Close Calls


Tale of the Big Bang

Circa Late 1920's/ Miami, FL

A boy is running through the light rain in a Miami Florida front yard. "Bang, Bang!" says Billy Bruce, not yet six-years old..."BANG, BANG!" His toy rifle, made of lightweight painted wood and twin-barrels of tin metal, is brandished mischievously.

The rain comes down harder as Billy targets an imaginary Bad Guy... BOOM! The lightning strike is concussive; Billy is blown-back against a tree trunk, sprawled upright. He's smudgy and slightly smoking from the powerful electrical blast that's struck his yard.

The little boy regains his senses and realizes he's been hit by lightning! He's disoriented but also delighted by the proof in his hands; the twin barrels of his toy pop-gun are peeled back in reverse spirals like an old fashioned handle-bar moustache.


Tale of the Great Stick-Up

Circa Early 1940's/ Miami, FL

It's late and the last show has ended at the Dade Theatre. The boyish manager is alone and locking-up in the dark. Pulling the stage door closed, Billy Bruce is approached by a gentleman who needs a favor. "Can you open back up for me, buddy? I'm a taxi cab driver and left my badge in one of the seats...can't work without it..." Bill appreciates the guy's plight and lets him in.

Only a dozen or so steps inside, the larger man pulls out a pistol and growls at the young man "This is a stick-up...give me that night bag of receipts in the safe...or else..." Before Bruce can reply, he hears another 'click' and a second voice in the dark. "Now Listen Mister, this is the police; you put down your gun or I'll shoot you, do you hear me?" A local beat cop has quietly followed the two men inside.

The thief freezes for a moment, and says "No, you put your gun down, or I'll shoot the kid." Billy pictures the scene in his minds-eye and thinks...this might not turn out so well for me...

"Do I get a vote in this?" he asks, casually as he can.

A heartbeat or two passes, and the stand-off ends with the crook relenting and in custody. Officer Van Garber, a family friend of Billy's mother, later tells Bruce, "Jesus, Billy, the next time you pull a stupid stunt like that, I'll personally knock your block off!"


Tale of the Missed Flight

Circa Mid 1940's/ WWII

Billy spends each week on his stateside base dreaming of travel. Navy personnel can hitch rides on outbound Navy planes, as long as there's room in aft storage. It's a cold, bumpy, uncomfortable ride, but Billy hustles down the runway at the last minute to visit 'ports of call' like San Francisco, Denver, and Los Angeles.

He's running behind one transporter with the rear cargo bay open, and Bruce's fellow sailors are beckoning 'Hurry up!' and get on board. They're beginning their take-off acceleration. Billy is running, getting closer and closer to the plane, heart racing to catch the flight...then inexplicably slows down, and he waves the plane off. One of the seamen onboard is wagging his head at Billy, as if to say 'You could've made it buddy, you lose..."

Billy Bruce stops on the runway and just stares after the departing plane. He's watching it gain altitude, watching it bank slowly to the right, watching it begin to loose altitude, watching as it begins to head downward...in the remote distance, the plane Bill was steps away from joining crashes, and all the men aboard are killed. He never knows exactly why he didn't get aboard; but he's sure Something held him back.


Tale of the Organ

Circa 1954/ Miami, FL

The 30-year-old Bill is coming home from the hospital, after a full 3 months away. The surgery (removal of seven-eights of his ulcerated stomach) was life-threatening and invasive. Entering the hospital at 180 lbs, the ICU recovery has left Bill an emaciated 125 lbs.

Bonita, his wife of 6 years, has a few close friends over to celebrate Bill's return to their North Miami Avenue home. As he's arrives in their foyer, Bill turns to cover a deep sneeze...'Ahhh-CHOOO!' Bill gingerly wraps his arms around his chest and moves towards the master bedroom, while Bonita hosts their company. A minute later, Bill calls from the adjacent room, "Bonita, could you come in here please..."

"Honey, I think I've got to go back to the hospital" he says, sitting on the side of their bed. He undoes the buttons on his shirt for her to see...he takes his sides, and opens his chest like the covers of a book. The force of the sneeze has ruptured his supposedly-healed surgical cut, which runs from the bottom of his belly to the middle of his chest.

In shock, Bonita says, "Oh my God, Billy, I see your organs!" Bill takes his sides, folds them closed and says calmly, "Well, don't worry until you hear them playing".

Bonita immediately drives Bill back to the hospital, after calling his surgeon. She assists him into an elevator to meet the doctor upstairs in the Operating Room. As the doors close, Bill recognizes they are in the cab with the old-biddy nurse who has nagged him ceaselessly for months about proper eating. She looks at Bruce, and scolds, "What are you doing back here?"

Without hesitating, Bill snaps, "I went off my damn diet!"


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