Stories 6

  

 

                                                                        The Crossing

                                                                    by Adelaide B. Shaw

 

            Taller than the average woman in the Sicilian village of Mistretta, Caterina’s figure, after seven children, exemplified motherhood.  She was full breasted and full hipped. Her strong muscular arms were capable of lifting babies as well as buckets of water, tubs of wash and armloads of firewood.  Thick black hair twisted into a bun framed a face that showed the lines of her burdens as well as her strengths. For the past several weeks those lines had deepened.

                The letter from Santo with money and instructions relieved some of those worry lines.  Caterina had been expecting the letter.  She had told Santo, when he had talked of leaving their village again for America, the whole family must go.  She had had enough of the separations, each one longer than the one before and his time home shorter, just long enough to get her pregnant again. 
                For many years she had wanted to leave.  Not when she was a child. Then, the family and the village held all she wanted.  She had food and shelter, the love of her parents and the companionship of her brothers and sisters, hills in which to run and play, baby goats and chicks to watch, fiestas and holy days to celebrate with family and friends.  That was all before her trouble.
                “Your take Matteo, Diega and Paola with you,” she had said to Santo in the early summer of 1914.  He was sitting before the fire calculating their lack of wealth, the cost of another crossing, the amount of money he should be able to send back to get the family through the next year.
                “You find a place where we can all live.  No furnished room.  Diega and Paola will keep house.”
                Santo chewed on his pipe and shook his head.  “The seas will be dangerous,” he said.  “There is a war.”
                “We follow. War or no war.
                Santo had more objections. “Matteo will want his wife with him and the girls are too young.”
                Caterina didn’t agree.  At 16, Diega and Paola, at 14, were more qualified to keep house than Liboria, her son’s wife.  It would be pleasant to be without the witch, but Caterina had to think of what would be better for the family.  Without his daughters Santo would be only too willing to live in a small room and not find a place for the family.  And, in spite of her dislike of Liboria, she could be of some help to Caterina.  Santo was not fond of Matteo’s wife, either, but having accepted the boy years earlier he had to accept his wife.  At 27, Liboria was three years older than her husband, and Santo thought, like Caterina, that she was a witch.  It was agreed that Matteo and the two girls would make the crossing.
                Having anticipated Santo’s letter, Caterina had made numerous preparations already.  She had sold or given away most of their possessions, keeping what was necessary for the voyage and a few household items.  The small house in the scraggy hills outside Mistretta, along with the five goats, a few chickens, the mule and cart were sold to a cousin.  Caterina had spent all of her 37 years in this village, populated with many relatives, both hers and Santo’s.  Most of them struggling and dying young, especially the babies.  All of her children had survived, thanks be to God, and she prayed that all would survive the crossing.  
***         
                The family rode to the village in a cousin’s wagon.  In the weeks approaching their departure, the older children, Stella, aged 12, and Pietro, aged eight, had shown a mixture of excitement and apprehension.  Domenico, aged four, and Rosa, the youngest at 15 months, were fretful more often, but usually were content if their stomachs were full.  Only Liboria remained consistent.  She was a martyr to all that Caterina asked of her.
                Madre de Dio,  Caterina prayed as she watched her daughter-in-law fastidiously arrange herself in the wagon without giving a thought to helping the children get settled.  All she thinks about now is getting rich in America.  Why do you send me this short, skinny witch with the pickled face?  Please, Madonna, give me patience.
                From the village they took the bus to Palermo.  Two other families from Mistretta were also emigrating.  They greeted each other and spoke about their worries and expectations of America and where they would stay in Palermo while waiting for the ship to leave.  Only once had Caterina been to Palermo, for the birth of Matteo, her first born.
                “You are too young,” the midwife had told her.  Just a 13 year old child.  I think there will be problems.  Go to Palermo to the hospital.”
                With the responsibility for Caterina and the unborn child heavy on his mind, Santo took her to Palermo two weeks before the birth.  Ten years older than she, he was strong and would work at the docks to earn money for the hospital.  While she was convalescing after the difficult birth of Matteo, Santo’s cousin–there were always cousins ready to help or condemn–let them stay with her.
