by Lorie Lewis Ham
Lorie has been singing gospel music and writing since childhood. Her first song and poem were published when she was 13 and she has gone on to publish many articles, short stories and poems throughout the years as well as write for a local newspaper. Lorie continues to sing and her mystery novels are set here in the San Joaquin Valley, with five of the six featuring gospel singer Alexandra Walters.
Deadly Discrimination was originally published as a novel. The story takes place around a fictional version of the Reedley Fiesta and is being serialized here at Kings River Life Magazine in weekly installments. Be sure to start with Chapter 1!
The bikers were gathering at the far side of the park, so I pushed my bike over to join them. The ages of the bikers appeared to range from teenagers to senior citizens. It was good to see young people involved in something positive — the entry fee money had been donated to the local youth center and, after what I’d seen last night, I knew they needed all they could get.
I was so glad Eddie had gotten involved in the center. He really needed to be around more good Christian kids. The fact that boys like Josh attended the local private Christian high school certainly wouldn’t help change Eddie’s opinion of Christians.
Police Chief Harmon was the official starter and a large supporter of the youth center. Though a bit stubborn, he seemed to be a good man. There looked to be about twenty bikers. We took off in a whoosh as the chief fired his pistol in the air. Accustomed to riding my bike all over town, I had the endurance for the race, but didn’t seem to content myself with just finishing.
It was almost nine by the time the park again came into view, so I stopped briefly to turn on my little radio and put on the headphones. I heard the beginnings of the parade as I glided over the finish line; sirens were blasting in my ears so loud I almost didn’t hear Chief Harmon say I’d won tenth place. I took off the headphones and smiled. “Did you say I got tenth place?”
The chief nodded, his burly frame and thick black hair reminded me of a bear. Obviously Glenda had received her delicate good looks and fair complexion from her mother.
“Half the others pooped out before they got here,” he growled like a big grizzly. “The first ten places get ribbons, so here’s yours. I’m late for the parade.”
Proudly accepting the bright red ribbon, I pushed my bike to the spot where I’d left Lola, anxious to show off.
She was videotaping the parade when I plopped down beside her after chaining my bike to a stop sign pole. I was exhausted but exhilarated at the same time.
“I got tenth place,” I bragged.
“Really, dear? That’s great,” she said without removing her eyes from the camera. I was a little deflated, but I guess I shouldn’t have expected to be able to compete with the big parade. She would definitely make a good pastor’s wife, since she’d never let me think too highly of myself. I scavenged around in the ice chest and brought out the last soda, my hand dripping with cold water. Then I settled in to watch.
“You mean you lived?” needled Stephen as he sipped another soda.
“Not only did I live, I got tenth place.”
His hearty laugh caught the attention of a couple of young girls and they giggled. “Most of them didn’t finish, huh?”
I frowned and turned my attention to the parade, wondering what I had missed. It had sound like emergency vehicles going by on the radio but, apparently, they were long past. Kids were running into the street to grab the candy being thrown from various floats and cars.
Next came an old ‘50s convertible carrying our beloved Mr. Toews waving to the crowd. His wife sat beside him throwing candy. The applause was sparse, and I could tell it was a strain for Toews to keep his smile pasted on that old bulldog face of his.
Then we were treated to the sounds of the local high school band as they played an old Dixieland song, which was actually pretty decent. Not quite up to New Orleans standards, but it was a high school. They were decked in green uniforms and marched almost in straight lines. They were preceded by a U.S. flag which brought everyone to their feet and filled the air with the applause I was certain Toews had wished for himself.
Pulling out my notepad, I began scribbling, waiting with anticipation for the parade to get into gear. Maybe the floats were what was so great about this parade.
A group of lowriders went by in some really cool-looking cars, but I wondered why they were in a parade. Several groups of kids on ponies went by and several trucks with trailers of hay and lots of kids. Kids from high school, kids from the big local daycare, elementary school kids, and more and more kids of all shapes, sizes and colors. Some decorated their trucks with school colors, some dressed in costumes. The kids were kind of cute. But surely there was something more.
The play-by-play from the radio station blared in my ear, but the parade was so noisy I didn’t catch much of what they were saying. Lola was busy videotaping every inch of the parade, people around me seemed to be enjoying themselves, and kids’ faces glowed. Stephen sat next to me just looking around at the people. He liked watching people.
Though I took a few notes, I kept hoping things would get more interesting. There were a lot of bands of different sizes from all over the area — high schools, grade schools, and junior highs. A group of veterans marched by carrying a flag, bringing the crowd to its feet once again.
Next, Josh Matthews drove by in his Porsche, escorting the homecoming queen from Kensington. Cheers once again filled the crowd. I knew most of the cheers were for Josh, as he had given Kensington its first championship football team in years. He was a local hero; perhaps that was his problem.
Several political officials went by, either on horseback or in old cars with banners hanging over the doors. The cars were neat, but I had no interest in politicians. A group of skaters and skateboarders sponsored by the bike shop and promoting the skate park did tricks for us, which made me itch to take out my old skateboard and see if I could still ride it. But I decided I wasn’t in the mood for a broken bone.
Lola continued to faithfully videotape the parade as I just sat and watched. I had almost given up on any real excitement when I was certain I heard a woman’s scream. Most of the crowd didn’t seem to notice, but Stephen turned to look at me.
“Could just be a happy scream,” I offered.
“I don’t think so.”
We jumped up and, as he made his way through the clowns now passing by, I leaned over to whisper in Lola’s ear, “Be right back.”
Then I followed him, nearly running into a particularly large crowd, but was fairly certain where the sound had originated. The crowd was backing off and police officers were beginning to take charge. I ran over to the Martinez booth, fear gripping my heart. When I arrived on the scene, it wasn’t Martinez that lay on the ground in a pool of blood. It was our beloved grand marshal.
Originally published by PublishAmerica, © Lorie Ham 2003