Scene 13

Under the lackluster protest of Bernie Jackson, Melody and Lonnie departed for the field across the street.

“I'm not sure what we're going to find here,” Lonnie admitted. Melody noticed that her expression seemed strained and forlorn. It was a look which didn't give Melody the confidence she had moments before, though the girl did not let on about her trepidation.

“I'm just hoping we won't really have to do much digging,” Melody said. Working with a shovel wasn't exactly her forte. She found it an awkward tool. Also the dirt in Portland, because the entire town was built on an ancient creek bed, was very rocky and intractable.

“Don't be such a baby,” Lonnie said. “We'll take turns if we have to.”

Turns? Melody grumbled to herself. She thought about suggesting they simply tell Jimmy there was candy buried at that spot, but thought better of it. While the boy on a sugar hunt could probably muscle and claw his way to the bottom of a hole faster than a team of miners hunting for gold, she imagined this would be a violation of several child labor laws.

Lonnie approached the back of the lot with caution. In front of her was just as she had remembered it. A grassy field, with the occasional mole hill. She stopped in the center, and spun around. Finally, she jumped up and down.

“I don't see anything here that could have made that noise,” Melody said.

Lonnie snapped her fingers at her daughter. “Hand me that shovel, will ya?”

Melody did as instructed, but her expression was cool. There weren't any indentations in the ground. No outline of a former foundation. No indication that this was ever anything but an empty field.

Lonnie sunk the end of the garden tool into the ground, and stepped on it. There was a loud kerthunk!

“I think I found something,” Lonnie said, excitedly.

“Yeah,” Melody said. “And I think I know what it is.”

Her mother got on all fours and began to work the dirt and grass out of the way of her prize. Disappointed, she revealed a large, bulbous rock.

“Big iron door?” Melody smiled, hopefully.

“Keep it up, smart guy,” her mother told her. Lonnie got up from the ground, dusted herself off, and spat into the palms of her hands.

Melody shook her head. “What was that bit of a nastiness for?”

“Better grip,” her mother told her, and grasped the handle brusquely.

“Well I call it guaranteeing that you'll be doing all of the digging yourself.”

“Suit yourself,” Lonnie said, shoving the blade of the shovel into the ground once again. “I'll just keep all of the glory for myself then.”

Suddenly from slightly above them, came a stern voice. “What are you two broads doing down there?”

Melody made a sound in her throat, equivalent to an “Eep”. She winced, hating when she made squeaky, girly sounds, and chastised herself.

In front of her, standing in his raised driveway, was a white-haired, older gentleman. In his hand was a clipboard as though he were at the ready to write down any misdeeds Melody and her mother might be about to commit. “He stood there, on his high mount, like Charlton Heston as Moses in some big budget Biblical Epic.”

Suddenly her mother nudged her in the arm and the girl realized that she was saying this last part aloud. While she was gradually able to control this more each day, the girl still had the occasional habit of narrating aspects of her life as though she were the narrator in her own documentary.

“Melody,” she said out of the corner of her mouth. “Ixnay on the alking-bay.”

“What was that?” the old man asked her.

“Balking?” Melody shook her head at her mother. “I think you mean alking-Tay

“Whatever,” her mother said, still out of the corner of her mouth. “Just stop doing it.” Out of the front of her face, she said “Hello, Mr. Rogers. How are you on this glorious day?”

Although she had never spoken with the man, Melody had heard his name bandied about the house more than once or twice. Always was it coupled with the word to match his dour expression: Cranky Mr. Rogers.

“And what of this 'broads' comment?” Melody whispered. “Could he be more sexist?”

“He’s from a different generation,” Lonnie's told her.

Melody squinted fiercely. The nerve of him. This wasn't his property. They weren't doing anything wrong, other than perhaps digging on government property without a permit. But that certainly wasn't his concern. Or was it? Melody became lost in thought. Was it possible that Mr. Rogers was an ex-CIA agent always on the prowl for wrongdoers and ne’er-do-wells. Maybe he even broadcast this information nightly over his CB radio. Melody looked up at the great antennae which rose up from the back of the man's house like a parapet. No matter his affiliation, Melody decided, no good could come of arguing with the man. He didn't seem like someone who would ever listen to reason.

She was about to tell all of this to her mother when she realized to her horror that Lonnie was already deep into conversation with the old man. The two seemed to be speaking on friendly terms and of all things, laughing.

“What's going on?” Melody asked her Mother. She had been so long into her internal monologue she was unaware even of the topic.

