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July 08, 2024


By Gail Taylor

They advanced slowly, a caravan of six, the whole of Marion Stafford's world. Her husband's feet pointed the way, poised like lances above the stirrups while she pushed the chair along. Sunlight played with a jolly pennant flapping at the end of a stick fastened to the chair. Four children straggled alongside: two boys about ten years old, copies of each other, down to their frayed shirts and patched pants, a younger boy of about five or six with wide round eyes, and a tall girl with spindly legs, apparently the eldest, dragging like a bag of stones at the rear, scudding her soles on the pavement. The twin boys prodded each other in rude cackles.

"Look, there's a bench and some shade," Marion said, ignoring the racket behind her. "Let's rest a moment before lunch." She steered the wheelchair toward a bench beside a tree and aimed at the seat. Her husband looked around, a puzzled frown taking hold.

"I need to sit, Wilson," she said. "My legs." She raised one heavy foot. Rising from sensible shoes were her swollen legs, bulging with purple knobs under the paper white skin. She hoisted her other foot and released all her breath with the shuddering rattle of a punctured balloon. Three heads turned in silent admiration. Then the moment vanished.

"Mom, Billy burped in the ticket bin when we left," one of the twins said. "It was a baloney burp." He paused and grinned. "A baloney bull burp."

The girl sniffed. With elaborate deliberation, she flipped a shock of long hair forward to hide her face as if she knew that scowling made her ugly.

"Did not," protested the other twin. "Tommy did it."

The two older boys turned, accusers in duplicate, and the youngest boy's eyes widened. "How does a baloney bull burp?"

The older two belched from alarming depths and lost themselves in croaking laughter.

"Billy, Mike, stop it," their mother tsked. "Don't be irritating."

"Babies," said their sister, stretching out the 's' sound. "Didn't you learn anything this morning?"

It was 1967 and the third day of their week at the World's Fair in Montreal. On the first day, Marion had gathered them all, checking for sunhats, and made her announcements.

"We should see our own country," she said, "before we go gallivanting around the world."

So they had perused the maps, taken the metro from the hotel with the big green sign, and boarded the mini-train to take them across the bridge and over the river to the Canadian pavilions on the island. At each transfer, Wilson hobbled with his cane down stairwells and up steps, and then staggered forward by stretching his hands along the walls. His wife had had the inspiration to rent the wheelchair.

"Wilson, you'll be more comfortable. We'll see so much in a day. The buildings all have ramps."

But her husband lurched away in defiance. He'd farmed clay land for twenty years on these two legs, he told her, gawd dammit all, and he was not getting in a bloody chair for some amusement park for kids. But the World's Fair covered several acres with dozens of buildings. As the morning wore on, it became clear even to him that if they were going to see more than one exhibit, there had to be a faster method. He finally agreed to the wheelchair, waving his cane in the air and barking orders like a ship's captain. Marion calmly assumed the lieutenant post.

Outside the Canada buildings was a replica of the northlands: the Rocky Mountains and a miniature waterfall. A heap of shining stones beckoned the boys and they clambered up and began to climb. "Boys, Billy, Michael, Tommy, all of you. Come down this instant," their mother said, avoiding the stares of people flooding by. "We're here to learn, not dilly-dally like sheep and goats. Honestly."

Inside they saw displays about aboriginal peoples and about the prairies. They learned about metals and minerals.

"'Treasures of the northlands'," Marion said, reading the caption above a display of mining ore. Stirring music spilled from a dark blue-carpeted film room beside the display as people streamed out. The next show was beginning.

"Can we see the movie?" asked Sarah. "The aisles are wide enough for daddy's chair and you can sit, mom."

Just before the film started, Marion noticed that her youngest child was still outside the door. "Sarah, go get Tommy. He's daydreaming again," she said, and Sarah went to peel her little brother away from the mining display where he was staring at the sparkles in the rocks.

"Jewels," he whispered. His eyes were bright as buttons. She took his hand.

The theater went dark and the family grew quiet during the film, staring at the screen. The music swelled and scenes of lush forests, rich mines, and tunnels through mountains captured them all, even Wilson. Just as the movie rolled to a close, Marion spied Tommy blowing with all his might into an empty candy box he'd found, ready to make an explosion. She seized it in time and gave him one of her looks. The movie ended and they joined the line of people shuffling to the outside.

"Okay, you guys. What's the difference between fission and fusion?" Sarah asked her brothers.

"Fusion's fun," said Billy.

