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Walter's Heart: Chapter 2 Walter's Heart: Chapter 2
by Bohdan Yuri
2007-08-07 09:40:18
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That first summer, though, Dad had actually wanted to take his new car for a leisurely drive along the coast to Nova Scotia, to "...break the car in properly." It was Mom's idea to visit her sister. I was glad. I'd already seen the ocean but these mountains held a mystical world that was new to me, exciting, and enchanted.

That first time, I remember thinking to myself, this place is magic: mists, like floating spirits traveling as fog along the high ridges, and castle walls covered by dark green hues, or the sun exposing the hidden spaces underneath. Whatever was offered, I took in. So did Mom, always pointing out what she saw.

The only one who'd missed the story was Dad. It seems that after we'd passed Dillon Falls, the road became steeper, up and down, and the curves sharper. In city driving that simply meant more gas or more braking. And that's how Dad saw it too until the car told him otherwise. Calmly, at first, he asked, "What's that smell?" Mom looked around for campfires while Dad scanned from side to side, up and down, a bloodhound on the curious trail.

Finally, the smoke had filtered in. "It's the car, Millie. Stop looking outside, the smoke's in here." He quickly pulled over and leaped out of the car. He knew immediately, "It's the brakes," he screamed. His temper swelling, and released, "A brand new car! No, we couldn't stay where it's civilized.... We coulda' been killed, Millie,... Darn..., a brand new car."

Mom didn't respond. Instead she looked at me and asked, "Are we dead yet?"
Dad looked at me, then the car, and cleared his head before admitting, "I guess I shoulda' put it in a lower gear. It was my fault," he said, finally looking at Mom. Once the brakes had cooled, we were on our way again, going uphill.

Although Dad's anger was shoved aside, his lament endured. The new car glow had vanished. He was once again driving a wounded veteran, trying to survive the wasteland of worry. Dad wouldn't say much at first but Mom found a way to bring him back.

She reached into her travel bag and pulled out a peach and offered it to Dad. He refused it. So she sliced a small portion and gave it to me, and then another. And again she'd asked Dad, offering a slice, "...They're good, the kind you like." He glanced at the offering and gave in, he always did. From there on it was only a matter of time before words would flow. By the time we'd reached Bluefield, Dad was his old self. Her techniques are still the same, an understated beauty.

But the changes that we do regret are usually the ones that unsteady the foundation of memory. Like Sid's, now replaced by a Cumby; or the old Post Office, moved for efficiency, it's small building now housing auto parts. I wondered about Bluefield as the road leveled off. Another hour or so and I’d find out.

Walter'd lived two houses away on the same graveled road as Aunt Helen's. The first day we'd arrived, we were all invited by Walter's Mother for a game of volleyball in their back yard after supper. Mom and Dad were reluctant, but it turned out that they'd had a great time. So thereafter, the games became a nightly ritual of gathering.

But I remember the first time I'd seen Walter that day, while unloading the car. I thought to myself, he looked weird, and he did. His lips were purple, skin white, hair scattered. I imagined he looked like a vampire should look. And his fingers were so long and his purple nails elongated. There was definitely something wrong with him. I guess that's why I'd played by myself mostly that evening, pushing my Dick Tracy Police car in every direction away from Walter until he finally gave up and watched the game.

Later that night, Mom told me the story: Walter's Mom had had a rough time in Europe after the war, and Walter had been born with a very weak heart. "It was a miracle that he's even alive," Mom told me. "Just think of it," she'd added, "not many of us get the chance to be near a miracle."

Years later, I'd overheard our moms talking. "I cherish every day with him," his Mom told mine. "Any day, he could be dead, and I've been lucky enough to have had these years with him."

"I know," my Mom replied, "When Danny's heart had stopped beating after he was born..." she teared, "You know, I couldn’t have any more either. To think that..." she could have wiped away my tears as well. "I was so glad, that the nurse had noticed that Danny was turning blue..." and the two mothers hugged for the comfort of their gifts. And I was glad too, that Walter and I'd become best of friends.

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