Rolling Ridge Road was anything but the idyllic and picturesque boulevard suggested by its name. For one thing, ridges were few and far between in this part of central Indiana. Second, describing the slight changes in elevation found in the fields around town as “rolling” would be a stretch.
Rolling Ridge Road was a patched and aging street. It was not lined with old Victorian homes or even the ranches and split levels of the mid-twentieth century. It was a rather poor part of town. The street was lined with frame houses, bungalows and what in the South would be called shotgun shacks.
In the dust and crabgrass of what was the front lawn of just such a house stood Richard Sanders Jr. Richard was 9. He was a sickly scrawny and undersized. Richard’s mother took great pride in keeping a clean house and did the laundry regularly, but Richard always looked wrinkled and dirty. He had terrible allergies and his eyes watered and snot leaked from his nose every moment of the day. He was constantly sniffing and wiping the mucous from his upper lip with his sleeve or the side of his hand.
Richard was not well liked by his third grade classmates at Eisenhower Elementary. He was not athletic he was not particularly handsome. In addition, he was not too smart. Lately some of the boys had taken to calling him Little Dick instead of Richard. They always giggled when they said it. Richard did not quite get the joke. He guessed it was because his Dad was called Dick. One girl, Becky Myers, who was the fattest girl in school, never called him Little Dick. She always called him Colonel. He did not understand that either.
Richard Sanders Jr. was swinging his baseball bat on this fine early fall Saturday morning. Fall baseball was starting up in a few days at the Boys Club. Richard was determined this season he would not be the worst player on the team. He wanted to practice catching and throwing, but there was no one around. Besides he did not have a ball. The neighbor’s dog had chewed his up. His dad had whipped him for that. Richard had been told not to leave the ball outside.
Richard sniffed. He wiped the snot from his nose with his left hand and gripped the bat. He gave a mighty swing and in his mind he hit the imaginary ball right into center field. So small were the little boy’s dreams that he did not see in his mind a home run or even a double into the corner, but a little blooper into shallow center; anything but a dribbling ground ball that did not go past the pitcher’s mound. Right at the apex of his swing, Richard sneezed. The convulsion caused him to lose his snot slick grip on the bat.
Joe Moore was driving home with a box of donuts for his bride. He had been married just two months, and it took only a sleepy murmur from his young wife that “donuts sure sound good” to cause him to jump up and head to the store.
Joe was driving with the windows down on this early fall morning. A Beatles tune was playing on the radio. Outside of town farmers were in the fields harvesting soy beans and corn in the dry sunny weather. Dust and particles from the ground-up stocks filled the air in the distance. Joe shut his eyes for a second to suppress a sneeze. It did not work. Just as he sneezed he felt an unbelievable pain in his head. It was the last thing he ever felt.
Lynn Harper was considered pretty in high school. She was also considered “easy”. She found herself pregnant at sixteen. She apparently passed the promiscuity gene to her daughter and Lynn found herself a grandmother at 33. She was walking her grandbaby out of boredom. Her daughter was at work this fine Saturday morning. In fact, she had rung up some donuts for Joe Moore a few minutes ago. Lynn did not know that of course. Lynn did not mind babysitting. She had planned on going to some garage sales, but taking the baby in and out of the car seat was a pain. It was warm, so Lynn decided they would go for a walk instead.
Lynn stopped pushing the stroller to light a cigarette. She noticed that little runt across the street was twirling a baseball bat. She remarked to herself, again, how that kid was sure weird. She noticed the baby had tossed her stuffed Eeyore toy onto the sidewalk. As she bent to pick it up, Lynn sneezed. As she blinked away the sensation, she heard a car accelerate. She looked up to see a black Taurus heading toward her. She did not have time to move before the car struck her and the stroller head-on.
As the bat flew end for end through the air, lives all over town would feel the impact. In one instant a bat flew from a snot-slick hand, Fate guided it through an open car window, where the bat hit and killed a man driving home with donuts. The dead driver’s car swerved and hit and killed a grandmother and her granddaughter before coming to rest against a light pole.
Little Richard Sanders Jr. stood in his front yard staring in confusion as snot dripped down his lip.