"Fishin's better," said Mike and poked his brother with an elbow.

"Don't push each other," Marion said absently without looking around, absorbed as she was in piloting the wheelchair between the ropes guiding them out. Along the corridor, there were glamorous posters.

"See, kids," said their mother, "even our little place counts. We're not big like the farms out west, but it says here that southern Ontario is important to the country."

Sarah started singing the Ontario song, 'A place to stand, a place to grow', raising her voice and flinging out thin arms the way she imagined a singing star would do for the last part: 'Ontari-ari-ari-O.'

"You look stew-pud," said Michael. He made a face of disgust.

"Dopey," Billy agreed. "Ontar-ari-ari turkey-O."

They reached the exit doors where a large mural covered the walls with trees and sky. Marion stopped the chair.

"If the glory of Europe is art and architecture," she said in the dignified voice she normally used for praying, "then truly, the beauty of Canada has to be our geography. Look at the picture of those mountains, the jagged rock, and the climbing pine trees. Look at the elk. Wilson, remember the summer we went to Banff before Tommy was born?"

Her husband managed a crooked smile but she saw that his blood sugar level was dipping. She realized that soon he would be weak and cranky. The family left early that day for the hotel.

On the second day, Marion said they could sample the rest of the world, so they began with Europe. They admired the delicate Hungarian lace floating like lustrous phantoms in the velvet theatre ("Where's the spiders?" Billy had asked); they marveled at masterworks of Austrian crystal displayed in shimmering cases ("glass with zits," Mike had said); they gazed in awe at towering stacks of national cheeses in the France pavilion ("Cow fat," pronounced Billy, "comes from cow tits," sending Mike into convulsive laughter and Sarah into deeper disdain.)

The third day had arrived, and they were 'doing' Asia. They had finished two pavilions and needed lunch. Now they were out in the sun at noon, leaving the building where Billy had burped, and proceeding down the walk to find food. First, they had to rest.

Marion fanned herself with a brochure while the boys flopped down beside a tree and ripped up blades of grass to fashion traps for grasshoppers. Sarah turned her back and faced away, as if she were totally unrelated to the five people behind her. She was different -- bigger, stronger, brighter than her brothers. She was enraged that she presented to the world the same sunken eyes, the same forehead, and the same drawn expression as her father. She watched the monorail train slip around the edges of the park on its bridge of rails suspended above them all. She saw the people riding away to their homes, their houses in the city with sidewalks and careful carpets of grass, and around these people's city houses, there was neither a speck of scrabble dirt nor the dust and mud of a mixed-crop farm on hard clay land.

Tommy stopped his job as a trap maker and came around to his mother. He had to go to the bathroom, he said, wriggling in his worn shoes.

"Again, Tommy?" she said, running her hand in his curly hair. "Billy and Mike, go with him. Look, there's a sign over there."

"Nah, Mom, we don't have to go."

"Run then, Tommy. Hurry. Remember, we're at the . . ." she squinted at the sign on the nearest building, striking in its brilliant blue-tiled cladding, just a few yards away, ". . . at the Iranian Pavilion."

The little boy ran off and Marion resumed fanning her face, her breath stuttering in a shallow staccato. Her husband shifted impatiently, wanting his lunch. The twins caught a grasshopper and crowed victory. Sarah closed her eyes so she would not see, touch, or know the challenge of these people, these addled parents, these obnoxious brothers. Cicadas buzzed their industrious crescendos. Heat clung like a thick web. Time gelled.

Tommy had been bored all morning. Everyone took so long to get past the slow stuff. The spider webs yesterday were all right, but the Canadian pavilion on the first day was the best part. One day he would drive a big truck like the ones in the movie about mining. There was a big yellow machine they called an insect. Yes, what was it? A caterpillar. He liked that one. There was energy in the mine, the movie said. The machines dug out stones and then other machines made energy from them. He had a lot of energy. His mother was always saying, "I don't know where you get your energy, Tommy."

He was pleased that his mother had allowed him to go to the washroom by himself. The past two days had been difficult, cooped up with his brothers like a coral of steers. They shared a bed at the hotel at night and then all day the others tormented him with their games. It was good to be free of them for a moment.

He was quick in the bathroom. He didn't understand the different languages around him and there were many men, few kids. He peered out the door as he dried his hands and twisted his neck like an inquisitive bird, pretending that he had a dad waiting for him just outside. He did that a lot, pretending that his dad was standing outside, just around the corner, waiting to pick him up and take him into town where they would bat a ball around the park together and run the bases, and when he scored a run, his dad would notice and clap and jump. His elder brothers could remember when their father could jump.

