The Linehans

June 7, 2018 OTHER

Erica Zabowski photo

 

By

Mark Kodama

 

 

Jim. Alouez, Tim, Dan and Seana. They were our next-door neighbors. We loved them and they loved us.

 

Jim and Alouez, Mr. and Mrs. Linehan, are now gone but certainly not forgotten. RIP Jim and Alouez. My father passed away two years ago.

 

We moved to Canoga Park, a suburb in 1965. My dad and Mr. Linehan both worked for Lockheed as aerospace engineers at the time. Mrs. Linehan was a surgical nurse at St Joseph’s Memorial Hospital. The aerospace industry was such a booming commercial enterprise. There were commercial aircraft, rockets and warplanes to be designed and built. The Vietnam War was escalating and the Cold War and the Space Race were in full swing.

 

I was two years old and my older brother Mike was three. My brothers Matt and Rob and sister Michelle were not born yet.

 

Tim was the oldest son of the Linehans, three years older than me. Dan was Mike’s age and Seana came later. She was a couple years younger than me and a year older than Matt.

 

They were Irish Catholics, went to church every Sunday and attended private school. Sometimes we would see Dan, Tim and Seana dressed in their uniforms.

 

We were Japanese Americans, not religious at all and attended public school.

 

But these seemed to be superficial differences. We played in the same baseball leagues, went to Dodgers games, Indian Guides meetings and played together. We saw Jaws and Star Wars.

 

One summer, Tim came over to play every day with me. Even though Tim was three years older than me. He was very small for his age, about my size.

 

We played Rat Patrol, using my bed for a Jeep, raiding German and Italian ammunition and fuel dumps, occasionally getting wounded. We were Mosquito pilots bombing a German nuclear bomb plant in Norway. Or we were the three hundred Spartans defending the pass at Thermopylae We built a PT-109 boat out of Legos and dug forts for our plastic army men in my back yard.

 

Being a little boy, I usually said what was on my mind. So one day, Tim came. We were looking at my baseball cards so I told Tim “I really enjoy you coming over and playing with me but do you have to come every day?”

 

I regretted saying it the moment I said it. He looked up at me, his mouth opened and then tears of anger welled up in his eyes. I don’t remember if he said anything but he immediately left. He did not come for several days. The days passed and then he came again but it was never the same. Then he stopped coming all together. I really missed Tim. We remained friends.

 

One day we were at his house, in his room. I can still smell the clean smell of soap and detergent from his room and clothes. He asked me if I believed in God, Jesus and the devil. I said I believed in God.

 

So Tim showed me this comic book about God and heaven and what would happen to you if you did not believe in God. I remember seeing a young man in a suit and all the bad and dishonest things he did. The young man sold his soul to the devil in exchange for success.

 

At the end of the comic book, the devil took the young man away to hell. I was absolutely horrified. “That is what will happen to you if you don’t believe in God and Jesus, Mark.”

 

Well, I was very upset. I had never heard about this before.

 

So Tim said we should talk to his mother about it. So Mrs. Linehan told me bout God and Jesus and said that all Tim said was true.  Then she asked me if I was baptized. And I asked her all about it. And then I said “I must not have been baptized because I had never heard of it.”

 

She said: “I’m sure you have been baptized. You better ask your mother.” When I asked my mother she just no and just laughed.

 

*

 

When we got a little older the Linehans invited Mike and I to go to the Sierra Mountains for a week-long camping trip. The Devil’s Post Pile, the mountain stream, the forests and the fresh pan-fried trout. Need I say more.

 

Dan and Mike hung out together and Tim and I hung out together. One day, Tim proposed that we fight our brothers. Well, there was always tension between Mike and I and between Tim and Dan. Dan and I were both about a year and half younger than our brothers, but larger than they were. Dan was stocky, had a round face and red hair. He was a gifted athlete and the fastest runner on the baseball team.

 

I did not think fighting Dan and Mike was a good idea. I did not feel like causing trouble for Mr. and Mrs. Linehan since we were their guests and the prospect of getting in a fight with Dan seemed to be a dangerous for my health, perhaps even suicidal. I did not relish the idea of being whupped, especially since we bore no grudge towards one another.

 

But Tim was my friend and I did not want to be a coward in his eyes. So I told Tim: “I have a great idea.”

 

“What‘s that Mark?” he asked.

 

“Since Dan is your brother, you should fight Dan,” I said. “And since, Mike is my brother I should fight Mike.”

 

“That’s a good idea,” Tim said enthusiastically.

 

I was greatly relieved. My brother Mike and I had fought many times before. We usually just wrestled each other and pulled our punches, neither one of us really wanting to hurt the other.

