My previous blog entry focused on my years spent as a paper carrier between ages 8 and 16. All those days of delivering the Morning News and Times Herald were toughening me up...it's just that I was blissfully unaware while it was happening that any good was coming from the jobs other than the money I was making.
I could tell a hundred stories but I want to examine only two at this time. Saga #1 was on a cold, dark morning at a very spooky part of my route. This was a section that I chose to walk rather than take the car. There were so many customers that it made sense to park the car, load up my paper bag, sling it over my shoulder, and take off walking. I threw papers to two parallel streets this way. The nervous time came at the end of Fairview Street. Getting to Kinmore Street from there involved walking down a connecting dirt road. Here, thanks to googlemaps, is how it looks today. (Give the picture a moment - it will eventually come into focus.)
Every morning, I mustered up the nerve to walk this dirt road. There is a single light pole halfway between the two streets and tall bushes form a wall on one side. In my mind, anything from escaped convicts to aliens to grizzly bears could be in those bushes. So I'd swallow hard, take long strides, and hurry through the eerieness to the relative safety of Kinmore Street, where there were houses and doors to knock on should I need to be escaping whatever was after me. Often, I thought about the plague of darkness administered to the Egyptians...dark so dark you could feel it! That's how dark it was on this little road, broken only by the light from that single pole.
This particular morning was just like most other winter mornings as I started the scary walk. Cold, darker than normal due to cloud cover, and the wind was making whirring noises as it blew through the bare tree branches. I, as usual, told myself that nothing was out there and strode resolutely ahead. Then I saw him.
He was good-sized but all I could see was his silhouette in the scant light from the light pole at the end of the dirt lane. He was walking toward me. Decision time. Do I turn around and return to the street from whence I came and take refuge on someone's front porch at 4:20 in the morning? Or do I man up and act like who I really was...a sophomore in high school, doggone it! Well, I decided to proceed. My feet were moving but I guarantee you, I wasn't breathing. I silently rebuked myself for not at least carrying a stick or a 9-iron or something!
I moved the paper bag from my right side to my left to provide an imaginary buffer zone in case this guy lunged at me with his machete. 20 feet apart now, then 10...as fate would have it, we were gonna meet directly under the light which was halfway down the road. At least I'd get a good look at him and perhaps be able to give the police a description of the killer with my dying, final words.
We came abreast of each other under the light. He was fearfully wrapped up against the cold; he appeared to have several layers of coats on and, importantly, a wrap around his face that covered everything except his eyes. Goodbye Mom and Dad, you too, Charlie and John and Marybeth, my siblings. I don't think I fired off a prayer - my mind was too paralyzed. Suddenly, he spoke. "Mornin'," he said in a voice that surprised me since I heard a tinge of fear in it. A tiny segment of my fear dissolved at that point...wait, he is scared, too??!! So I quickly responded, "Mornin'." And then he was gone.
I took long, hurried strides to the end of the road and the safety of the street light. Then I turned and looked back up the road. Nothing. He had disappeared back into the darkness. I got a warm rush. I had stared beady-eyed death in the face and had won. I fairly flew through the remainder of the route that morning, ridiculously proud of myself. But the self-congratulatory attitude didn't last long as I quickly realized that walking down that dark road the next morning, and the morning after that, and in fact, every morning from then on would be incredibly more difficult since now there was proof that evil men would step out of that tall shrubbery at any time...and probably grizzlies, too.
Well, this story took too long. I'll save the other wild morning saga for the next blog entry.