                Twenty-four years earlier the town was not as noisy or busy. Today, trolleys clanged, horse drawn carts clacked and rumbled over cobblestone streets, automobiles chugged and spit out smoke, their horns adding to the general cacophony.  Wide-eyed the children squealed at every new thing they saw. Even Liboria appeared to register some emotion other than annoyance.  Again, Santo’s cousin provided a place to stay for two days until their ship sailed.
                On the day of departure the warm late October sun glistened on the water at the port. The steamship, the SS Dante Alighieri, with it’s black sides and two red funnels, a white star in the center of each and a black band across the top, rode high in the water as it was loaded with baggage and supplies.
                It was six in the morning when the family gathered with hundreds of others on the pier, groups separated by various ticket agents checking identity papers, passports, tickets, medical cards proving vaccinations that had been done the day before.  Once up the gangplank, the passengers were directed across the open deck to a steward who assigned them their sleeping compartments and further directed them down steep iron stairs to the steerage deck.
                Men were separated from the women and berthed in one section of the ship, single women in another, women with children in a third. It was with a thudding heart that Caterina viewed her surroundings for the next 10 days. 
                Fifty iron bunk beds stood in pairs along the walls of an otherwise bare space.  Metal piping placed a few inches above the mattress as a partition separated the double bunks.  No longer thrilled with the new sights and sounds, the children fussed and cried.  Reacting quickly, Caterina chose three sets of berths at the far end of the compartment.  She and the baby would take one lower bunk, Domenico the second, and Liboria the third.  Stella and Pietro would take two upper berths.  The berth above Liboria was soon claimed by a young girl with a sallow complexion and a frightened look in her eyes.
                “There’s no place to store our things.”  Liboria twisted her entire face into a scowl, her voice assuming a tone that implied the situation was Caterina’s fault.
                “Use your bed,” Caterina said, pushing bags together on her berth.
                “Look at this skimpy blanket.  There’s not enough straw in the mattress, and there’s no pillow.”
                “Mama, look,” Stella called down from her berth.  She pointed to a life preserver placed under the mattress at the head of the berth.
                “Good,” Caterina said turning to Liboria,   “Now you have a pillow.”  To herself she prayed.  Madre de Dio.  Some day I’m going to slap that witch.
                After the first and second class cabin passengers boarded later in the morning, the SS Dante Alighieri left the docks.  Gathering her children Caterina went out on the open deck, already glad to be out of the stifling air of their sleeping compartment.  Above, on the upper decks, the cabin passengers lined the rails, looking well dressed and gay, as if this was a sailing party, not an uprooting of their lives. 
                “Quanto bello,” Liboria said, with a long, drawn out sigh.  “Such beautiful ladies and gentlemen.  In America I shall have fine clothes like that.’
                “In America you will work hard like every other peasant,” Caterina said, “and maybe there will be food in your belly, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a little extra if you work very hard.  Don’t expect gold and silk.”
                Caterina thought her Stella was more practical and realistic than this prune-faced daughter-in-law.  She turned away to look at the docks. Standing, shoulder to shoulder with the other steerage travelers, Caterina watched her homeland grow distant, and, as the ship gained speed, she could no longer see her country or smell the fragrance.
***
                The daily routine of the voyage was a test of the quickness, versatility, inventiveness, courage, endurance and health of the immigrants.  The washrooms, lavatories and toilets were far too few and inconveniently located away from the sleeping compartments.  While cold salt water was always flowing from the taps, hot or even warm water was rarely available.  Domenico and Pietro relished the lack of bathing, but for Stella, Caterina and Liboria it was an uncomfortable embarrassment.  Every visit to the lavatories gave Liboria more reason to complain.
                Food, tasteless and monotonous, but of sufficient quantity to satisfy their hunger, if not their desires, was served in a compartment set up with long wooden tables and benches.  Caterina learned after the first meal on board to send Pietro ahead.  His slender, wiry body could easily squeeze through the congestion of people and secure a place in line for the family. 
