Old Weird Harold


This is an excerpt from the novel: " Will the laughter stop?: Baby Boomer Chronicles

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This is an excerpt from the novel: "

Will the laughter stop?: Baby Boomer Chronicles

" by Honorable James J. Brown, published by Author House of Bloomington, Indiana. The novel is set on Long Island and New York City.

One mild winter Saturday afternoon in 1961, my friends and I decided to go up to Park Avenue School, a public elementary school located at the corner of Park Avenue and Williams Street in Williston Park in those days. The school was the site of many of Williston Park's finest pick-up basketball games in the early 1960's.

As usual, the basketball courts did not have nets. There were no referees. There were no fans present at the basketball game, except one. That was a person the kids knew named "Old Weird" Harold. He would tell no one about the results of the game. At first, when he came to view the game, no one saw him, because he was hiding behind some tall green bushes on the opposite side of the court, behind the fence. Out there on the court it was Dan, Pete, Johnny, Ritchie, Hank, and me, our usual six-member gang. So there we were in the afternoon playing basketball and sipping beer in between our runs up and down the court. The Park Avenue Elementary School building at the time was a three-story brick edifice, with a green slate roof. The roof was surrounded by long galvanized steel drainpipe gutters, fastened to the frame of the building. Hanging from those roof line horizontal gutters, were vertical gutters running down from the roof in about fifty-foot intervals. The gutters were bolted to the outer walls of the brick school building.

While my friends and I rested on the court, sipped some beer and talked, a young man we knew as "Old Weird" Harold began to climb up one of those vertical drainpipes to the school roof about one hundred feet or so from where we were playing basketball. We did not notice his climb.

"Old Weird" Harold was not really "old." In fact, he was about sixteen years old at the time. But Harold was mildly mentally retarded, and had an unusual skin condition that left his face wrinkled. He did look much older than his years because of the texture of his facial skin, and thus he acquired the nickname "Old Weird" Harold. Harold was very strong, and he loved to climb. Usually he climbed neighborhood trees. I thought I had some understanding that Harold's climbing was therapeutic for him.

During the "third quarter" of our unofficial pick-up basketball game, we were intense with the competition. The score was tied. We ran up and down the court like gazelles frightened by lions. By now, if there were lions in Williston Park, they would have no trouble smelling our sweat. In the activity of the game, we failed to notice Harold begin to descend over the lip of the gutter.

Harold swung his left leg down first, against the edge of the drainpipe. On the court below, I took a jump shot from fourteen feet, and it floated through the hoop. My opposing team brought the ball down in a fast break, just as Harold grabbed onto the elbow of the drainpipe for support, and swung his right leg off the roof to the other side of the drainpipe. Dan did a quick move past me, twisted and hooked a shot off the backboard right into the basket.

As Dan's shot bounded off the backboard, the hinges of the drainpipe, worn with age and weather, gave way under Harold's weight. As his support pulled free, Harold, unnoticed by the boys on the court, lost his grip, and swiftly tumbled backwards towards the hard surface below in a deadly plunge.

John took a shot at the same time Harold was falling, and as his basket soundlessly passed through the net, Harold soundlessly plummeted to the concrete sidewalk below. As he landed with the back of his head on the pavement, we all heard a sickening thud. We all turned in horror to see Harold lying dead on the ground in a pool of blood about one hundred feet away from the court. Harold's familiar figure would not be seen again in Williston Park. He now reached heights known only to God.


Honorable James J. Brown

grew up in Williston Park, NY, and now is a U.S. Administrative Law Judge in Raleigh, NC. He is a successful legal author, editor and speaker. "

Will the laughter stop?: Baby Boomer Chronicles

" is his first novel and it is set on Long Island, New York. For more information on the novel, Judge Brown maintains a Web Site at


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