June 5, 2013

SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH #50: July 20 – July 21, 1946

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.
“Why do they want to kill us?” Freddie Merrill screamed as another round of buckshot ricocheted off the cab of the truck. He started to climb up from the floor.

“I don’t have time to explain it all now!” said Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) She shoved him back to the floor. He grunted as he rolled backwards and banged his head on the dashboard.

“Hey! You can’t push my friend around!” shouted Tommy Hastings, putting his forearms on the bench seat to pull himself up and defend the honor of his best friend.

Something shattered the back window and not only did Edwina shove him back, Freddie yanked him by the seat of his pants.
Behind them, the Socialist’s truck roared after them cutting across the circle of lights spilling from the other trucks. Edwina’s friends opened fire and the lights from the Socialists abruptly swung from side-to-side, wildly. The logging truck hit a mound of something that lifted them up before it collapse. Edwina cursed as their headlights flipped up into the treetops. The lights dropped down just as suddenly, the front of the truck slammed down, driving all of them into their seats or to the floor then bounding back up. Edwina cursed colorfully and long, grinding gears then sending them roaring back to the road.

As she turned the corner, the truck tipped.
It seemed to hang in the air, as if it might right itself or tip – either possibility was, for that instant, the same; exactly equal. The moment he chose to come up north to find out how his parents met; what was it that made them get married was like that. They didn’t seem to have anything in common. They hardly talked to each other. He had no idea why they stayed together, but they did and he didn't know why. It felt like there had to be a moment -- a moment when they were going to stay together or stay apart.
The truck stayed upright and with gears grinding, roared away into the night, heading north into Canada.
Over the roar of the truck, was tremendous crash. Tommy and Freddie jumped up on the car seat. The headlights at Naniboujou were out and they could see nothing. Even as they watched, something in the middle of the dark sparked. A moment later, there was a fire. It grew until it engulfed a tree.
Then it exploded in a ball of flame, blindingly white and shaped like a monster mushroom. Like the cloud of the Ay-tomic bomb they’d all seen in LIFE and LOOK and TIME and NEWSWEEK and HARPERS magazines right after the US bombed Hiroshima, it billowed for a second over Naniboujou. Two shadows stood out against the light: one was a giant witch, hands curled, casting a curse on the fleeing logging truck. The other was something neither boy had ever seen before.
Freddie would have sworn it was a giant, monster bat.
Tommy knew better, ‘cause he’d seen something just like it once on the arm of one of the men in the picture. It wasn’t no bat, giant or normal size. It was a flag. Huge. Maybe red. But the light shone through the cloth in one spot. He was pretty sure there was a hammer. Maybe a wreath like the kind in the Olympics.
One this he was sure of – one of the Socialists was waving it after them.

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