Flash Fiction #18

campfire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Leave-taking

The summer, which had seemed so long in coming, now seemed so quickly over.  Tomorrow they would have to close up the cottage and drive back to the city.  Tuesday, the kids went back to school.  But right now, they had promised themselves one last campfire.

Before long, the neighbors joined them, and even folks from around the lake.  Children played, and built S’mores.  People sang campfire songs, and the adults relived the happy season.  Eventually, silence reigned, and people quietly contemplated the leaping flames.

Finally, the fire burned out.  Somberly, but not sadly, everyone departed, looking towards next year.

 

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site, and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

 

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Ready, Aim, Fire!

Canning season is upon us.  Our supply of dill pickles has been slowly but surely dwindling, and replacements must be made.  Cucumbers have been available for a month or more, but the dill plants are only now coming into their own.

We had massage/osteopathy appointments on Thursday, so we were unable to go to the Farmers’ Market.  We had to go Saturday.  Neither the wife nor daughter is an early riser, and usually we get there 10:00/10:30 AM.  This was Labor Day Saturday!!!  D-Day would have been easier.  With both of them handicapped, I insisted that we get there 8:00/8:30 AM, to be able to park in the same Postal Code, and we still nearly needed to bring our own parking space.

More and more, we are joining the ranks of the Lazy And Incompetent cooks I wrote about 15 months ago.  A couple of weeks ago, the wife found that the Wholesale Warehouse has gallon cans of diced tomatoes, which we could use for making salsa or chili sauce whenever they are needed.  The cost is less than the equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes, bought at the market, and they have already been skinned and chopped.

Dill pickles though, still require the personal touch.  We bought a half a bushel of small cucumbers from a favorite vendor, and some fragrant dill stalks from a Mennonite, and hauled them home.  The car still smells of dill – Mmmh!  Saturday evening, we scrubbed the cucumbers and put them to soak overnight.  Sunday afternoon, we started cutting and slicing.

Then we made up the first batch of canning syrup.  We had obtained a couple of pounds of de-skinned garlic, which needed to be blanched.  We used the water from that, to add garlic flavor to the pickling mixture.  We, (as in, the wife) cut the heads off the dill plants, to add to each jar, and cut up the stems to be boiled with the syrup, to add more dill flavor.

The first batch complete by about 9:30, we sent the son out to pick up a couple of pizzas for supper, and then mixed up another pot of witches’ brew, for a second batch.  By 2 AM we had canned (bottled) 15 quarts, 15 pints, and three half-pints, of slices, chunks, and quarters.  Actually, both the son and the grandson like to eat the garlic chunks which add flavor at the bottom of the jars, so, two of the half-pints were the last of the garlic which didn’t go in with the pickles.

Just as we were bottling the last of the pickles we’d obtained at the market the day before, the main building at the Farmers’ Market was busy burning down.  A passerby reported flames at about 1:30 AM, and by the time firemen arrived, all they could do was prevent damage to other, nearby buildings.  Designed to resemble a Mennonite barn, only the fittings and contents were metal and glass.  All the rest was solid, dry wood.

It will take a few days to establish the cause.  In the meantime, 60 vendors and countless customers are impacted.  Many of the locations on the main floor sold meat, as well as eggs, or Guernsey milk.  There were also a candy vendor, produce, fish, cheese, baked goods, a specialty tea/coffee place tucked under the stairs, and an eating area at one end with picnic-table seating, and several stalls selling donairs, pizza, perogies, cinnamon buns, hot apple fritters, Oktoberfest sausages and fries and burgers.  Outlets on mezzanines on both sides provided Mennonite quilts, footwear, leather clothing, dream-catchers, jewelry, semi-precious gemstones, and other various kitsch.  There may be a small puddle of melted gold in the ashes.

The market is a huge tourist trap attraction, with busloads of blue-haired walker-pushers being bussed in from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.  We met a nice couple from London, Ontario, over coffee, Saturday morning.  Management is not sure whether cleanup will proceed quickly enough to allow the rest of the market to open as soon as this coming Thursday.

The Market is Waterloo Region’s answer to Santa’s Village, Niagara Falls, or the Shakespeare Festival.  I am sure that the structure will be rebuilt, perhaps even larger, grander, more Mennonite-ish, but winter is almost upon us.  It could be up to a year to get it replaced.  Built just before legislation made it mandatory, it had no sprinkler system.  Any replacement must provide an elevator, if a second storey is included.

In the meantime, we can attend to get our vegetables, and apple fritters and hot chocolate.  We may have to follow that with longer, scenic drives to other Southern-Ontario tiny hamlets, with names like Heidelberg, Dorking and Elora, to get the quality meats we have grown used to. (Do you like Dorking??  I don’t know, I’ve never Dorked.  Yeah, right!)

Like fine wine, it takes a while for pickles to age.  By early next summer these could be ready to open, and let breathe.  Anybody up for a barbecue?  I could show up with the hamburger slices.  All you’d have to provide would be the burgers and beer – and potato salad – and corn….could we do corn??

