Canal Street

A few days after they found her body while dredging the canal, he went down to the spot where the barge found her—near where the canal entered the great lake. After almost 2 years there was almost nothing left to identify but there was little doubt in anyone’s mind that it was Doris. There was no such thing as DNA identification back in those days.

Sitting alone under a grey sky in his truck on the canal’s concrete wharf, he watched the mute, indifferent water rippling in the breeze listening to the “whap-whap” of cars hitting the old truss bridge spanning the canal. Like all people staring into the unfathomable savagery of human evil, he struggled to make sense of it.

As a child whenever his parents brought him to the little amusement park nearby he always found the water’s consuming primal blackness frightening—he knew what lie waiting below in the darkness. As an adult staring at the water that day, he realized he had always known this day was coming when the forces of darkness would attack
his soul.

He remembered how as a child, he would hide under the covers at night praying to go to sleep, afraid that if he looked into the shadows of his room he would see the Boogey-Man standing there with rotten teeth and glowing eyes, holding his sack, bending over his bed waiting for him to peek out.

When he was about ten there was Frankie DeKrupa—always waiting for him on the way home from school. Almost as bad as being beat-up and humiliated was not being able to tell anyone. If he snitched, Frankie, sooner or later would find him and punish him and everyone would know what a coward he was.

Not long after Frankie DeKrupa’s family moved away his grandmother moved into his family’s home and began telling him the world was ending soon and he and his parents would die and be flung screaming into the flaming darkness of hell.

No one knew about his fear and his quiet suffering. His father never said anything but he knew with certainty what was expected of him as a man. From John Wayne and Randolph Scott movies he learned you keep your pain to yourself and no matter what happens you keep your mouth shut and “take it like a man.”

As he grew into adulthood the only sense of happiness or fulfillment came from his ability to keep his problems to himself and from working hard and doing a good job.

He would sweep and scrub and clean at Guido’s Garage until late at night so Guido would come in in the morning and see what a good job he did and tell his father, “That kid’s OK—he’s gonna be a helluva man when he grows up.”

Guido told his father he’d hire him full-time as soon as he finished high school only Guido went bankrupt and lost the business spending all his money on booze, girlfriends and betting on the horses. On the way home from school one afternoon during his senior year he heard from a friend Guido broke into the garage and hung himself from a rafter.

After he heard about Guido he decided fear and suffering and silently hanging on is basically what life is about.

Until he met Doris—someone unlike anyone he had ever known before. He eventually was able to tell her the things he had never been able to tell anyone else. No matter what he confessed she never passed judgment, she just listened and loved him.

No matter what he did or was unable to do she was his number one fan, his never-failing cheer leader.

It amazed him that, eventually she knew everything—all the good and not-so-good. She knew everything and still she loved him.

Most of all she didn’t just love him—she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. In effect she wanted to give him her life.

On a few occasions, when he was alone, he would think about this sweet, beautiful, smart, hard-working girl willing to give him her life—willing to always there with him standing against the fear and darkness. And he would sob.

“With love, all things are possible,” Doris once said to him. And he remembered her saying on several occasions—the last being only a few days before her disappearance—that love was stronger than death and fear and evil and she would love him even after she was gone. And in this way she would always be with him.

In those days and moments that he shared with her, the dark canal water became nothing more than that—just dirty canal water. And he came to believe with all his heart what he had always known, that darkness and fear were all within and more importantly—they were lies.

Solitary in his sheltering truck on the wharf, he sat remembering her words—watching the canal water rippling with benign little laps against the concrete sea wall and holding the warm truth of her love to his heart. The clouds thinned a little and the shoreline on the other side of the canal brightened a bit. A westerly breeze rose. A soft roar came to him from the trees across the canal and the wind sent the canal water rolling and shimmering toward the endless clear water of the great lake and the vast sky above.

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