Fiction by John Oliver Hodges
We shouted “Rescue Harvey!” That got ole Dynamite started. Soon
Rescue Harvey emerged. House kinda sorta gave birth, squeezed him
stumblingly down the front steps in red suspenders, what kept his pants
tugged halfway up his balloon-belly filled with Charleston Chews,
Butterfingers, and the sweet brown juices of the Sugar Daddys he sucked.
With a Sugar Daddy stick jutting from his lips that were always a light pink
color, Rescue Harvey stepped onto his concrete driveway where Georgie
and I, sick of him not giving us the shiny silver badges to say we were junior
police, out and said it. We said, “Rescue Harvey, we’ve been training,”
and we said, “We can walk over glass barefoot,” and we said, “We can
jump tree to tree a quarter mile through the woods.”
Rescue Harvey switched his eyeballs leftward, checking out the action
of the neighborhood, then switched his eyeballs rightward, and squinted at
Mrs. Calloway’s tabby cat slinking across the street with no particular
destination in mind. It was her cat is all it was, her cat, nothing big, but you
never knew when a cat might have a contagious disease. A cat might jump
out of a tree and claw Mr. Boggs who already was on his last leg. His
previous leg, the one they chopped off over that a worm got in it, was
shipped to China for testing. We pictured the Boggs Leg, as we called it,
strapped to a table with Chinese guys looking it over with magnifying
glasses. Or somebody might jump out of the bushes with a bullet wound.
Even under our noses a kid could be snapped from his nap and held for
ransom. As all appeared tranquil in the world, Rescue Harvey switched his
eyeballs back on us. He said, “You boys are getting closer.”
“No, we’re ready,” we complained.
“Emergency is needed,” Rescue Harvey explained. “I won’t deputize
normal citizens lessen real danger presses down upon us.” He scanned the
neighborhood for more action—just nothing going on. The only emergencies
to happen here, that we knew of, if you could call them emergencies, were
1) when the fishes in Waverly Lake died, spotting the banks with their
numerous white bellies and stinky smell, and 2) the time the old water tower
in the vacant field next to our house caught flame. It was early morning in
the fall, before the sun had lit up, the world and sky a dark purple. My dad
was afraid the fire would spread, burn our house down too, so in pajamas
and flip flops he yanked the hose out far as it would go and started spraying
down the grass. Rescue Harvey was first on scene. Wasn’t much to do.
He did like the rest of us, we seven or eight neighbors, and watched the
pretty flames until the fire engine came. That’s when Rescue directed us to
the side so that the firemen could work unimpeded.
On this day the neighborhood was peaceful. Rescue nevertheless
looked back at his van to make sure it was on the ready should an
emergency erupt. Rescue Harvey’s van was always on the ready should
an emergency erupt—packed with bandages, splints, flashlights, water,
survival crackers, winches, ropes, all the gear necessary for saving folks.
Kinda depressing. Rescue Harvey had all under control. He didn’t need
no junior deputies, probably never would. I was disgusted, and looked
to Georgie for us to peel some foot skin off on his driveway. We near to
did so for a solid pouting session, but just then Rescue raised an eye to the
sky where a plane inched into view. We too raised our eyes to the skies.
“Uh oh,” Rescue Harvey said.
“What?” we said. We had heard the sense of urgency in his voice.
Had an emergency finally erupted? We hoped so.
“If it’s what I think,” Rescue Harvey said.
A plane. Every now and then planes flew by. While we watched it
something fell out of it, looked to be a tiny bag. The tiny bag-looking-thing
“Yup,” Rescue Harvey said. “Did you see that, boys? He made a
drop.” Rescue Harvey hurried to his van, grabbed his binoculars, and
stepped hurriedly back to where Georgie and I stood excited on the street,
barefoot in shorts. Rescue Harvey looked after the plane. Once it was out
of sight he shouted, “Dynamite!” and whooped over to the front door to let
Dynamite out, Dynamite a bitty black sausage dog with an ugly pugly face.
Dynamite raced to the rescue van with its four CB antennas evenly spaced
along the roof like a mohawk—that van was Rescue Harvey’s trademark.
