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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The Class Reunion revolves around the quick and the dead until . . . well . . .

Submitted: May 08, 2016

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Submitted: May 08, 2016




A Short Story in Two Chapters

 Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Two

So here I am, on board an Air Canada direct flight to ‘Tranna’, as the ‘originals’ pronounced it; although I find that hard to swallow; that the Native Canadians (here the Iroquois), actually defiled their ungraspable language with such a desecrating pronunciation; but then, hey, this is Canada, the land where anything can happen, as long as you remember to put a flag on your luggage when you leave.

Through drifting wispy clouds, appears a fine view of the Upper Michigan Peninsula, which generates visions of a very good memory; starting on my around-the-world post-college expedition from the Mackinaw Bridge beside my companion, the ineffable Dr.J. I see him, toting large black sunglasses, sitting sanguine behind the wheel of our blue and white drive-away Chrysler convertible.

He is presently very much of the quick, good old bugger he.

Lake Erie comes into view; then Lake Ontario; and now I see just a hint of the St. Lawrence River topping the horizon to the east.

Among the land of the moose and the beaver, I actually spent long periods of good times; a childhood of bliss, with solely and only, happy memories; sailing and swimming among the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence; boating on overnight trips as crew aboard Y Flyers, or four to six berth Chris Crafts; knocking golf balls into the river from the dock behind the Country Club.

However, when it came to Toronto, where I moved at age fourteen, the times got tougher, as did the scholastic and dating challenges.

The weather, with its months of grim grey sky from horizon to horizon, conspired to squeeze out some of the juices of jaunty youth.

But there had been the good times; and Whitty was usually at the center of them; best running back on the football team; class wit; a rough kindness that created an unspoken bond.

 Endorphins are being released by my visions, because I suddenly begin to feel, well, less apprehensive about my inevitable fate.

And the happy faces of a few of the really good guys at the school pop up before my inner vision, like a quickly flicked handful of cards, with their beaming mugs taking the places of numbers and Jacks and the other Royals. 

And, of course, there was Whitty; glasses askew, lower lip slanted away from a bucking upper tooth; that warming grin.
And his face vanished into the silent green of the Upper Peninsula.

I learned later that just about this very time, Peterson, our Head Boy; Forsyth, our Class Historian and Dinsmore, our class twit, were skittering throughout the rooms of Lady Eaton’s Hall, arranging and checking final details for the big event on the following day.
Guys were going to be late; some were canceling out; others were incommunicado. Now catering had to be revised; seating altered; practical jokes re-worked.
All three hit the phones to call up reinforcements; there was no way that anything was going to bugger up the fortieth!

* * *

As locations for Reunions go, this choice was truly grand, in both structure and presentation.

Lady Eaton’s Country Estate, Eaton Hall, is modeled after a Norman French chateau and sits beside a lake.

Four stories with rounded turrets and gables rise majestically at the end of an immense circular drive. 
A particularly fine porte-cochere shelters and welcomes arrivals in all manner of conveyances.

Wings and add-ons, plus guest chalets, ramble around the chateau walls, while the adjoining countryside stretches, devoid of structures, for what seems rolling miles; and those rolling miles look very much like rolling Russian versts;  craggy and treeless.

However, the gardens on all sides are the best feature.

Some landscape architect had been given carte blanche and he had filled the blanche with rare colors of multiple flora that crept and grew on and around every available spot of opportunity.

Inside the Hall, were grand rooms of varying sizes containing some rare pieces of art, tapestries and statuary. From these rooms I could hear the sounds of bacchanalian school-mates.

Odors of clover and honeysuckle followed me up the main stairs and into a jovial fray.

 After two hours, Lady Eaton’s schloss was rockin’ . . .  as much as a gang of middle-aged farts could rock; any teenager; or even a thirty-something, would have laughed helplessly at our idea of rockin’; for crissakes, we still had our blazers and ties on!

 ‘Catch ‘em while they’re young’ definitely applied to more than the Catholic Church; at least dress-wise.

Around the time I was hearing from Godson that Harvey Green had died, I conjured my ‘Dead List’, and related to him the latest weird tale of Willy White.

As these ‘dead’ tales go, the Willy White saga is signal. 
Seems Willy just got pissed off with wife and life and decided that it was time to turn off the switch. Or did he? 
Reports had Winsome Willy, as he was known, neatly arranging all his affairs: financial, household and extra-marital; and heading off to the Toronto waterfront looking for passage to Toronto Island.

The Island is a precious piece of off-shore real estate, housing—among other socially notable institutions—the Toronto Yacht Club.

However, Willy was not for the Club. 
Witnesses, both from his departure point and his arrival point on the Island, had Willy dressed in crisp seersucker summer-holiday pants, a tri-colored stretch belt, an off-lemon Izod polo shirt with logo, and a pair of oxblood Bass Weejuns. No socks.

The time after his alighting from the ferry, until the discovery of some of his clothes on the beach at the south side of the Island, remains a blank.

Only one old person—of questionable ballast—seems to have seen or heard the young man as he made his way toward the beckoning Davy Jones’ Locker, Lake Ontario version.

Now the story goes Twilight Zone.

The elderly dude of equivocal eyesight (as well as suspect sanity), swears he watched Willy slowly take off his clothes and his underwear, (Hanes) and fold them.
Then he stacked them and placed them on the sand.
The Bass Weejuns followed and were placed neatly on top of Willy’s clothes and Hanes’.

Then, according to Weak Eyes Wilbur, Willy—with some purpose and an elevated jaw—dauntlessly strode into the water, and in moments disappeared.
But did he?
“No!” screams Godson, “Willy lives! I just saw his grinning face in the Alumni News this morning . . .  on-line!”

I smiled.
I was truly very happy; extremely happy; but I shook my head.

This is why these numb-nuts ‘Death Announcers’ have less credibility than the week-end fill-in crews who guess at the weather.

Hours have gone by and night has rolled in.
Inebriation is comprising a rather lengthy list, while the front door has squeaked and groaned with innumerable bodies passing in and out to gulp fresh air; or to throw up.

And here comes roly poly Freeman Forsyth, whose girth in now seeking Orson Welles proportions (and he was such a skinny little bugger; a piece of living chaff; a wispy weed with a soul; and now? Lord!); but he could still talk; he is the walking gazette of Alumni activities as well as the perennial Class Rep.
We had talked for a couple of hours shortly after I arrived and I now greeted him with a drink-empty arm as he trundled past me to corral Bunning about some obscure recording that the latter had sent Freem for his collection of Slim Gaillard vinyls.

Just after untangling from Freem, as I pointed him toward Bunning, I turned toward Lady Eaton’s front door that had mysteriously drawn my gaze.
On this occasion of its use, something about the endless time it took to open captured my full attention; somewhere in the front of my brain, deep within my soul, I sensed an epiphany.
With measured steps, I advanced upon the huge oak portal that was now half-open.

Something told me that this was no ordinary visitor.
 All the classmates had been here for hours; we had devoured vast quantities of dinner and drinks, and we were now—mostly, in our cups; while the remainder were in their departure modes.
Tired of creepy drama—or just being more curious than George—I  grabbed the immense interior round knocker and pulled.

They say you can actually stop breathing on occasion; others swear it’s the equivalent of an instant freeze under a bucket of liquid nitrogen. It was all of those things.
There, with his goofy smile and his crooked taped glasses and his iron hued hair was . . . Whitty!

“Whitty!” gasping, “Whitty!, you’re alive! . . . they told me you were dead; I thought you were dead!”
“No . . . but I did move to Owen Sound.”

© Copyright 2019 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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