(A Short Story Out of Minnesota, 1952)
(Kiddy-Corner, Farm, 1952)
I was only five-years old back then, when this occurrence took place: the 'brick,' the situation that led to the brick, this is what the story is about, a simple medium sized brick, used for cobblestone streets, or building houses or buildings, or building in some cases, swimming pools.
My brother Mike was seven years old at the time, and we were living at a boarding farm called Kiddy-Corner in North St. Paul, Minnesota ((during the weekdays that is, and we'd stay overnight, until the weekends came when my mother would pick us up after work) (she worked at, Swift’s Meat Packing Plant in South St. Paul)). She’d pick us up, and take us to her small apartment on Iglehart Avenue, over on the Cathedral side of town.
The antagonist in this story is really unknown, but I will share with you the account, and perhaps we can narrow it down to a few names, if not one. Steve, the owner's son Janet Riddle's boy, was about eight or nine years old at the time, had a sister named Jill, she was ten or eleven years old. Jill used to come into my bedroom: about dusk, I was on the top bunk in the far back room of the large house, so she had a hard time reaching me, but she did: poking that needle or pin into me, she was my anatomist, we all seem to get one or two in our life times, if not more, I got one at an early age.
On occasion, her mother told her to stop, and so when she did stop, she used psychology 101 on me, she'd come in with the needle, wake me up, and say she was going to stick me, but didn't, building up a fear factor I do believe, until that got remedied.
Jill's mother, Janet who owned the foster farm, a stern and strong, if not bold woman, had to deal with a jealous daughter, to say it kindly, and I suppose it was not much different than many children, seeking her mother's attention.
It would seem we stayed at the farm so much, Janet almost accepted us as family, which eventually resulted into being our home, hence, so it would have appeared to an onlooker, let's say Jill.
During those days, months and years, at the foster-farm we'd help build a big swimming pool in the back of the farm house; Janet owned perhaps four acres of land behind and around the house, and was forever fighting with the authorities over the right to have us children stay overnight. I never knew quite, what the problem was about, and she never said, it was just a thorn in her side from the county it seemed.
But as I was about to get into, Janet decided to make a swimming pool in the backyard, way back in her acreage, by what I called 'the fence,' where the cow meadow started, adjacent to her property.
In those far-off days it was not easy to build a pool, you just didn't call up the pool man—back in 1952, when and if you decided to have one built. But you did call in a bulldozer to level the land out, and then got one of those big tractors with a scoop on it to dig out a big hole, which she did in both cases, shaping the pool to look like one of those old cast-iron bathtubs.
The water must have been several feet deep at the deepest end, when it was filled up to the rim all along its sides that is. From the most shallow end it was but a few feet deep, and as you swam inward a gradation developed, making it deeper as you went from north to south it would eventually go over my head at the other end—way over my head by a couple of feet. As a result the gradual increasing steepness became a challenge to all of us small kids wanting to swim from one side to the other, or one end to the other.
Well, during this process of building the pool, digging the hole, bringing in materials, and so forth and on, I really couldn't do much, or for that matter, remember doing much, but I was allowed to help carry a few bricks, one at a time from the pile to the pool: laying them down on the extending tiles.
Let me explain: after the hole was dug, they put some kind of rocks in it, and other things, and then tar if I recall right: then put more tar over the tiles: roof tiles, or so I remember them to be—very scratchy roof tiles at that, and around the top rim the tiles extended outward, therefore, bricks were laid on top of the tiles to hold them down.
The pool was perhaps fifteen feet wide, eight feet deep, and thirty feet long. Under the tiles was that black tar again—that I mentioned, and I'd put a brick on the tiles sticking out like weeds, that seemed to bend around the dirt, and tar under it, the tiles that stuck up that is. At any rate, the brick would hold it down, so it would not get ripped, or torn apart, and one rip led of course to another, and bigger ones, and then you'd have to find where the hole was and tar it back up again, and so forth and so on: so it could become significant, should you not use preventive measures.
Fine, during the building process, Mike, Jill, and Steve were up their playing around by the pool, trying to help, and so were the other kids: a few of the workers, likewise, and myself. When I looked up this one early afternoon, when I looked up to see what the disturbance was, I saw everyone was staring—and Janet saying, "Who did it, who threw the brick?"
Tears came from my eyes; I saw my brother drop to his knees, his hands over his eyes and then his head: blood coming from his scalp. No one said a word (I'm not sure I knew what to do but cry, helpless I felt), but the memory would stick into my mind, as well as my brother’s mind.
So, we all survived that awful day, but it was a sad few days thereafter.
Dedicated to Mike Siluk, written 9-29-5 (reedited 5-2008; reedited, 3-2009
And again in 2-2011)