 

So Mr. and Mrs. Linehan took us into town to buy souvenirs. Dan and Tim bought themselves whips.

 

Later, that day in our tent they threatened to whip each other. Mike ran to get Mr. and Mrs. Linehan who broke up the fight and disarmed them. Tim, Dan, Mike and I had nothing to say to each other for the rest of the afternoon.

 

That night we were invited by the campers next to us to a big bonfire. I burned my marshmallow so Mrs. Linehan taught me how to cook it in the embers instead of over the fire. Tim roasted my hotdog on a stick.

 

Afterwards we took turns telling ghost stories.

 

“Well, Mark do you have a story,” Mr. Linehan asked.

 

“Uh-huh,” I said.

 

Mr. Linehan smiled. “Well then let’s hear it.”

 

I thought of a story my cousin Dave told me.

 

“There was once a man who had a terrible headache. All he could hear a loud crunching noise all the time. The pain kept getting worse and worse and crunching kept getting louder and louder. Finally, the pain and noise became so great that the man went to see a doctor.”

 

“The doctor looked inside the man’s ear. ‘Hmmm,’ he said.

 

“The doctor then put ear drops in his ear. Suddenly, the noise stopped and the headaches ceased. The doctor then picked up a pair a tweezers. He inserted the tweezers into the man’s ear. When he pulled out the tweezers, he had a dead worm between the pincers.

 

“’Well that should do it,’ the Doctor said.

 

“About a month later both the headaches and the noise returned with more force than ever.

 

“The man returned the doctor.

 

“The doctor looked inside the man’s ear.

 

“The man looked at the doctor. The doctor was horrified.

 

“’What’s wrong,’ the man asked.

 

“Babies,” the doctor said.

 

Everybody laughed.

 

Afterward, Tim and Dan, and Mike and I walked to our own camp behind Mr. and Mrs. Linehan and Seana. Dan held the flashlight. We were now all best of friends.

 

Tim looked at me and laughed. “Babies!” he said.

 

Tim could really catch fish. Dan and Seana caught trout too. But Mike and I try as we could never could catch a fish. Tim and Mrs. Linehan took me out to one of Tim’s favorite spots but I just did not have the feel or patience for it.

 

So on our way home, the Linehans took Mike and I to a trout farm where we caught fish.

 

*

 

My Dad liked to coach baseball. So my brother played shortstop on his team and Dan played catcher. I was two years younger so I had to play in a different league. In all the time, I played for my dad we won the championship every year, save one. That year we finished in second place. For us it was a crummy year.

 

I played catcher too. One time, the other time sent their players to stand too close to home plate so our pitcher would fear to hit the players and would walk them.

 

My dad pulled the rulebook out of his back pocket to show that the batters were in violation of the rules.

 

The umpire, annoyed, sarcastically asked my father if he had a ruler?

 

My father walked back to the umpire and pulled a tape measure off his belt.

 

One of the fathers of the opposing team shouted at my father, “While you are at it why don’t you measure your tongue?”

 

*

 

One Halloween, I decided I was too old to trick or treat so I handed out candy. A group of high school kids, ruffians with their girlfriends, said they wanted all of the candy. I said “No, you get one each.” So the largest boy and I wrestled over the bowl. Finally he grabbed the bowl from me and ran away.

 

So I opened our front door and told my dad what happened.

 

He immediately asked in which direction they ran.

 

I told him and then we ran after them. As we rounded the corner, we saw our neighbor Rick Bowman. He told dad a large group of high school kids just ran around the corner. So the three of us of us ran around the corner.

 

When we ran around the corner we did not see anyone.

 

“Hmmm,” Rick said. “They were just here.”

 

My dad looked at the dark street and then at a large willow tree.

 

“They are there,” he said. He ran full speed to the willow tree and then disappeared behind the leave and braches. Immediately, a number of high school kids darted out from under the tree like a bunch of rats.

 

My dad had the largest kid by his plaid cotton shirt collar and dragged him from the tree. My father was a very small man but very strong and athletic.

 

“I’m sorry man,” the kid said covering his face. “Take it easy, man. I’m sorry.”

 

“All this candy is for free today and you have to steal it,” he told the boy. He made the boy eat candy after candy until the bowl was empty.

 

My dad grabbed the now empty bowl and we went home.

 

My dad turned to me and said. “If you go after the biggest guy, the rest will run away.”

 

*

 

Tim was a very good person and highly intelligent but always emotionally unstable.

 

One time when Tim was a teen-ager he, Dan and I were hanging out in Dan’s bedroom, listening to records and Tim kept taunting me. “C’mon hit me. I know you want to.” We always used to slap fight but now we were no longer playing.

