Friday, 12 July 2013

Two Boys One Wagon One Secret PART 2

Another time Chops says,

“You like Mary Jane Baker, don’t you?”

The quiet across the road causes Beans to look back at Chops who has stopped walking. His face is so red you can’t see his freckles. He’s so angry he’s sputtering,

“D-d-d-don’t say that again. It’s not true.”

Beans starts laughing realizing it is true from the reaction and continues ambling through the ditch singing.

“Phil and Mary Jane up in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G...”

“And don’t call me Phil.”

Beans is not listening and scurries up onto the road. Waving to his partner ignoring his discomfort, he yells out,

“C’mon, let’s head into Mr. Harnett’s. He’ll be expecting us. If we hurry, we can still do the other way, at least down to the old gravel pit, there’s always some there.”

Chops has forgotten Mary Jane now and Beans is the only person that can use his real name besides his parents so he hurries to catch up as Beans heads into the bachelor’s lane.

“Yeah and there’s always some of those soggy rubbery things, at least one. Did you ask your Dad yet what it was?  Mine told me to forget about it, that I’d know soon enough, whatever that means.”

“No, but I asked my brother. They’re called condoms but Dave says everybody calls them rubbers.”

Chops has caught up with his friend as he ponders the new information trying to visualise a pair of boots that small. The lane they’re on is dirt and winds through a dense wooded area for about a couple hundred feet until it opens to huge fields on either side. The rich soil is green with new shoots of wheat perfectly aligned, running parallel to the road on one side while the other field grows wild with grass, purple clover, white daisies, yellow buttercups, legumes and other herbaceous plants that will eventually become fodder. The ground is still damp from yesterday’s rain, the bouquet of worked earth permeates the air causing the boys to stop more than once to breathe deeply and comment on how good it smells.

 The road eventually splits in two. The lane to the right narrows as it continues for 500 feet ending at a farmhouse. Two stories with a verandah in the front, one story kitchen in the back. The yard is thoughtfully groomed but there are no flowers. Mr. Harnett lives alone. His sister and her husband live down the other road.

A large barn and two smaller out buildings are arranged strategically behind the house. The wooden shingles are weathered as grey as storm clouds, the doors are painted bright red. The property reflects the owner’s pride.  A brand new Chevy Apache sits beside the house facing them as they approach the house. The truck’s double headlights seem to stare at them. A tall bushy haired man is polishing the chrome bumper. Without turning around he says,

“I was wondering what you two rascals might be up to, you’re usually here before this.”

Wiping his hands on the cotton cloth, he stands to face the boys. Mr. Harnett towers above them and if not for his perpetual smile he might seem foreboding. Instead he’s a person happy with his lot. The three chat for a bit, the man teasing the boys, the boys curious and asking about the new truck. Mitchell soon sends them off to the front steps where he has placed this week’s empties.

“Goodness, your wagon is full, think you can fit some more in there?”

Chops is toting the returnables to the cart. Bean waves back saying,

“We’ll carry them if we have to. Thanks a lot Mr. Mitchell, you’re a swell guy.”

Mitchell grins as he watches the lads tuck some of the bottles in upside down between the others, Beans ending up carrying three as they head out the lane. Both boys gaze at him briefly as he gives them a wave returning to his polishing. Chops tugs on the wagon as they come up the slight rise that leads to the wooded area. When they are about twenty feet away from the edge of the woods, the sun that had been hiding behind a cloud bursts out and glints off something metallic at the edge of the field causing both boys to look up. They stop at where the hay field meets the woods. Tire tracks suggest a vehicle has driven across the culvert and through the uncut grasses. The field extends for a good distance, the land is tilted and slightly hilly, except for the antenna, the vehicle is hidden from their view. The ten year olds are filled with curiosity. Chops says,

“Those tracks weren’t there when we came in.”

Beans sets the bottles down beside the wagon.

“And we know it isn’t Mr. Mitchell.”

“Could be his brother-in-law.”

“Naw, his truck was at the house, I saw it across the way.”

