July and August, 1970 excerpt from novel

Standard

vinicius-henrique-772055-unsplash

Back in Kelowna, the next afternoon, I meet someone who will change my life forever.
Jessie has gone off with some guy as usual, leaving me to sit in the park.
A tall guy approaches me and sits down on the grass near me. He shrugs off the army green backpack and sets it down.
He has brown wavy hair, short, unlike the current long hair style for men, and a mustache. He wears glasses, brown framed ones that have been taped up on the side. I love his smile the minute he introduces himself. I like his accent, which I soon learn is a Kansas drawl. He tells me his name is Brad and that he is just a country boy from Kansas, touring the country. Then he says that as soon as he saw me, he told the friend with whom he was hitch hiking “There’s the girl I’m going to marry.”
That is it. I fall in love. What a suave and debonair way to introduce himself. I am intrigued. This is the first guy to mention marriage to me. If I go with him, I am guaranteed to be safe from potential rape and murder. This guy will take good care of me, I am certain. He seems so open and happy.
Jessie comes back from one of her forays away with some guy, and I see her jealousy for the first time. She glares when I introduce Brad. She takes me aside.
“You don’t know anything about this guy. What are you thinking?”
I could point out to her that she keeps taking off with strange guys all the time, and that the last few nights have been dangerous for both of us, as we spend that time on the beach with boys we have just met, but I don’t. I tried to avoid confrontation as always.
“I’m sorry, Jessie, but I am leaving with Brad.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” she asks.
“You could find work picking fruit,” I say, and I don’t mean it in a nasty way, but that is how she takes it. She watches me and Brad leave.
As evening comes, he and I walk with some other people to an old house, where everyone in the group is going to stay. He takes my hand and I am swept away by his care and concern.

And so I lose my virginity that night. We have sex, and while I’ve read about it in books at my sister Doreen’s, it is nothing like I imagined. As we lay beside each other, I whisper, “That was my first time.”
“It was? Oh, wow.” Brad gives me a hug. He kisses me and promises right then and there that he will marry me. It is my biggest dream come true. We cuddle together in Brad’s sleeping bag and I fall asleep.
In the morning, we walk upstairs to the kitchen and Brad has coffee. I didn’t drink coffee or tea, because it is against my religion.
After that, we hike to the park. We sit with the same group of people, and talk. Brad is outgoing and talks away to some of the others. I admire his easy going manner and wish that I wasn’t so shy.
A few people panhandle on the street, and along the paths in the park. We collect enough money for cheap wine and bread and bologna. Everyone shares in the goods, although I refuse to drink the wine. The girl with the guitar starts to play and we sing along.
We meet up with a guy who sells acid (LSD) and mescaline. He is about my height, and wears an Australian bush hat. He is dressed in a denim vest and shorts. He and Brad get talking and exchange where they are from. It turns out that Duffy is from Hamilton, Ontario, which is my birth place.
We walk the streets of town, panhandling. Who should I run into but Brad – the “first” Brad? He looks at Brad and then back at me.
“Are you still interested in work?” he asks.
“No, not anymore.”
He nods and walks away.
I am not sorry. I don’t feel that I owe Brad anything. And since he too has had sex with Jessie, the thought of working for him is rather distasteful.
I am beginning to really dislike Jessie. Maybe not her, but her promiscuity.
Later in the day, we walk across the floating bridge, and up into the hills. The stars are bright above us. Someone wants to start a campfire, but they are prevented by cooler heads, as it is pointed out that not only might the cops see the fire and come to investigate, but it is too dry on the hillside for a fire. People form small groups, and talk. Brad and I are joined by a few others, and Brad chatters away while I hang back, quiet and shy. There is a discussion about the rattlesnakes that lurk in the hills, which scares me. I am too young, though, to worry about the danger. Nothing bad will happen to us.
There are falling stars, from the Perseid’s shower, which occurs every year in early August. We watch the show in awe, voices dropping off as the stars fall. Brad scores some weed, and he smokes it. He offers it to me, and I tried it, just a little. My conscience bothers me, but his urging wins out. It is kind of alright. It makes me feel relaxed. No more anxiety that night.
Long after the voices quiet and people fall asleep, Brad and I have sex. This time I really enjoy it. Brad is a thoughtful and caring lover. As I fall asleep, I wonder at my good luck in the two of us finding each other.
We spend a couple of days like this, in the park in the sunshine, music and panhandling and night time in the hills.
We meet Rob, Dustin and Gary, three guys who are from Red Deer. We comment on how small the world is, when I say I am from Lacombe.
Brad said, “I think we should move on. I’d like to see more of Canada. Will you come with me?” he asks, his head turned a bit towards me, long eyelashes half hiding his brown eyes. There are crinkles at the corners of his eyes as he grins at me, dimples prominent.
“Of course I will,” I say. Whatever else would I have chosen to do? This boy has rescued me from danger – spending the nights with strangers all alone and vulnerable – and he talks of marriage, just as I have hoped someone would. I have found my perfect man. I love his jokes and his general sense of humor. He says he loves my Canadian accent. He and I gather up my belongings, and he puts them into his large army green backpack. I leave my empty suitcase abandoned in the Kelowna park.

