The Day I Met Lenny Stevens
It was a pleasant sunny Sunday afternoon in September, sixty degrees and the blue sky mottled in places with clouds that looked like white cotton candy shreds. Church was over for most people in Ridgewood when I bobbed my fishing line in Myers Creek beneath Cherry Street’s cement bridge.
A boy gave me the once over after he slid down the embankment and entered the narrow strip of grassy underside below the steel bridge. I stood far enough away so I didn’t intrude on his spot.
“Hey,” he said, friendly but with a note of suspicion.
I said it back, then left him alone until his hook and bait in the deep middle of the creek and a few cars had rumbled by overhead.
“Fish here often?” I asked when the disturbed dirt and dust had settled.
“Yeah.” He played his line. “Never seen you around before.”
I considered how to answer his question. “Just visiting,” I said.
He seemed okay with that, so I told him my name. He told me his: Lenny Stevens. After we traded introductions, we didn’t speak again for several minutes.
I reeled in my hook from the dark creek bed that must have been either occupied by sleeping fish or unoccupied by any fish at all when I heard two boys talking above us. One had a tenor voice, the other baritone. They sounded excited.
“How much do you think we got?” tenor asked. “Think we got a hundred or more?”
“We’ll count it when we get to my place,” baritone said.
“You’ll split it fifty-fifty. Right? Eighty bucks is a lot of cash.”
“Quit whining and come on.”
Something plunked in the water to my right. Someone had thrown a rock from the bridge. The ripples settled and the voices had stopped when Lenny said, “Sounds like they stole some money.” He approached and stood at my side. Like me, he had reeled in his hook and sinker.
“And who are they?” I asked, intrigued by the mystery.
“Craig Coleman and Morty Twitchel.”
“Morty Twitchel?” I said and screwed up my nose. “What kind of name is that?”
“Morton the moron. That’s what we call him. He has some kind of nasal problem the doctors can’t fix because his dad broke his nose a few times. I used to feel sorry for him until he started hanging around Craig. Craig’s probably the dumbest, meanest kid in Ridgewood.”
“I take it you don’t get along with this Craig.”
“No one gets along with Craig. Except for Morty. He and Craig are almost inseparable, which doesn’t make sense.”
Lenny removed his wet, lifeless worm and tossed it into the creek. “Craig’s dad stabbed and killed Morty’s dad in a bar fight at the Edge of Town Tavern last summer.”
“Makes perfect sense. Craig’s dad killed the guy obviously using Morty’s face as a punching bag.”
“So Craig is Morty’s hero.” Lenny shook his head. “Go figure.” He went to his tackle box. I followed.
“So where is this tavern?” I asked.
“On Lake Road toward Alice Lake,” he said, snapping a plastic lid on his can of worms. “Why?”
“Just curious.” I went to my own tackle box and closed it up. My head was full of thoughts right then.
“Where are you going?” I asked when I caught up to him. We were on the bridge by then and he was definitely heading toward town, away from home.
“Police station,” he said. “I figure if anyone reports a robbery, the cops should know to question Craig and Morty.”
I followed him to downtown and the station house next to the fire station, and waited outside the red brick building while he went in and reported what we had overheard. When he came out, I tagged along to his house. He invited me in, but I declined his offer. It was suppertime and I would have to get ready for evening church soon.
His mom called from the front door. “David and Amy were here. You’re supposed to call David right away.” She was pretty with long, light-colored auburn hair and a pleasant face. She smiled at me and I smiled back.
“Dave and Amy Evans; my best friends,” Lenny said to me when I inquired. He went inside and I stopped writing.