"He used to swim, too," Billy had said. "Beat the other dads." Tommy could see his father cutting out from shore with a vee of dads behind him, fanned wide like geese in autumn, beating to keep up.

As Tommy left the damp coolness of the toilets and came out to the blaze of the sun, he thought about what his mother had said. After pausing for a moment and crooking his head to one side, he knew what he had to do. He set off at a brisk walk, motoring his six-year-old legs as fast as they would go.

While the family waited for the youngest to return, the two older boys graduated from grasshoppers to whistles. Billy showed Mike how to pluck a fat blade, thumb-pinch and blow. Rude wet sounds dissipated into helpless chortles and they rolled on the grass like itchy puppies.

"Boys, stop that," said their mother and they dissolved again. Marion put down her paper fan. "Do you want people to think you're hillbillies?" she said, glancing in embarrassment at the people passing by with their shiny baby carriages and bright new clothes.

Billy imitated her voice. "Boyees, stop that." He had the intonation spot-on, the nasal diphthong, and the raised chin. His mother gave him one long look and he retreated to building traps again.

"Infants," hissed Sarah.

Wilson began pulling impatiently at the arms of his chair and Marion turned to stroke his shoulder. "Where is that child?" Her voiced was edged with irritation. With her free hand, she sheltered her eyes from the sun and searched for signs of her youngest. "He's such a dawdler. Billy and Mike, go around back and get him."

The twins unrolled in articulated sections, first a knee, then an arm, and a reluctant hip, rising at a torturous pace until they drooped at an angle in feigned frailty. Billy moved first.

"You're it," he said, poking Mike in the ribs and racing to the back of the building. His brother followed, yelling. Within less than a minute, they were back, mock-punching each other and watching their mother for a reaction.

"Not there, Mom." Billy grinned at the heck that their little brother was going to get.

"Of course he is. Go back in there and find him. Go on, now."

They went back and this time they were gone several minutes. Wilson jerked his head at his wife and growled something. He needed to eat. She instructed Sarah to go to the nearest building and use her schoolgirl French to talk to the attendants. Perhaps Tommy had gone inside to find them.

The twins finally returned.

"Nope," said Billy.

"Probably ran away," Mike added hopefully.

When Sarah also returned with no news, her mother was very quiet.

"But they told me where we can get drinks," Sarah said. Her mother scrabbled in her purse and retrieved a bill.

"Here, Sarah, be a love and get some juice for everyone."

The girl left, her slouch all but gone, and she strode off like someone with an important mission.

It took Tommy quite a while to reach the place. He figured that his mom and dad were somewhere near and he sat at the bottom of a rock pile to wait. He looked at the people going by. A man with a broom and a funny hat cleared away paper cups along the sidewalk. There were lots of families. Some had babies in strollers. The dads all walked normally, wearing sandals and shorts. Some of them carried their little kids.

When Tommy looked beyond the sidewalk, he could see the pavilions around the fair grounds and the trains that ran on skinny stilts above people's heads. In the city across the river, the buildings were great mirrors. He could even see a part of the green sign on their hotel but the letters were tiny because it was so far away. The sky was the color of a boy bluebird's wings.

It was taking a while for his mom and everyone to show up so Tommy amused himself by scampering up and down the pile of rocks like a hired hand on a wagon of alfalfa at harvest time. The sun was hot, though, so he crouched on the shady side and watched the splotch of light creep along the glistening ridges of the rock to his shelter, pulling his sneakers back into the cool once the hot edge reached his feet. Soon murmurs of the park wrapped around him and he lowered his head. Cradling his knees with his arms, he pitched slowly back and forth to keep from falling asleep.

"Hello, little man. Are you lost?" A man smiled up at him.

"Nope," said Tommy. "My mom and dad are coming. They told me to wait." He looked at the man's shoes, white as whitewash, not a speck of dirt or grass stain.

"That's good, then," said the man.

"I'm not supposed to talk to strangers," Tommy added.

The man nodded solemnly. "Then we'll stop talking, shall we? Have a good afternoon." With that, he continued down the walk. Tommy watched the white shoes pad away softly.

A lot of time went by. When the sun took over his shady spot, he climbed to another. He found that, if he went high enough on the hot stones, he could see different views of the city. The tops of the buildings showed up more and more, and when he stretched, he could see the whole of the green sign on the hotel.

