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Dinah Won't You Blow?

Dinah Won't You Blow?

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Dinah Won't You Blow?

178 pages
2 heures
Jul 19, 2015


Dinah, Won't You Blow? is a comedic novel set in the Hudson Valley of the Headless Horseman and other Washington Irving-inspired characters. Hershel Ostropoler, Station Master of the soon-to-be-closed Metro North stop Helm-on-the-Hudson, gets caught with his pants down in his fight against the Devil. In the village of fools, Hershel's beloved, Lexie Lox, and her uptight grandmother, Mrs. Mandelbaum, have been in a fight to keep the Devil out of Helm — and the train station is their battleground. Hershel must come to grips with his destiny and rally to protect Lexie and his hometown against waves of wild beasts, bureaucrats and bandits, prisoners and satanic mascots. Or will dark secrets from our hero's past be Helm's undoing?

Jul 19, 2015

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Dinah Won't You Blow? - Maxwell Bauman



My fight against the Devil began when a deer caught me with my pants down. It was an adolescent white-tailed deer with a thin white band of fur running diagonally across his face. His antlers kept knocking into branches and he shook his head like it was full of lightning. I always thought that a deer would bleat like a sheep or maybe growl a little, but this guy was straight up screaming.

I stepped behind a tree to keep out of the rampaging deer’s line of sight only to trip on the straps from my overalls. I knew right then that I should’ve gotten the pair with the zipper, but it wasn’t the time think about receipts and returns. I tumbled headfirst downhill with my overalls bunched around my ankles. I prayed for a sturdy branch to grab onto and caught a palm of sticky bramble instead. Every bush, herb and sprout I rolled through munched at my exposed legs. But my life as an unwilling hors d’oeuvres tray was cut short when I somersaulted out of the bushes and onto the concrete edge of a swimming pool.

Old women shrieked and scooped up their grandbabies as I skidded across a sizzling noon-baked griddle, asking God, What? Did one of the shrubs complain that I wasn’t cooked enough? That’s when the concrete ran out underneath me and I splashed into the deep end of the pool.

Cold water rushed into my ears and the muffled sloshing made me feel like my head wasn’t my own. Of course, it was still mine and like a fool I opened my eyes to the onslaught of chlorine. I’d never been able to see underwater; I don’t know why I thought things would be different. I snapped my stinging eyelids shut and purple splotches with yellow brims speckled my vision.

I cupped my hands, but as tight as I pressed my fingers together, water still sifted between my knuckles. I kicked, but the overalls around my ankles were soaked through and heavy as cinderblocks. I couldn’t hold what little breath I had any longer and exhaled. The bubble made a break for the surface and water flooded my nose and mouth.

All I ever wanted was to be the station master of the Helm Train Depot, but I felt it slipping away from me as I sank to the bottom of the pool. I held my arms over my head like a child asking to be picked up. My chest rattled. My ears rang. My head dipped down and my knees buckled.

But then a hand soft as corn silk latched around my calloused palm. With one solid tug, I was lifted out of the muted pool and to the din of the surface. I was set down at the edge and rolled onto my side, shivering and coughing up water.

The old women in floppy sun hats who were quick to get out of the way corralled around me like pioneer wagons. They looked at each other for answers. What do you think happened, Ruth?

I don’t know, Dottie. I’ve never seen him before. Have you, Gurdy?

No, never. He fell out of nowhere. Who do think he is?

Hershel? That voice was different. It was soft and familiar.

I squinted against the sun. A band of light eclipsed her head and the features of her face were washed out by shadow. I rubbed at the lingering sting in my eyes with damp wrists. I sniffed and swore the air was filled with the smell of fresh doughnuts. There was no hint of the germ killing chlorine or decaying grandparents; only hot sugar. Lexie?

It was Lexie Loxs, the new girl who ran the candy kiosk at the Helm Train Depot. She preferred to call it a newsstand. I couldn’t call her more than an acquaintance; every time I tried to talk to her at her little booth, the Station Master would send me off to make repairs or clean something.

She crouched next to me as the spots in my vision faded. Her skin was tanned like coffee mixed with cream. Wet brown hair framed her face. Thin eyebrows arched in concern over her tortoise framed sunglasses. A white gold chain necklace with an oval Egyptian cartouche dangled from her neck. Curved tan lines wrapped around the top of her elastic pink tube top and jean shorts. Oh my God, Hershel. You’re all cut up. Are you okay?

I dragged myself away from the edge, rolled onto my stomach, coughing and heaving up water. Before I could answer her, she told me to wait there. She got up and weaved through the curious crowed.

Something was happening at the other side of the group. Everyone, clear aside! a shrill voice demanded. A tiny old lady waving around a clipboard parted the elderly pool patrons. She was three feet tall with frizzy orange and white hair four feet tall. This ancient woman was known throughout Helm for prying her bony hands into every organization, team, troupe, board, band, committee, commission, confederation, consortium, federation, administration, alliance, assembly and ensemble. She always managed to make herself not only a member, but the leader in a dozen different groups and, to everyone’s disappointment, that list was ever growing. She knew everyone in Helm and prided herself with knowing the fine details of everyone’s business. She pushed her round glasses up the bridge of her nose. Ostropoler, we didn’t realize that you had signed up for the pool’s guest approval sheet.

Hello Mrs. Mandelbaum, I said. I didn’t realize you lived here.

We’ve been the director for Helm Water Safety Administration for thirty two years this fall. Mrs. Mandelbaum puffed out her chest and put her hands on her hips. If you’re done with your unscheduled visit, perhaps you should be on your way.

Excuse me. Excuse me, please. Lexie held a first aid kit and whipped her towel at the women in front of her and cleared a path to me. Scoot!

Stay back from him! Mrs. Mandelbaum said.