The morning is bright and it is already getting hot. We walk out to the highway and stick out our thumbs.
We are picked up by an older white haired man who drives a dark blue Ford pickup truck. It reads, “Handeler’s Orchard” on the cab door. He waits while we pile in and then says, as he starts to drive again, “So where are you two headed this morning?”
“As far as we can go I guess,” says Brad.
The elderly man says, “I envy you two. What a world we live in today. I’d sure have liked to just up and take off like that when I was younger. No job, no responsibilities, just the open road.”
Brad grins over at the man.
“Sure enough, that’s how it is for us.”
“Say, what kinda accent is that you’ve got?”
“I’m a country boy from Kansas, USA.”
“Kansas, eh?”
“Yup. Where the corn and wheat and sunflowers grow tall and yellow in the sunshine.”
The old man smiles.
“You a draft dodger?”
“Nope. I was honorably discharged, sir.”
The old man nods, pleased by this answer.
The truck travels smoothly along the winding paved roadway of Highway 97, running past the lake, blue as a sapphire in the hot sunshine, and past orchards and houses and small shops. There are fruit stands, some not open yet, as the main harvest would not be for a couple of weeks. At last, the man says this was as far as he can take us, and he pulls over to the shoulder of the road. He points off towards the gravel road that leads to the west and tells us, “That’s where my orchard is at. Out that way. If you two ever decide you want a job picking fruit, I’ll sure give you a chance.”
With that, he is gone up the road and we hold out our thumbs again. The next ride is in a Duster, driven by a younger guy who takes us as far as Vernon, the next largish city north of Kelowna. As Brad and I walk along the street, the sun beats down. I am thirsty. We panhandle, stopping strangers with “Excuse me, do you have any spare change?” And I, more fortunate than Brad, collect enough for a soda for each of us in short order.
This boosts my confidence! I find talking to strangers and begging is not so scary after all!
We come out of the air conditioned corner store and meet a couple of guys, in blue jeans and t-shirts, who tell us, “There’s a youth hostel over at the church on Porter Street. They offer a place to sleep and a breakfast in the mornings.”
“Hey, thanks, man,” says Brad.
We make our way to Porter Street and I admire the small church which is painted a sandstone color, with brown trim. The building attached is about the size of a modest bungalow, and a big sign on the door states that it is a shelter for transients. I can’t believe our luck.
Brad says, “This is a good place to stay. Let’s go in and see if we can get out of the hot sun.”
By this time, it is late afternoon, and the priest who runs the shelter meets us at the door. He wears a collar that indicates his calling. He has a bald head and a big smile as we enter. The room is large, with a doorway leading, we would soon learn, to a kitchen. Down the hallway are rooms for couples, and for women and men respectively.
After Brad and he chat, he takes us to the couples’ room and Brad and I set out the sleeping bag. Brad takes off his back pack and sets it beside the sleeping bag. He shifted his shoulders.
“I’m glad to be rid of that burden,” he tells me. “The weight hurts my back.”
He brings out his map of Canada, and then his US map. Unfolding them both, he points out the little town where he is from, in Kansas, and then we pour over the Canadian map, and plan our route for the next day. As it turns out, we would not leave the following day after all. But that is because we meet a nice couple that evening, and get to talking. The couple, Maxine, age fourteen, and her boyfriend Keith, twenty, have come to B.C. from Alberta. She’s run away with him and her parents don’t know where she is. Along with the rest of the people who amble in by evening, we talk and laugh and have a good time. Maxine is little, short, with long brown hair and brown eyes. Keith is tall and has black hair and his eyes are aqua blue. I have never seen anyone before or since who has such eyes as his.
When it is time for bed, Brad leads me to the couples’ room. We are off to one side, while Maxine and Keith are over on the other. Brad and I lay awake talking softly for a while, and then we make love. I fall asleep with his arms wrapped around me. I notice that Brad sleeps with his glasses on, which I think is a little strange. “I can’t see very well without them. If I keep them on, nobody can sneak up to me,” he says, the next morning when I ask him about it.
It seems an odd thing to say, but what do I know? After all, we are sharing a house with a group of strangers, so maybe Brad is more sensible about the danger than I.
While hostels originated in Europe years before, for the traveler, the youth hostels in Canada are based on the same idea, but for those hitch hikers – hippies – that have a transient lifestyle. There is a network throughout the country, and this hostel in Vernon would be the first of several where we stayed.
It is a pleasant oasis after the heat in summer or cold in winter of being on the road. There is usually some food, and while there were rarely beds, the floor provides ample room for an unrolled sleeping bag.
Brad tells me that he is going to “liberate” me. He will change my old fashioned ideas and ways and make me a free person. I don’t question this. I don’t wonder what he has in mind, or why he wants to take this job on. I don’t stop to wonder why he feels the need to change me. And do I really need changing?
The morning brings toast for breakfast, and coffee for the coffee drinkers. I don’t drink coffee. It is against Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. We leave the shelter and along with Maxine and Keith and few others, we roam the streets. We panhandle enough money to go to the little corner store near the hostel, and buy bologna and bread for sandwiches, which everyone shares. I overcome my initial misgivings about eating meat, and wolf down my share. The food is delicious.

