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Walter's Heart: Chapter 3 Walter's Heart: Chapter 3
by Bohdan Yuri
2007-08-08 09:30:35
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Walter and I were in the same grade but he was a year older than me, so he was always smarter; but physically we were almost the same size throughout our meetings, only I was more athletic.

Our early play years were spent exploring, mostly our surrounding nature, and trying to fit our playthings into the scheme of time and space: from toy cars and boats to bicycles. Sometimes hanging out with Boris, Walter's older brother, and his friends, we were always the convenient runts to be toyed with.

Then, the summer before starting 7th grade, I'd come across some old stuff way in the back of Aunt Helen's garage. There were three neatly bundled stacks of old newspapers, (The New York Times) from the 1940s. And tucked behind them was an old Brownie camera. I told Walter about it.

Walter and I were then into serious model building. Well, the rest was history. We'd read every page, more than once, as if those times were surrounding us. People, places, and things, with photographs of heroes and victims, the end result was inevitable --- our own War Games. Our yards and surrounding terrain became our battlefields.

We had built the models: plastic tanks, trucks, planes, and for the stream below the ridge, we had every kind of boat used in World War II. We had everything needed for fun and glory. And to record our efforts, I took snapshots of each battle with that old Brownie.

But it was also the scene of our first major argument. We didn't speak to one another for three whole days. He'd said that his plane could hover over my tanks and shoot and bomb all my forces. I told him, planes couldn't do that. He said, "Then they should invent a plane that can fly like that." I told him he'd cheated. Some more name-calling and we gathered our forces and retreated to our separate homes.

How, ironic, I thought, that fifteen years later, he'd helped Lockheed design their version of the Harrier Jet for the Marine Corps.

Anyway, a week before I'd left for home and school that year, we'd decided to blow up all of our models with firecrackers. Except for the boats, we let them escape downstream. It was a cool way to end an era.

And there it was up ahead, the second highest peak in the Catskills --- Bluefield Mountain.

I'd noticed a lot of skiers still on the slopes, and a lot of new trails. Though still outside of town I already knew that much had changed.

Driving through town, on Main Street, I realized that Bluefield was now just another hip place, basking in its own trendiness. No more sane bucolic charm. The old values were replaced by glitz and affluent sparkles that had settled on every valuable spot of land. Even the blue field of flowers that had given the town its name, gone, covered by a growth of new condos. Right then I felt like turning back. But I kept on, embracing my memory as I drove it near the outskirts of town, towards Lexington. I'd needed to know if Walter's church was at least still there.

But along the way, another landmark was erased from the present, the Twin Towers Drive-in, now, a pit of new construction. That last summer, though, Walter and I'd taken our first "dates" there. I remember the four of us scrunched in the back seat of a Buick. Boris and his date, now seniors, were sitting in the front seat. Walter and I'd learned from watching them. It was the time of my first kiss. It was also when I'd first realized that drive-ins were no longer meant for watching movies.

And there it was, perched on a ridge, St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Catholic Church. It had been built entirely of wood, no nails. It was still magnificent though smaller than I'd remembered. Yet still a cameraman's delight, showing off its mystical, lyrical edges of shadows and highlights, and history. I wondered if Walter's parents had helped to build it to preserve their own memories? Reinforced, I headed back to Bluefield.


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