Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Nurse the Hate: A Different Age


There was a small shop in the old downtown, a place that sold what were called “sundries” at the time.  We would go after our chores had been deemed finished, clutching our crowns in our sweaty palms.  Mrs. Schultz would always stop what she was doing to attend to us at the penny candy counter she devised as a way to ingratiate herself to all the children in the town.  The first real feeling of satisfaction I ever experienced was placing those coins on the glass counter and knowing I was in complete control of the candy I would choose.  Mrs. Schultz would open a small brown paper bag and drop in the carefully chosen candies that I would point to in each of the glass jars without a word.  They don’t make most of those candies any more.  Frazzles and Pippets and Cherry Susans and the arrival of Caramel Swangos announcing the coming of Autumn.  Well… it was a different age.

We would scramble out on the large boulders in the river, going just a bit further than we were normally allowed by Father when he was alive.  There we would sit surrounded by the insistent roar of the river and gorge on our candy, the bag ripped open to serve as a placemat for our feast.  I can still remember the sour taste of the Frazzles in my mouth, furiously chewing as we would stare up at the dirigibles slowly flying West to visit our enemy.  The low hum of the engines could slip under the higher pitch of the rushing water as we stared up at the massive harpoons jutting from the front of the blimps.  Our teachers told us they would only impale one unfortunate person that hadn’t found shelter per flight.  By disembowling them and raining the debris down on the homes of the enemies below, they would know we were powerful and only come in peace.  Well… It was a different age.

I wasn’t yet old enough to go further down river where the older boys skinny dipped, diving into the deep pools close to the dam.  The boys would show themselves to be daredevils, nudging each other to leap from higher and higher points.  The girls would sit on the gentle sloping slate by the shore, giggling and whispering at the pale boys ham handed attempts to show their maturity.  Of course, when the boys actually did show physical maturity or if a girl showed too much interest that even hinted at potential impropriety, they would no longer be allowed back at the swimming hole.  The judgement of the Swim Commander was final.  Well… it was a different age.

The dam was an achievement of the time.  It allowed us to later construct the Perpetual Wheel, the key to keeping the electric net above our town active.  The sound of a feint sizzle or pop while drifting off to sleep is in almost everyone’s memory as a child.  Prior to the net, of course, the enemy would drift above us at night in their balloons, dropping flaming bags down on our rooftops as we slept.  I remember my grandfather telling us about The Great Fires in a hushed tone before mother made him stop.  He was always inspecting our roof, climbing up the old fashioned escape ladders to see if our asbestos tiles were in place.  Well…. It was a different age.

I work at the Wheel now as a technician.  Sometimes I go out to the old slate rock where the girls used to sit to eat my lunch.  No one swims there any longer, the brackish water filled with catfish larger than a man.  The poles where the net used to hang from still stand, spray painted with slang I don’t understand.  I check my watch to make sure an alert hasn’t sounded.  It’s a long run from the rock to the shelter at the Wheel.  Last month a co-worker got impaled by one of our enemies new high altitude dirigibles.  I saw the video clip.  He was pulled up to the heavens, his arms flailing like it was the rapture as the others stood open mouthed unable to do a thing.  His abdomen opened up and the innards fell out all over the town.  There was an announcement booming from the dirigible above.  “We are all one, the same people.  This is a reminder that we come in peace.”  That never would have happened when I was a boy.  Well… it’s a different age. 


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