Backroad Love Story / “Tin boy”

Tin Boy

The simultaneous gloss and tack of the Ladies’ Home Journal ran beneath his first two fingers until they came to a stop on an address label showing that it was a mid-1970s October in Connecticut.  Since it was autumn and New England, the memories are tinted orange, and in this case it’s appropriate because they match the old shag carpet and the fire burning in the living room.

Streetlights beyond the windows began to illuminate grade school ghosts and the doorbell announced the coming of neighborhood goblins.  Slow in getting ready for trick-or-treat and reading a magazine belonging to his mother, he was oblivious to her telling him to gather up his costume and pillow case and stop biting your nails and are you trick-or-treating with Tommy again this year?  Nope.

He was abruptly brought to attention by the telephone tethered to in the kitchen wall, and because on the verge of adolescence you cannot wear a mask – even if it’s Underdog – he was dressed in his football uniform but acted like a sprinter since he got to the phone at the echo of the first ring.

That day’s sixth grade Halloween activities involved pasting purple gumdrops on the nose of a construction paper witch and a costume parade to the gym and back, and somewhere in between she asked if he’d walk the neighborhood with her that evening.  What time?  I’m not sure but I’ll call you this afternoon, which turned into that evening, and he wondered if the call would ever come.

Shot out of the front door, what should have been a kiss for his mom became a backwards wave from the road, and he was at the door across the street in what seemed like ten strides.  After having rung that bell a hundred times – to borrow an egg or drop off a homework assignment – he rang it for the first time with meaning.

A bashful hello to her and goodbye to her parents the pair was off into the early harvest twilight and as they got farther down the hill the house numbers got higher until they reached Oak Street and had to turn around.  The tide of children began to wane as the hour got later and the number of stars seemed to increase, or maybe it was just because he finally looked away from her and up at them.

Their gait became slower, either due to walking up hill or the weight of the candy or that he wanted the evening to linger, and he stopped to pick up a stray tootsie roll while she swished her ruby slippers through a small pile of leaves.  The sounds of laughing and ‘Boo!’ and ‘Make sure you look both ways’ dissipated and slowly the night became theirs alone.  What little moonlight could be seen above houses and between branches filtered down and attached to her hair, creating a faint glow of auburn.

For a moment he returned to the years when her costumes consisted of white nurses’ capes and red riding hoods. Soft blue eyes and a smile that night that was the same as back then, minus the braces, and dimples now outshone freckles.  With only a handful of houses to go and his football helmet in his pillowcase he thought of walking her to school in the morning.  He contemplated reaching for her hand but was late because as his eyes glanced upwards toward a Dipper, or God, his cool cheek was met with her warm lips and no wonder she was dressed as Dorothy because she helped him realize his heart.

copyright 2013 Steven Harz


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