You Want a Piece O’ Me?!
With twenty years of detective work behind me while working for the New York police, I’d never seen so much gore in my life. Sticky blood was still dripping down the wooden walls and splattered upon the two vertical rows of window panes.
There were additional “pools” and assorted guts beneath me, covering the entire wooden floor. I looked up. More blood had squirted from the floor where I stood, up onto the ceiling.
As the first officer on the scene I was still afraid to move around the room and disturb what little evidence the murderer might have been left behind. There were no signs of forced entry.
I couldn’t move. I was crouching now. Wobbling on all fours in this lake of my own blood. It looked as though I probably wasn’t going anywhere…ever…again.
As the life drained out of my wounded body, in the middle of my last investigation — of my own heinous murder,
I was sinking to the ground as
……my mommy walked into the schoolroom.
Old Mrs. Rosenkrantz came in right behind her.
“Your little boy was getting along so well on his first day, that we gave him some time in the arts and crafts room to see if he had a creative streak. Unfortunately, it looks as though he may end up becoming a common housepainter like that …..that German monster…uh sorry. I’m just so upset. Your son will have to leave. He’s destroyed our room with three gallons of red paint. We’ll never get this cleaned up.”
“What do you mean by “leave?” my mom asked.
” Mommy! They hit me!” I screamed in tears.
“Is that true, Baby?” my mom asked.
Before I could lie to my own mother, Mrs. Rosenkrantz broke in and said, ” Your boy is a teller of tall tales …..He’s got some imagination, I’m saying.”
“If this wasn’t 1954 you’d hear from our lawyer you sour bitch!” I thought, but didn’t say, as it would have cast doubt upon my side of the case. And we had no lawyer …. except my own father, who was not feeling well.
My mother grabbed my hand and dragged me out the door toward home a few blocks further inland from our beloved Far Rockaway beach.
A strong wind had been coming off of the ocean since nine-o-clock that morning. As we walked toward our own house, the rains began to sweep horizontally. My mother walked me quickly up the tall, red bricked stairway to our front door and rushed me inside as the sky began to turn black. As she turned to secure the potted plants, she slipped on the top step and cut her ankle.
Mom seemed more concerned with the weather than my destruction of the dreaded Rosenkrantz school. She was in terrible pain as she pushed me into my room.
When the door to my room had slammed closed, I Immediately began to summon the Polynesian Goddess Debbie while the sounds of Patty Page singing, “How much is that doggy in the window?” played for the two thousandth time on my little RCA Victrola.
The Goddess Debbie, in her leopard loincloth bikini would wash the Rosenkrantz School into the wild grey Atlantic by three o’clock that very same afternoon. She would be wielding a mighty hurricane bearing her own powerful name.
It was Judgement Day. The seven seas would soon boil with sharks! Giant swells turning red with my revenge!
Rosenkrantz School, Rockaway Beach 1954
While on police business in New York, I found myself driving along Far Rockaway Beach. I couldn’t help reminiscing about my childhood in Neponsit, and stopped to take a few pictures of my childhood home. The red brick stairway was still there, as were the blackberry bushes. They were still producing along the front lawn. I wondered if the fireflies still came every summer.
I had plenty of time so I decided to take a walk down to my old beach.
Though forty years had passed since Hurricane Debbie had washed the Rosenkrantz school away, the beach looked exactly the way that I had remembered it. The sea grass and the dunes were still there. Some idiot had built a new house built on top of the same vulnerable, low-lying, flood-zoned real estate where the Rosenkrantz School once stood. “Oh, boy.”
It was a rugged beach house. There was a beautiful woman in the garden who was most likely the new, and very naive, owner. I hoped, for her sake, that she realized the impermanence of her home.
When I’d reached the spot where the old school stood, the woman was setting up a tall ladder so that she could trim the overgrown bushes along the fence. She turned to look at me, and I knew those clear blue eyes. She pulled back her jet black hair and just as I caught my breath, she asked if I could hold her ladder steady. “Could you pass me up those hedge clippers? The long ones? Thanks.”
It was a lovely view from below. “Smoothy” that I am, I began to tell her the story about how I had once spent an entire single day at a Pre-school that once stood where her house stood today. The end of the story was, of course, a warning about building so close to the shore.
I would save this damsel in distress.
I was so cool.
She said, “Oh! I won’t be here for very long. In fact, I’m moving away in just a few days! I’ve just sold this place. I’m going to get out of this house before another one of those Atlantic storms decides to take it away!
“Smart and beautiful,” I thought.
Then I told her the story about the red paint and how I was sent home.
She asked where I used to live and looked at me as though … “You aren’t Freddy Deutsch are you?” Remember me? The little girl who lived in the big house across the street from you. You once tried to chase me through a sliding glass door, and cut yourself to ribbons.
