Good Times Are Fragile
Ever notice how fast the sky turns black when summer storms of particular fury rise up over the horizon? A thick and roiling sheet gets flung overhead and day transitions to fearsome dusk in a blink. Regardless of the irony, it’s unnatural.
One fine Saturday morning mother was escorting me to my weekly music lesson. I was about five or six and gentle, old Mr. Willis was trying to fulfill my mother’s wish to turn me into a choir-grade boy soprano. His wife sat at the piano while Mr. Willis conducted from his parlour chair, baton circling gently, his mouth encouraging pear-shaped tones from mine. Consensus held that the potential was there.
We had recently moved and now lived some distance away, far enough to require the TTC and several transfers from one route to another. I had none of the usual youngster’s objections to music lessons. I was scrawny and even at that age, knew that rugged sports were never going to be my calling. Intellectual and artistic pursuits were more in my future. I’m not certain how that sat with my father, but it suited mother just fine. She had aspirations for me. It suited me too.
So this particular Saturday morning found me in tow, en route to my weekly lesson with Mr. Willis. I distinctly remember with the clarity of post-disaster recall, that it was brilliantly sunny and hot. Even the dust hadn’t the energy to stir. I was trailing my mother as we strolled along the sidewalk. The weekend beckoned and it was still just Saturday morning. Life was very, very good.
In one of those “it seemed like a good idea at the time” moments, I fell a bit behind, picked up a rock from the sidewalk’s edge, not too big, not too small, cocked my arm and flung it into the traffic that was streaming by. I didn’t single out any particular car and I can’t recall any evil intent. I was just caught by an impulse and driven by the exuberance of the moment. Not a single pause was given over to consequences. I was five or six and the complexities of “If, Then, Else” logic had never been explained to me. They were now about to be explained in detail.
The rock caromed off the windshield of a passing car, scaring the bejesus out of the driver. Tires screeched. The door wrenched open and a stream of blue rage flew from his reddening face. Oh, my poor mother. Mortified. Storm clouds gathered and swept over my carefree Saturday. It’s a blessed wonder my arm stayed in its socket. Days later I’m certain her handprint was still there on my bottom.
I don’t recall if it was administered to the flesh or through the denim of my pants, but to this day 65 years on,
I know the mark was there.