                Being on the open deck was preferable to  being in the sleeping compartment which got little fresh air and smelled of too many bodies living close together.  Caterina, like so many others, spent as much time there as their health and weather allowed. The deck was always crowded with a constant flow of coming and going.  In spite of the cold and discomfort of the voyage  there was a peace in those times spent outside on deck. Out with the sky and the sea, the wind and the spray, the clouds and the sun, Caterina experienced a gradual releasing of her old life and a growing sense of freedom to welcome a new one.  She saw in the faces of the other passengers the same apprehension and hope that were within her, the same determination and strength.  In America she could forget, or at least not think about as often, the troubles of her girlhood.  In America no one would ask, “Was the trouble Caterina’s own fault?  Did she bring it on herself?”
                “Mama, I want an orange,” Domenico said breaking into her reverie. 
                She dug deep inside the pocket of her skirt and took out a worn leather purse.  Counting carefully she gave Pietro the money to buy two oranges from the canteen.  “You take your brother and bring the oranges back here.  We share all together.” She had not expected to spend money on board, but there was so little pleasure in the food served, and the small treats kept the children happy for awhile.
                On the third day at sea, in mid-afternoon, the compartment steward came in and told the women to put on their life-jackets and get on deck.  German U-boats were prowling the Mediterranean and were reported in the area of the ship.
                Che cosa…? Che cosa…?” The din of voices grew as the women scrambled to comply with the orders.  Some simply stood, bewildered, not moving.  Liboria pulled on Caterina.  “What’s happening?  What do you know?”
                “Underwater boats,” Pietro said to his aunt.  “I heard the men talking this morning. They are long skinny boats that shoot long, skinny bombs across the water.  The men called them torpedos.”  Liboria and the other women who heard Pietro began to wail.
                  “Boom!  Boom!”  Pietro jumped up and down and threw himself on the wooden floor, laughing.  “Everybody dead.”
                Caterina yanked her son from the floor.  “Stupido,” she yelled at him.  “Do you want everyone to panic?  Be quiet.”  She slapped him on the arm and shoved him to move out on deck.
                “It’s all your fault,” Liboria screamed at Caterina.  “You chose this ship.  We are all going to die.”
                Caterina took her by the shoulders and gave her a hard shake.  “Be quiet! Or I give you a slap, too. Go on deck and take Domenico with you.” Caterina could not afford to show her own fear, not just because of the children, but because of Liboria.  Caterina was in charge; she would make the decisions, and she would get them through this voyage.  She would not be cowed or made to look weak.
                Once on deck the women clung to their children; the men stood stoically, and everyone prayed. The captain reduced the speed of his ship and turned her slowly north toward the coast of Spain, into neutral waters.  By nightfall they had reached a small bay where the ship anchored.  The passengers were sent below to their compartments and to have their supper, and there the ship remained until morning.
                At dawn Caterina became aware that the steam engines had started up again.  Within the hour the SS Dante Alighieri was moving out of the bay and going south, remaining close to the Spanish coast.  At Gibraltar the ship dropped anchor again , and the captain went ashore in a pilot boat to be briefed on the situation in the Atlantic.  Once the ship had pulled into the Spanish bay, Caterina decided that their lives were in the hands of God and the captain. She had too many daily survival chores to succumb to worry about U-boats.
                After the ship left Gibraltar,  the daily routine resumed as before.  Liboria had quieted down, but remained sullen and uncommunicative.  For Caterina, there were moments of relaxation and some small pleasures during the arduous crossing–cake served with afternoon coffee, someone playing on deck a guitar or concertina, the impromptu singing of old songs, the fearsome beauty of the sea.
                On a gray, misty dawn, when the ship was within a day of reaching Ellis Island, Caterina found Liboria on the open deck.
                “What are you doing out here so early?  It’s cold. I need you inside to help with washing the children’s clothes.  We must get to the lavatories early before the hot water runs out and there are more women than basins. We need clean clothes for our arrival.”  It was important to Caterina that the first impression they give in America be a good one.  She and her family would be clean and presentable for the American officials.
                “I don’t care if it’s cold,” Liboria said, wrapping a rough gray blanket around her.  “I’m tired of doing all this work.  Leave me alone.  They’re your children, not mine.”