The drinks Sarah bought kept everyone happy for about five minutes. Her father was the first to protest, punching the arms of the wheelchair and banging his heels on the footrest. The children stilled and went silent. Everyone was used to his canes; it was his fits that made them jumpy.

"We'll go to the food court," Marion said, her face tight. "You can eat and I'll look for someone, someone official, someone in authority."

Billy and Mike looked at each other. Sarah nodded with the solemnity she imagined a person in authority might adopt. Marion Stafford rose heavily and eased the chair forward from the grass to the sidewalk. The caravan proceeded again into the thick heat of midday, Wilson's legs spearing the way, the boys kicking at bits of trash, Sarah a bit straighter, no longer challenging her brothers. The breeze slackened and the orange triangle hung like a flap of useless skin. Once they found the food court, Marion installed them at a table and went to find someone, anyone who might help. The kitchen staff understood English.

"Lost Children, Madame", the cook told her. "You go to 'Lost Children'." He showed her a map and drew a line from the food court to a central space called Les Enfants Perdus."

She looked across the food court. Her daughter was feeding her father with a patient hand while the twins gobbled great bites of food in the manner of all young. For Marion Stafford, there was no life other than this family. She calculated that they would keep for half an hour.

Tommy wondered where his family was. Maybe his father had had one of his problems and they had to go to a doctor. Maybe they had forgotten him. Yes, that was it. Sometimes at home, his mother would take off in the car to go to town with his brothers and would have to stop partway up the lane to wait for him. Sure, they had gone without him. The sun was coming at a slant and the rough rasp of the rock was cooler on his hands. Somewhere on the island, a revolving beacon cut a slow circle in the sky, a giant's lawn sprinkler dialing a circle in the gloom. The people Tommy had seen entering the exhibition buildings were now coming out, pushing babies in strollers, carrying plastic bags. Some of the babies were hollering and whining. Kids were holding streamers and paper toys from the displays they had seen. New types of people were going in the other direction. He could see teenaged boys in tight pants and white socks and girls wearing short skirts. They were holding hands and walking in groups. They were not going into buildings; they were moving toward an open field where he could hear music.

He wished that his brothers were here bossing him around. Or his sister could be bawling out Mike and Billy and then he could be learning, for he was the youngest and he learned by avoiding the trouble the rest of them caught. But he was alone. The beacon waggled its thin spray of light.

He looked across the river. The city was a blazing stack of color, the buildings like giant candles burning from the inside. The green sign on the hotel was as bright as a cartoon in a sky the color of his grandmother's lilacs. As he stood at the top, rising high to see, the man in white shoes from earlier in the afternoon came back down the walk. He had something in tin foil and he smiled up to Tommy.

"You can't talk to strangers. Fine. But you could eat a hot dog, couldn't you?"

The fat bundle in the man's hand stretched to Tommy like a gift. He could taste the sweet and salty fat of the wiener, the sugar of the ketchup, the juice of the relish. Even onions he wouldn't mind. He climbed down and took the foil package from the man, taking care to thank him. His mother had always said you should show city people that you know your manners; you don't want them to think country people are ignorant.

"You're welcome, sailor." The man sat down and watched him eat. When the hot dog was gone, Tommy picked the relish bits from the foil.

"I like a hungry boy," said the man. "Would you like more? Come, little man, I'll show you more." He smiled at the boy and his teeth glistened like hard candies. Then he put one soft shoe on a stone and jangled coins in his pocket.

At Les Enfants Perdus, Marion's eyes darted around like a trapped bird's. She saw children eating ice cream and children playing with toys and stiff parents with pinched faces. She did not see her youngest son. At the counter, she stood waiting, the welts twisting in her legs. The park officials took down the 'particulars'; they had special forms to fill out. Age? How much did the boy weigh? Maybe eighty pounds, certainly no more. All his young life she'd nagged him to eat. Height? Not much. He would be smaller yet if she hadn't discovered the wasting when he was three years old. She first had noticed a slight limp and called to him. He came with a smile, a stain on his ragged cotton T-shirt. When she examined the little legs sticking out of his shorts, she saw that the right one was thinner than the left. It was the summer of polio. She hurried the whole family into the car and they drove to the medical clinic. Tommy had to do special exercises and wear a metal brace. It took that leg a whole year to grow a little bit and catch up to the other. The memory was like a knife cut, the summer she forgot her youngest child. He must have caught polio early in the season and no one had noticed until August.

