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It was my tenth birthday as I recall, many years ago now, far too many years ago for me to remember a lot of things that happened in my childhood. This story however, remains as vivid in my imagination as if it were only yesterday when these strange events took place over seventy years ago.
My birthday was on a Monday, a school day. A whole five days of school before the weekend. A Wednesday would have been better, at least it would be in the middle of the school week and downhill to Saturday. I remember thinking to myself, If I was the Prime Minister of Canada, all children under the age of thirteen years would have the day off on their birthday. First class Monday morning was always arithmetic with Mr. Earl, a very strict and severe schoolteacher. Woe betide anyone who arrived in class without their homework completed and ready to hand in. Mr. Earl had the habit of pacing around the classroom, slapping a thin cane against his leg, making a dull thwack as it struck the thick material of his pant leg. It was shaped like a walking stick, but would have been of no use for such a purpose. No, this cane was specially designed for only one purpose, as a means of punishment. Failing to have your homework completed on time meant three beatings on the rear end while bent over the teacher’s desk. We called that horrible instrument of torture, Sting. I was well acquainted with Sting. It would not have mattered that it was my birthday, birthdays were not exceptions for a thrashing for some indiscretion.
I lived with my parents on a farm in rural Ontario along with my adopted brother Jake, he was two years younger than me. I say was, because he passed away five years ago. Pity, he was a good chap and would have been able to verify the facts of this narrative were he still with us. Anyway, that morning I entered the kitchen to the familiar smell of oatmeal cooking in a large pot on the cast-iron woodstove, the sound of Happy Birthday being sung out of tune by my family.