 

So I said “Yes, I do.”

 

So Dan said: “We are not fighting in my room so let’s go outside.”

 

So we walked out to the street. Dan stood between us. “Do you guys really want to fight?” Dan asked. He had the most mischievous grin on his face.

 

By then Tim and I could not back down. I figured if I backed down I would have no end of trouble from Tim. So I said: “Let’s go!”

 

Tim was reckless and quick but small and did not always think. So kept rhythmically dancing forward and backward. Every time he was about to move forward he’d say “Hit me!” and then lean his face toward me. He did this three times. So when he said “hit me” and leaned forward. I stepped forward and hit him square on the right cheek knocking him to the ground.

 

Dan just laughed and then picked up Tim, threw him over his right shoulder and carried him into their house.

 

Dan became the star kicker for his high school football team. One time he won the game by tying the league all-time record for the longest field goal ever. I never saw his dad so proud of him. He said the referee and official score keeper made a mistake and in fact Dan had broken the record.

 

*

 

Mr. and Mrs. Linehan bought Dan a motorcycle for his birthday. So we met a friend of Dan’s to celebrate and do some drinking by the reservoir. At some point, Dan’s friend challenged him to race around the Chatsworth Reservoir.

 

We had too much to drink, and not enough experience. Dan kept telling me I had to bend with the bike when we went into a turn but I was scared and my body refused to listen to my mind.

 

We finally crashed on a large hairpin curve. I remember flying into the air over Dan in slow motion. I never passed out but I remember lying on my back on the asphalt. Dan hobbled towards me and eyes wide and asked if I was okay.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Linehan picked us and the mangled motorcycle in her station wagon and drove us home. My mother brought me to the emergency room where I was treated and released. Dan injured his right thigh and I had a severe burn on my right elbow and wrist.

 

Dan and Mrs. Linehan came to see my mother and I the next day to see how I was. I told Mrs. Linehan that a cat jumped out on the road and the only thing Dan could have done was crashed.

 

Mrs. Linehan assured my mom she would take care of all my medical bills.

 

My mom said for her not to worry since we had health insurance.

 

Before she left, Mrs. Linehan took both of my hands into her hands and assured me she would make sure I would be okay.

 

*

 

One day, Tim called my mom to ask her to bail him out of jail. He was arrested for unpaid traffic tickets.

 

That afternoon, Mrs. Linehan came with cash.

 

“Thank you Sharon” she said with a big smile on her face and her eyes were shiny, almost in tears.

 

I don’t remember what my mother said other than it was not a big deal.

 

“You know I would have left him in jail to teach him a lesson,” Mrs. Linehan told my mother.

 

‘I know,” my mother said.

 

One day, I found three hunting rifles underneath my parents’ bed. So I asked my mother about it since we never had weapons.

 

She said Tim had become violent and he was under the care of a psychiatrist so Mr. Linehan brought their guns to my dad to hold for them.

 

Dan said Tim had twice violently attacked their father. Mr. Linehan was very religious and believed in turning the cheek. Dan said he had to knock out Tim to prevent him from hurting their father who refused to fight against his son.

 

We respected both of our fathers for their strengths. My dad was a practical man who never backed down from a threat. Mr. Linehan was a religious man who never backed down from his principles. Can we say they both were right?

 

*

 

I left for college and then for Barstow to work as a newspaper reporter. I then moved to Washington DC to work for a specialty newspaper. I got married and went to law school.

 

Dan married his high school sweet heart and joined Naval special operations. Seana went to the University of Hawaii to study art.

 

I invited the Linehans to my wedding. Dan. Ledi and Tim came and that was the last I saw of them for decades.

 

Mr. and Mrs Linehan visited my wife and I in Washington, DC.

 

Then about 10 years ago, my mother was shopping at Home Depot. “Mrs. Kodama! Mrs. Kodama!”

 

It was Tim. He was now a middle aged worker there.

 

Meantime, Mr. and Mrs. Linehan and Seana moved to Northern California.

 

Dan retired from the Navy and moved to the Silicon Valley. He and Ledi divorced and Dan raised their children as a single Dad. He became a minister.

 

When my father died, I tried to find Dan so he could come to my Dad’s funeral. I found Dan but it was too late.

 

Soon afterwards, Alouez’s passed away. Jim had passed away several years earlier.

 

Two years ago, we saw Tim. Last year, my two sons met Dan on their vacation to San Francisco.

 

The Linehans. They were our neighbors.

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Kodama

Mark Kodama is a trial attorney and former newspaper reporter. He is currently working on Las Vegas Tales, a work of philosophy, sugar coated in meters and rhymes and told though stories. He lives in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area with his wife and two sons.

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