The International Writers Magazine:
Job I ever had...
Best of Times
was a warm California night. Paul and Sally Lerner had invited
two other couples from their retirement community to a barbecue:
the Walkers, whom theyd known for years, and the Bakers,
whom theyd recently met. The occasion was a visit from Pauls
old friend, Mike Morgan, traveling with his wife from New York
across the country.
"So where is
this guy?" asked Al Walker.
"He should be here soon," said Paul. "He called half
an hour ago. They ran into a traffic jam and are running late."
"So this is your friend who was with you when you spent that famous
summer in the forestry service?"
"Thats right. We hitch-hiked to Idaho from New York City.
It was the first time either of us had ever been out of the city."
"When was this?" asked Ted Baker.
"Oh, no, dont get him started," said Sally with an exaggerated
"We were in our last year in college. Mike had somehow heard of
this great deal. You got paid 60 cents an hour, double time for Saturdays,
plus you got your room and board. There wasnt anything to spend
your money on so everything was clear."
"Uh, oh. Now youve gotten him started," said Al. "The
clean air. The pure water. The great food. It was the best time of his
"It was," said Paul. "Our cook used to be in the merchant
marine. He prepared great meals. We had eggs and pancakes for breakfast.
For lunch, he packed these great sandwiches. And the pies he baked were
out of this world."
"So that was it? The food?"
"No, no, that was only part of it. We were in the middle of the
woods. We slept in tents. The air was crystal pure. We were outdoors
all day. After spending all that time in the college library it was
like getting out of prison."
"So, did you get to fight any forest fires?"
"No. We were trained but it had been a very wet spring so there
were no fires that summer."
"So what did you do, besides eating?"
"There was a weed called the ribe that spread a disease, blister
rust, among the pine trees. Our job was to pull out all the weeds. It
was useful work. At the end of the day you felt youd accomplished
something. I was all set to go back there next summer. I was even thinking
of joining the forestry service and becoming a ranger"
"How come you didnt?"
Paul looked over at his wife. "I met Sally that fall and that was
it. The next thing I knew I was married and working in an office."
They heard the front door chiming. "Saved by the bell," said
"Thatll be Mike," said Paul. He leapt up and rushed
to get the door.
Paul had returned with a red-faced overweight man who had a huge moustache.
Behind him trailed a thin woman who was evidently his wife. "This
is Mike and his wife Lucy, everyone," said Paul, as he performed
the introductions. Finally, they were all seated again, talking, eating
hamburgers and drinking beer. Mike announced first thing that they had
to be in Portland the next day so they couldnt stay long; theyd
"have to hit the road." Then he told them in great detail
about the trip from New York.
"Are you driving an RV?" asked Al.
"No, a Cadillac," replied Mike. "I dont believe
in camping out. When I stop at the end of the day I want to have a nice
"Oh, Im kind of surprised. I mean, you and Paul had such
a great time living in that tent when you were in the forestry service
"Are you kidding? Whats he been telling you? Those cots we
had were as hard as boards and by the morning the tent was so cold we
had icicles on our noses. Did Paul ever tell you we couldnt ever
get him up until someone had got the fire going?"
"No, he never told us that."
"I was a heavy sleeper in those days," said Paul. "Once
we were up though it was invigorating."
"Oh, sure," said Mike. "Out into that forest and all
those damned ribes. If you pulled one out, I swear ten more would spring
up in its place. And those mosquitoes. They ate us alive."
"I dont remember the mosquitoes," said Paul. "Come
on, it wasnt that bad."
"Oh, no. What about the time we had to cross that river on that
little thin tree that had fallen across it. You got halfway across,
then fell in and nearly drowned."
"Oh, Id forgotten that. But that was only one time."
"Where are you going from Portland?" Sally put in, and the
talk was diverted to the rest of the Morgans trip.
Mike and his wife left at about ten and then the others. Paul and Sally
began to pick things up. Paul looked at the sky. "Its nice,"
he said. "Of course, not like the sky in Idaho."
"So you fell off a log.?"
"A tree. I think I heard a sound, probably a bear, and was diverted."
"I bet. And meeting me prevented you from having a great career
outdoors in the forestry service?"
"Meeting you was even better than being in the forestry service."
He went over to his wife and kissed her.
That night, lying in bed, Paul thought, it was true. He had forgotten
the tree incident. Hed also forgotten how cold the tent was in
the morning. But it had been invigorating being out in the woods, the
green trees, the rushing streams, the brilliant stars at night. Maybe
he wouldnt have made it as a forest ranger but that summer had
been, well. maybe not the best time in his life, but one of the best.
© Martin Green May 2006
Collected Stories, Vol. I, by Martin Green
consists of 53 stories divided into five sections, covering the span
of a life from childhood to middle age, depicting experiences all will
recognize. In Growing Up in the Bronx, the experiences include desperately
wanting a tricycle for Christmas, facing up to the school bully ("The
Fight"), a "First Kiss" and first "Betrayal."
Army stories depict struggling for survival after being drafted during
Korea, struggling to gain a foothold in the work world ("Getting
Started"), as well as first love, before the big decision to leave
behind job, girl and (Jewish) mother to gain "freedom" in
California ("Good-bye New York"). San Francisco stories chronicle
the adventures of young men on their own for the first time, a hopeless
passion ("Being in Love"), an illicit affair ("Party
Time") and a decision to settle down ("Going to Sacramento").
In Sacramento Stories the focus shifts to marriage, children and work
("Paying the Bills," "The Promotion"). The last
story reflects on something we all must face, "Mortality."
Collected Stories, Vol. I
53 short stories; 315 pages
Available online at iUniverse.com
Martin Green closes the books
Original Fiction in Dreamscapes
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