July 22, 2010


This series is a little bit biographical and a little bit imaginary about my dad and a road trip he took in the summer of 1946, when he turned fifteen. He and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park to Duluth, into Canada and back again. He was gone from home for a month. I was astonished and fascinated by the tale. So I added some imaginary elements and this series is the result. To read earlier SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH, click on the label to the right. The FIRST entry is on the bottom.

In the darkness, another match flared and Tommy Hastings saw the faces of Bonnie and Clyde.

He and Freddie Merrill backed away from the witch and Bonnie and Clyde right into the farmer who had given them a ride into town. His arms were spread, leaning on each side of the cabin’s open door, blocking the exit. The witch leaned over and lit a kerosene lamp and sat back in her chair as she slipped the chimney over the flame.

Tommy spun around and ducked under one the farmer’s arms. Freddie ducked under the other. Tommy thought they’d made it out of the cabin, gulping the cool night air when Freddie screamed, “Tommy!”

From inside the cabin, the witch called, “See you boys in Duluth!”

The farmer had caught hold of his T-shirt, yanked him back and now had his forearm across Freddie’s throat. He said, “Get back here. Now. Or I’ll strangle your friend.”

Tommy stopped and turned. “What do you want?” he asked.

“I want you to get back here.” Tommy stepped forward slowly. “Hurry up boy! I don’t have all night!”

Tommy stopped, relaxing his clenched fists. “You let him go before I come any closer.”

The farmer laughed and released Freddie who stumbled down the stairs then bolted to Tommy. “Run for your lives!” he cried.

The farmer reached into the cabin and brought out his rifle, slapping it to his shoulder and said, “You boys move, you’re dead.”

Freddie had lots of experience with threats. He flung an obscenity over his shoulder and ran faster. Tommy followed, though zigging and zagging like a Green Bay Packer.

The farmer cursed as well and pulled the trigger. The blast echoed into the silent night as the boys sprinted on the road. Pellets ripped through the leaves over their heads, but nothing hit them. They kept running even though they pulled together. Tommy shouted, “He wanted to kill us!”

“He was scared!” Freddie shouted back.

Tommy screeched to a halt and exclaimed, “He was afraid? I thought I was dead!”

Freddie grabbed him, pulling him along. “He was scared of us!”

“Of us? What do they have to be afraid of?”

“I don’t know – but I seen that look in dad’s eyes any time he gets crazy mad at Mom! ‘specially when she says she’s gonna leave us!”

“He was afraid?” Tommy shouted, sprinting down the rough asphalt road. “I about crapped my pants.”

They kept running until Freddie suddenly burst out laughing.

“What?” Tommy exclaimed, stopping in the middle of the road.

“Keep running and I’ll tell you!”

Tommy caught up with him in a second. “What?”

“They was more afraid of us than we was of them.” Tommy opened his mouth. Freddie cut him off, “I know when people are afraid. I’m an expert. They were afraid of us.”

“Why?” Tommy cried.

“I don’t know. And I think we need to find out.”

image: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/165/426480412_8ac9e7b99b.jpg

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