August 7, 2009

Fiction: A SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH 1: Tuesday, July 2, 1946

(This series is a little biography and a little imagination. The biography will detail a month long trip my dad took in the summer of 1946 when he and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park -- that's the park above in 1945 -- to Duluth, Minnesota. The motivation, names and details all come from my imagination though. I plan on interviewing Dad for more details as time goes on...Enjoy! Oh, and as to why this is late? WAY more research than I expected just to do these 1000 words! This is gonna be FUN!)

“Your old man never says anything about what you do?” said one tow-headed, freckled boy to the other. He took an experimental puff on the cigarette, blew out the smoke and handed it to his best friend.

“Never,” said the second tow-head-without-freckles. He took the cigarette, peered through wilted hawthorn leaves then took a drag. “You didn’t suck it in,” he added. The sun was setting, throwing the long shadow of the seven-story apartment building across Loring Park.

“Shut up, Tommy! I did, too.”

Thomas Hastings handed the glowing fag back to his friend. “Prove it, Freddie. Do it again.”

Freddie Merrill took the fag. His hand shook a bit and Tommy smirked. Freddie cussed and said, “Shut up. Just you see!” He took a long drag on the cigarette, burning up half of if before his eyes bugged out. He held his breath for a few more seconds, then gasped a cloud of blue smoke and started coughing uncontrollably.

“You’d have made a great soldier,” Tommy began. The hawthorn overhead abruptly parted and a pair of giant hands grabbed one ear on each boy, yanking up so hard neither boy resisted.

Blue jacket, white shirt and tie, and pearl-handled .38 high on his left hip, Officer Lars Olafson said with a thick Norwegian accent, “You boys is behavin’ yourselves?”

Tommy opened his mouth to reply. Officer Lars cranked on his ear and a high-pitched, girlish squeak came out despite the fact he was almost fifteen. He tried nodding his head, but that hurt more. Freddie was working on coughing up a lung.

Officer Lars said, “You boys isn’t smoking, are you’se? ‘Cause it’s illegal for children to smoke in Minnesota, don’t you know?” He stomped on the still burning fag and released them.

Freddie’s hand went to his ear. Tears welled in his eyes, but he didn’t cry. Tommy staggered but kept walking, shoving his in his pockets like nothing had happened. Freddie caught up with him a second later. Officer Lars called, “Good to see you boys again! Say hello to your fathers for me!”

Tommy raised his hand, thought about flipping Officer Lars off, but figured he didn’t have enough lead yet. He waved instead. After coughing again, Freddie said, “Good idea. I don’t think I could have run fast enough.” He started coughing and didn’t stop until they reached West 15th, cut in front of a couple of cars and walked up Oak Grove. Freddie was still coughing.

“Can I come to your place? Dad’ll kill me if I come home smelling like cigarettes.”

Tommy snorted, “Your dad would kill you if you came home smelling like roses.” Freddie didn’t comment. He had enough bruises, black eyes and once a broken arm to prove the truth of that.

“How come you get a dad who lets you do whatever you want and I get a dad who kicks the crap out of me if I look at him funny?”

Tommy shrugged. He changed the subject, “You wanna hitch out to Minnetonka?”

Freddie hacked out half a lung before he managed, “You wanna get me killed? Jeez, Tommy!” They reached Tommy’s place.

“Nah. I just wanna go somewhere. Do something.”

“We can go to Calhoun and swim if you want. Dad won’t say anything about that.”

“He won’t say nothin’ if he’s passed out,” Tommy said and laughed.

“Shut up!” Freddie slugged him in the shoulder. They ran up the steps as the door opened.

“Oh! Hi ya, Freddie,” said Tommy’s older sister, May. “Tommy, Mom says she needs you to go to the drug store.” She patted Freddie’s head. “See you boys.”

“Where you goin’?” Tommy asked. “You’re dressed awful nice.”

She laughed, “Earl’s asked to walk me around Wirth Lake.”

Freddie piped up, his voice cracking. He coughed then tried for a lower, “I’ll take you for a walk around Calhoun!”

May smiled. “That’s sweet, Freddie. Maybe some other time.”

Tommy leered and said, “Wirth’s got an awful lot of park benches!”

May laughed and stepped to the curb. A 1938 Ford pick up rumbled to a stop and a smiling Earl jumped out to hold the door open for May. He lifted his chin and grinned at Tommy and Freddie, “Boys.”

Freddie leaned to Tommy and whispered, “His tattoo is keen.”

“He was at Okinawa,” Tommy said.

Freddie shook his head. “What I wouldn’t give to do something great like that.” Earl closed the door, ran back to the driver’s seat. A moment later, they smoothly pulled away as May slid up next to Earl and he put his arm around her.

Tommy looked at Freddie. “We gotta go somewhere.”

Freddie rolled his eyes and said, “Like where?”


Anonymous said...

I like the period feel and the set up of the boys here--although I confess to getting a little confused about who is who because of the similar physical descriptions at the beginning. Do you think we file characters in our heads partly by physical description? That's just unconsidered speculation.

It's pretty fascinating for the piece to be largely from biography. What parts of this one needed the research ... mainly people and places?

GuyStewart/DISCOVERCHURCH said...

My dad and his friend WERE virtual twins for a while! I know I file characters at FIRST that way. After I get to "know" them, I remember them more by "tone of voice".

The main research was the TIME -- in 1946, much of what is Minneapolis today was in place. I know my dad was there as well as my grandparents. So much of THAT was from Dad's head. The visuals though, I needed to pull up archives of pictures and newspaper articles and sports almanacs and things like that. LOTS of time! But like I said, I'm enjoying myself!