The Seven Day Year combines elements of humor, nostalgia and youthful mischievousness, rendering a winsome story from a seemingly more innocent time. It is a novel filled with wondrous characters and events that transcend generational boundaries.
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Strife over a neighbor's dead aunt's broken mulberry dish, fishing in a pond for a species that does not exist there, a retired cowboy real estate entrepreneur, a neighborhood pervert who plays with electric trains and a mysterious disappearance combine to produce a week of madness at an old, sway-back rented cottage for the Kilroy famaily in the summer of 1946.
Next week at this time I’ll be pullin‘ in a big bluegill up at Cranberry Pond. I got a feelin’ this is my year to get that walleye, too. A couple more days and we’re on our way. You guys better get packin’. I don’t want any of that last minute crap.”
My mother smiled and shook her head. She knew well it was always my father who was rushing around getting ready for our annual week at the rented cottage. He lived all year for this. Some men dream of having a fancy car, others of great wealth and status. My old man thought he won the Irish Sweepstakes when he reeled in a sunfish. Landing the elusive walleye, he fervently believed lived in the pond, would be the Comstock Lode.
Like a latter day Don Quixote, the old man waged the great walleye quest up at Cranberry Pond. Instead of rusty armor, he sported a fishing vest, a pair of faded Dickies work pants and a white hat with a strip of green plastic sewn in the front of the rim to cut the glare of the sun. I think Franklin D. Roosevelt wore one just like it in a newsreel I had seen.
“Can Bucky still come with us to the cottage?” I asked my mother.
“As far as I know. It’s your turn.”
My sister, Lucille, had come downstairs from her late beauty sleep in time to hear us talking.
“Why does that Kuter kid have to come? He’s such an idiot.”
“It’s only fair,” my mother answered. “You brought Sissy Pepper last year. Bucky’s not an idiot. He’s just…..well, different.”
The engine of our old Ford roared to life in the driveway. My mother ran to the window to catch my father before he headed downtown.
“Don’t go eating lunch at that Tillie’s place on Front Street,” she yelled. “Last time you were up all night.”
My father just honked the horn in response and headed off to his job at city hall.
“I swear it’s a wonder your father has any stomach left with some of the stuff he eats,” my mother said. “Why he hangs out at those dumps on Front Street, I’ll never understand.”
If our town had anything resembling the Bowery or a skid row, it was Front Street. It was the only place you could get a beer and free hardboiled egg, a cheap meal,some of the best sausage in town, buy a live chicken and trip over three drunks at the same time.
“Is this all there is for breakfast?” Lucille asked, while she poked at the stiff and cold strips of bacon on the ironstone plate. “Why can’t we have one of those fancy continental breakfasts sometime?”
“I’ll whip you up a couple scrambled eggs,” my mother answered. “Maybe if you got up on time you’d get something that wasn’t cold. I’m not running a restaurant around here.”
“Yeah,” I joined in. I made a face at Lucille and thumbed my nose.
“Shut up, lump head,” she said. “Why don’t you go over to Kuter’s and shoot some birds?”
“Who’s shooting birds?” My mother had that look on her face.
“Oh, don’t you know, mother? He’s got Kuter’s BB gun. I saw it last night. This one really shoots.”
My mother’s egg beating grew faster. My stinking sister squealed. She was always squealing on me.
“Your father and I told you that you could only play with the gun he fixed so it can’t shoot,” mother said. “You take that other gun back to Bucky and I don’t want you shooting it. Poor birds.”
Lucille would pay for this treachery. I didn’t know how, but I’d come up with some punishment befitting her traitorous deed. She had left me with no defense against the prowler, while I slept on the porch with only a thin screen between me and an unspeakable fate.
“AXE MURDERER STRIKES. CHILD SLAIN IN SLEEP ON FRONT PORCH.”
I could see the headlines now. Lucille would be sorry, but it will be too late. All of her tears would do no good as she viewed me in that casket with the axe still embedded in my skull. Then she’d be sorry.