He’s hurt, grandma. I was just helping him out, Lexie said.

Grandma? Oh, that was perfect. With that kind of relative I had better odds with Lexie if she was wearing a jagged-toothed chastity belt.

Mrs. Mandelbaum peered over me. He looks fine to us, and we can’t stay here to supervise over you all day, Ostropoler. If you require further medical attention we can summon an ambulance to take you to the nearest hospital, and of course, bill you at your own expense. 

It’s okay, I know him, Lexie said. He works at the station.

I’m the Yard Master, I told her.

We are well aware of that; we are on the Transportation Tribunal after all. But if he didn’t sign up for pre-pool registration, then he’ll have to get going. Mrs. Mandelbaum stared at me and I shivered.

Lexie wrapped a towel around my shoulders. At least let him dry off and let me patch him up first.

Fine, patch him up, Mrs. Mandelbaum said. He can dry off on his own. She turned to the pool and muttered to herself. We must call to get that pool cleaned...

I’m all right. I stood and tripped on my soaked overalls and crashed backwards through the plastic slats of a chaise lounge chair.

Lexie jumped up. Are you okay?

Fine, fine. I groaned and tried to get up on my own, but couldn’t move and corrected myself. No. I’m stuck. I put my one free arm up as high as I could reach.

Okay, on three. One. Two. Three. She tugged my arm and lifted me up again. The broken plastic dragged and tore slivers of skin off my back and legs. When I was dislodged I stumbled forward and fell into her arms. She glided her fingers over my neck and felt my pulse race. Our foreheads nuzzled and our breath blended.

Mrs. Mandelbaum coughed behind me. The cough sounded forced and overacted, but it was enough to startle Lexie out of my arms. She took off her shades and flashed her turquoise eyes. She tended to my hands and legs with quiet focus. She pried of my shoes and pulled off the overalls and spread them out on the busted lounge chair to dry. We sat on the ground as she soaked rubbing alcohol into a cotton ball and tapped the swab against my scratched up arms.

I looked down at my pruned fingers and damp clothes. It would’ve been so easy to crash into one of those old biddies or, God forbid, one of their kids. The old ladies had lost interest in me and put their attention to the children eager to splash around again. I put my hands over Lexie’s. I don’t know how to pay you back.

She leaned in and whispered in my ear, It’s a shame I didn’t get to use mouth to mouth. She held my hands. So Hershey, what exactly happened to you?

I fell.

Yeah, I pieced that together. But how? And don’t say ‘gravity’ or you’ll end up back in pool.

I was cleaning the tracks when I had to bleed the lizard and thought it might be best to go in a little further into the aqueduct as a precaution. I explained in my early teens I was at a barbeque and had to take a leak, so went to do my business behind some bushes. I was half way through emptying my hollow leg when I heard the screams of Helm’s girl’s varsity softball team. If I didn’t cry my eyes out before the magistrate I would’ve been shipped off to juvie for indecent exposure.

It sounds to us like you were playing with yourself, Mrs. Mandelbaum said.

Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, I said. Anyway, I was marking my territory when I noticed something bouncing over a hill coming at me. It was rust colored and darker than the tree bark. For a second, I thought it might’ve been the Rat Witch.

An uneasy look washed across both of their faces. Lexie’s shoulders stiffened.

Have you ever heard of her? I asked. The Rat Witch legend was passed down by the older kids who spilled secrets that parents choose to keep hush-hush. She ate children, and she lived in the shrubs along the Croton Aqueduct.

It’s been a while, but yeah... Lexie quickly scooped up the wrappers from the bandages and put the rest in the first aid kit. I never liked that name.

I never liked her, I said. But it wasn’t the witch, it was a deer. I must’ve spooked him. Then I tripped and fell.

A deer? Mrs. Mandelbaum asked. Did it have a white band on its face.

Yeah. Has he been around he a lot? I asked.

Something like that, she said and turned to the pool. I assumed the deer came down to the pool to drink or splash around, but as I’d come to find out, the Devil was in the details.


Mrs. Mandelbaum suggested I go back the way I came to make sure I didn’t drop anything. I did a quick pat. Wallet, keys... where was my radio? Did it fall in the pool? Not there. Then it had to have been somewhere up the hill. My shoulders drooped and I climbed back into the woods.

The Croton Aqueduct ran forty-one miles through Westchester County scattered with unpaved crisscrossing trails. My clothes were still damp and my shoes squished. My feet were probably going to blister by the end of the day. I stepped slowly scanning the ground for my lost radio while keeping my guard up for the deer.

Bushes shook up ahead and for some reason, I didn’t think it was going to be the deer. My mind skipped over the deer and went right to the Rat Witch instead. When I was a kid I set out into the woods alone to confront her. I was determined to tell her to get out of town or I’d chase her off myself. I charged her with a broken branch and she pulled rodents from her sleeves like crumpled tissues. Terrified, I doubled back. I didn’t want to run, but what could I do? I told my family and friends, but no one ever believed me. They laughed and called the Rat Witch my girlfriend. It became one of those buttons people loved to push. But whatever I encountered as a kid didn’t help my search for the radio. I stood still to study the bush. It shook again, but it was only the wind.

I crunched over leaves until something cracked. I hesitated to look down. I’d always been fairly clumsy. I’ve unintentionally stomped on my fair share of cereal, my sister’s glasses and buckets and buckets worth of Legos. That cracking sound was clearly plastic. Sure enough, when I raised my foot, my radio was split in two and tethered together only by a strained yellow wire. Perfect. I took a deep breath to calm myself. The wafts off the Hudson were getting stronger and stung my nostrils, but something faintly sweet floated in the air. Where was it coming from?

Mosquitos and gnats whined in my ears and eyes. Every two feet I walked into a spider web with my mouth open. Somehow the

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