Sixteen-year-old CLIFF ROGERS stands strong against secret forces that are out to destroy his community and the world! It’s the late 1960s and the East-West cold war is not yet over. A secret communist group tries to undermine Cliff’s school with red propaganda!
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1 – PROPAGANDA
THE BRIGHT YELLOW STINGRAY rounded the last bend in the curving driveway and pulled to a quick, smooth stop. Two denim-clad boys hopped out, and, as the car doors slammed shut simultaneously behind them, they were already moving away with long strides.
They angled across a large, well kept lawn. Behind them, just beyond the parked car, stood a great old wooden colonial house with a row of gabled windows sticking out of its attic story, and with three top-heavy chimneys evenly spaced along the roof’s peak. The pale-green house was as well kept as the lawn and as beautiful as all its perfectly landscaped surroundings, which included stately white ash trees and neatly trimmed shrubbery. In the direction the boys were walking, and apparently their destination, was a smaller building that looked to be a combination car shed and repair shop.
The youth who had been driving glanced at the other and said, “What a hassle that was! And it’s not over yet. I’m glad to get out of there and I’m glad it’s Friday. At least we don’t have to worry about it till Monday.” He was taller than his companion and very slim. Dark brown, curly hair framed his angular, narrow face. In spite of its sharp features the face looked young, about sixteen, suggesting that the boy was a bit tall for his age.
The other youth looked to be the same age but was of average height. Although he was also slim, his blue jeans and red-plaid shirt obviously covered a find arrangement of healthy muscle. There were no large bulges, but he had the graceful, well-proportioned look of a natural athlete. Cliff Rogers scratched at his heavy growth of dark hair in a gesture of puzzlement. His square-jawed face took on a concerned look. “How come you’re so worried?” he asked his lanky friend. “You didn’t have anything to do with the whole thing, did you?”
“Me? You gotta be outa your skull,” said the tall boy. “Since when do I go around writing communist propaganda on blackboards?” He looked annoyed and hurt.
“I’m sorry,” said Cliff. “No, I can’t see you doing anything like that, but I just don’t understand why you’re taking it on as a personal problem.”
They had reached the shed, and as they walked in through the large open doorway they had to be careful not to trip over an assortment of disassembled motors, plus tools, bicycles, lawn mowers, and welding equipment. The place fascinated Cliff. It reminded him of the repair shop on the farm where his family had lived before moving into the city six years ago. There was a difference though. That shop had been for fixing farm machinery; this one was mainly for playing around with cars and motorcycles.
The tall boy still had a sad look on his face. Cliff felt like kicking himself for what he had said. He straddled a customized Triumph 500 that was standing alongside a partly dismantled old Mustang. Although Cliff appeared to be studying the controls of the bike, his mind was fully involved in trying to think of something to say that would undo the damage of his careless remark. Finally he looked up and said, “Mel, I know you couldn’t write that kind of stuff any more than the man in the moon could. I’m sorry.”
Melvin had opened a door that led into another room. He turned back with his hand on the latch. “Forget it, will you? I wasn’t even thinking about what you said anymore.” He smiled a little, for the first time that afternoon, and added, “So quit hassling me and check the gas and oil on those bikes. I’ll be with you as soon as I change.”
“Sure,” said Cliff and started unscrewing the fuel-tank cap in front of him. Melvin was okay, he decided, even though having rich parents had spoiled him in some ways. He always got what he wanted, whether it was a new motorcycle, car, stereo, or sound movie outfit. Maybe one of these days he’d ask his dad for an airplane, and his dad would probably immediately buy him one.
Cliff wheeled the big metallic-blue Triumph out to an elevated gas tank, then went back for the other bike, a Norton Commando 750 that Melvin had hammered into a chopper. This one was thoroughly customized with a high-compression combat engine, raked frame, ten-inch extension forks, a big Harley wheel at the rear, dual headlights, angel handlebars, a king-queen seat, plenty of chrome, a metallic-red paint job, and lots of other goodies. Both bikes belonged to Melvin, but the Norton was his favorite. Cliff filled the tanks on the bikes and then checked the oil.
