In order to save the bus fare provided by The Mother, the Orphan often walked to Fairview Junior High School since it was only a few miles away. Money was hard to earn and was not to be wasted when legs could do the job. Besides, The Orphan
was able to read while walking and only occasionally ran into telephone poles or walked out into the street intersections in front of cars.
Walking or riding a bus was normal because, strange as it may seem, The Mother had decided that The Orphan, in spite of the hundreds of hours logged by The Orphan on the Williams Weona bicycle delivering groceries, could not own a personal bicycle since
“…It is unsafe to ride a bicycle on the city streets – especially the way he rides…”
The Forbidding Giant, usually an advocate for The Orphan when such illogic was used, wisely decided to stay out of this one – an unusual happening since the phrase “…fools rush in where angels fear to tread …” was a perfect description of the typical behavior of The Forbidding Giant.
But The Forbidding Giant, in spite of his blustering ways, seldom faced the determination of The Mother when it was fierce, because when she pursed her lips, narrowed her eyes and clenched her teeth, even though The Forbidding Giant was a mighty man, he became unsure that he could prevail in a
knock-down-drag-out battle of wills.
Fierce was seldom used by The Mother unless something appeared to be interfering with the care and feeding of her favorite child – or with any of her plans for his future. The Orphan was fortunate and knew it although he seldom admitted it.
Eventually, The Real Granville sneered,
“…Orphan, see why you are an orphan. Buy that used bicycle from the bicycle shop by agreeing to do work for the owner. We will tell Mother we are testing bicycles for the bicycle shop and she will not know…” so The Orphan got a bike.
But The Mother wasn’t fooled.
So The Orphan continued to ride the bus to Fairview Junior High School because he could not abide any tears from The Mother. But The Orphan rode the bicycle everywhere else. This was mostly a win.
Later, The Orphan was to realize that the base and nefarious reason of The Mother for the “…no personal bicycle…” was that, if The Orphan were easily able to roam far and wide, continuous surveillance would not have been possible.
The Orphan finished Fairview Junior High School and was enrolled into Central High School, a forbidding distance away from Trimble Place, by The Mother. Central High School was recognized as a preparatory school for college. So The Orphan was forced to spend bus fare twice daily since the “…no personal
bicycle…” rule was still in effect.
Somewhat unknown to The Orphan at the time was The Mother’s fierce determination that her favorite child would attend college, graduate and make something out of himself. Such “fierce” Mother determination was mentioned in Chapter One and it has remained there even into her Ninety-Third Year in 2003.
While The Orphan had been attending Fairview, the cousin of The Orphan named Travis Belcher was attending The Mississippi State University where he was studying Mechanical Engineering.
Since the Orphan liked doing mechanic work and a Mechanical Engineer sounded like a well-educated mechanic, The Orphan decided that he would become a Mechanical Engineer also. The Mother smugly observed this as it fit well with her plans for her favorite child.
The Orphan had always enjoyed working on cars with The Forbidding Giant. Roy Yancey, a neighbor who was a young Air Force Master Sergeant, gave The Orphan a free free-flight model airplane with a four-foot wingspan powered by a Brown Model D Junior model airplane engine with a propeller that was one and a
half feet in diameter. (The Orphan was just learning what a diameter was.) The Brown Model D Junior had a spark plug, points, condenser and coil – plus an old Model T Ford Coil for static test stand running. The Orphan appropriated Fox glow plug engines that were like a diesel and much smaller than the Brown Model D Junior.
There were many educational things from The Mechanic experiences of The Orphan.
One educational and mechanical experience was to learn extreme wariness when around The Forbidding Giant near any machine with a spark plug. If The Forbidding Giant was tuning his car and an unwary person came too close, The Forbidding Giant found great fun in grabbing onto a spark plug with one hand
while grabbing the hapless victim with the other. The unsuspecting victim then danced a Saint Vitus-like dance as the transmitted spark jerked him violently. The Forbidding Giant would then stick out his false teeth and bellow with laughter.
Another experience was to occur when The Orphan was running the Brown Model D Junior engine bolted to a static test bed (a wooden Coca Cola box). The Brown Model D Junior engine made a loud flatulent snarl that was very satisfying to The Orphan. The Forbidding Giant observed The Orphan reaching near the
propeller to unplug the spark plug wire – the only way to shut it down that The Orphan knew at the time other than to let it run out of gas. The Forbidding Giant offered the observation that a much safer way to shut it down would be to pee on the spark plug.
Urine is an excellent electrical conductor.
When the stream of The Orphan hit the spark plug, the spark jumped through the stream to The Orphan’s dink resulting in the stream stopping – at which time the electrical stimulus was removed, resulting in the stream restarting. In only an instant this cycle was repeated many times. The Forbidding Giant
was laughing hysterically by this time.
As you can see, The Forbidding Giant apparently had no nerves. The Forbidding Giant checked for active light bulb sockets by inserting a forefinger into the empty socket – another time to be warily beyond his reach. The Orphan learned to watch The Forbidding Giant carefully and -- particularly -- never to
pee on anything electrically active.
Yet another experience was to result in the many parallel scars still existing on both of the forefingers of The Orphan. The Fox Model airplane engine was hard to start and the propeller had to be spun with a forefinger over and over. One time when The Orphan had exhausted all patience and was spinning
the propeller rapidly, the engine started and hit the right forefinger of The Orphan countless times in a single instance. The finger was mangled.