People saw it, they knew help was on the way, especially on the occasions
that Rescue Harvey pressed his horn, which played a clip of the opening
notes of “Dixie,” the part where it goes I wish I was in the land of Dixie.
Whenever I heard that song I knew Rescue Harvey, the guy who’d shown
up that morning to save my family from fire, was at hand.
Rescue Harvey and Dynamite sped off, leaving Georgie and me
bewildered on the street. We wondered what Rescue Harvey meant about
the drop. Whatever the drop was, we knew it was bad, evil, some kind of
drug, or a poisonous substance that might creep down into the water pipes
and cause the good citizens of Waverly Hills to break out in horrible sores
and get thirsty and crazy and violent. Georgie even suggested it might’ve
been a top secret weapon of the government. We pictured mothers
drowning babies in sinks, and fathers slamming their boys with what bats
they used in the Pee Wee League. That would’ve been a bona fide
emergency. We betted Rescue Harvey then would deputize us. We
betted we were only that far from silver badge city.
It was fun to think, share the thoughts of our brains. It was one fun
thing we best friends did. Georgie lived across the street from me. Often
we met at dusk in the middle of the street between our two houses. We’d
sit down on that asphalt still hot from a day of sun. The hot in the street
would remain until late into the night. Sitting there we’d drool our spit into
a unified pool, seeing how large we could make it and imagining little people
swimming in it. We also talked about what we would be like twenty years
from now, thirty years from now, forty years from now. Would we still be
friends, we wondered.
What was that bag? We all saw it drop from the plane, so Georgie
and I investigated. We ran through the woods over to Lothian, which we
took down to the dead end. We ran through those woods on over to
Meridian, so named because it ran along the prime meridian, the prime
meridian itself wrapping around the whole world. As we stood in the
grassy shoulder of the prime meridian, cars rushing by at high speed, we
heard the plane again. It had circled around and we looked up and saw
stuff dropping out of it. It was people this time, four little men falling
through the sky. In seconds their parachutes unfolded.
Rescue Harvey had been a part of our neighborhood for as long as we
could remember. His fancy rescue van with his fancy rescue dog Dynamite
made us feel strong and protected and part of something important. When
a hippie in a Malibu ran over Georgie’s dog the night we Christmas caroled,
Rescue Harvey arrived and tried to save the beagle. It was the first and only
time we’d seen Rescue Harvey on his knees. He actually gave Georgie’s
dog mouth-to-mouth. A lot of the kids of the hood said bad things about
him, said his mom put poison in his baby bottle, that that was why he was a
little bit slow sort of and had the posture of the cartoon character Wimpy
who ate the hamburgers. Mostly the kids of the hood said he was retarded.
His head was funny. We all knew he was off a tiny little bit, but Georgie
and I loved him. Rescue Harvey had connections. Official-looking police
stickers were stuck to his van. On occasion we’d seen cop cars parked in
his drive. He told us tales of his rescues, stories of Dynamite helping him
drag drunk driving victims from burning cars.
We watched the parachutes of the men falling through the sky unfold.
Beyond Meridian up the hill was North Florida Christian School. The
school was having their Family Fun Day festivities. We watched the
parachuted guys drop down behind the church, where we knew the
football field was, and we were eager to see them land. One man swung
out sideways. His parachute rose and the man hanging by strings flew out
over the school house and disappeared.
Georgie and I hooked onto Henderson Road and ran as fast as we
could down the hill by the cafeteria. When we reached the top of the other
hill we saw the parachute flopped out along the street. The man had
dropped onto a green car and busted his head so that blood was on the
windshield. The driver of the car was leaning against the hood looking
worried and I felt afraid for him. He wore bell-bottomed trousers and
looked just like the guy who killed Georgie’s beagle. It couldn’t possibly
be the same guy. The posture was the same. He’d been driving along is
all. Suddenly some guy fell out of the sky onto his hood. The ambulance
was there. It had been on standby should anybody at Family Fun Day
have a mishap.
