A sea-gull glided slowly down and landed on the small strip of beach. It strutted about for a moment, making small footprints in the firm damp sand as it avoided an ebbing wave, its beady eyes searching for food. And then, as slowly as it had come, it left again, soaring high in the cloudless skies and heading for the fishing pier at the point where there was a greater prospect of nourishment. The point was quite rocky and the surf pounded heavily.
Suddenly along the beach ran a small boy of about seven. He was dressed in a modest way, and on his feet were a pair of shiny new sturdy brown shoes. Behind him his mother, a widow in her early forties, followed at her own pace. She called out to him sharply, "Now come back here before you go off someplace by yourself. I want to talk to you about those shoes of yours."
He turned abruptly and came slowly back to her, prepared for another argument.
"Now look, Jerry. I know you don't like your new shoes, but I'm sure you're old enough to realize that every penny counts for us. It's amazing we get out here for our holidays at all. Oh, but that's beside the point. The shoes were on sale. Do you understand?'.
Jerry looked disgustedly down at the articles in question. He could not put into words why, but for some reason, he resented them. "I suppose so," he mumbled.
"Speak up, child!" The tired woman was beginning to lose her patience.
"Yes, Mother. I suppose you're right!" he said, slowly lifting his head to look at her.
"Good." Her anger wore off a bit. "Then I'm hoping they'll be just as shiny as they are now when you come back from playing." She tried to put some affection into a smile. It was difficult between her and the boy. How could he comprehend the losses she had suffered? He was the only one now left to her, but there was some indefinable barrier between them which she had no idea how to break through.
He took a few steps, turned to make sure she had finished her lecture, and then raced off down the beach, determined to get as far away from her as possible.
Presently the sand changed to rock and Jerry found himself near the fishing wharf. He clambered over the rocks and up onto the great pine planks of the dock. His shoes clapped along the boards and splashed through a puddle which had formed in the hollow of a plank, but he did not notice. He was far more interested in the doings at the other end of the pier. He walked slowly up to a group of fishermen's children, sitting with their bare legs dangling over the edge of the dock, with fishing poles in their hands. It was several minutes before they noticed Jerry who stood shyly leaning against the corner of a fish-shed, but when they did, their faces lit up in a friendly way. "Ever fished before?" they asked.
"No ... but I'd love to try! Would you let me?" His voice was eager. While one of the bigger boys handed him his pole, Jerry assumed the position of the others. He cautiously lowered his hook into the water. Suddenly a wave of the rising tide licked over his shoes, but he was conscious only of the prospect of catching his first fish. Then, with a flurry in the water and a sharp tug on his line, his wish came true. There before him and the other excited children flopped a foot-long flounder.
"Boy, that's a beaut!" exclaimed the older boy. "Good for you!" Jerry, very pleased, stood admiring his catch. After a few moments, one girl had an idea.
"I know what!" she said. "Let's leave the fish over there with my father, and she pointed toward a small fishing boat, where a man sat busily cleaning fish. "We can come back for it later. But I want to show you something we discovered yesterday."
Jerry's thrill over the fish was replaced by curiosity, and
he dashed after the others, who were already padding down
the wharf. When they reached the sharp slippery rocks, they
moved slowly so as not to fall, their brown barefeet
feeling the way. Jerry however, who was not used to
clambering over rocks, slipped several times and scraped his shoes
badly. Once, when they came to a reasonably flat place,
he ran across it and placed one foot in a deep mud patch;
he pulled it out quickly and caught up with the others.
In a little while, they cut away from the sea into thin woods of birch and pine. Soon they reached their destination.
"Well here we are! " the girl who had lead them cried triumphantly. Jerry did not see anything out of the ordinary about the place. It was a little glade, whose floor was covered with a small bushy shrub unknown to him. In several places large rocks rose out of it.
"Don't you see them?" several of the children shouted excitedly at him.
"Why, the blueberries, of course!"' they cried.
It suddenly dawned on him. He knelt down and peered closely at one of the bushes. Numerous clusters of huge deep blue berries hung before his eyes. He looked up at his friends and a broad smile broke over his face. They laughed and all began picking as fast as they could.
With comfortably full stomachs and blue-stained faces, they soon decided it was time to start for home. After walking along a narrow path through the woods for about five minutes, they came out onto a cart track. Jerry scuffed happily along the dusty road. What a wonderful afternoon it had been for him! His first real friends.
As they rounded the bend in the road and cleared the woods, the point and fishing wharf came into view.
"Let's race to the pier," said one, and they all broke into a swift run. Jerry tried hard to keep up but was not much of a match for them. Out of breath, he slowed when he reached the rocks and began to scramble over them. Then he remembered his beautiful fish. He hoped his mother would cook it for supper ... suddenly he stumbled over his shoe-lace and bending down he became aware of his shoes for the first time since meeting the children. The shoes were mud-and sea-soaked, scraped, and through the coat of dust they had received on the road, a few fish scales gleamed horribly. He knew his mother would be furious, and an awful resentment and rebellion welled up inside him at the situation in which he had been placed. He glanced up and saw the brown legs of the children, his friends, as they came to look for him.
"What's wrong?" "Aren't you coming?"
In a sudden involuntary burst of freedom, he jerked off his shoes and hurled them as far as he could. They disappeared into the sea. Although he knew he would have to face his mother's anger sooner or later, for the moment he was free. In his bare feet, he padded off over the rocks to join his friends.
Canada, land of snow and ice
naked trees cringing to the skies.
Trains racing over a vast land
scattered pine trees, hydro poles,
shacks, mud and sand.
Grand rivers flowing their predestant way;
Your going yours, both melting in a distant bay.
Birch forests, white young stalks planted in formation
Overtowered bya modern t.v. station.
Bright blue sky, speckless snow.
Sunshine all around you,
Blow train, blow, go on and on, go ...