He was glad he had worn his high boots to school today instead of his usual beaded Indian moccasins. Lately he had been wearing his boots a lot, he realized, for since he had become a close friend of Melvin he could expect to go biking two or three times a week. It was almost like having a bike himself. Today, right after school was out, Melvin had asked Cliff if he wanted to go for a ride to the mill. Cliff was glad of the opportunity to straddle that beautiful Triumph again, but he was also looking forward to seeing the big Hertz sawmill operation. Samuel Hertz, Melvin’s dad, was the president of the company and its major shareholder.
Melvin came walking out into the sunlight now, resplendent in a red leather jacket, black leather pants, and Hi-Point cycle boots with a row of buckles down the sides and shiny metal plates on the fronts. His hands were zipped up in black leather touring gloves. Melvin wouldn’t ride a quarter of a mile without his cycle getup.
Cliff asked, “Aren’t you gonna be hot in all that leather?”
“Not once we get moving. You’d better put on your jacket too.”
“All right, I’ll pick it up at the car.”
They both mounted, and, as they were pulling their helmets from the handlebars, a green Camaro sport coupe came careening through the curved driveway as though a fire-breathing dragon was chasing it. Neither of the two boys considered this a possibility, however, for Bruno Hertz, Melvin’s older brother, always drove like that. He screeched to a stop in front of a garage built onto the side of the house, then stuck his head out of the car window and called across the lawn: “Hang on a minute! I want to see you.”
“Wonder what he wants,” said Melvin under his breath as he rehung his glistening black helmet on the bars. Cliff didn’t put his on either. He had been aware for some time that Melvin and his brother were not on the best of terms and wondered why.
Bruno was striding across the lawn now, coming toward them quickly as though he had something important to say. He didn’t look at all like Melvin, for Bruno, at twenty-two years old, was only about as tall as Cliff and probably weighed less. His light-brown hair was straight, shoulder length, and always a bit stringy looking, as though it needed washing. He made a point of wearing drab, shapeless clothing that would never have suggested to anyone that he was the son of a wealthy man.
He came to a stop beside the bikes and stood with his thumbs hooked behind a narrow belt. There was a smirk on his thin-lipped mouth. “Tell me, boys,” he began, “did anything unusual happen at school today?”
Melvin and Cliff exchanged glances. Mel said, “Yeah, and that’s putting it mildly.”
“Really?” Bruno was still smirking. “What happened?”
Melvin grabbed up his helmet again and this time put it on, but he kept the visor up. “Some turkey scribbled a bunch of communist jargon on the blackboard of the science room. Well, it caused a major earthquake. Maybe you know how Mr. Spence feels about communism.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Bruno. “Your science teacher is a first-class capitalist pig.”
Cliff gave a start, then looked at Melvin. The tall boy had lowered his head and was nervously playing with the zipper on his glove.
Bruno continued, “It looks like things worked out pretty good…. What do you mean by earthquake?”
“Well, Spence got the principal and a few others stirred up about it,” said Melvin, “and the first thing you know every student in school was in the gym being cross-examined. It was a second-rate inquisition.”
Bruno laughed, a sharp, grating sound. “What were some of the things on the blackboard?”
“I dunno,” said Melvin. “All kinds of jazz about freedom, equal rights … the need to destroy the capitalists who have ruined the country, and so on and so on–a bunch of half-truths twisted out of shape and stuck together with hate slogans.”
Bruno wasn’t laughing anymore, or even smiling. “Hold on, you young pig! I don’t like the way you’re talking. If you want to talk like that, do it when I’m out of earshot.”
Melvin glared at his brother. “I’ll say what and when I please. If communism is your bag then go and dunk your head in it, but don’t try to shove it down my throat!”
