wissahickon sunset : r d samuel
by ralph david samuel
In sixth grade Mike was my best friend and at his house I first tasted
life in town. Rusty tracks ran behind Fred Hopkins’ Feed and Grain
and through the fields to Middle Creek. As we smoked and talked, Mike
and I would skip flat rocks across the stream below the bridge. You should
see the train, Mike said. Sometimes at night, I hear the train go by.
We bought cigarettes at the general store from Jake who had a stubble
beard and on his teeth and grocer's apron, brown tobacco stains. He didn't
know my parents, so I’d go inside to make the deal while Mike walked
slowly up the block. Jake spit and wiped his mouth, What brand today?
He eyed the door to see that no adult would catch us in the act and dropped
his thick hand to counter, covering the contraband. When I counted out
the change, I slipped my thumb and forefinger around the pack, but Jake
just grinned and pressed down hard enough to hold it tight. As he let
go he coughed a sodden Copenhagen laugh.
Then Mike and I would walk the tracks with arms stretched wide, each to
his own tightrope. Whose foot would first fall to the ballast or crossties?
The one who lost would pay the bet with pennies left on the rail.
© copyright by Ralph David Samuel, 2002, all
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