Boys are given to wild imaginations, rumours are given more head when something mysterious enters their energetic minds. Chops is the reader, his thinking more creative.

“Suppose it could be whoever stole Jason Lawson’s horse?”

The fact that it would be the unlikeliest of hiding places did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm. Instead it fuels on the possibility of intrigue. Beans is the action one.

“We could go see.”

“I don’t know Beans, what if it is a thief or worse, thieves?”

“C’mon, we’ll just sneak along the woods and see. If it’s strangers we’ll come back and tell Mr. Mitchell, he’d want to know.”

“Okay, but you go ahead and be quiet.”

The wagon gets pulled closer to the tall spruce that borders the road. The boys enter the woods keeping the field on their immediate right. Watching where they step so as to be quiet, they get closer to the edge of the field. A womanly shriek stops them dead. It sounds like she’s in pain. It startles the two so keenly that Chops almost wets himself. He quickly turns around to head back but is stopped by a hiss.

“Wait! It sounds like a woman and she could be hurt.”

“I don’t care. I’m scared. Let’s go.”

“Don’t be a sissy.”

Beans moves forward slowly, Chops reluctantly following. Voices and groaning can soon be heard and they drop to their knees. Crawling towards the sound they come to the very farthest rim of the field. Forest thick with evergreens line the opposite side.
A white Pontiac is parked at the crux of the right angle of field and woods. The nose of the car faces them, both doors wide open. From below the passenger’s door, tangled in the long grass are four legs. The two feet pointing up have bright nails, something black and lacy hanging from the ankle they can see. The feet pointing down are shod with black shiny shoes, dress pants scrunched about the ankles, the toes digging in the dirt. The car rocks with the same rhythm as the thrusting of the heels. The boys cannot understand what is happening. So shocked at what they see, they are mesmerized by the moaning.

A piercing yell almost causes Beans and Chops hearts to stop scaring them so intensely. They hold their breath. They want to hug the earth they’re so frightened but are frozen by what they see. The car is heaving back and forth more rapidly. A man’s head appears in the windshield bent unbelievingly back, the eyes tightly shut, lips stretched into a grimace, spittle flying from its mouth as it exclaims, “Yes baby, yes baby, yes baby…”

Suddenly everything stops, the head disappears, the feet stop moving, the car settles down. They boys stare at each other with total disbelief.  The two innocents have yet to experience an orgasm and for the life of them cannot fathom what they have just seen. There is mumbling coming from the car, nothing they can discern.  Chops stares at Beans now, wondering what they should do.  A womanly voice urges softly but commanding, “Okay, get off me now.”

The lads are stunned when they see the man stand up before bending down to retrieve his trousers. It’s Horatio Glendenning, their school teacher. A young lady sits up in the car tugging at the black fabric at her ankle, placing the other foot gently through.
Standing behind the man the woman wiggles the tight panties into place. When she moves aside to straighten out her dress her face is in full view.  It isn’t Mrs. Glendenning. They don’t know who it is. Chops is interrupted by a soft blow to his shoulder. Beans begins to creep away.

“Let’s get the dickens outta here.”

They are almost running when they get to the wagon. Beans tosses the three empties he’d been carrying into the ditch.

“We’ll get those next week.”

Standing behind the wagon he gestures for Chops to start pulling while he pushes. The boys are soon scooting down the wooded lane. Veering to the left the two head directly home, ignoring whatever empties might be had along the rest of the way. There are too many questions.  Their innocence can’t explain why the woman had to put her underwear back on or why the car was shaking, or why the man was repeating himself. They deduce that their teacher was punishing the woman for something.

The conversation drifts when they turn into Beans driveway heading for the garage. Unloading the wagon in silence, each boy is preoccupied with his own thoughts. Looking to Beans for the answers, Chops asks,

“What are we going to do?”

“Nothing right now. I’m going to talk to my brother Dave about this.”


