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Peter J. Hedge

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Last Moments of Innocence
by Peter J. Hedge   

Last edited: Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Posted: Tuesday, November 18, 2003

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When does the innocence of childhood finally give way to the harsh reality of life? I don't know but inevitably, just as sure as summer turns into winter. . . it does.


            It was one of the few nice Sundays we’ve had of late when I saw her. She was aged about six or seven, I guess and very pretty, her blonde hair peaking out from beneath the Grizzlies’ baseball cap she wore glinting in the sunlight.  Kneeling at the shore-end of Government wharf, a simple gauge made from an old ice-cream container lid in her hands, even the Dungeness crab trapped motionless by her knees seemed captivated by her plaintive look of reluctant resignation.

            “That’s a nice one,”  I said as I paused on my way back from the opposite end of the wharf.

            “It’s too small!”  she replied flatly, looking up at me and squinting.

            “Are you sure?”  I asked

            “I measured it myself,” she said sadly glancing down at the home-made gauge in her hands and then back at me.

            I looked  in the direction from which I had just come at the groups of other crabbers I'd chatted to.  All were well on their respective ways to over-filling their buckets with crustaceans so small they made this child’s look as though it had been weaned on steroids.

            I’d pointed out to these visiting adults that their catches were undersize but had merely received a surly “What the hell’s that got to do with you?” glower from one group; shrugs and an “it’s near enough,” from another and “we no speak English” from the third for my efforts.

            “That’s a pity,” I said to the little girl . . . and I meant it.  Then, I smiled sympathetically and resumed my way home.

            “But it’s only 1 centimetre too little,” she called hopefully after me.

            For a moment I hesitated, tempted to tell her it was okay and that she could keep it and cheat as other’s were doing just a few metres away from where she was kneeling . . . but I didn’t. Instead I bit my tongue and left her there with the other crabbers.

            Maybe I have just become more cynical of late having recently been screwed royally by lawyers who were supposed to be on my side, and a moving company that were literally just a bunch of crooks.  Or perhaps sentimentality and senility are synonymous with the old age I am approaching.  I do not know.

            But it seemed to me that for a while longer, the harshness of the world and selfishness, greed and dishonesty of so many of its people should not be a part of that child’s life:  they would be soon enough. In the meantime she was able to enjoy a place where the tooth fairy and Santa Claus were both real and rules were rules that nobody ever broke and everything was as it should be . . . for these were the last moments of her innocence, and it was not up to me to start taking them away.



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Reviewed by Darlene Caban
I don't understand why we even bother to teach children to strive for perfection, when the rest of the world follows the 'that's good enough' philosophy. I think it was much easier growing up before situational ethics became popular... right was right and wrong was wrong back then, and you never had to wonder whether it was ok to do something. Personal convenience seems to determine whether a law is being broken or not-- no wonder kids think adults are crazy! Bravo for not encouraging the little girl to cheat like everyone else was doing.
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