What was he wearing? Short pants or long? Tommy didn't have specific clothes of his own. He wore whatever fit, hand-me-downs, once-bright tees gone grey, and jeans rubbed thin. What was he wearing that day? Billy's shirt, she thought. Mike's old socks.

Color of eyes? Hair? What did he like to do? An image of Tommy at two reeled into her mind. In the middle of the night, there had come a strange clicking, a plastic sound, not the usual skittering of field mice in the attic of the old farmhouse or the sawing of crickets in the wallboards. She and Wilson arose, for her husband could walk then, and they checked through all the bedrooms. When they came to the nursery, they found their little son sitting in the dark, eyes closed, playing with his toy bricks. He was sleep building. They gently pried the pieces away and put him back to bed.

"He likes building things in his sleep," she said.

The officials at Les Enfants Perdus looked at each other. Wait another hour, they told her: it takes time for people to bring a lost child to the center. Anyway, she had other sons, they joked. Marion glared at them, fighting to keep from crying in front of these strangers.

As Tommy finished the hot dog, the man reached a hand toward him.

"Come with me, little man," he whispered. His voice was soothing, like salve on a cut .

Tommy looked past him. The sky was deep purple now and the city's lights were showing double in the river, broken into twinkles by the waves. The beacon kept slicing its circle in the dark with a crisp, clean knife. A damp and mysterious scent swelled in the evening air, and something cold clawed inside the little boy. He looked past the man with white shoes and saw a woman pushing a baby buggy far down the walkway. His chest tightened. He half-turned, coiled like a barn cat, and then sprang. In the split second of a flying arc on the way down, he arranged his sneakers and his mind for ground touch and landed, the right leg wobbly at first, then both legs solid and true.

"Oh, there they are," he said airily. "There's my mom and my little sister," and he bounded with the gaiety that accompanies reunions with loved ones.

When Marion returned to Les Enfants Perdus for the fourth time that afternoon, the police had arrived. They took her into a room and asked her questions. Had there been an argument with the boy? Did he have reason to be upset? They would put out a bulletin across the fairgrounds, by phone and poster and walkie-talkie. They told her the same thing the park security had earlier: kids do this at fairs, they wander away, they dawdle and then they show up. She should stay nearby so they could reach her. The calmer the police were, the more Marion's mind spiraled. He's a blond curly-haired boy, she told them, small for his age, bright and creative. A country boy, she said; he doesn't know cities or crowds. Then she had to turn away from the officers, because this time, she could not stop the hot welling that stung her eyes.

After his jump from the top of the rocks to the sidewalk, Tommy sprinted with a raw new power. Without looking back, he sped toward the woman with the baby buggy who was disappearing around a bend in the walk. He didn't stop when he reached her but he did slow down and skipped along in front, bouncing like a carefree lamb on springs, as if he had no worries at all. As soon as the lady reached the gate to the train platform, he veered away and took the exit to the bridge instead. It was only when he got beyond the gate that he looked back. He saw no man in white shoes.

Cars whizzed past as he walked across the bridge toward the city, watching the green sign move. It wafted slowly along with him the way the moon did when his mother drove them in the car into town at night. He walked past office towers where people were leaving to go home, rushing out in dark clothes and hard shoes and black umbrellas. Many carried little narrow suitcases. On one corner, he saw a blue tower with a big golden clock. Now that he was old and smart he was supposed to be able to tell time and he stopped to puzzle it out: nine minutes and seven hours. Or was that nine hours and seven minutes? There was a large open area in front of a building made of glass and lights. People in fancy dresses and funny suits were getting out of long white cars and walking up wide steps. Music floated out and pulled the people inside.

He kept going. Now he was on a narrow street clogged with garbage and cardboard boxes that spilled out to the pavement. Cars edged around the bags and boxes and honked at each other. A heavy door in a dark building opened and a bunch of men poured out, slapping each other's backs and talking fast in French. Tommy knew it was French because his sister was trying to learn French. She complained about it all the time. She tried to swear in French and sometimes she taught him to do it, too.

"Comment ça va, mon p'tit?" a slurred voice said to him. "Une p'tite bière?"

"Tiens!" said another, patting his head and draping a cord with a tiny plastic bottle around his neck. Tommy reminded himself he should not talk to strangers. He walked away so fast that he lost sight of the sign. His stomach began to curl in hard knots but when he went around another corner, he found the bright green letters again.

