“The Neighbors Say That On A Quiet Night, They Can Still Hear Tom’s Screams.”

Story by Al Batt (Author)

Tom loved water. He loved drinking it, he loved swimming in it and he loved boating in it. He even loved taking baths when he was a small boy. That is not a natural thing for a boy, but Tom loved water that much.

When he was in high school, he took a class in woodworking. He was good at it. He bypassed the normal projects and decided to build a canoe.

He had dreamed of having his own canoe for as long as he could remember dreaming. Tom daydreamed in class. He imagined himself floating over the water in his wonderful new canoe. But it had to be his canoe. He needed to build it entirely by himself–the whole canoe. For some reason, this was very important to Tom.

He even cut down the tree that he would make the canoe from.

It took him the entire school year to build the canoe. He put much thought, time and effort into its construction. Tom completed the building project unscathed, without the loss of a single finger. I considered it a smashing success any time I completed a project in industrial arts class with all my body parts intact. Yes, Tom came out of the experience in good shape, but the canoe came out even better–it was a masterpiece. It was a thing of beauty and a joy to behold.

The canoe was perfect. To Tom, it was the best canoe in the world. Why, he even carved the paddles. Tom took the canoe to a local lake and tried it out.

Tom had high expectations for the maiden voyage of the world’s best canoe, but it was even better than he had imagined. It sliced through the water like magic. Each stroke of the paddle was a miracle. The canoe floated through the water like a cloud in the blue sky. There was no other canoe like this one.

After about an hour on the lake, Tom loaded the canoe onto his pickup and headed home. He had wrestling practice.

He drove home about as happy as a person could be. He was floating in the air just as beautifully as the canoe had floated in the water.

Tom pulled into the driveway of his home. He pulled the canoe from the pickup. Then he heard the telephone ring. He placed the canoe–the world’s most perfect canoe–on the drive behind his old pickup and rushed into the house to answer the phone. He talked on the phone for a bit, changed his clothes, grabbed a bite to eat and then hopped into his old pickup. His thoughts were on his wrestling practice as he backed out of the drive.

It was right then when Tom heard the awful crunching sound.

He had backed over his perfect canoe–the best canoe in the whole world. The canoe that he had built completely with his own two hands. The canoe that had taken a good year of his life to build. The canoe that he had spent only an hour in on the water.

The neighbors say that on a quiet night, they can still hear Tom’s screams.

Tom continued to wrestle and continued to love the water. He wrestled at the Naval Academy. He spent a lot of time on ships and boats.

Tom still canoes, but he has never owned a canoe since the incident. He has never thought of building another canoe. He knows that no matter how good a canoe he would build, it would not come close to the canoe he backed the truck over. That canoe became like the great fish that got away. It gets better all of the time. In Tom’s memory, any flaws the canoe might have had have vanished. Time heals all wounds and canoes.

The canoe is gone, but it lives on in Tom’s memory.

I once was in the company of two friends while one lamented the fact that he had broken a mirror that morning and now he would be cursed with seven years of bad luck.

The other friend commented, “That’s nonsense. My Uncle Jim once broke a mirror and he didn’t have seven years bad luck.”

The worrier breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Really?”

“Yup, really. He died the same day he broke the mirror.”

Bad things do happen in life. That’s why we need good memories.

Tom thought he was making a canoe, but he was building memories to last a lifetime.

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