Month: February 2016

Duel on the street

al_forbes

PHOTO PROMPT – © Al Forbes

Two warriors revved  their engines. “What you got in ‘er?” he asked.

“318, four barrel with a stick shift” I hollered, ready for battle. “What you got?”

“Straight 6, two speed power glide and a heavy foot” he replied, almost proud.

The flag dropped and the two of us tore down the street. we were neck and neck before the old guy swerved in my lane, taking most of my front bumper with him.

My bravery quickly turned to fear when I realized that he had just tore the bumper from my dad’s Dodge Pickup, I was a dead man.

the story was true….dad was surprisingly calm….got up the next morning, repaired the bumper…..and handed me the keys again. I learned a lot from that man, still learning…

This blast from the past is my entry into this weeks’ Friday Fictioneers.

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my rebellious days

Back when I was a kid, like all kids, I went through a rebellious stage. No, I didn’t spend my time ‘saucing’ my parents or refusing to do my homework, I did something much more serious.

In the third grade, we shared our school with those dreaded protestants. Being Catholics, we had the best schools and apparently (although most would disagree) the best teachers (if you consider a cranky nun a good teacher).

The golden rule of getting along with the principal and the teachers was to stay away from any student who wasn’t a Roman Catholic. The school was virtually split down the middle, with a huge wall separating the two sections. A large sign read ‘NO ENTRY’ on either side of the wall, and most students did their best to abide to the rules. Not me.

I had a problem determining exactly who was Catholic and who wasn’t. Everyone looked the same to me. The principal even had a school assembly where he pointed out the rule, and threatened punishment by the leather strap if any Catholic kid was caught even talking to a protestant kid. We were taught that those kids were pure evil, and our protective school officials surely didn’t want any of us pure, innocent Catholic kids being led down the garden path by those sinners.

Anyway, there was this kid, Vincent, who worked like a spy on the playground. If he noticed a kid sitting alone, with nobody to play with, he would set that kid up with a friend….a protestant friend, for a price. Usually his price was a sandwich or some cool desert like canned pudding or jelly.

One day, Vincent noticed that I was standing by the sliding board alone, not another child in sight. Vincent slithered over to me and gave me a ‘Pssst’, and pointing to the wooded area behind the school, he invited me over. I remember feeling guilty as hell by going, but what did I have to lose, other kids said he was cool.

When I got to the bushes, Vincent stood there with two kids. A boy and a girl. They looked just like any other kid I had ever seen, no distinguishing marks to let me know that they were the spawn of the devil, so I decided to hear Vincent out.

“I like you kid” he said, “Just for today, I am going to set you up with not one, but two protestant friends. They just moved here from Ontario, and have no friends. I am not going to charge you anything, but mum’s the word if you get caught.” It was like he was a drug dealer or something, and I was drawn into his little scheme.

For the next two weeks, I actually liked going to school. No longer did I spend my recess and dinner breaks alone. I ate lunch and took off outside to play with my new friends. It was fantastic.

And then someone ratted me out. After lunch that day, like every day, I quietly left the cafeteria and actually went to the other side of the building. What did I run into but Sister Kotell (AKA Sister Kotex)!

Dragged by the ear from the playground to the office, and then twenty straps on each hand, my palms almost bled. Each time that leather strap came across my hands, the nun recited readings from the bible and told me how I was never going to enter heaven, and how my eternal soul was going to burn in hell forever….for playing with a kid of a different religion. I was eight years old for crying out loud. I hadn’t developed any prejudices at that time, so how was I to see my wrong doings?

Looking back at it now, I realize just how foolish the world was. My dad said that when he was a kid, he was told that protestants (anyone who wasn’t Catholic) all had yellow bellies. They were told never to check, but that they should believe in God, and God would protect them from the evil.

What would those morons think now that I am married to an Anglican, my brother to a United Church person, one of my sisters to a Salvation Army person, and my other to an atheist? You know what? They still don’t look any different than anyone else. Our school officials are probably rolling in their graves right now! Maybe they are burning in hell for teaching young kids racism and hate at such a young and innocent age.  I hope so anyway.