                “No wonder, after four years of marriage, you’re still a barren witch.  The bile in you poisons my son’s seed.  I don’t know why Matteo married you.”
                “Who else in the village would have him, uno figlio bastardo di una prostitute, the son of a whore?  He knew he wasn’t a good catch and was grateful to me.  Grateful, I tell you.”
                Caterina was quick with the slap across Liboria’s face.  She reeled backwards a few steps, but returned fire.               
                “You think because your trouble was so long ago, no one remembers?  Maybe nobody talks to your face, but they remember. My mother told me what you did.  So innocent.  So pure.”
                They were lies, mean, vicious lies, twisted by mean, vicious tongues, especially by Liboria’s mother, who had lusted after Giovanni.  Caterina could have argued and explained for hours, but it would do no good.  She would soon be free of Liboria.  She and Matteo would go on to Cleveland to Liboria’s aunt, not remain in New York, where Santo had found a house in The Bronx for the family and work for himself and where no one knew of her trouble.
                Thirteen year old Caterina had been to confession at the Church of Santa Maria with a younger brother and sister.  She had remained behind to help the women polish the pews in preparation for Sunday Mass and had sent her siblings home.  An hour later she left the church. When she passed Jocko’s Taverna, she hurried her steps. Giovanni Morelli was there under the arbor drinking wine with his friends.  Seventeen years old and slightly drunk, he called her name and ran after her, offering to walk her home.  His black curly hair, vibrant dark eyes under long lashes, the dimples that appeared when he smiled had thrilled all the village girls, but not their parents.  A bad one, they said, lazy and up to no good.  A cross for the Morelli family to bear.
                Walking faster, Caterina had refused to answer.  Giovanni, persistent and outpacing her, blocking her way on the road, suddenly took her arm and pulled, dragged her behind an outcropping of rocks.  There had been no one to hear her screams, no houses nearby, no one on the road.
                Bewildered , ashamed and hurt, she had not gone home, but hid in a clump of bushes.  When her father and older brothers found her in the morning they knew without having to ask what happened and who had done it.   Giovanni had been seen late at night hurrying on the road to Palermo carrying a knapsack.
                Vendetta, her family vowed.            Vengeance.  They would have killed him had he been found, but he disappeared completely.  Signor Romano, Caterina’s father, insisted that one of the other Morelli sons make restitution by marrying her.  It was even more imperative when it was learned that Caterina was pregnant.  As the eldest son, Santo had married her, thus preserving the honor of both families.
                How like Liboria to believe the lies.  Caterina, always aware the villagers would believe what suited them, had held her head up.  Santo, although forced into the marriage, had been a good husband and father to Matteo and all the children.
                The mist increased to rain, and Liboria, without further resistance, returned below deck.
***
                On the afternoon of the 12th day the SS Dante Alighieri was within sight of Ellis Island. The family waited on deck, shoulder to shoulder with the other steerage passengers.  Their clothes were as clean as Caterina could get them, hands and faces scrubbed.
                The Statue of Liberty, first just a dark form in the distance, took shape on the horizon as the ship drew closer.  The Torch of Freedom, Caterina had been told. She would soon be free of her past trouble in a new world and free of Liboria.  It bothered her that she would be free of Matteo , as well.  No.  It wasn’t the same, she reasoned.  She and Matteo didn’t have to live near each other to know the bond between them.  The facts of his birth, when he learned them, had not changed his feelings for Caterina or Santo.  He was her son and would always remain so.
                The cabin passengers disembarked first.  Why do they come, these rich people, Caterina wondered.  For a vacation perhaps, or to become even more rich in “the land of opportunity.”  That’s what the posters in the ticket agent’s office proclaimed.  Maybe it was so.  Maybe the family would prosper.
                After nearly two weeks at sea, living in conditions worse than the poor villages of their homeland, most of the steerage passengers had lost their gaiety and optimism.  The smells, the crowding, the dirt and inferior food they had to endure had squelched their enthusiasm.
                “Stand up,” Caterina said to her children and Liboria.  She prodded them with a sharp finger, gratified that even Liboria had tried to look her best. “Stand up tall.  We are in America now.”
                Caterina hoisted Rosa on one hip, squared her shoulders and held her head high.  Giving  a smile as she went down the gangplank she silently prayed. Madonna mia, we have arrived.  Grazie, Dio.  The crossing is over.
 