Off to Purdy-Jester Drugstore went The Orphan to ask Dr. Jester (an apt name) for medical assistance. Dr Jester sterilized the finger with fiery liquid called iodine and bandaged it. The (now determined and stubborn) Orphan returned home and started again on the Fox engine with his left forefinger
learning the same lesson as before. This time Dr. Jester said:
…Tyronza (a nickname for The Orphan once the aptly named Dr. Jester learned that The Orphan had once lived in Arkansas and knew of that city) I think you are running out of fingers…”
The Orphan’s piano practice was somewhat clumsy for several days.
The Orphan continued to read voraciously. The Mother and/or The Forbidding Giant would often have to order The Orphan to
“…turn out the light and go to sleep…!”
This usually resulted in The Orphan pulling the covers over his head and reading by flashlight – very unsatisfactory because air ran out and batteries died. One night The Orphan had a flash of what appeared at the time to be true genius.
Light bulbs at 2106 Trimble Place hung from the ceiling by cords –2106 Trimble being built before electricity was plentiful. The Orphan fashioned a wad of newspapers around the brightly lighted bare bulb and left only a small spot to shine on the book. This directed the light to his book and shielded
the light from side detection. For one brief shining moment, it seemed the ideal solution.
But soon The Orphan smelled something burning and looked up. To his horror, the paper around the light bulb was smoldering. The Orphan dashed to the kitchen, grabbed a metal washbasin and rapidly filled it with water. The Orphan lifted the pan of water up to immerse the paper and a loud explosion
occurred. The Mother and The Forbidding Giant were later to say they thought a bomb had hit the house.
When they opened the door, they saw a son who, according to The Mother, was
“…truly integrated … half black and half white…”
The Forbidding Giant did not punish The Orphan this time and only said,
“…You’re lucky to be alive, boy…!”
The dazed naked orphan was covered with little blisters from the glass of the exploded bulb and stood there, still holding the metal washbasin now nearly empty of water. Fortunately, the basin had shielded The Orphan from most of the glass.
It was clear that Mechanical Engineering was a far better choice for The Orphan than Electrical Engineering.
The Mechanical Engineering objective caused The Orphan to seek out Cousin Travis and ask how to prepare for his goal. Cousin Travis snickered that such a dilettante should not expect to be successful in real things but did say that all possible mathematics and sciences should be pursued.
The Orphan then pursued all possible sciences and mathematics courses – even getting permission from the Principal, Dr. Wadley, to forgo civics, Latin, art and such non-technical things – for The Orphan produced his paintings and played the piano for them and took part in plays. But he was not
allowed to forgo a foreign language, so The Orphan took Spanish, which was said to be easiest and would divert the least energy from his engineering goals.
Central High School was hard but there were wonderful teachers, some of whom adopted The Orphan.
However, being adopted by either Miss Mauzy or Miss Mauzy – the sister, Laura, who taught mathematics, or the sister, Grace, who taught English -- was akin to being chained to a bench as a galley slave on a Roman warship when the overseer would announce,
”…Now Hear This: The Captain wishes to water ski…”
One time, in Miss Laura Mauzy’s math class, the Orphan, who tried to learn everything during class since his schedule had not even enough time for adequate sleep, failed to correctly work a math problem – one that had been assigned as homework. Furiously Miss Mauzy, because of an emotion called “…you
have disappointed me…”gave The Orphan a grade of Triple Zero With Hair On It. This depth to which The Orphan had sunk was unprecedented in Central High School history.
There was also ROTC -- a wonderful thing since it solved The Orphan’s clothing problems – except for the shoes. The army supplied only the uniforms. The Orphan supplied the shoes, which had to be polished until they put the sun to shame.
Since The Orphan had labored mightily all of his life and was amazingly fit, ROTC calisthenics presented no physical problems.
Imagine the amazed glee of The Orphan when he observed that a big-mouthed bully could not do a single push-up, while The Orphan could do a hundred before Sergeant Madison became bored. The Orphan flexed his muscles, took the wrist of the bully, squeezed until the screams were loud, and suggested that the
bully, now that he was exposed as a pussy weakling, forgo bullying. The bully crept away. The bully never liked The Orphan either before or after this occasion.
Since The Orphan was a fine marksman, the M-I Gerand rifle presented no problem. Even at five hundred yards, The Orphan never saw Maggie’s drawers (the red flag waved when the entire target is missed) except once -- when he hit the bulls-eye the second time through the same hole. Later, Sergeant Madison
would examine the target and exonerate The Orphan – although he was heard to mutter “…dumb luck…” as he erectly and rigidly marched away.
But Sergeant Madison liked The Orphan even if The Orphan could not drink a helmet liner full of beer without removing the liner from his lips as Sergeant Madison could.
There was algebra, trigonometry, plane geometry, solid geometry, physics, chemistry, biology, Spanish, English – whole realms of new things that were “…minimums to be able to do college…” as well as continued waivers from the Principal at Central to forego art, civics and to take extra science and math
The Orphan also continued his piano lessons, art classes at Memphis Art Academy, and ballet, tap and adagio at Marjorie Duckett’s School of Dancing and – although not all at the same time -- as well as all of the jobs -- also not all at the same time –the pursuit of the feminine persuasion.
The Orphan graduated from Memphis Central High School, and for a second, thought he was free.