Bowling For Summer

Teenage rites of passage, every town/city has one or more places where the kids hang out.  Places like Pop’s Diner in the Archie comics, or Arnold’s, on Happy Days.  Places to go to talk, to hang out, to learn social skills, contention, co-operation and independence.  My little home town had a couple of them as I grew up.  Owners and ambience of a couple of restaurants in town changed.  The kids used to hang out over there, but now hung out over here.

One of the nicest, and yet strangest places, where I invested ten years or more of my life, was the beach bowling alley.  I’m still doing research to see who owned it, and/or the land it stood on.  Only open for a couple of months a year, a lot of youngsters, both native and tourist, had fun and grew up in this establishment.

It was located about two miles from the main street, and sat even with beachfront cottages, but where a small point put the water more than a block away.  Did the town build it?  Was the property owned by the town, the province or the Feds?  I was born in 1944, and it was built in 1951, when I was seven.  It wasn’t much later that I ran free and discovered it.  I was perhaps nine or ten.

It was open on weekends from the 24th of May till the first of July, then seven days a week till Labor Day.  I didn’t know that there was a seasonality to insurance, but a local insurance agent and his wife ran it.  They had a daughter, and five years later, a son, both of whom learned to work with/for their parents.

They all lived in a tiny apartment above the snack bar.  You didn’t dare leave the place unattended.  The building itself had a square concrete pad as the floor at the front, ten lanes wide.  The rest of the building was constructed of wood, and none too tightly.  You could see openings between the lapstrake siding strips.

It had screened *window* openings with flap-down shutters which were closed and bolted overnight, and over the winter.  It had double, screened batwing *saloon* doors.  These screens kept out the worst of the insects, but were useless, because of the snack bar at the front.  Nothing fancy, they served hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries by the ton, bottled pop, milk shakes and ice cream cones.  To get the most of walk-by trade, there were non-screened windows at the front where they could deliver food outside.

The bowling lanes were up two steps, and sat on wooden pylons driven into the sand.  These were Canadian, five-pin bowling lanes, a surprise and treat for American tourists.  The five-pin balls are so small that even children easily learned to bowl.  Every day, the lanes and approaches were mopped for sand.  No bowling shoes were supplied, or required.  Bowl in running shoes, flip-flops or bare feet.

Ten-pin sets were available on two lanes, for those who insisted, but the games cost more.  No mechanical pinsetters back then. The place employed pinboys, who did it manually.  I never applied for the job, because it tied you down from 11 AM opening till 1 AM closing.  What I did was show up whenever I had some spare time, but no spare change.  I would make it known that I was available for a limited time to replace anyone who wished to go for a swim or visit his girlfriend.  I could get an hour or two of cash-paid work, then get on with my day.

There was a foot-operated treadle system which raised steel pins to locate the wooden ones, but that was awkward, and actually slowed the job down.  If you could set the pins really quickly, sometimes you got a tip on top of the standard pay.  Hazards involved with the job were errant balls.  Sometimes you would jump down into the pit after someone had thrown three balls, only to find a bowler who, (usually, but not always male) angered at missing a pin, would grab another ball and whip it down the lane.

The same kind of thing could happen with drunks who were obnoxious, or just couldn’t count, as well as muscle-bound jocks, trying to impress their buddies or girlfriends.  The No Lofting rule was often ignored.  I set pins for one guy who bounced the ball and smashed the light above the pins.  I had another who whipped the ball so hard it touched nothing.  It sailed past my head and went out the open window behind me.  I had to climb down the back of the building and locate it in a sand dune.

In the open centre of the floor, with its back to a steel support pillar, between a row of six or seven pinball machines, and the L-shaped diner counter, sat a jukebox.  The money the proprietor must have realized from those coin-slurpers!  The pinball machines got the occasional rest, but the jukebox was never quiet.  The guys came to meet girls, and the girls came to show off to the boys.  Somebody from one of the sexes was always feeding the music machine.

One summer, when I was about 16, there were two girls who liked to show up and dance.  Jeff Foxworthy claimed that any female who wouldn’t dance with a drunken redneck was “stuck up.”  These two would have nothing to do with any guy, townie or tourist, handsome or ugly.  They just plugged dimes into the jukebox and danced with each other, non-touching, of course.  Whether justified or not, they were soon labeled as dykes.  They came in one evening and put on their usual revue, and the audience, females as well as males, tossed pennies on the floor near them.  They left without retrieving the coins, and never came back.

Ah, the halcyon days of youth and summers.  I resent having to grow up.

 

Think Ahead, or Behind, or at All, But Think!

My son occasionally goes to a site called The Darwin Awards.  It’s an ongoing collection of stories about geniouses (usually male and under 25), who remove themselves from the gene pool by doing….I was going to say SPECTACULARLY stupid things, but sometimes it’s as simple as, Look Both Ways Before You Cross The Street.  It doesn’t include trying to dive into the family pool from the roof of the bungalow, and missing by just enough to break both legs, just below the knee, on the edge of the pool, because, your buddies will pull you out before you drown.  Then you just get to spend the rest of a great summer in a pair of twin casts.

