I always wondered if one of the bricks had hit my head
A mid winters tale
These days I spend a great deal of my time looking out my window, I keep my seventy five year old bones near enough to the cast Iron stove, I inherited from my grand mother, to keep out the icy fingers of winter outside. I remember some very cold mornings minus forty-five F. I would get out of my snug warm bed. I wanted to stay in my soft down feather bed with two heavy hand sewn quilts draped over the soft cocoon I inhabited from 10PM to 4AM. I always tried to beat the train to the depot, It gave me time enough to warm my hands and insides with hot co-co from the kettle the Station Master kept warm on the surface of the pot bellied heating stove in his office. At fifteen minutes of five, by the pendulum clock on the wall of the waiting room it was easy to hear the train huffing and puffing gigantic clouds of smoke and steam into the frigid air. There was a large light over the freight dock, if you looked closely on mornings like these you could see tiny frozen crystals of steam that tumbled in a sparkling layer to the surface of the freight dock.
No passengers on this freight. It usually picked up forty or more cars from the Ammunition storage base, nearby. After leaving the midnight edition of the newspaper in a neat row of bundles with each carriers name on the outside written with a marking crayon.
Our delivery was thanks to enterprising young man who drove with his truck through the icy night stuffed full of newspaper bundles. He braved the arctic air and blowing snow from Rapid City SD to meet the train in Wyoming that carried those along the line. Ours were last. By the time the train reached our station there were only bundles for us to hurry and deliver before chores and school.
My Two hundred papers laid in four bundles of fifty on top of my ancient Flexible-Flier sled that Grandfather had brought home from Chicago via train for Christmas Nineteen Seventeen. By the time I received it Grandfather had passed, a victim of poison gas in France.
The original surface of the boards was almost gone but well covered with hundreds of coats of Half and Half wax, bees wax and paraffin in equal parts along with a little tallow to keep it soft enough to use to preserve and protect the indispensable sled.
Every morning in winter I used it to transfer four bundles of papers to safe places an my route. I would pop them open and put the wrapping paper and wire into a burlap sack which I always carried for recyclable waste, paper, wire and discarded pop bottles.
When I came home I could smell coffee from Dad's breakfast. In winter the stoves burned continuously. The kitchen stove provided hot water as well as fresh baked bread, and hot food to thaw even the coldest boy. After breakfast I checked again. Wood box, full, Coal bucket full. belly full of warm oatmeal and a huge sticky bun Mom baked Yesterday.
I donned my winter coat made from a soldiers long woolen coat. My mother was a recycle expert of necessity. I bought my shoes and school supplies, chipping in what I could to our meager budget. I worked when ever the opportunity presented itself shoveling snow, scattering ashes on icy spots. I cleaned several neighbors stoves, hauling out ashes and occasional clinkers from half melted nails solidifying in the ashes. I collected cans. I would haul your garbage to the street for you for cans, bottles and other things I could collect and sell. I always appreciated a hot fresh piece of bread if it were offered.
We helped each other when it was needed. I did his chores when my friend Freddy was hurt climbing around the blackened ruins of the Montgomery Ward Store. Everyone in town suspected that the fire was set on purpose to hide missing inventory and collect insurance. I don't know but the ruins were a magnet to young adventurers.
It happened suddenly. The south wall collapsed in a violent rain of loose brick and mortar. I had parked my trusty sled outside in the alley.
Freddy was right under the worst of it. I was on my way to him before the dust even began to settle. I dug with my hands then realizing the futility of trying to dig him out by myself. I turned calling for help but no one heard me. “Help him please.”
That was as near to a prayer as I was able to manage that day. It was no more than out of my mouth when I became aware of a soft warm ball of light hovering right over the huge pile that imprisoned my friend. A woman appeared arms stretched out over the rubble. It began to shift off my friend. The beautiful Lady picked him up and held his broken body to her bosom. I could tell he was dead, his arms and legs stuck out from the wrong places. I could see that his skull was crushed, blood and gore oozed from every orifice on his head. She began to sing the sweetest lullaby I had ever heard, then she kissed forehead of the broken boy in her arms.
He seemed to float in mid air settling gently on a pristine bank of snow by the north half wall. She spoke to me, "take care of your friend and never play here again." When I got to him he was alive, but he had a broken leg. I ran to the "Hills" cafe
for help. Two policemen were sipping coffee trying to chase the chill from their bones. I lead the way, while one policeman called for an ambulance the other followed me into the ruins. Dust was still rising from the heap of rubble where the south wall had been..
The ambulance came and they took Freddy to the Hospital. One policeman stayed with me.
“Where was he when it fell,” he asked I pointed to the huge pile of bricks.
“How did you get him clear to the other side? Was anyone else with you?”
I shrugged my shoulders. I knew if I told what happened everyone would think I was crazy so I kept quiet and let others draw their own conclusions.
“Something strange happened here, didn't it? There was just one set of boy sized prints over to where he was lying.,no marks from your sled. How did you move him?
Again, I shrugged my shoulders.
He looked around, obviously puzzled about what happened. He looked at me closely. A tiny spot of light landed on his hand. He stared at it saying nothing for the longest time.
“The way it is snowing this will all be covered by morning. Let's just leave it like that.”
The next afternoon I visited Freddy in the hospital, on my way home from school. When I came into his room we were alone, he has two younger siblings for his mother to care for. He motioned to me placing a finger on his lips.
“I was dead, wasn't I,” he whispered. “I remember the lady, did you see her.”
I responded with a characteristic shrug of my shoulders.
We never mentioned it again, and until this moment I have told no one. Now you know, You can believe me or not. It is up to you.