January 30, 2010


A combination of working at a Young Author's Conference; grading finals and posting those grades and teaching a new semester left me FAR behind in my enjoyable writing. Here's Thursday's entry. If you want to read the story from beginning to end (I know, I know, this isn't exactly flash fiction...) go to the right and click on the link to get all of the episodes...

“Why are we still walking?” Freddie Merrill said.

“Because you look like you’re insane and people don’t pick up insane hitchhikers,” said Tommy Hastings.

“I don’t look insane!” Freddie exclaimed. He spun around and took as swing at Tommy. A car that had been slowing down behind them picked up speed again and roared past.

Tommy stared at Freddie without saying a word.

Freddie hung his head. The hot sun beat down on them as they rounded a bend in the road that ran alongside the Mississippi. Tommy was pretty sure the tops of his ears were going to be sunburned by the time they got to Anoka. He said, “At the rate we’re going, the fireworks will be over by the time we get there.” He walked past Freddie and grabbed the sleeve of his grimy T-shirt. They’d spent most of the day walking, only getting a ride as far as Camden once they’d left Minneapolis. At three o’clock, they’d spent an hour watching the trains and wondering if they should jump one and just ride it north to Duluth. But Freddie refused and even Tommy was a little hesitant after he saw an raggedly old man catch the lip of a boxcar and swing himself in.

Freddie walked behind Tommy until they came to the spot where the road curved closest to the river. Freddie stopped and looked over steep railing and down the sheer drop off. “Maybe I should just jump.”

Tommy yanked him back. “Don’t be stupid. Now c’mon or we’ll miss the fireworks and we’ll have to sleep in jail.”

“Jail!” Freddie spun around, a look of horror on his face. “If I get thrown in jail, Dad will just leave me there!”

Tommy shook his head and started walking, saying, “You’re not gonna get arrested unless you waste the rest of the afternoon staring over that stupid cliff. Now, come on!”

They walked for hours as the sun started to sink toward the horizon and reached Father Hennepin Park on the south side of Anoka just as the shadows had started to lengthen. As they did, a pick up truck pulled alongside them. Six older boys rode in the back, sitting on the edges of the box. One of them, a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve of his T-shirt, stood up and came to the tailgate. “Where ya headed?”

Freddie and Tommy looked up at the boy – young man – and cringed. Freddie had managed to get behind Tommy. The other boys in the pick up laughed and two of them upended bottles of beer then threw them out on to the shoulder of the road. They shattered on the gravel. Another boy threw two full bottles after the empties. More laughter. Tommy was pretty sure they were drunk and felt Freddie pressing against his back. He had lots more experience with drunks that Tommy had, even though they sometimes rolled winos in Loring Park.

Tommy pointed past the little white chapel and said, “My grandma’s house is over there.”

The young man laughed and vaulted the tailgate. When he landed, he staggered, “That’s the Father’s chapel. Your grandma ain’t gonna live there!” He took another step toward them.

Tommy grabbed Freddie’s T-shirt. But white as a sheet, Freddie ripped free and raced like a bat out of hell into the park. Tommy couldn’t catch up until they reached the bank of the river. When his friend finally stopped, he was barely winded. Tommy was panting as Freddie said, “We don’t need to do that again.” He paused. “Can we walk to Duluth?”

Tommy shook his head. Upstream from them the Rum River split off from the Mississippi. A bridge just short of the confluence rose up. It was the only way to cross into Anoka and a path led up from the conglomeration of driftwood, rusted cans, newspapers and a river buoy tangled in rope. “The path goes up to the bridge…”

“They’ll see us!”

“Nah, they’re gone. There’s a place I heard about where we can hide. Maybe even sleep.”


“The amphitheater. It’s on the river an open air. We’ll hide and stay there tonight then head out in the morning. We should be able to see the fireworks from there.”

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