April 1, 2010


This series is a little biography about my dad and a little imagination about a trip he took the summer of 1946 – he was almost fifteen. He and his friend hitchhiked to Duluth. He says it was “something to do”. I prefer to think there was a more cosmic, mysterious reason. Hence, this story. To read earlier SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH posts click on the link to your right. Number one is on the bottom as you scroll down…

Two hours.

Two hours.

Two hours.

It was nearly noon and for six hours, Freddie Merrill and Tommy Hastings said fifteen words between them. Mostly cuss words. The word “dying” came up twice. The rest were “shut up”.

Cows mooed.

Crows flew in noisy flocks overhead.

There was nothing but brown grass and the intense, green leaves of potato plants and emerald corn stalks just shy of knee high because it had been a dry summer so far. The narrow asphalt strip they followed wound over bridges and streams and along the Rum River. A highway marker right outside of Anoka had the number 56 emblazoned on it. They didn’t see the next marker until it was noon.

Suddenly Freddie said, “Do Communists die of sunstroke?”

“I don’t know. I’m not a Communist,” said Tommy.

“My dad’s gonna think I’m a Communist when he gets the call from my aunt.”

“He’s not gonna think you’re a Communist.”

“How do you know?”

“I just know,” snapped Tommy.

Freddie stopped in the middle of the road and turned to face Tommy. He shouted, “How do you know?”

Tommy shouted back, “I just do!”

“Are you a warlock?”

“So I’m a warlock and a Commie now?”

“How else could you have made me come with you to Anoka and now we’re going to Alaska?” Freddie shouted.

“I didn’t make you come with me and we’re going to Duluth, not Alaska!”

“Then why aren’t we there yet?”

“We’ve only been walking for six hours, that’s why!” Tommy shouted.

“When will we get to Duluth?”

“I don’t care!”

“Well I do! When are we gonna get there?”

“If you ask that again, I’m gonna punch you in the nose,” snarled Tommy.

Freddie put his fists on his hips and mimicking Tommy, said, “‘When are we gonna get there?’”

Tommy rushed Freddie, who grabbed his shirt to throw him into the ditch. But Tommy grabbed Freddie’s shirt and together both boys went flying across the road and tumbled down into the ditch. Neither one noticed as they were too busy beating on each other to pay much attention.

They kept at it until the sudden blare of a car’s horn startled them to their feet, both boys now wearing torn shirts, with skinned knees, scratched legs and bloody noses. Tommy’s eye was already beginning to swell shut and Freddie’s split lip added blood to the steady drip from his nose.

On the road above them stood a young woman in a cream-colored dress with tiny blue flowers on it. She wore matching high heels and a rounded hat from which hung a cream-colored net veil. She was leaning on the horn of a car that matched the color of her dress.

Beside her stood a man in a suit wearing a red tie who had his arms folded over his chest and was grinning at them.

The woman said, “You boys need a lift?”

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