The son points out that stupidity carries the death penalty.  We both agree that it is not invoked nearly often enough.  If it were, shows like Jackass wouldn’t exist.  I’ve said previously that I don’t really have a problem with stupidity, but with people who have shown that they can think, but simply don’t and won’t.  I’d like to introduce you to the smartest dumb guy, or the dumbest smart guy, that I’ve met in my entire life.  He happens to be American, but I’m sure some of his white trash relatives live in Canada.

Let me set the scene.  This was long ago, shortly after the Earth cooled and the last of the dinosaurs had died in skateboard accidents.  I got up early on the Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend and walked 4 blocks west and eight blocks south, to my older, married sister’s house, which was located just off the highway where it entered my home town.  She had a couple of little chores she hadn’t nagged managed to get her husband to do.  My mother sent along a couple of items, and my sister had a couple of things she wanted taken back with me.  Everything done except the final delivery, I was walking back home just in time for lunch.  I was walking along the sidewalk beside the highway, and was about a hundred feet from the intersection with the main street, where I would turn east, when a car slowly passed me at just better than my walking speed.  It pulled over tight to the curb, just at the beginning of the right turn lane and the passenger window rolled down.

I’m going to be asked something, I thought,  probably directions, so I eased over towards the car.  I tend to notice things which many other people don’t, often strange or out-of-place things.  That wasn’t difficult with this car.  I remind the reader that this was Labor Day Saturday.  It was a lovely little Ford Mustang, with Mom and Dad in the front, and two tweens, one male, one female and about two hundred pounds of luggage in the tiny little back seat.  These kids didn’t look like they’d been able to move a muscle, even to take a deep breath, since the doors were closed.  The car had a Michigan plate, and, what brought it out of The Twilight Zone, was the fact that it had four sets of skis and poles strapped to the trunk carrier.  Oh, oh!

Sure enough, Mom leans back as far as she can and Deputy Dawg, the driver leans over to the window and smiles and asks, Where’s the snow?  Yeah,  didn’t see that one coming.  I’m in temporary meltdown; what do you answer to that?  I pointed on up the highway and said, You’re heading North.  He nodded and said Yeah?  I said, The highway turns to the east as you leave town, but if you keep heading North for about 1500 miles, I think they have snow up there.  But where are we going to ski?  I don’t know if they want cross-country or downhill.  If they follow the highway to the east about a hundred miles, some nice little hills poke themselves up.  Some of them even have ski runs on them, but they don’t have any more snow than we do here.

Now I’m curious as to just how this circus got to my town, so I asked, where ya from?  Michigan!  No! Really Bob?  And you even have a car with a Michigan plate on it.  Where exactly in Michigan?  Bay City, is the happy answer.  If I walked the remaining 50 feet to the corner, turned left, and pointed west down main street, and across Lake Huron, where tourists are still swimming and boating, I could almost see Bay City.  It might be a bit further south, but not much.  The two communities are on the tips of a large V.

In an attempt to place an understanding of the relative geography into his head I asked, how did you get here?  My birthday was in about three weeks.  I’m still only 14.  I felt that I should go very carefully about teaching a middle-aged man about social responsibility and world situations.  We drove down to Detroit, crossed over to Windsor, and drove up here, he replied.  So, you drove south and then turned around and drove the same distance north, why would you expect snow?  Well, this is Canada, isn’t it?  Ya got me there, Sparky, this definitely is Canada.  How could I have been so silly?

Wait a minute!  You said you drove to Detroit and crossed over?  Yeah, why?  Why didn’t you cross the border at Port Huron, into Sarnia?  Where???  Dear Lord, he can’t read a map either.  Sarnia/Port Huron sit just at the bottom of Lake Huron.  It’s at least another hour and a half to drive all the way to Detroit, and then when you get on the Canadian side, you have to go way out around the belly of Lake St. Clair for a two hour ride to get back to  where you already were.  He’s caused himself four hours of wasted gas and driving time with two kids crammed in the back.

I just had to know what kind of a guy did all this.  What do you do for a living?  I’m a Production Engineer!  And he’s edumacated.  A college man, maybe university.  A real school gave him a real piece of paper to prove it.  Ignoring the strange little kink that would put him on the road on Labor Day, looking for snow, even if he had showed up at New Years, he dragged his wife and kids hundreds of miles with no more firm address in mind than Skiing, Canada.  He didn’t know where to go.  He didn’t call or write ahead to book accomodations.  Some folks are like that; it’s an adventure, we’ll sleep in the car.  MOST of them survive.  At least he didn’t kill the wife or kids.  Fifty-five years later I still shake my head.  I don’t know where/if they stayed for the weekend, or what they did with ski outfits but no swimsuits.  Iz not my problem, man.