Martin (Chapter Seven)

Standard

Lagerfeuer

When I learned that Lainie had got the job at Jensen’s Hardware, part of me was happy and part of me was sad. I’d really wanted that job. I left my house that day, and ran into Kate. Well, I didn’t run into to her literally, of course. I knew that she’d be at Mayer’s after lunch. Her shift usually ran either eight o’clock in the morning to four in the afternoon or noon to eight at night. She was there and she siddled up to me and winked. I winked back. We had a good friendship I thought. And she was one of the few kids in school who had never made fun of me. God knows, there were enough of them that did.
“Hey, Martin. What can I get you?”
“How about a cheeseburger and an orange soda?”
“Sure, right away.” She walked towards the back and I watched her. I was half torn between my love for Lainie and a strong attraction to Kate. The girls were so different, I decided I was just weird to find them both attractive. It didn’t occur to me that maybe my thoughts were normal for a guy my age. I was used to finding fault with myself, mostly because of the dyslexia and the teasing I’d got all through school.
Kate brought me my food. I told her that Lainie had got a job at Jensen’s.
“Well, good for her! Give her something for herself, instead of looking after her old man all the time.” As she spoke, Kate lowered her voice and tossed her head towards the back of the restaurant. I saw why as soon as I checked out the room. Lainie’s dad was at a booth with three of his cronies.
The place got busy for a while, and Kate and Mrs. Mayer rushed around, serving customers and cleaning tables.
Then, Mrs. Mayer approached my table. She sat down across from me.
“How are your folks, Martin?”
“They’re doing good, Mrs. Mayer. Mom won at whist the other night.”
Mrs. Mayer smiled at me. She said, “I’m glad to hear that. Her and I have had some bad luck at that game. Too bad I missed that. I was working that night.”
She hesitated, and then spoke again.
“Martin, have you given any thought to what you want to do until college? Are you interested in working?”
“I sure am, Mrs. Mayer. Do you know of some job?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. I need someone to work here, cleaning tables and dishwashing. Would you be interested in that?”
“I sure would! When can I start?”
Mrs. Mayer laughed.
“I’m glad to see that you’re enthusiastic. How about tomorrow, from noon to eight?”
“Sure. I’ll be here. Thank you, Mrs. Mayer.”
She took her leave then, and I finished my meal. I was happy. This was just what I needed. Now both Lainie and I had jobs, and maybe the three of us would make it to that party on Friday night.
I sauntered home, and my mom and dad were delighted when I told them my news.