I’m Ellen Weiner!”
Ellen was once my little playmate who lived with her working mother and the sister that I’d only seen one time. My blue-eyed Ellen.
We’d grown together as neighbors. Years passed. Both of our families had taken us away from Far Rockaway in 1959. Our love of Neponsit had brought both of us back to New York, after we’d both been to college and through a couple of marriages. Ellen had become a teacher and I had become a police detective. For years we’d both lived back in the same state and hadn’t realized it.
Passing years had faded most of my childhood memories. But I’d never forgotten about Ellen or my crazy day at the Rosenkrantz school. The buckets full of red paint dripping, being sent home and the following hurricane named “Debbie.” The goddess Debbie is still “there for me” on the August page of my old calendar. The calendar hangs in a safe and sacred place, on my office wall as it was a treasured gift from my dirty uncle Louie.
Ellen invited me in for a cold beer and we began to catch up on our old times.
Me: Chasing her around her bedroom during our 7-year-old sleep-over, for reasons that I was completely unaware of.
She: Our adventures when her mom was out of the house; the day that we’d spent tying up her basement with twine, like a spider’s web, only to ensnare her housekeeper. The poor woman had tripped, and nearly broke her leg while coming down the dark basement stairway while looking for us. The housekeeper quit her job at the Weiner’s that afternoon.
“She’d stepped into our lair!”
Cute little scamps we were.
Ellen was still a beauty. Though we were both the same age, I tried to suck in my stomach. Too many years on the force as a donut-arian had taken its toll. We talked about life and religion. I told her about how, though raised Jewish, I was never much for organized religion …blah, blah blah….agnostic …blah, blah, blah … and experienced spiritualism through nature. I was shocked at this “hippie hogwash” when I’d heard it come out of my own mouth.
She laughed told me that she felt the same. She believed that religion was the true beauty and fury of god in nature. It didn’t sound like “tofu speak” at all, coming through her lovely lips.
“When I was at the school here,” I told Ellen, “did you know that I’d once prayed to a bikini-clad goddess, who looked very much like you do now? She was also a blue-eyed, raven-haired beauty, who lived on the August page of a calendar. I was really pissed at my imagined(?) beating – (it was a long, long time ago) – and expulsion from the school. Heck, I even blamed them for my mother’s accident on the brick stairs ……. I told Ellen that “I blamed it all on that pair of nasty old bats who ran the school. I was ecstatic when the hurricane washed the damned place away!”
Ellen, looked a little shocked, however after a few beats, she soon told me how she had lost a few relatives that had also drowned in that awful storm. She believed that their deaths could have been prevented. Ellen told me how she’d also prayed ….. perhaps too late, as the storm was already raging.
We sat quietly for a few moments enjoying the peace and quiet of the lovely summer day and being alone together in her colorful dining room. Ellen told me that she was thrilled “to see me again after all of these years.” Then her mood changed as she told me that this was a strange moment of ‘Deja Vu” for her; that she’d had a dream about this specific conversation.
She stood up and said “I feel a chill.”
As she walked around the room closing and hand latching the windows, I happily drank my beer and focused on her jet black hair and, well, her bending over.
“I prayed beneath a picture of my idol too!” she said. “I used to pray to a Frank Sinatra album tacked up on my mother’s kitchen wall when I was a kid. I prayed to him during the hurricane. I feel as though he actually “spoke” to me that day. You know how a little kid imagines things? I really thought that he did.”
She popped open and plunked another bottle of cold beer in front of me.
I laughed, and listened to Ellen while I merrily watched the bubbles fizz.
She continued: “I prayed that Frankie would save my grandma and grandpa, but he said “Sorry, Chicky” That’s exactly how Frankie said it. “Sorry, Chicky. I hate to tell you this, but this crazy coo-coo dame named Debbie has already taken your grandma and grandpa on a dead end road to Splitz-ville. You can thank some crazy kid that lives in the house across the street.”
“Did you know that my grandparents used to live here? HERE!”
She needed my attention.
“Who lived here?” I said as the bubbles hypnotized and the alcohol seeped in. “There were no signs of forced entry.” came to mind.
“Sorry, Ellen. I was thinking of …oh yeah …and this beer. O.K., so tell me, who lived he …..”
The flash of the hedge clippers had slashed across my face. Again and again.
I fired on instinct and heard Ellen scream.
I saw fountains of our blood hit the ceiling, as one, together.
………. It was my very first day of school. My mommy walked me up to the front door of the Rosenkrantz School, kneeled down and gave me a hug and a kiss. Then she said “Oh Freddy, you’ll have such fun on your first day!”
Detective Freddy Deutsch
The Rosencrantz School, Rockaway Beach
Written by Freddy Barnett, age 61. November, 2011