Lonnie grimaced. “Where were you?”

Melody shrugged. “Standing right here.” She knew her mother was referring to her mental detachedness, but she refused to admit that in front of a stranger.

“You've met my daughter, Melody?” Lonnie asked Mr. Rogers.

“I've seen her around,” he said, smiling. “Although she doesn't say much.”

Say much? Melody simply stared at the man. She never spoke to him because his facial expressions indicated that he didn't want to have anything to do with her – or for that matter, the known Universe. Perhaps there was some social convention from earlier in the century of which she was unaware, but she was certain his social queues were contrary to amiability.

Lonnie laughed. “That's funny. Normally she'll talk your ear off, if you let her.” Lonnie turned to her daughter. “Mr. Rogers thought he heard a bell last night, but he and his wife didn't see anything out here.”

“Bell?” Melody objected to the interpretation of the noise, but didn't speak up. She was still reeling by this smile on the old crank in front of her. What was his game? she wondered.

“I'm sure the noise sounded different depending on what angle you were in relation to it,” Lonnie explained. “And also what objects it was reflected off of it would certainly come into play.”

“So, we're going to keep digging?” Melody was confused where all of this was headed.

Mr. Rogers spoke up then. “I have a metal detector that you two broads can borrow. I was just about to go and get it.”

Again with the broads, Melody scowled. Doesn't this person know what century it is?

Mr. Rogers smiled and left for his garage. Once out of sight, Melody exploded, though she did so as quietly as possible.

“What is going on?!” she said, practically jumping up and down.

“What do you mean?”

“Mr. Rogers hates everyone in this neighborhood. And you're talking to him and being all friendly and he's letting you borrow his equipment...and seriously with the broads!”

“Okay, take a breath,” Lonnie said. “I used to think he was a bit... gruff, as well. But over the years we started talking, and little by little I realized that that foul expression on his face is just the way his face is made.” She placed her hand on Melody's shoulder. “You know, you're not always smiling, either. I'm sure a lot of people might be put off by your...oh, let's say stern countenance.”

Melody folded up her arms and frowned dramatically. How dare her mother say this to her. Where was this even coming from? She suddenly felt her skin quickly turning pinker by the moment.

As suddenly as Mr. Rogers had departed, he returned with the promised object in hand.

Melody caught a glimpse into the man's garage for an instant before his door shut. The place was immaculate. Every tool had its place. The walls were lined with tidy work benches while still allowing enough room for his old Studebaker.

She thought then about the way her father kept their own tools: In a rusting metal shed, dark and filled with spiders. Items tossed in with little care. For this outing, Melody had to dislodge the shovel from between a pickax and the lawnmower. In the process she knocked over some precariously placed containers of old, unsorted odd and ends onto of her head.

Melody began to wonder if there was a correlation with crankiness and tidiness. If it meant saving herself from tetanus, it might be worth it to strive to make her father’s life more unpleasant.

“We should have Jimmy stay with us more often,” Melody said suddenly, beaming.

Lonnie and Mr. Rogers looked at the girl blankly.

“Never mind,” Melody said. “Carryover from some thoughts in my head.”

“Anyway...,” Lonnie said, taking a hold of the metal detector. “How does this thing work.” She leaned over to Melody and told her, “And don't let your father see me with this. He's been wanting one of these things forever.”

“Has he been thinking of starting a bottle cap collection?” Melody asked her, confused. She occasionally saw older men in parks waving their discs over the ground for hours on end, but she never heard of any of them finding buried treasure, or for that matter, anything of value.

Lonnie laughed softly, raising her eyebrows at her. “I'm sure there's plenty of other uses.” She looked over to Mr. Rogers, and said, “Kids, right?”

Mr. Rogers pursed his lips and placed his hands on his hips, but said nothing. He didn't have to. Melody knew exactly his feelings on children and their ways.

“Let me show you,” he said, taking the device back into his possession. He then demonstrated to Lonnie how all the buttons worked and the meanings behind all of the bloops and whistles. Seemingly entranced by the thing, Mr. Rogers began to make the sweeps around the yard himself. It was only matter of minutes before he had a hit. The detector went off with a loud, excited siren sound very near the spot Lonnie had started digging.

“This is a big one,” he said. “The needle just went off the charts.”

It Happened on Lafayette Street

Season One: Episode One

Melody Jackson

vs. The Hound from Hell

by BMB Johnson

Scene 13

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