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.
An hour later, after screaming through Anoka, they arrived in downtown Minneapolis after rumbling down West River Road, past the power plant, and along old, deserted streets, through the warehouse district, and finally along Hennepin Avenue. Their first stop was at Fifteenth, where she got stuck behind a taxi and laid on the horn while the boys scrambled out of the barely open door, down to the street, and disappeared into the clogged up traffic.
Tommy said, “Now you gotta follow close behind.”
“I’m like your shadow,” the other boy said as they cut across Hennepin and disappeared down Fifteenth, taking alleys, short cuts, scrambling up and down ladders, and startled three old women who’d just pulled on their hats to do some shopping downtown.
The boys ran, laughing, then ducked down another alley. Tommy skidded to a halt, grabbing Freddie’s shirt. “Hey!” Freddie said, then slapped a hand over his mouth as they leaned around the corner and peered down the street.
Hennepin was now backed up, men in the street shaking their fists and cursing! Tommy looked both ways then dragged Freddie after him. Shortly, they were in the alley behind then apartments. “Nobody can see us. We gotta be totally sneaky.” Freddie nodded as they ran to the back of Tommy’s house. “I gotta check stuff out.”
Freddie grabbed his shoulder and whispered, “Watch out for them! They’ll kill you if they catch you.”
“They’re not here.”
“You don’t know that. They’re Socialists! You don’t know anything about them.”
“I know they scare me to death,” Tommy said.
Freddie’s eyes bulged, “They do?”
“‘course. But it’s my ma I’m scared about. I gotta make sure she’s safe.”
Freddie nodded, awkwardly patted Tommy on the shoulder and shoved him forward.
Tommy took a deep breath, then ran silently down the sidewalk between his house and the next. He stopped at the street, pressing his back against the wall, sooty from the stacks of the factories on the Mississippi. He stuck his head around the corner just as a flatbed truck carrying men in the back of it drove by in a cloud of blue smoke.
Tommy’s heart seemed to stop – then he realized it was just highway workers coming back into the city after getting out of a traffic jam. His knees went weak and he slid down the wall a little. He looked the other way up the street but didn’t see any sign of the Socialists. He ran back to Freddie and said, “Let’s go in. I’ll grab the picture and we’ll take it and hide it in the park.”
“That’s your plan?” Freddie said, “Hide it in the park?”
Tommy straightened up, “What’s wrong with it?”
“I thought you were gonna like, give it to the Tribune or the Star-Journal and then tell the Socialists that it’ll stay there…”
“But then what’s to stop ‘em from killing me and Mom and Dad and sis?”
Freddie started to say something out loud. Tommy shushed him as a truck rumbled slowly past the street end of the sidewalk. The boys cringed, backing around the corner. “I think it was them! Stay here!”
Tommy ran to the back door, up the stairs, then stopped, slowly opened the door, then slipped in. While he was gone, Freddie stared at the door, jumping every time a truck or car drove past the end of the sidewalk. He waited so long, he knew he had to go to the bathroom – just like he did when they used to play hide-and-seek as kids. He crossed his legs. He held his breath. He counted to five hundred…
Suddenly the back door opened and Tommy came out.
Followed by his sister, who was holding him by the ear!