Midway, British Columbia, Canada, 1948
It elbowed its way into my concentration, like an uninvited friend, familiar but unwelcome. It was like a birthmark on my mind. I thought it had faded, bleached away by time and therapy. But that was desperate hope in the face of irrefutable reality.
I hadn't thought of it in years, but here it was again, as vivid and unsettling as the hot, oppressive day that it happened.
It meant little to anyone but me. It was an irrelevant incident that was talked about and forgotten in less than a week. It merited a few column inches in a small town newspaper on the other side of the world and nothing more. But all the King's therapists couldn't put what was broken back together again without the cracks showing.
I was the first to notice my father standing at the screen door looking like a nightmare. I couldn't hear anything above my mother shrieking, but saw his powerful body dangled, slump-kneed, between two men wedged under his armpits like crutches.
When they dragged his lifeless, unconscious bulk out of the scorching sunlight and into the suffocating gray light of the kitchen I could see that his nose was smashed flat against his cheek and his shirt was caked hard with blood blackened mud.
I remember standing open mouthed as one of the men explained in a voice thick with immigration and accustomed apologies that..
'It were the scabs'.
He lowered my father onto the most secure of the hardbacked chairs and backed away cap in hand. The other man put his big rough hand on my shoulder but I shrugged it away.
I was struck dumb watching mother heave the screams from her quivering mouth like vomit, her hands waving in the air like broken wings.
I stood looking at the two, impotent men willing them to say something to make it all better. They did nothing for a moment, then moved toward the door together as if shying from a demented dog.
'You should be proud lad,' the smaller, older man told me as he closed the screen door on his escape. 'Your father didn't disgrace himself. He gave as good as he got.'
My father slid off the chair, crumpling slowly into a heap on the linoleum floor, but the men were gone. Looking me full in the face, my mother suddenly stopped screaming.
'Men are animals,'she spat at me.
Me and my two brothers dragged my father to his bed on our own while my mother sobbed at the kitchen table.