The Steepest Street In Town
When I was five years old and Daddy was away in war
My family - Mummy, my three sisters and me -
Lived in a small Ontario town on a short, steep incline
Angled straight down to a busy road below.
At the foot - a public school to the right -the high school to the left -
And the hospital grounds straight ahead
Down yet another sharp, weedy slope.
Cars and trucks and bicycles moved constantly along that road
And people - and school kids.
The steepest hill in Brockville my block was,
Called, with civic imagination, Hill Street!
A quiet neighbourhood full of friendly people
With smooth pavements and little traffic.
Great for hopscotch, skipping and roller skates.
Not too sporty for balls -
If you missed one it could roll all the way to the bottom!
Bread and milk were delivered on our street
In bright, wooden wagons each hauled by a sturdy horse
Snorting and sweating up the steep climb.
I wasn't allowed to touch them
But there was no law against talking to them.
They would tilt their blinders to look at me
And snuffle around their bits,
So I knew they knew I was me.
'Why can't the milk and bread bosses
Make your routes the other way round!'
Citing insurrection at five years old!
Even if it was just to horses.
But I wasn't too savvy about Physics yet.
Maybe, going down, if the wagon broke away
It might roll right over the horse!
But, coming up, a broken wagon with no brakes
Could have dragged it right to the bottom.
It was a really deep problem to think about.
The Ice Truck
The rattle-y, old ice truck went downhill
With a sputtering engine and squealing brakes.
The ice man hollered every time:
'Don't stand in front of the truck, even if it's parked!'
He had a big smile and black whiskers
And a funny accent.
He chopped chunks off the huge ice blocks
And threw them, covered with sawdust,
Into the street for us kids.
We screeched our 'Thanks!'
And spat and polished and sucked
With sheer delight, especially in summer.
We watched for that man and his wonky truck
Like a military unit, whooping out signals.
Behind the grimy windshield we could see his grin
Shining like a lamp.
We didn't have anything to give back
But I don't think it mattered.
One day our street wasn't so quiet!
Mum's car parked beside the curb
Slipped its brakes and rolled downhill.
We kids were playing hopscotch right beside it
When it groaned and took off
Like a giant toy - picking up speed -
Bulleting across the street below
Flying off the slope into the hospital grounds
And careening on to its side.
We were horrified, but it was ever so thrilling!
The crazy car hit nothing! No one!
Mum croaked, 'Thank God!' about a hundred times.
She cried and she giggled and she shook all over.
And then she made strong coffee.
I could have used some myself, but she didn't offer.
Neighbours lifted the car on to its wheels.
I don't know how they got it up on the street again.
I had to go back to school.
It was an exciting lunch hour.
Everybody talked about 'the miracle' for days!
Cynthia Buell Thomas