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A Spot to Remember

Fifth in a series of short summer reads from Geist and The Tyee.

Adrian John Burrus 1 Aug 2007Geist Magazine

"A Spot to Remember" won a second prize in the 3rd Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest. The 4th annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest is open and accepting submissions now.

Adrian John Burrus is studying to become an elementary schoolteacher. He lives in Vancouver.

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'I see some boys wrestling in the grass. They're black. I have never seen black kids before.'

Dad pulls our station wagon into the Monroe Hotel parking lot because he has to vomit. Mr. Brigman's thick black glasses slide down his nose when he hands us the key. Mom says we'll stay a day or two so Dad can get better. I bounce on the bed. I flick on the television. It's black and white, not colour like the sign outside said. Mom tells me to go play outside but to stay away from that creek.

I see some boys wrestling in the grass. They're black. I have never seen black kids before. They aren't wearing t-shirts or shorts; only underwear. They are really dark. I want them to talk to me but they just keep wrestling. I climb one of the cedar trees because I know they will probably talk to me if I get to the top.

I grab one branch and they come over.

"You wanna play?" the older one says.

"OK," I say.

"We don't got no ball," the little one says.

I tell them I have a beach ball in the car. They follow me on their tiptoes because the concrete is hot. I run and get the keys and open the trunk. They watch from behind. I find the ball under our sleeping bags. They ask me what room I'm going to live in and I tell them I'm leaving in a few days for the Oregon coast when my dad gets better. We set up a goal between the two cedar trees. Then we go behind Mr. Brigman's tool shed and light matches. A baby kid with a diaper comes outside and we take turns giving him piggyback rides. Then the baby kid gets stung by a wasp, and starts howling. His mom doesn't come outside.

"Wanna swim?"

"I'm not allowed," I say.

So we play war with our fingers as guns. That gets boring so we walk down to the creek. The water is black and it's not moving. Bugs jump across it. It smells like salmon eggs and mud. You can hear the highway two blocks away. They really want to fish. I tell them my dad has a fishing rod, a big one. They both spot a giant rainbow trout. I don't see it, but the older brother wades into the water to point and yell, there it is, there it is. I come back with the rod and a swimmer jig, but the older brother is gone and the little brother is crying in the sand. I look into the water but I can't even see my own reflection, it's that dark.

The next day my dad is feeling better. I tell Constable Placard what I remember seeing. Mr. Brigman says it's a real shame, that this is a good place, a real spot to remember. We pack up and leave, but I forget my beach ball.  [Tyee]

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