 Even though he is only fifteen, Dave, like his brother and father, is big for his age. He made it a point to “run into” Mr. Glendenning at the Farmer’s Market one Saturday morning in July.  When the boys start back to school in the fall, they never fail an exam. Chops is the first one in his family to get an A+.
Next week join us when Cynthia Shannon, a freelance editor, does a guest blog on editing.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Two Boys One Wagon One Secret Part 1

Beans and Chops are both ten years old. Beans, aka John Pascal Williams Jr, looks like a teenager, big for his age, hair and eyes both dark. Everybody calls him Beans because when he was seven he came home for lunch every day one week always asking his mother if they could have beans. Someone had told him that beans would give him gas.  His father always complained that gas was so expensive; if he could make some gas for his father then his dad would be happy. He had no idea how he’d get the gas in his dad’s car but John Jr. loved nothing more than making his father happy.

His mother figured the boy loved beans, so she fed him beans once a day for a whole week. He was producing gas all right, gas that escaped during class, announcing its freedom in a noisy and putrid fashion. At suppertime the day it happened, he told his family about the awful time he had. His mother explained why it happened and suggested he shouldn’t eat so many. His older brother Dave, upon hearing the story of the beans, laughed so hard he fell from his chair. From that day on John Jr. was called Beans.

Chops, named Caudwell Horatio Orville Phileas Sangster, is small for his age, making him look more like an eight year old. A cap of reddish curly locks tops his head and freckled cheeks decorated his cherub face. His parents call him Phil. When he started school, the older kids would tell him to “Phil it up” or ask “Are you full, Phil?” or say something that made fun of his name. The teased him so often that after school he would hide in his room and cry big tearful sobs. The torment lasted until summer break. During the holidays, when he was idle, he would print his entire full name on blank paper trying to decide which one he would use when he returned to school in the fall. When he couldn’t decide he printed out the first letter from each name, forming the word CHOPS. He liked how it sounded, so after that he would only answer to Chops. The most peculiar aspect of the new name was that no one made fun of it, not even the older kids.

The boys are neighbours. They’ve played together since they were babies. Their homes are

separated by a quarter mile stretch of cultivated field that changes its skin with the seasons, brown and ruddy in the spring, lush and verdant in the summer, beige and prickly whiskered in autumn, white and pale in the winter. The two properties are joined by an umbilical cord of soft earth beaten smooth and permanent by the passing of their growing feet. The passage seems almost sacred – old Mr. Crackett would lift his plough or turn the seeder instead of disturbing the boy’s polished route. Their sneakers leave impressions on the soil: sharp with solid lines when new, unwrinkled and flat as the treads and the summer wore away. This spring there had been a change to the patterns. The imprint of narrow rubber wheels framed the rural hieroglyphs. Beans has a new wagon.

Chops is in awe of the cart with its black hard rubber tires mounted on shiny red rims, sleek polished wood the color of a summer tan made up the bed and side boards. The two boys always clean it on Sunday afternoon before they set out on their weekly bottle hunt. Right after church the boys change into old dungarees and matching white T’s. They have identical black and white sneakers. They are polishing the frame with an old chamois that Bean’s dad had given them when Chops says, “Can I pull the wagon today, Beans?”

Beans looks over at his friend and saw the sheepish look on his face – he asks the same question every Sunday. Shaking his head yes, Beans says, “You like this wagon, don’t ya?”

Pure pleasure is evident in Chops’ happy grin.

“Oh yeah, I love this wagon; it’s so nifty.”

They line the base of the carrier with pages from a newspaper so that any drips from not quite empty bottles would not stain the polished wood. Chops fans out the pages, being fussier even though it isn’t his. His childish heart knows he will never have one of his own. There are too many siblings, too little money. He always reminds himself that he’s never hungry, his clothes are always clean and his parents never yell at him. He usually got a new toy on his birthday and Christmas, but never anything as grand as a wagon. So he tows his best friend’s wheeled wonder as often as he can.

Beans on the other hand has only one brother and two parents who work. There isn’t a river of money at his home, but no drought either. The wagon hadn’t been a gift. It was a business proposition with his parents. He’d wanted one since he’d seen it at Cottrell’s Hardware.

