December 11, 2014

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 clips, click on the label to the right, scroll down to and click OLDER ENTRIES seven or eight times. The FIRST entry is on the bottom of the last page.

“Nah,” said Freddie Merrill, “The lady truck driver wasn’t no nurse, she was a mechanic!” Tommy Hastings elbowed him.
“A girl working on trucks…” Charlie Fairlaine started. From down the hill came the roar of a truck climbing the hill. Over the grinding of gears, they heard shouts. Curses. Charlie said, “That doesn’t sound like it’s in English.”

Tommy said softly, “It’s not English. It’s Finnish. The Socialists found us…”

Freddie whispered, “We’re dead.”

Charlie grabbed the shirts of both boys and dragged them after him, saying, “Neither one of you’se is dead yet! Let’s go!”

Tommy let Charlie drag him along. Freddie pulled back, “We have to hide! You’re running in the wrong way! You want us to get caught!”

"I’m not giving you to the socialists!” Charlie exclaimed. The truck ground its gears again and more cursing poured from the street.

A voice shouted in perfectly good English, “The boys won’t be anywhere but here! We grab them, torture them, find out where the picture is!” The lights from the truck suddenly bounced up the hill, sweeping wildly over buildings, the tower, the houses across the street.

Freddie shouted, “That’s not the Socialists!”

“It is! They were talking Finnish…”

“Why would somebody talk American if they’re with the Socialists?”

“There’s American socialists!” Tommy said, “Come on! We have to...”

“We don’t need to be afraid! It’s Americans!” Freddie shouted, pulling away from Tommy and Charlie. He pulled away from them, running backwards.

“Come on! It’s the Socialists!”

“It’s not!”

The truck swung into the gravel parking lot, headlights swinging, hitting the creamery. Charlie stepped next to Tommy and said, “When I say ‘throw’, hit the headlights.” Freddie ran toward the truck. “Trip him!” Charlie whispered. Tommy stuck his foot out, knocking Freddie’s feet out from under him, sending his life-long friend sprawling in the gravel and dust. Charlie shouted, “Throw!” Tommy let fly. Glass exploded from one headlight, then the other.

Finnish cursing poured from the back of the truck as the sound of people trying to get out without knocking each other over – which they were failing to do – rumbled over the dark parking lot.

“Grab him!” Charlie said, pushing Tommy forward. They scooped up Freddie. “Hit the truck!” They ran across the lot, Charlie found the door and opened it.

Pysäyttää heidät! Tappakaa heidät!”

“They want us to stop so they can take us home!” Freddie cried out, struggling against Tommy and Charlie. “They’re here to take us home!”

Charlie shouted, “They want to kill you!”

“How do you know?”

“My girlfriend is Finnish! I can speak it!”


“They’re gonna kill you guys! Get in!”


Tommy grabbed Freddie’s face and shouted, “Get in or we’re gonna die!” then shoved him into the truck and shouted to Charlie, “Go! Go! Go!”

The truck roared to life, Charlie turned the headlights on and swung the truck around, charging the Finns and their truck. The Creamery truck fish-tailing on the loose gravel, Finns leaped to save their lives, and with a tremendous BANG! The truck was suddenly sliding in the other direction. For a moment, it hung at the edge of the abyss...

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