“Steven First Enters the Tower and Views the Magical City.” Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker for March 30, 2023.

(Photo by Jeff Baker)

Steven First Enters the Tower and Views the Magical City

by Jeff Baker

I turned fifteen years old in the Summer of 1974 and spent most of July flat on my back in a hospital bed on the seventh floor. I wasn’t in for anything life-threatening but I wasn’t going to be running after baseballs for a while.

I wasn’t that bored, Mom & Dad kept me supplied with comic books , I got to watch a lot of TV. Lots of game shows back then and local reruns of “I Dream of Jeannie” at four in the afternoon. And my older brother slipped me a crumbling paperback of something called “Topper,” presumably because it had a cover drawing showing a topless lady in panties (her top turned discreetly away from the reader!) I hid that one from Mom &b Dad.

“Don’t show the Folks, Stevie,” my Brother said with a conspiratorial wink.

Then, of course, there was the Tower.

The Tower was a large radio-T. V. antenna sticking out of the seeming forest of front-yard trees in the neighborhoods that stretched out across the city, and which I could see if I leaned over and angled my head just right.

I couldn’t miss it. It was at least a mile away but it dominated the view from my big window. It was black in the early morning light, then when the mid-morning sun hit it the Tower became a wonder of red and white etched against the blue sky.

In that month of TV., comics and tests watching the Tower as it changed through the day was as fascinating a show as the tube could offer.

I would watch it sink into the dusk it’s red lights flashed into the darkness.

And in the darkness, I would sleep and dream, lying there under hospital sheets, that I was climbing the tower in the dark, the lights smiling at me and then I would reach the top and sit down on the large, flat surface and survey the glittering city and the blue-white stripe of river and drink soda out of Styrofoam cups with my Brother and a couple of the interns and Granddad (who had passed away two years before.) We were all on top of the tower somehow and we partied the dream-night away.

In the decades since, I caught a glimpse of the Tower from time to time, not looming as large from a distance viewed from the ground. But one afternoon I drove to the seedy neighborhood where the tower stood and I saw it up close for the first time. It’s base protected by a fence topped with barbed wire on a lot surrounded by boarded-up houses. It hadn’t aged. Sturdy. Strong. From a Summer when I was not. I glanced upward and shielded my eyes from the Sun’s glare. The Tower was still red and white slipping into dark shadow on the ground around the trees.

As I drove away I heard in my mind the echoes of that long-ago dream party atop a tower that touched the stars in my sleep.


AUTHOR’S NOTE: Although this story is largely fictionalized, most of it really happened to me in the Summer of (I think) 1974. The picture is the actual tower I saw in those long-ago days. And it was my folks who got me the copy of “Topper,” which I still have, including the racy cover! —–jeff

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