               
 
Bio: Adelaide B. Shaw lives in a small rural town with her husband.  Her stories have been published in
numerous journals, both in print and on-line, including Bartleby Snopes, Loch Raven Review, New England Writers' Network, Emry's Journal, The MacGuffin and others.  She also writes haiku and other Japanese poetic forms and has been published widely. Her haiku blog is: www.adelaide-whitepetals.blogspot.com
 
 
 
 

A TIME TO PLAY

  by Richard L. Provencher

 

“Nothin’s coming yet!” are remembered shouts of excitement as bonded friends and I turned the edge-of-woods corner and marveled at the prize before us; a long wooden trestle. Its bridgework crisscrossed in layered patterns. A rainbow shape contented as a pussycat lay across the Osisko River, purring several miles from our town. The possibility of pots of gold at either end teased our youthful imaginations.

Thank goodness our parents were unknowing of the danger we exposed ourselves to. Children often do engage in risky adventures, and this was to be ours. My thoughts shriveled about the advance discussions on the feat we were about to accomplish.

Our little group felt it within our domain to test the waters of life and capture something extraordinary before life passed us by. Such did occur to our fathers who left farms, and small towns as well as cities, leaving behind young lives for the soil of Europe in those daring days of World War 11.

Now was our turn to feel muscles on growing biceps, something important to our way of thinking, and to honor our fathers. 

Imagination and daring feats were extremely important in the minds of ten and eleven year old boys, in 1952. Not being my favorite hiking route the ‘jitters’ often lay assault to my confidence.

On that particular occasion I tried to keep pace with my friends. A fear of heights kept well hidden in my side pocket.

I was the shy one, often afraid to attempt something out of the ordinary. “Promise you’ll cross the trestle, or hope to die,” Lee, the leader, a year above my age, said after the retelling of a journey surely to last a lifetime of memories. At the time, I did not realize how prophetic his statement would be.

“Yes,” I advanced boldly, in front of the gang. “Sure, I’ll go. I’m game.” After all, they were my friends and they did invite me to play with them. So long as it was not something frightful like climbing trees, I would cheerfully join them. My fear of heights was almost as bad as a sliver in my big toe.

Thankfully, they never did discover this flaw in my bravado. After all, each of us was from the Veteran’s Town site and we vowed to be tough hombres. Not bullies, but over comers of all obstacles. Since all our dads served in the Second World War, we had a pride to maintain.

Yes, during those early years, life was full of dandelions. Not that the plentiful wild flower in northern Quebec was unloved as it is today with plucking, seeding and chemicals used to eradicate it from landscaped premises. At that time, it provided splashes of color among the greening of our young lives.

No matter where we looked, there were firs, spruce, balsam and sprinkles of birch and poplar, surrounding our town. Therefore the addition of something pleasantly different, like a wooden bridge over a high trestle reminded us, it was indeed unique in the flow of youthful play.

The splash of yellowish tinge covered both sides of the track as we raced across the imbedded tiles to be first before the sooty black from a hooting engine blocked our path. Just the thought of a steaming black locomotive heading towards us created an out-of-control nightmare.

Trying to keep up to my friend’s retreating feet was a challenge. I could see Roger’s willow slingshot with rubber sling tease me from his back pocket. No matter how often he tried his shot always missed tapping some itinerant crow. Of course they never complained. Besides, I was on their side.

My hiking friends were all boys, since we did not feel girls had the same stamina or reckless actions we aspired to. Knowledge in the later flow of life taught me it was the latter.

Crossing this long trestle just outside our town of Rouyn, was our rite of manhood. Lee, our acknowledged leader decided each new dare, and he assured us this one would definitely make us ‘King of the Hill.”

Being part of our gang meant we had to continually prove those dreadful words “Crybaby” or “Mama’s Boy” was not part of our makeup.

However I never felt my ten-year-old sins deserved this degree of penance. As usual I was always last in the group. I tried being deliberately slow, my legs reluctant to move with the flow. And my feet slogging through what felt like molasses lapping at my well-worn jeans.

To this day, I continue to notice with dread that Trestle creeping closer, closer. If only a locomotive would show itself, thus preventing me from having to encounter one halfway across.

The braver one among the five or six of us was always our unrivaled leader, Lee. He was a brash lad who seemed to draw others around him. I felt it was my good fortune to be allowed to share his group of friends.

A ‘gang’ in those days had nothing to do with brass knuckles or motorcycles, but rather someone to be with, for company. Our dads, after working in the Noranda Copper Mine were too worn out to spend time with sons on such a beautiful day, as that day.

Lee was followed quickly by our pack of Roger, Herve, Butchie, Don, my younger brother Dennis and myself. We were straight in line like a ruler. And bent over, ears against the cold steel rail, our bony butts pointing west.

Listening carefully, we waited patiently for Lee’s uttering. “OK” meant nothing coming due to no rumbling sounds in the steel, an assurance of safety at least up to the trestle one hundred feet ahead.

The safety location, for those ‘caught’ on the trestle must have been a whole four feet square. It was deftly attached to the main bridge frame, with a railing for protection. And was available for preventing any emergency jump of fifty feet to the river below. Better than facing up to an engine of pure terror.

The plan was always to hike our sneakers swiftly. And make the trestle in stages at the very least. Other than leaping from the tracks, it provided the only safety valve. Should the need arrive, we were prepared to cram ourselves into that safety space while the train sped over the river.  

