Some of us already know this story.
It was raining in Saskatchewan this weekend. As haunting cold drew us from the city to the nether-lake-regions of our neighbor’s north. We pondered the brevity of life, and mused at the complexity of life in a tent. It was cold, but the meals followed in quick succession and the beer flowed like water.
Saturday was morose. Glum clouds hung heavy, and the air was damp, moist, and threatening. I nursed a maple malt from the banks of False Creek, hunched deep into a red lawnchair, and pulled a dog-eared copy of Adam’s second classic from my car as I settled in for a quiet, and dislocated, afternoon.
One chapter later, there was a scream.
The campsite was full of kids. It was the modern parking-lot campground, trailers, boats, recreational vehicles, cars, trucks with idling diesel cummins engines purring in four directions, almost within arm’s length. It was the kind of place you bring families, because the wilderness is cautiously kept at bay by the hum of humanity. The campsite was full of kids, pushing their bikes, toys, and siblings through the sandy soil. The campsite was full of kids because it was exactly that type of place.
And the air was full of shouts, hollars, and screams –playful and casual, in the way of children lingering too long in some immature state of mind which defines them as children.
But this scream was different.
I looked up from my book, tipping the rim of my hat back far enough to observe the surrounding maze of trees and metal pushed through the rugged complexity. A ten year old boy had run, darted, leapt in fear and agony into the roadway, his shirt and pants dancing with a scortching trim of fresh flames eating away the fabric faster than his naive soul could comprehend. In a moment that seemed to pull time like cold taffy, stretching tendrils of glistening, sugary pain into fragile webs, he had dropped to the road, screeching, brushing the attacker into suffocated oblivion.
Another moment stretched out.
Mute. But the screems continued.
And people tried to do something worth doing. It happened and then it was over. Odd how that works. Odd how a moment can linger in your mind. Odd how you would never imagine it so odd.