September 10, 2016


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.

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. She looked down at Freddie, scowled, and said, “I should have figured you had something to do with this! Every time the kid gets into trouble, you’re somehow mixed up in it!”

Freddie’s face screwed up and for a moment Tommy, June, and even Freddie thought he was going to cry. But he took such a deep breath, that he practically had a chest! Then he started the story, from the hike to Lake Harriet, the ride to Medicine Lake, to the hitchhiking back from Canada. He’d left out the parts about the Anoka Witch, the Mobsters, the Farmer, the Socialists, and most of the stuff about Ed – including the fact that Ed was a she. Tommy relaxed…

Freddie took another deep breath and went back to beginning, this time talking about all the people, until he finally wound down into an August silence, cicadas burring in the trees in Loring Park.

June let go of Tommy’s ear and said, “I’m going to call the police.” She went inside.

Tommy said, “We don’t have time for the police to get here! The picture’s in the kitchen, come on!”

Freddie scrambled up the steps and into the apartment. “What about the Socialists?”

“The traffic jam’s gonna keep ‘em for a while. Let’s go!” He went to the fancy dining room’s china cabinet.

Mom kept her wedding picture; a brown-tinted photograph of grandpa Hastings when he was little boy standing with great-grandpa Hastings, a US Deputy Marshal for the Dakota Territory; and in back, in a plain, black framed picture. Two big men in dark suits shaking hands and smiling at each other. She was real young and real pretty, hanging on the arm of one of them, smiling at the photographer.

But now Tommy was pretty sure one man was a Duluth Socialists; the other a US Communist.

Dad talked about the War all the time, and now that Hitler and Hirohito were out of the way, the Russkies were grabbing up as much of Europe as they could. He said the Commies were the real enemy of America now.

The Socialists of Duluth wanted the picture that showed their main guy shaking hands with a Commie.

Tommy just wanted to get it out of the house. He reached in and grabbed it. He heard the front door open again and June talking. Then he heard the deep voice of Earl. For a second, he thought he could give the picture to him. Who better to take care of the dangerous picture and beat up the Socialists than a Navy Seebee?

Freddie’s eyes were practically bugging out of his head and his mouth was gaping like a goldfish. Tommy closed the cabinet door silently, jerked his head sideways, and scurried out the door.

The minute their feet hit the sidewalk, there was a shout from the street. “There they are!”

The boys turned and ran the way they’d just come, only this time pursued by a mob of Finnish men.

Who were from Duluth and had almost no idea of the alleys, streets, stores, houses, and parks of Minneapolis. It didn’t take Tommy and Freddie long to lose them. They stopped at the edge of Loring Park, panting.

Freddie managed, “What we gonna do now?”

“We gotta get rid of the picture,” Tommy gasped back. He crossed the street, Freddie following, then slipped under the bushes they usually smoked in. Both boys dropped to the dusty ground with a thud. “Where can we hide it?”

“Throw it in the pond!” Freddie said, turning to the “No Swimming!” hole and started to stand up.

Tommy grabbed him and pulled him back down. “They’d jump in and find it for sure!”

Freddie slumped forward, elbows on his knees, chin on his fists, and filthy face staring at Tommy. “What are we gonna do then?”

Tommy sat the exact same way but with the picture in his lap. “I didn’t think this far ahead. I just wanted to get it outta the house.” Freddie nodded and sighed as Tommy finished, “What are we gonna do now?”

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