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wissahickon sunset philadelphia pa ralph samuel
wissahickon sunset : r d samuel : 02

smoking bridge

by ralph david samuel

In sixth grade Mike was my best friend and at his house I first tasted life in town. Rusty tracks ran behind Fred Hopkins’ Feed and Grain and through the fields to Middle Creek. As we smoked and talked, Mike and I would skip flat rocks across the stream below the bridge. You should see the train, Mike said. Sometimes at night, I hear the train go by.

We bought cigarettes at the general store from Jake who had a stubble beard and on his teeth and grocer's apron, brown tobacco stains. He didn't know my parents, so I’d go inside to make the deal while Mike walked slowly up the block. Jake spit and wiped his mouth, What brand today? He eyed the door to see that no adult would catch us in the act and dropped his thick hand to counter, covering the contraband. When I counted out the change, I slipped my thumb and forefinger around the pack, but Jake just grinned and pressed down hard enough to hold it tight. As he let go he coughed a sodden Copenhagen laugh.

Then Mike and I would walk the tracks with arms stretched wide, each to his own tightrope. Whose foot would first fall to the ballast or crossties? The one who lost would pay the bet with pennies left on the rail.


© copyright by Ralph David Samuel, 2002, all rights reserved. for info, email


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