Royce Bivens was preparing for his senior year at the University of Saint Thomas. He was from an up and coming family in Pig’s Eye, Minnesota’s capitol city. His mother and father lived about a mile away from campus in a small home on Summit Avenue. His father owned a hardware store, and his mother was a parish leader at Saint Thomas Moore cathedral.
The Bivens were not a wealthy family, but they were squarely positioned in what would come to be known as the middle class. They parents were teetotlers, with a moral and ethical view of the world that was practically Calvinist despite their deeply Catholic roots; they were puritans.
Royce took pride in his training. Prior to his admission to Saint Thomas he had attended Cretin-Derham Hall, and participated in the Junior ROTC. He had dreamed of attending West Point, believing in his heart that he was better than his peers at everything their training called them to do; drills and marches, physical fitness and following orders.
He exemplified his duty.
Royce excelled at everything that entered the martial sphere of his studies, when it came to everything else he was a B student, at best. He consistently failed to understand his academic limitations, perhaps on account of the fact that he had a limited capacity for creative thinking.
Captain Royce Bivens was ardently disciplined, in his heart he believed that following orders, following procedures to the letter, was the signal mark of a good soldier.
He may have been right about that, and for his efforts he was promoted to Captain, but he was wrong about one very important thing: The ROTC program at the university was not training him to be a soldier, he was being groomed for leadership, for a commission in the Army, and command called for something more than the simple motivation to do as you are told.
Royce had been told this many times, such statements had appeared with regularity on his periodic evaluations, and he consistently failed to recognize their importance or how he could change in response to them.
On this night he had been convinced by some of the fellows from ROTC squad to take a trip down Lake Street this evening. They all wanted to see the night life and have a drink. Royce was reluctant, but he was loathe to set himself apart from the group. He thought about the constant critique of his character that his superiors were inclined to level at him and he decided that he should have some fun, join his friends, experience something of the world, do the unexpected.
Once Royce made up his mind he would not be deterred, and so when the rain began to fall in heavy sheets and some of the boys wanted to stay on campus. Royce decided to push them forward. He would have gone alone that night, and his boldness encouraged the squad to follow.
They crossed the Mississippi over the Marshall Avenue Bridge, entering Saint Anthony where Mashall became Lake Street, and they drove its length, stopping at a bar close to baseball field where the Miller’s played. The bar was called the Round-Up, and the brother of one of the boys in his squad worked there, and so they were being treated like family.
They were all gathered at the bar by the door, drinking beer and whiskey when a fight ensued.
They were laughing and talking about the girls they had seen on the corner, wondering out loud how much it would cost to spend an hour with one of them, blushing and guffawing at the thought of it when a sudden commotion started up. A group of men, including the Owner of the bar and Lieutenant Kaplan’s brother were pushing a man of gargantuan stature out the door.
Royce understood instinctively who was in the right, it was the owner of the establishment, and though it chilled him to the core to join the mayhem, he mastered his fear and together with his squad they helped push the man out of the door.
Without them they other men in the bar would not have succeeded.
He stood in the doorway and watched as the man stumbled and fell against a parked car, appearing to cut his jaw, though after a second look Royce thought he imagined it.
He watched the giant recover, and watched Tom Kaplan go outside in his rubber apron to return his hat to him. He watched as the gargantuan looked toward the sky and with maniacal laughter appeared to call the lightning down; he watched the rainbows dance in his glass eye, striking Tom Kaplan dead.
A wave of horror passed through the crowd, a midget brushed past Royce’s leg. The huge man began to run down the street, police following after him; then he saw something that surprised him. He saw Johnny Holiday, a guy that Royce had drummed out of the ROTC, and from the University, he saw Johnny following behind the huge man, ahead of the police, giving chase like had reason to.
Royce Bivens scratched his chin confused, Lieutenant Kaplan ran to his brother, sobbing and screaming. The rest of his crew was standing around in shock, looking to Royce, their Captain for a signal.
Royce Bivens went out to his friend who was sitting on his knees in the downpour, crying. He put his hand on his shoulder, and said to him: “Let’s go call your ma,” then there was another crack of lightening, the lights went out and the city went dark.