“A Cold Gray Morning” by David Paul Collins
No cold gray morning had ever been so cold or so gray. A rasping rattle shattered the softness of the silence. He was about to die and we both knew it. The infirmary’s electric green walls numbed dawn’s dullness as light bulbs surrendered their importance to the light of day. No one was in the room but the two of us. If he felt the presence of God, I did not. Where was He anyway? What happened to Him? Why did we have to go through this torment, this pain that, for Dad at least, would define forever?
Just two days ago, it was hope that we measured. My father had an uncanny way of hanging on to hope without letting anyone know he needed to do just that. Not me. I screamed hope, prayed it, sang it, and lied to God that if He let my dad live I would never commit another sin. But hope diminished within my struggle to hold on to the life escaping before me, leaving for another world.
“My Grandfather” by David Paul Collins
My grandfather was special to me with all his Irish blarney and the absolute conviction that he could lick any ten men. He never urged me to wander nor suggested I stay safely at home as his sons had done. But the stories he told about magical, faraway places jump-started my wanderlust just like letting out the clutch in an old Chevy sputtering downhill, sparking the engine and burning out.
His name was Padriagh McGuiness, Pat in English, my childhood hero. His love of travel was restrained by a low paying job, hardly earning enough to support his wife and four children—one of them my mother. He loved to tell stories about life in Ireland, especially about the wandering gypsies he called the Traveling People. They were known as “Tinkers” and bartered pots and pans out of their horse drawn wagons along the dusty village byways.
“Next Town” by David Paul Collins
When spring came, Jack and his best friend, Bernie Flynn, decided to explore their world. They skipped school, hitched a ride to the next town where skinny trees, held up by green sticks stuck in square plots, lined every street. Posters of red-cheeked waitresses in skimpy uniforms, balancing milkshakes and burgers on a tray, plastered the windows of the soda fountain.
The hardware store with strange tin things was next to a shop advertising second-hand dresses. The Five and Ten Cent store would open at ten o’clock, read a sign on the door. A stone steeple church with climbing green ivy walls was the focal point of Main Street. The old granite library got a quick visit. It smelled moldy, looked dreary, but was the source of the spy novels and thrillers Jack’s dad liked to read. Jack was particularly intrigued by a book about a Boston cop who knew secrets only detectives and spies would know.
Secrets were fun.