The International Writers Magazine
Best Summer Job I ever had...

The Best of Times
Martin Green

t was a warm California night. Paul and Sally Lerner had invited two other couples from their retirement community to a barbecue: the Walkers, whom they’d known for years, and the Bakers, whom they’d recently met. The occasion was a visit from Paul’s 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?"
"That’s 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, don’t get him started," said Sally with an exaggerated sigh..
"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 wasn’t anything to spend your money on so everything was clear."
"Uh, oh. Now you’ve gotten him started," said Al. "The clean air. The pure water. The great food. It was the best time of his life."
"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 you’d 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 didn’t?"
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 Al.
"That’ll 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 couldn’t stay long; they’d "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 don’t believe in camping out. When I stop at the end of the day I want to have a nice motel room."
"Oh, I’m kind of surprised. I mean, you and Paul had such a great time living in that tent when you were in the forestry service that summer."
"Are you kidding? What’s 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 couldn’t 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 don’t remember the mosquitoes," said Paul. "Come on, it wasn’t 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, I’d 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. "It’s 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. He’d 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 wouldn’t 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
Price:  $18.95

Last Meeting
Martin Green closes the books

Decision Time
Martin Green

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