Bruno looked as though he was about to explode. “Watch your mouth or I’ll knock you clean off that fancy bucket of bolts! If you’d quit hanging around with trash maybe you could get your head straightened out!” As he said this last sentence he looked directly at Cliff, then added, “But if you’d sooner have religion shoved down your throat, I guess that’s up to you!”
Melvin turned his ignition key and said quietly to Cliff, “Let’s go.”
But Cliff wasn’t quite ready to leave. He looked squarely at Bruno and spoke to him for the first time in his life. “I’ve been telling Melvin about Christianity and about God’s love for all of us, if that’s what you mean. But I haven’t been shoving anything down his throat.”
“Get lost!” said Bruno.
Cliff didn’t move, even though Melvin was nervously fidgeting with his glove zipper again. Cliff said to Bruno, “You had something to do with that writing on the board, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t just have something to do with it,” snarled Bruno. “I ordered it put there. I arranged it with a couple of dudes in your science class.”
Cliff was surprised at his own calmness. He felt no hatred toward Bruno, and not even much anger. Nevertheless, as a Christian he knew he needed to make himself entirely clear on where he stood in this matter. In a level, quiet voice, he told Bruno, “There was a lot about freedom written on the blackboard. That’s kind of funny, because communism is the greatest threat to freedom that we have right now. It’s bad enough that this kind of poison got into the university–we can do without having you dribble it down into the high school.”
For a moment Bruno was tight lipped and white faced; then he relaxed a little and laughed a smelly laugh. “Well, well, so you can talk back. Don’t you know that a Christian isn’t supposed to do that? You’d better go and confess your sins.”
“Somebody must have put you on the wrong track,” said Cliff. “I’d be sinning if I didn’t stand up for Christ, and I’d be letting him down if I kept quiet about communism, because it happens to be an outright enemy of Christianity.”
“Well, in that case we’re definitely enemies,” said Bruno, “so buzz off!”
“Okay,” said Cliff, “but I guess you know that Christ teaches his followers to love their enemies.”
“So now you love me!” Bruno took his thumbs out from behind his belt and flexed his fingers as though he was getting ready to strangle someone. “Love your enemies! If you’re not off this yard in three seconds I’ll pound some of your Christian humbleness back into you!”
Cliff put on his helmet. He turned the ignition switch in the side of the headlight, primed the motor be pressing the “tickler” on the carburetor a couple of times, and then bore down on the kick starter. Melvin was doing the same with the Norton. The two big motors roared to life almost simultaneously.
As the boys settled down on their bikes, Bruno crossed in front of them and came to a stop beside a pile of miscellaneous junk stacked against the front wall of the repair shop. He bent over and picked up a piece of steel pipe about three feet long and three inches in diameter.
Has he gone mad? wondered Cliff in alarm. Is he going to attack me with that thing? Melvin had told Cliff several times about his brother’s furious temper. Cliff kicked into gear and relaxed his grip on the clutch lever. He and Melvin lanced forward at the same time, gravel and roaring exhaust spurting out behind them.
Bruno spun around to face them, and with the same movement flung the piece of piping low along the graveled driveway in their general direction. Cliff saw it bouncing and rolling straight for his front tire. He thought of popping a quick wheelie to clear it, but there wasn’t enough time. The pipe slapped under his front wheel, which was already slightly turned, and then rolled along under the tire at an awkward angle. It was like driving onto a sheet of glass covered with oil. The rolling pipe, being shoved along by the tire, neatly lured the front wheel out from under the big Triumph as Cliff’s right foot plowed up a spray of dirt. It was strange that in that tense moment he had time to wish he was wearing Melvin’s leather pants. Then his bike was completely down, skidding away to the side, and Cliff was rolling over and over along the driveway until that too curved out from under him. His helmet batted up against the trunk of a tree and left him lying there stunned, but not unconscious.
Melvin came running up. “You hurt bad?”
Cliff could hear Bruno yell out from farther in the background, “I hope every bone in his body is broken!”
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