To us, anything wider than ten or fifteen feet was a river. And from this height our imaginations could see the potential of mangled bodies if we dared jump from the rails. We were sure there were rocks below the surface, just as we read about at the bottom of Niagara Falls.

We imagined ourselves bold as Jungle Jim. And the wide body of water below was raging. Whether alligators waited, it really wouldn’t matter if we jumped to our demise.

Yet, imagination intervened. If Jungle Jim could wrestle gorillas from the stories we heard on the radio, or seen in movie houses, what was a little danger from a pile of steel? After all, we were in the prime of our lives, quick and eager, feet straddled with boldness and hearts that could surely outrace any steam engine, should the need arise.

Crossing the trestle was not an easy lope, nor a time to look about at the scenery on such a beautiful summer day. School was out; life was good and my friends galloping ahead, fists and arms pumping wildly. But there were several complications.

I became fearful after my mistake of looking between the tiles as I anxiously began my walk from the edge of trestle. It was surely a mile straight down from this observation post.

And I closed my eyes with dread, slowly counting to ten, praying for strength.

Suddenly I realized my friends for life were yelling, “Come Onnnnn!!” as they were now halfway across the foreboding monument of wood, spaces and height. And so I put gas to my spirit and began to quickly step with determination one tile at a time, refusing to accept the motion of water far below.

I had the thinnest shoulders among our group, and believed small enough to fall like a mere mouse, between these tiles.

I advanced more quickly as I could see them reach the other side, and guaranteed safety. My feet began to move in a rhythm as the “Clack-Clack” sound of steel rails moving in unison from heavy bearing of a large weight with boxcars full of furniture and equipment, shook beneath my feet. 

 Except those “Clack-Clacking” noises were not from my library of imagination. They were real!

It was not necessary to place my ear against the cold rail listening for any movement. Seeing the open mouths from my friends, terror speared through me. I looked behind and saw the snaking of foreboding smoke identifying the huge engine. With additional horror I noticed the shortening distance the black beast had coming at me.

It was as if the nasty devil incarnate discovered there were un-confessed sins during my last visit to the priest’s confessional box. 

I quickly glanced in all directions. What to do? Looking over the edge of trestle, the river seemed impossibly far below. Besides, I suddenly remembered, I couldn’t swim. Surely the center of river was deep as the Atlantic Ocean, which I learned about in my grade six Geography class.

At first, it seemed impossible to keep ahead of the train’s advance on my position. When I suddenly realized the jutting safety ledge was behind me, my adrenalin kicked in. What seemed like six legs pumped faster than an Olympic runner. Above the noise of the hooting engine, my friends’ screams spurred me to abandon the reality of space between each tile under my feet.

Somehow I didn’t trip or sprain my foot. Perhaps the speed I was using allowed me to fly over the tiles in a sort of jet stream movement.

Thankfully I was able to make the last tile, and stepping a few feet from the track, heaved in deeply. The engineer seeing I was okay and obviously anxious to meet his deadline simply sent me a loud blast of noise that threatened to rip off my right ear.

Suddenly, I felt a flush of warmness run down my leg.

Oh, the shame of it. The desperation of my run, not wanting to let my friends down and a sudden startling of shattering noise caused me to let go. Now my whole front was on display for the whole world to notice.

Shakily I strode with jerky strides towards my friends who reached me, amazed I was able to stand.

“Wow! What a run!” Herve yelled in my good ear. The other was still deafened by the piercing train’s horn. “Yaaah!!” the others agreed. They were real pals though when they didn’t even mention my accident instead glad I didn’t abandon all reason and simply jump into the river.

They steadied me as we made our way to our destination’s side, sliding down to the river’s edge where we had a delightful swim. Everyone jumped in fully clothed so I no longer stood out as the ‘piss-pants’ kid.

I reasoned at the time, standing shoulder to shoulder with laughing, splashing friends, I would no longer linger nor be afraid to cross the trestle.

Recollecting as I do now, I close my eyes and still see them all. Herve, the usual shy one, Don the daredevil, Lee of course now throwing mud balls, and Butchie; his sister later became a nurse. And my younger brother is splashing in playful splendor.

An interesting jog of thought quickly carries me back to the sequel of that moment. Although we continued our fun times together hiking in the woods, we never again crossed that wooden trestle.

 


 

Bio: Richard L. Provencher is retired and continues to recover from a stroke;
provides more time to write. He combines a love of nature with contemporary
issues. Richard has stories and poems in various print and online journals.
He and his wife Esther, married 35 years, live in Truro, Nova Scotia.