Summer of 1947

Summer of 1947

A Story by drcornelius
"

Loss of immortality

"

He had two good arms. Nearly exact, mirror-image replicas, except that one was on his right side and the other was on his left. These two arms worked together like well-behaved brothers. They almost never argued with each other.

Tom and the rest of his family lived in the big yellow house that backed up to the town grocery store. About half of the yard was dirt from too many tethered dogs and untethered kids.  The grass never had a chance but the hollihocks became giants, towering over our seven year old heads. A feast for hummingbirds. Tom and I used to sit and talk, read comic books and occasionally watch the hummingbirds.

When it came time for the steamy summer days in West Michigan, we would gather up some friends and play under the bridge on the banks of Stinky Creek. That wasn’t its real name. It didn’t have a real name. In fact, during the driest times it wasn’t even a real creek, but it was shady under the bridge and there were crawdads for catching.

Tom’s mom called it Stinky Creek and that was where all the urchins of August gathered to play. She often spanked her kids if she caught them playing by the creek. She said it would make us sick.

We knew we couldn’t get sick. We were young. It was summer and school was out. The war was over. It was 1947. Uncles, fathers, and cousins were back from Europe and the Pacific. They made it through the war alive, though some without a full set of eyes, arms and legs. We no longer had a town funeral for someone lost in the war every month or so. Life was good and we would live forever.

Tom caught the fever. He had trouble breathing and his joints hurt. It seemed strange that someone wouldn’t be able to breathe. We would see people who had lost a limb in the war and would talk about what that must be like but we never talked about not breathing. Who does talk about it? Breathing is just something you do.

Tom’s mom said that he might die. She mentioned something about Polio. I didn’t know what that was but it scared the life out of me. I kept going over to Tom’s house nearly every day. I’d stay for hours reading him comic books, showing him the pictures and just talking. Once I carried a live crawdad into his bedroom. We felt like we were rebelling against his mom and against the Polio.

My friend Tom finally got past the worst part of the Polio and his breathing returned to normal. The only thing different about Tom is that his left arm was no longer under his control. It stopped growing for a while and the muscles shriveled. It was mostly paralyzed.

Like before the Polio, he still had two arms. But now they didn’t match so well. One was still on the right and the other on the left but it seemed like the one on the left was only somewhat there. These arms no longer worked together like well-behaved brothers. Now it was the job of the right arm to be the caretaker of the left arm. To make sure that lefty didn’t go where it wasn’t supposed to. When we would go to the schoolyard to shoot baskets, Tom would strap Lefty to his side and Righty eventually learned to shoot the baskets without the help of his brother.

It was the summer of 1947.

I will always remember Tom, and Lefty

and Polio

and comic books

and hummingbirds

and the death of

my own immortality.


© 2018 drcornelius


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Featured Review

Excellent! I find this tale beautiful, sad, and amazing. Even though it takes place the year before I was born, I know the kids and could have been one of them. Their environment I know, also. We had a "greasy creek" that we couldn't stay away from. (I've no idea why they called it that--it wasn't greasy at all, just muddy and full of water moccasins) I went to school with a kid who had polio. The Salk vaccines were new at that time, and the fear of getting polio was high. Life can be a harsh teacher.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

drcornelius

1 Year Ago

Thanks for the read Samuel. I was seven in 1947. Polio was very real then. Of course, our presiden.. read more



Reviews

That ending... got me. Seeing something like this through a child's eyes makes it all seem so casual, yet so terrifying. The line about "the death of immortality" is especially moving; kids often act and feel invincible, and yet...

Posted 3 Months Ago


What a beautiful & stunning way to share these memories! I remember others in the very primary grades taking a sugar cube dosed with something I didn’t understand, but my dad didn’t believe in vaccinations, so we were excused from this routine. I heard “polio” often enuf, but I had no experience whatsoever. Your story is the first time I’ve gotten a glimpse of what this could be like. It feels like hearing the stories my parents never told us becuz they were embroiled in their own personal hell including child abuse. I love the way you use the simple but apt comparison of two arms at the beginning & end of your story. This is such deeply touching writing & I’m in awe (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

drcornelius

1 Year Ago

I am very grateful for your review Margie. As writers it is important for us to learn WHAT it is ab.. read more
This is a truly emotive story; the quality of your writing is quite exquisite, but never overpowers the reality that you chronicle.

Observed through the eyes of a child; but detailed in a way that only a mature mind could ever accomplish.

Beccy.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Excellent! I find this tale beautiful, sad, and amazing. Even though it takes place the year before I was born, I know the kids and could have been one of them. Their environment I know, also. We had a "greasy creek" that we couldn't stay away from. (I've no idea why they called it that--it wasn't greasy at all, just muddy and full of water moccasins) I went to school with a kid who had polio. The Salk vaccines were new at that time, and the fear of getting polio was high. Life can be a harsh teacher.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

drcornelius

1 Year Ago

Thanks for the read Samuel. I was seven in 1947. Polio was very real then. Of course, our presiden.. read more

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Added on May 17, 2018
Last Updated on May 17, 2018

Author

drcornelius
drcornelius

Sarasota, FL



About
Poet, song writer, dream chaser, and retired psychologist. I thrive in the mountains of northern New Jersey during the summer and Sarasota Florida during the winter. more..

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