 

 

Romance in the Roots

During the last few months, I have began tracing my family tree. In the process, I have discovered so many stories. Stories of romance, tragedy, and struggle. In this, the first of the series, I bring you the tragic love story of Ralph and Mary, and how tragedy brought them together and separated them forever. Although we do not know much about Mary Foley, I am telling the story from her prospective.

“I had it all figured out back then. Leave my boring little community and head for the city. I had just finished high school and wanted to do something other than be a housewife like my mother. I did my best to stay away from the boys and concentrate on my future. My marks were high enough that I was accepted into the St. Clare Hospital School of Nursing in St. John’s Newfoundland.

I graduated top in my class and was ready to go to work. with the war just ended, there was plenty of work, and I got hired right away. I thought I would be working at St. Clare’s hospital, but that wasn’t the case. I was sent to work at the Sanitarium.

The Sanitarium was not where I wanted to work, but back in the 1940’s a girl couldn’t be too choosy where she would work, so I went. My family were outraged that I might actually get sick while working at the hospital, I didn’t blame them for worrying, since the Sanitarium was where 90% of all Tuberculosis sufferers ended up.

My first few days at work were difficult, long hours and lots of lifting made me rethink my plans for the future. I was spending so much time working, I didn’t have much time for myself.

And then one day, a young man was carried into the hospital. I still remember his curly hair and those eyes. I fell in love with him that moment.

I followed him to his room, where he was put in a tent near a window. He was quarantined so that his disease didn’t spread to anyone else. The head nurse assigned me to his bedside. Talk about lucky!

Every day, while he was treated, I was there. I held his hands while he bravely fought against the disease. He told me stories about his home back on the west coast, and  how his father died from the disease. He told me stories about his 10 brothers and sisters, and how his mother cared for them while she worked as a house cleaner for the wealthy people in the area.

On the nice days, I would open the window so that Ralph could breathe in the fresh air. This seemed to help him. The two of us would glance out at the beautiful scenery and talk about our futures and how much we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. I spent every living moment I could with Ralph, and I couldn’t wait for him to leave the hospital. The doctor said that he was improving. That was hopeful enough for him to propose to me. Of course I said yes.

A few months later, the doctor said that Ralph was cured. He beat Tuberculosis. We went out on the town that day, along with a few friends we met at the hospital. What a great day. Ralph already wrote several letters to his family, telling them all about me. I could tell that he really loved me, almost as much as I loved him. We planned a fall wedding, back in Stephenville with all his family. I was excited to meet them, and Ralph said they were excited as well.

Everything was going so well, how could anything go wrong? Ralph picked up a job here in the city, and we were saving our money for the big day when suddenly my entire world came tumbling down.

This time there would be no treatment at the Sanitarium. Ralph had suffered an aneurism and died immediately.

I think I cried so much that I actually ran out of tears. My beloved Ralph, my handsome fiancé. My future. We had so many plans, and now it was over.

I wrote a letter to Ralph’s family explaining everything. They were devastated. With no money to bring Ralph’s body home, I took care of everything. I made sure he received a proper burial, and I paid for it all with the money we saved together.

They might say that Ralph didn’t have a long life, but I don’t agree. Despite being only 23 years old, Ralph managed to leave the simple country life of his siblings and travel across the province to the big city. He managed to beat a disease that killed so many, and he managed to fall in love…with me. I would say he led quite a full life. I just wish it could have been longer. I wish we could have had more time together.

I will never forget my handsome man, with his curly brown hair and beautiful eyes. I would especially never forget his voice, and how much I loved hearing him tell me how much he loved me. I miss you already Ralph.”

This is the story of my Great-Uncle Ralph White and the love affair he had with Mary Foley. Nobody knows what happened to Mary after Ralph passed away, all we have are the letters he wrote to his mother, how he expressed his love for Mary, and how he planned on making her his wife. We also have a few photos my family managed to dig up from old family albums.