Good enough for me,” I said.  “Let’s walk it off.”

Ned had grown accustomed to my hikes.  He was even beginning to enjoy them as much as I did.  We were loitering in a grove of eucalyptus looking down at the parking lot of the Home Depot and I was pointing at the array of buildings that had been his empire.  It looked beaten and pushed into a corner by the corporate bullies.

“We can put in a new entrance off Biscayne,” I said.  “There’s plenty of room for parking and expansion.”

“You know what she looks like to me?” Ned chuckled.  “She looks like that hooker with the green wig and Beatle boots that hooks down there by Larry’s.  She looks used up.”

“Used yes, but not used up,” I said.  “We don’t need the current structures.  we can start from the ground up and the wood from the buildings can be reclaimed for a lot of our interiors.  Even the graffiti can be used to add some character.  The kids will like that.”

“You really think this is a good idea?”

“No.  I think it’s a great idea.  With my money and your leadership, we can’t lose.”

Ned chewed on his lower lip for a few seconds and then smiled.  He looked me straight in the eye and stuck out his right hand.  I greedily grabbed it.

Ned let out a laugh.  “Alright!” he exclaimed.

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®