***

I worked, then for a couple of days and then it was Friday. Kate picked up Lainie and I in her new car. It was an older model, but nice to look at. It was red, and as she drove us to the party, Kate said she’d mostly chosen the car because of the color, although her dad had also given her the go ahead when he checked out the mechanics.
Now, we arrived in the parking lot of Stevenson Park, named after the town’s first mayor.
There were a lot of other vehicles there already. Lainie picked up the case of beer we’d brought and I took it from her.
“I’ll be gentlemanly and carry this,” I said.
“Thanks, Martin, but we all know you just want to drink more than us,” said Kate. She grinned so I didn’t feel bad about what she said. Besides, to tell the truth she was right. We were all old enough to drink in our state, and I didn’t mind knocking back a few. I knew that Lainie would have one can at most, while Kate could drink me under the table if she was encouraged.
Joking and chatting, we made our way down the path to the lake. There were about thirty people there already. There were quite a few people gathered around a campfire and some of them were toasting marshmallows or roasting wieners.
Kate excused herself and went off to talk to some of the other girls, while Lainie and I found a seat on a fallen log just out of the way of the fire and its smoke. I opened the case of beer and handed her one, taking one for myself. We each took a sip and smiled at each other. She congratulated me on the new job and I asked her how the work at Jensen’s was going.
Her eyes sparkled, as she said, “Oh, Martin! It’s the best thing to happen to me ever. I love working there. I just wish my dad was pleased. Seems like nothing I do ever makes him proud of me though.”
Kate returned and I had time to hand her a can of beer, before I was grabbed from behind and pulled off the log.
I landed on my butt, and there was laughter. I turned to look as I got up, and saw Jordan, Jeff and Mark. All three were laughing.
As I attempted to stand up, Mark pushed me back down. I spilled my beer.
Jeff said, “Ha, look, Martin can’t hold his beer.” The three of them laughed uproariously at that.
I got to my feet, minus the beer and swung at Jeff. Jeff dodged me, stepping back, and I swung at air. Jordan said, “C’mon guys, let’s go find somebody else to pick on. He’s already lost the beer.”
“No way. I think Martin wants to fight. Do you wanna fight, Martin?” This from Jeff. He loomed over me, a good six inches taller than me.
I swung at his chin. I missed. Jeff swung his arm and it connected with my shoulder. Then he pummeled my chest and then my stomach. I dropped to one knee.
“C’mon guys. Enough.” That was Jordan again. This time the other two listened and they made off towards the fire.
Lainie was crying as she grasped my arm and Kate, taking the other arm helped me stand. “Oh, Martin, I am so sorry,” said Lainie.
“Not your fault,” I said, from behind a fat lip. I wiped at my mouth and my hand came away, bloody.
Kate opened her pocket book and took out a tissue. She handed it to me, and I pressed it against my mouth.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said. “We’ll go back to my place.”
That’s what we did. Lainie and Kate were both shaken up by what had happened, but not me. This was something that had happened to me before, always those three guys, although sometimes there were others. School had been miserable for me because of it.
We had a good time playing video games and finishing the beer.
Kate and Lainie told me that Lainie was going to move in with Kate.
“Say, that’s great. I can see both of you in one shot,” I said somberly.
I don’t know why, but both girls burst into giggles at that. Then I saw the time and I told them I better get going. We said our good byes, and I walked Lainie home and went home myself.
I was depressed for part of the walk, after I saw Lainie to her door. I mulled over the beating I’d got and wondered for the thousandth time just why it was I seemed so likely to attract the bullies in life. Then I started to think about my job at Mayer’s. That was a good thought. It made me smile, and by the time I reached my house I was grinning. Mom and dad were still up, watching a horror movie. I joined them for a while, and then went to bed.
As I fell asleep, I wondered if Lainie’s dad had given her any trouble when she got home. Maybe I should have stayed around for a bit. Little did I know what was brewing at her place.

***

Well, Martin was the main speaker this week. I wonder what’s going on at Lainie’s? I don’t trust that dad of hers at all.

It is a very good thing I read this chapter over before I posted. I had some names all confused and that would have been even more confusing to you, the Reader. All fixed, though – I think.

Using WordPress

Standard

I have a short message today. A longer blog post will follow soon.

I have been with WordPress for some time now, and they are so worth using!

If  you want to try them out – basic service, which is more than adequate for most bloggers – is free! Please follow my link to sign up. I will get a small sum if you become a WordPress user!

WordPress Signup

Look at it this way….since basic service is free, you can try it out for nothing. I use a premium service now because I was so impressed with their hosting and the editing dashboard.

End of public service announcement!

As I mentioned, another blog post will follow soon!