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 speculation about things I've always wondered about 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.
Tommy Hastings hung his head.
Freddie Merrill opened his mouth, but all he got out was, “W...” before Tommy elbowed him hard in the ribs.
Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) continued to study them as the logging truck shuddered in idle. The big monster wasn’t used to sitting around doing nothing – neither the truck OR the woman.
Tommy said, “If I was you, I’d throw us out and let the ravening wolves eat us.” He looked up. “But the truth is – well, you’ve heard the truth, Ed. We’re in way, way over our heads all ‘cause I was tryin’ to find out if anyone knew anything about Mom and Dad.”
“Why would you care, son? Everybody’s mom and dad are different; strange in some way.”
“Not like his,” Freddie exclaimed.
Tommy shook his head and finally said, “They’re different. Dad’s almost eighty. Mom’s like – well, she never says, but she’s younger than Dad by a lot.”
Freddie added, “Tommy’s dad’s a lot younger than mine, that’s for sure even though his mom and mine look the same.”
Ed nodded and said, “So you want to know how they met?”
Tommy nodded. “They’re such a weird pair, I wanted to know.” He looked over his shoulder, “And we had to get Freddie away from his dad.”
“Why?” she asked, looking over Tommy’s shoulder.
There was a long silence then Tommy said, “Freddie’s dad’s a drunk and beats on him.”
Ed hummed then turned and put the truck into gear again. They drove for miles until she finally said, “All right. You’re a couple of sad sacks and I’m always a sucker for a sad sack. I’ll take you north to Thunder Bay. After that, you’re on your own.”
“What if the mobsters come after us?” Freddie said.
She snorted and said, “I doubt that they’re really in the mob.”
“What about the violin case?” Tommy tried.
“One of them plays the violin!” Ed shook her head.
“They looked like Connie & Clyde!” Freddie exclaimed.
She laughed out loud then said, “Lots of people look like the movie version of Bonnie & Clyde! They been dead since ’34 and they were gangsters, not mobsters.”
“What’s the difference?” Freddie asked.
“There’s lots of differences, but the biggest one is that people don’t read about mobsters – the Mafia’s truly dangerous – they mostly smuggle things, murder people and wage mob wars. Your friends don’t sound like mobsters. Gangsters are from the 1920’s.”
“What are they then?”
“Probably socialists seeing they’re hanging around the Duluth Socialists of various kinds – and they probably know your parents.”
Tommy exclaimed, “My parents aren’t socialists!”
There was a long pause as the truck rumbled farther and farther north. Finally Ed said, “They may not be any more, but they were at one time and now there are people who want to talk to you about it – because you let people know who you are.”
Tommy didn’t know what to say, but what he knew she was right. He’d brought this all on himself. He’d endangered not only himself but Freddie and Ed – and Mr. Fairlaine and Charlie and maybe even his cousin and Mom and Dad. If anything happened to any of them – he was the one to blame.