Doug, my brother, came up for a visit yesterday afternoon and we spent a lot of time telling each other old Keryn Laite stories. My favorite was this one:

Doug asked me: “Do you remember that year when both Keryn and I got brand new bicycles for Christmas? I think we were in the fifth or sixth grade. We could hardly wait for spring to come so we could ride them on the street, and when the snow finally did melt and the ice faded away, we got out there and raised heck up and down Central Street, terrorizing the neighborhood and having fun.

“Of course, Keryn was bigger than I was, and stronger, so he could peddle faster, and go the extra mile. But I surely did my darnedest to keep up with him. He started doing tricks on his bike and would book it right up as far as Richard Brown’s house. Then he’d swerve off to the left, and somehow made his bike jump the ditch so he would land right on the Browns’ newly grassed in lawn, where he would do a wheelie and peddle around in a wide circle on the grass before returning to the street.

“I’d follow right behind him, peddling as fast as I could and just praying that I could keep my bike upright and moving forward. Well, by the time Keryn leaped over the ditch the third time and started his shenanigans on the wide lawn in front of that big, two-family house on the left, an old lady, with her hair in curlers and wearing a big old apron that covered her dress, came hustling out onto her porch and started shaking her broom at us.

“I could hear her yelling, ‘Now, you boys get off my property, do you hear me? You are messing up my new lawn, and I won’t stand for it! I’ll come down there and whack you with my broom. Do you hear me? Git!’ At this point, Keryn swung out in a wider arc and
began to ride in a newer, larger circle with me as close behind him as I could possibly get. And as he approached the lady and her porch, he waved at her. Can you believe it? And he started to laugh right at her. Then I heard him yell loud enough so she would certainly hear him: ‘Ha-ha-ha! You can’t catch me. My name is Doug Hall, and I am fast as the wind!’

“And with that he sped away, over the ditch and onto the road. I watched him go, in amazement while his taunting words echoed in my head. I knew that word of our behavior would surely get back to my parents and that I would be in big trouble before long.”

So, here I was, nearly 60 years later, sitting at my kitchen table directly across from this same boy, now grown old in the passage of time and life. In our own way, we were mourning the death of our friend and neighbor, Keryn Laite, and I could see beyond the merriment in Doug’s story, the deep sorrow that filled his heart at this late date in his life.

His eyes were glassy with sudden tears and his smile was uneven and weak, as if he couldn’t remember what happened next.

Mary Bok lives in Camden.