As he trudged along he came to a store where there was a family speaking French with their two little kids looking in the window. He stood beside them and looked inside too. They could see puppets and model planes and toy cars. When the family went into the toy store, he followed. The store was fun and they all spent a lot of time there. No one wondered about him because he stayed with the other children, imitating them, exclaiming, "Voilà!" and, "Tiens!" But he was careful to behave. He wanted so much to stick out his elbows and pump his arms like duck wings when the little kids said, "Quoi? Quoi?" But he didn't. His mom would have been proud.

As the family left the store, the clerk at the door held out a basket of key chains attached to toys for each kid to choose. Tommy followed the family as they left and put his hand in the basket too. There were little plastic gloves and cash registers and even a ball like the shining building back at the fair. He picked out a key chain with a tiny, white running shoe.

The green sign kept growing bigger and bigger, but he found that the closer he got, the harder it was to see. Sometimes it played with him, flitting out of view then drifting into a narrow slice of sky between the tall trunks of buildings. Other times he had to retrace his steps and go back a few streets to find it. Even if he could only see a few letters at least, he had a piece of it. His feet were aching and he was now very thirsty. He kept walking.

The park had closed to day visitors. Sarah brought her mother some tea but her mom gagged and could not drink. The daytime crowd was leaving, families with strollers and children straggling alongside. The nighttime crowd was arriving, teenagers dressed in miniskirts and jeans and leather jackets, lots of big jewelry. Sarah watched them in envy. They were coming for the dancing and the bands, laughing, flirting, and moving in packs to La Ronde where the Youth Pavilion was. Her mother touched her arm.

"Sarah," she said, "you and daddy and the twins should go back to the hotel. You can take a taxicab. No need for you all to stay here. I'll come later with Tommy."

Sarah brightened at the words "taxi cab" and steered the wheelchair and her brothers down the walk to the exit. Her mother went the other way towards the police depot.

Tommy felt a cold squeeze in his chest. He was on a wide street that looked like the one where the hotel was. And a minute ago, the sign had been very large and the letters had floated right above him. But now he couldn't see the sign at all, not even one letter. He seemed to be in a parking lot where a man in a uniform was using a flashlight to direct cars in and out. It was all right to talk to a police officer and a man in a uniform is almost a police officer, not a stranger.

"Excuse me, sir." His father had taught him to call people "sir." "I'm looking for the hotel with the green sign on top."

"Voilà, mon petit monsieur." The man in the uniform flashed his light toward the corner of the building. "Go around to the front where the main doors are. Beautiful evening, non?"

Only the Youth Pavilion with the dance band was open. Marion had no choice but to go home now. Without Tommy.

In later years, she would not be able to remember the trip from the island to the hotel. She would not recall if she had taken the train, or a cab or a bus. She only remembered laboring into the hotel lobby, still controlling the rigid mask of her face. Vaguely, she saw her husband sound asleep on a sofa in the waiting area, his cane angled by his side. Her burning eyes took in the rest of the lobby and then she snapped alive. There, on the opposite side in a huge leather armchair, she saw him, her youngest. He was sleeping too, his face a pale moon, his thin form swallowed in the chair. Relief washed from the top of her skull and down her spine. She ran over and shook him awake with her hugging.

"Where were you? Who brought you back?" She suffocated a rising sob.

"I waited for you, Mom, and you didn't come."

"But we were right there. Where were you?"

"At the Iranium." He was tired and she saw that he could not pronounce it correctly.

"But we were there, child. Where were you?"

"I was sitting on the Iranium the whole time," he said accusingly, "and you didn't come. I sat at the bottom and then at the top."

She changed topic.

"Who brought you back to the hotel?" A tiny plastic beer bottle at his neck advertised the name of a tavern and she shivered.

"I did." He scrubbed at his eyes.

"What do you mean, Tommy?" He held out his hand, unwrapped his fist and showed her the key chain.

"I walked. A store gave me this."

"What do you mean, you sat on the Iranian?" asked his mother, returning to the original question.

"I went there and climbed up. The Iranium, where the energy is."

"The energy?"

"Yes, Mom, you know: where the mines are." A crooked grin awoke in his tired little face.

Marion reflected. From Peel Street to Victoria Bridge, then from the Bridge and across the river, there must be a good ten miles or more separating the hotel in old Montreal from the Canadian Pavilion on Ile Sainte Helène, ten miles of twisting pavement and people and traffic.

Long after they returned home, Ontario's song ran on all the radio stations, blaring at them, "A place to stand, a place to grow." Even Sarah grew tired of it.

Article © Gail Taylor. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-09-20
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