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.
Freddie Merrill slumped forward, elbows on his knees, chin on his fists, and filthy face staring at Tommy Hastings. “What are we gonna do now?”
Tommy sat the exact same way but, the black framed picture of his young mom with two old guys shaking hands 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?”
“I think I could smoke a cigarette…”
“I think I heard you say ‘cigarette’ down there,” said a voice from above. Suddenly two hands plunged through the leaves. The hands were huge, red, and powerful. Each one latched onto the ear of a boy and slowed lifted.
Tommy managed to grab the picture before he stood up all the way.
Freddie spun as much as he could, looking for the Socialists. He cried, “There they are!”
Tommy saw them as well, though they’d stopped at the edge of Loring Park, across the street. There were ten of them, another two limped up to the group as they watched. Lars squeezed and both boys yelped. Freddie said, “Stop! Stop! I’m not gonna smoke! I was just saying…”
“I don’t ever want to catch you two boys thinking about smoking! Boys who are very much younger than twenty-one know very well that smoking is against the law. Not only that, you will soon start to cough. Then much later, when you are older, you will cough your lungs out…” His grip relaxed then released them both.
For a moment, all three stood up, Tommy and Freddie looking up at the towering Swede, his blond hair like a gold helmet under his police cap. He looked down at them. He shook his head and said, suddenly, “I don’t want to see a couple of my boys dying like my old man.” He coughed into a fist, adding, “Now get on your way.”
The boys looked at each other, then Tommy said, “Can you keep something a secret for us?”
Lars scowled down at them. “Nothing illegal?”
“Nothing like that!” Freddie said.
Tommy shook his head solemnly, looked over at the Socialists where they’d lined up on the curb, staring at the boys. Tommy handed the framed picture to Lars and said, “Would you put this in the police department?”
He looked at it, looked at Tommy, then looked at the men lining the street. He grunted and said, “No problem, son.” He patted the boys on the head and tucked the picture under his arm, walking across the park, toward the Socialists and his parked squad car. He nodded to the men, tipping his hat and touched the brim, then got in and drove away.
The watched the car go, turned as if their heads were attached to glare at Tommy and Freddie. A yellow and red city bus roared between them. Tommy grabbed Freddie and they sprinted across the park to the bridge. Tommy turned to look over his shoulder and stopped.
“They’re gone!” he said.
Freddie sighed and said, “Finally.”
“Let’s go see the dads,” said Tommy, setting off for their houses on 15th; on their way home.