My Dad was the school teacher for Grades 5-8. We lived across the road from the school. Dad was also the caretaker of the building where he taught, so he regularly went to school early in winter and got the fire going in the stove so the room was nice a cozy when the students arrived.


Dad always took work home with him. There would be books neatly stacked on almost every horizontal surface in the house, to my mother’s dismay. He was determined to be ready for classes the next day in every grade. I heard him state his philosophy about discipline and keeping order in class. It had to do with him being prepared always to challenge the students with new stuff, new exercises and new practice sessions. He felt if he was not prepared the students would immediately notice and begin scheming things behind his back.


And so it was that sometimes quite often Dad would need something at home that he had forgotten to bring home with him in the evening to prepare for school next day. Sometimes he would go back himself. Sometimes he would ask me to go find what he had forgotten. We all accepted that Dad was slightly absent minded. We assumed it came with the job.


But then there was another factor only realized as I got much older. How many times did Dad send me across the road into the school in pitch darkness and fetch something for him? We did not own a flashlight or lantern. Was he testing me with the challenge?


One evening another thunder storm rolled in but it wasn’t raining yet. But it soon would. Dad asked me to go to his classroom and fetch some papers and a book. I put on some rain gear and took off. It was a black night except for the sudden flashes of lightning.


I ran quickly not that I was afraid, I wasn’t, but I wanted to get back before it poured. It would be just through the gate, across the road, into the back door of the school never locked, find the papers and book, and head back. So I ran.


Whap! What was that?


Cows had been roaming the street some days ago and beheaded Mom’s flowers which she loved dearly. To correct that problem Dad had pulled one string of barbed wire across our driveway which could be removed to let our car in or out. This wire I had just run into full tilt across my chin. Needless to say I was bleeding as I came back into the house, mission not accomplished.


Mom who did not know about my mission, came running and applied her nursing magic. But was she mad. Wow. Her only son whom she was so fond of mutilated because of some stupid errand? And was that errand really so important that her son had to go out in a lightning and thunder storm and get his face cut? I’m sure Dad never heard the end of that. (Our parents always dealt with their differences privately, so I don’t really know what transpired).


Much, much later in these senior years I ask myself, what if the barbed wire had been hung just a little higher so the cut was through the eyes? Or lower so it cut through the throat?


Barbed Wire


Ed Janzen is the editor and publisher of CANADIAN STORIES, a literary folk magazine that publishes short stories and poems from Canadian writers of every province of Canada. Story Quilt is an electronic magazine similar in content. Ed has written four memoirs. He also writes for the old car hobby and has a column in OLD AUTOS - a biweekly newspaper featuring mostly Canadians events and automotive history.
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