The secret in the well Friday October 28, 2005, 0 comments

A young boy in the west end of Toronto stepped off an elevator and trudged outside. He looked about seven, though maybe a bit short for that age. He was wearing a tuque with the Canadian National logo knitted into its polyester yarn pattern, and had a red knitted Montreal Canadiens (they had just won the cup the previous season and looked to be good again.) scarf around his neck. Brown bell-bottom corduroy, worth thin and pale at the knees. Black rubber boots. He pushed the heavy glass door open, and was greeted by another younger looking boy wearing similar attire.

They exchanged words in quiet whispers, then turned and walked side-by-side onto the baseball diamond that belonged to the building complex. They walked past other boys their age, waving or stopping to have a quick visit, but never wavering from their straight line course past third base.

Behind the baseball field was a shallow ravine, barely a ditch, populated with large leafless trees. The ditch was the boundary between this apartment complex and the lower-class, poorer one next door. Mostly older children and teenagers hung out here and smoked, out of site of balconies and parents. Sometimes they smoked pot, or looked at Playboy magazines, or made out with their girlfriends.

When the boys arrived at the ravine they found themselves alone, which suited them just fine. They pulled off their hats and scarves – it was warmer in the ravine- and dropped them onto the drying leaves which the fall winds hadn’t yet managed to sweep away. Uncovered, the resemblance was uncanny. The boys, who were obviously cousins or brothers, nodded solemnly to themselves and lit clumsily the cigarettes they had stolen.

A short while later boys could be seen racing across the baseball diamond back toward the buildings, frantically pulling their hats back on and wrapping their scarves tightly around their necks. They ran without laughing or stopping to talk to their friends, back through the door, and in.

Later, it was determined that the fire had started in the ravine, probably through the inattentiveness of smoking teenagers. Fortunately the fire had been stopped before the dumpsters had caught fire – that would have necessitated evacuating the entire smaller apartment complex, and there could have been injuries or deaths.

The boys had watched, rapt and fascinated by such things like all boys, as the fire trucks desperately pumped water onto the burning trees, watched as the black smoke billowed up into the sky, even higher than the balconies they watched from. Their parents tousled their hair and told them that was why playing with fire was so dangerous, and that they knew the boys were good boys, and would never do anything like that.

Keeping secrets is dangerous. They can be locked in a watertight box and wrapped it in plastic and tossed down the well of the subconscious – out of sight, out of mind – only to find out years later that it’s been leaking poison into the well the whole time. Sometimes it’s better to fish around in the well and find the decaying box wrapped in its tattered bag, and haul it up into the sunlight where it can be made to account for itself.


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