Georgie and I at the edge of the spectacle watched them unlatch the
guy from his parachute. They put him on a gurney and were loading him
into the ambulance. That’s when we heard “Dixie” cutting up the air.
Rescue Harvey barreled in and hopped out of his van and cried, “Wait,
this man is a drug agent for the Mexican Mafia!”
The paramedics, startled by the authority in Rescue Harvey’s voice,
stopped their administrations. Rescue Harvey stepped fast their way with
an outstretched arm, Dynamite barking small barks at his side, head lifted
high. “This man needs to be searched,” Rescue Harvey said. I noticed in
his other hand a newly sucked-on Sugar Daddy, its bent tip curled over
like a tongue.
An officer from the Leon County Sheriff’s department saw Rescue
Harvey marching toward the ambulance. The officer took a few quick
steps his way to say, “Goddamnit Harvey, get back in your van.”
“I need to interview this man,” Rescue Harvey said.
“I told you to back off, Harvey!”
Georgie and I had never heard anybody call him just Harvey before.
To us he was always Rescue Harvey, or Rescue for short. We wanted to
tell that bastard to let Rescue Harvey do his work. Another second and
we would have, but just then Rescue Harvey saw us. His eyeballs sorta
plunked down upon us. I didn’t mention this earlier, but Recue Harvey
was Catholic. His eyeballs had a otherworldly tint to them, I don’t know
how else to explain it. They were light blue, tinselly, and seemed to be
doorways into rooms where a lot of sad stuff went on. I didn’t tell you,
either, that Rescue Harvey once took Georgie and me into his house where
in the main room we saw dozens of little statues of saints and Mother
Marys, little painted plaster people with bright eyes and pastel robes.
I’m not sure how all this matters, but it seems important and all about
the lives Georgie and I lived before we grew and fell away from each other
and were no longer friends. The bag, whatever you wanna call it, that tiny
bag that fell out of the plane, was filled with our youth, not the saggy baggy
stuff to come later in high school, but the gold, where a medley of cleaning
solvents poured into a Dixie Cup could be a baby, sure, we did that. And
roamed naked through the neighborhood in the middle of the night,
throwing potatoes at cars from the recess of wood while dreaming of junior
deputydom, it merely an arm’s reach away.
Georgie and I did not care that Rescue Harvey had been shamed by
the real police. Rescue Harvey was our guy. We went over to him where
he leaned against his van, his balloon-belly opened up to the incoming
sweets of a new Sugar Daddy. We did not ask good Harvey to deputize us
then. We just stood by his side as the parachuter was hauled away by the
ambulance, the road suddenly open for traffic.
John Oliver Hodges is the author of The Love Box, a collection of
stories that won the Tartt First Fiction Award and was published by
Livingston Press in 2013. His stories have appeared in The Masters
Review, Monkeybicycle, Treehouse, StoryQuarterly Online, The
Writing Disorder, and elsewhere. Hodges lives in Brooklyn, teaches
writing at Montclair State University in New Jersey, and spends his
summers in South Korea.
On “Rescue Harvey”:
Rescue Harvey lived in my neighborhood when I was little. And
Georgie, whose name I changed from Nicky, was my best friend
in this middle-class childhood experience that I wrote down in forty
minutes. I know it took forty because I like to write stories while
friends write stories—together. We sip champagne and start the
stopwatch, two sessions of twenty minutes, then share. I wrote the
story as I remembered it, then typed it up and changed a few things.
I was lucky to have Nicky when I was little. As in the story, we
“made babies” by mixing all kinds of cleansers and crap into Dixie
Cups. We were proud of our chemical reactions; but of this time in
my life I seldom write. I think of Flannery O’Connor’s famous quote
in which she says, “Anybody who has survived his childhood has
enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” If she
is right, it’s the information, not the events that I, personally, use.
Mostly I write about awful stuff, so I’m glad to have a “clean” story
with “Rescue Harvey,” a story that might even be good for kids.
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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of
Volume 9, Number 2
Copyright © 2014
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to
in the Apple Valley
Review are retained by
the individual authors