Before the wagon, he and Beans had made their weekly hunt with burlap bags that grew heavier with each reward they found. The first time, they had collected their bounty as they walked away from home; the trek back with half-full bags slung over their stiffening shoulders convinced them there had to be a better way. The next week, they walked the usual two miles and hunted for empties on the return. But with a wagon, Beans decided, they could go even farther.

He made a deal with his parents. They would buy the wagon and he would pay them back from the earnings he made each week. It was 1959. A stamp was four cents, a gallon of milk cost a dollar, and the wagon sold for $19.95. He received a penny for each empty. Drinking and driving was thought to be great fun back then, so the country roads were usually littered with empty beer bottles after a raunchy country Saturday night with miscreants tossing evidence from moving vehicles. Oddly enough, very few bottles broke.

On a good Sunday, the boys would split fifty to sixty cents. Combined with his weekly allowance of half a dollar, Beans proclaimed quite proudly to his mother and father that he could repay them a dollar and twenty cents each month. He vowed that he would pay for the wagon in one year. His parents were so impressed with his determination that they agreed to buy it, with the understanding that he had to pay back only half and the wagon would be his.


Today is Sunday, June 21.  At one in the afternoon, the sky is dotted with puffs of clouds far apart, giving the hot sun ample time to bake the boys a wee bit browner. They’ve been walking for an hour, dawdling as boys will as they come to the last hill on their route. It’s not very long but oddly steep. The old country road had been tarred and sealed with stone only last year ; the shoulders are raw earth about three feet wide. Grass grows in patches with a few dandelions for color; small potholes and tiny rocks from the roadwork make the wagon hard to pull. When there are no cars coming, they hike on the pavement. The boys would normally not come this far, but at the top of the rise is the Mitchells’ mailbox.

Experience has taught them they can usually count on a half dozen or more bottles in the shallow ditch behind it. Everybody who drinks in a car tries to hit it with an empty as they drive past. Some do and the mailbox is battered, dented, and sits on the post lopsided. The flag stopped working long ago. Beans says the old man likes the attention.

“He told my Dad that Hugh Smith has hit it eight times, keeps promising him a new one. Mr. Mitchell told Huey not to bother, no sense ruining another one.”

Chops nods his head and chuckles. “Makes sense.”

It sounds silly to them; they laugh at most things.

There had been a square dance at Robertson’s Dance Hall the night before so the pickings are heavy this afternoon. There are ten bottles: two Pepsi and a Coke, five Moosehead and two Schooner. Chops walks the edge of the woods twenty feet back from the road, where some of the bottles have flown.

“There’s no broken glass so nobody hit the mailbox last night.”

Beans is organizing the empties to the rear of the wagon, his bangs hanging down over his forehead.

“Huey went out West, that’s why. There’s nothing else, let’s go.”

Both boys tightly grip the loaded wagon that wants to roll away by itself. Starting out on their way back, they hang on to the handle together to slow the cart, letting it roll backwards down the hill. Their boy chatter carries them home as they separate to walk each side of the road. Feathered creatures call to each other, birdsong of mating and warnings accompany them. The one not pulling the wagon is mostly in the ditch and a little further ahead, usually Beans. Each cries out “Another penny” when they find an abandoned bottle. Talking loudly to each other from across the road, the conversation is a continuous stream.

And then Beans says, “We didn’t do very good in school did we? My folks keep telling me I can do better. I hate studying, I only like arithmetic… and comics.”

The topic of school is a tender one for Chops. The new teacher has an obvious dislike for him. He’s not a fast thinker like Beans; he needs to hear complicated things repeated to understand them and their instructor is short on patience. The rural school is one room, thirty-three kids, eight grades. He claims that he cannot devote personal time to each student and ignores those with learning disabilities. There’s no help at home; the Sangster’s as a whole would get a C-.

“I don’t think my folks care; we’re all kinda dumb. I wish I could like arithmetic, but I love reading. And I really like your comics.”

“You’re not dumb. I’ll help you with the arithmetic.”
The offer is sincere, both bashful before the banter continues....

Watch next week for Part 2 , the boys discover something.......