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Authors: Katherine Holubitsky

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BOOK: Hippie House
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I looked for Eric. I scanned the crowd for Constable Wagner, who knew Malcolm and would never have treated him like that.

“Move out!” a voice next to me shouted.

I felt Hetty tug my arm. I kept searching the grounds for Eric or Miles or Jimmy, someone who could explain to the police officers that it was just Malcolm and to be easy on him, he was ill.

“Come on, let's go!”

This time I realized the order was directed at me. A police officer grabbed me by the arm. He pointed toward the gate.

My first impulse was to wrench free. He had no right to touch me; I hadn't done anything wrong!

“That guy over there—Malcolm, he's a friend. He didn't do anything. Tell them to leave him alone.”

Shouts, pounding and the sound of breaking glass caused us all to turn. Two of Ross's friends had jumped on the roof of a police car and were kicking in the siren. The officer with his hand on my arm yelled to another police officer, then turned back to me. His grip on my arm actually hurt as he shoved me forward. “Never mind about him. Just keep your mouth shut and keep moving!”

I couldn't believe it! He was treating me like I had something to do with the guys on the car. Like I was one of them!

“Come on, Emma.” Hetty pulled me with her. “He just wants us out of the way of the fight.”

I let Hetty lead me through the gate, and we joined the rest of the crowd making its way along the road. We reached Doug's truck. Ten minutes later, Doug and Mandy made their way through. We squeezed into the cab together and sat there, frightened and thoroughly stunned.

“What happened back there?” Hetty whispered. I noticed a gash on the back of her hand.

“I'm not sure,” said Doug. “I don't know if Ross's punk friend started it or if someone jumped him.”

Two more RCMP cars with sirens blaring roared past us. Hetty looked after them. “It wasn't just them. It's everything that's happened.”

Doug started the engine. As we drove into town we went over the events, still uncertain how the whole thing blew up like it did.

“Did you find Malcolm?” I asked Eric later that same night.

Eric shook his head, no.

“But where would he go?”

“I don't know.” This was followed by a sigh, like Eric was tired of keeping track.

There were three arrests for drunk and disorderly conduct that night, several drug charges laid, and at least one person, Ross's friend, spent the night in jail. Mom didn't say anything about it.
She didn't need to. She simply repeated aloud what Mrs. Bolton told her over the phone while looking at me, wearing her I-told-you-so frown.

The riot only helped to further fuel frustration and fear. People were desperate to place blame.

Mr. Crossley accused the police of being incompetent. Two days after the riot he challenged Constable Wagner as I was waiting for Megan outside the drugstore.

“Tell me, Constable,” he said, stopping him not far from where I stood on the sidewalk, “what do you do in that cushy office of yours all day?”

Constable Wagner was taken by surprise. He didn't immediately have an answer.

“Come on, Jim,” Mrs. Crossley urged her husband on. “Leave the police officer alone. Let's go.”

“No, I pay my taxes. I want to know what I'm getting for my money. What are you doing down there? I think you're catching up on your sleep, that's what, ‘cause I sure don't see any signs of police action around here. We've got a murderer walking around killing young girls and hoodlums rioting like this is Detroit. I want to know what you're doing about it.”

I wasn't sure if it was Mr. Crossley's doing, but a week later two new staff members were added to the police force in Pike Creek. This allowed Constable Wagner to spend more time on the street. He'd walk up and down the main drag, visiting store owners and generally keeping an eye on the action.

A few businessmen, including Mr. Crossley, installed bars in the windows of their stores. The Pike Creek Market handled security in a different way. They simply posted a sign on the door stating that there were to be no more than three teenagers in the store at one time, and absolutely no long-hairs.

Standing in the window of his store, looking across the street at the security bars, Maury shook his head and sighed.

15

A
FTER THE RIOT
, Mr. Blane would not allow Ross Nash and Lyle St. Vincent to loiter on the sidewalk outside the pool hall. So, with nothing else to do, they became employed.

They both got jobs in Pike Creek's industrial park, two flat blocks before the highway passed the Dairy Queen. It was made up of a few modern concrete buildings including the Pike Creek Dairy and a yellow brick building that housed the presses for the
Pike Creek Banner
. Ross got a job at the presses, where he was learning to set the printing plates. Kitty-corner to the presses was a plant that produced plastic wrap and employed a number of my friends' fathers. Adjacent to this was a small garment-bag factory where suitcases and hiking packs were manufactured. Lyle worked at the factory, where he operated the machine that put grommets into the straps of the bags.

Lyle and his girlfriend were expecting a baby in January. They got married in late August of 1971. On the day of the wedding, the flat-black Dodge Charger—festooned with red streamers and purple plastic flowers—was left idling outside St. Mark's United Church while the ceremony took place.

It wasn't that we missed Ross and Lyle loitering in the doorway, their catcalls, their blundering opinions on whatever topic happened to occur to them as they observed the world from where they stood—but they had added a last dash of animation to the town. Sadly, Megan and I concluded, there was now none at all.

This struck us on Labor Day as we wandered down the street past the former Dairy Bar, the barred storefronts and now the empty space in front of Blane's Pool Hall.

Megan stopped at the intersection and looked wistfully around. “Remember when we were kids and our dads would give us a nickel to buy an ice cream at the Dairy Bar while they hung around General Seed? We were like six and five or something. Man, they wouldn't dream of doing that now.”

It distressed us how the face of Pike Creek had changed.

Once September came, with Eric and me back in school, my mother announced that she could no longer sit in the house and simply read or she would go crazy. She too got a job. She worked a few hours a day in the craft store run by Katie's aunt. At home she would fuss over window displays, creating signs with stencils and choosing just the right doilies to set off Ruby's latest vase. Her housework began to suffer; our sheets were not always ironed and the silver tea set on the dining room buffet had its first brush with tarnish.

“Oh, pish posh,” Mom said when I drew the state of the tea set to her attention. “I'll get around to it when I have time.”

I had never known my mother to utter a procrastinating thought and it worried me. With everything else falling to pieces around me, there was something comforting in her particular ways.

Detective Mather had made only one trip out to Ruddy Duck since June. In the third week of August, more haggard and unhealthy than I'd seen him yet, he drove out to show us an updated sketch of the Shelburne girl' sabductor—
apparently she had remembered some detail, a birthmark or scar or something. Detective Mather didn't seem convinced. He was not surprised the new drawing didn't jog any memories. After we shook our heads, he confided that it was probably farther from the truth than the first drawing, when the girl's memory had been fresh.

“Maybe the killer's moved out of the province,” I told Megan. “Maybe he never stays anywhere very long, and that's how he avoids getting caught.”

She gave what I said some thought. “No, he'll probably stay around this area.”

“Why's that?”

Megan shrugged. “Okay, he blew that one in Shelburne, but overall he's had a lot of success around here.”

It was a morbid but practical thought.

I was actually glad when school started again. The summer had been a bust. Any rejuvenation of our spirits had withered in the riot. So, for most of us, school brought routine back into our lives.

T
HIS WAS NOT TRUE
for the Fritzes whose lives had been thrown into chaos with Malcolm's illness. Malcolm had not resurfaced since the day of the riot. He had not gone home or contacted any of his friends. He had vanished. When he was still missing a couple of days after the riot, I wished that I had never lost sight of him that day. I wished that when I'd spotted him being frisked by police, I hadn't allowed myself to be pushed forward. At least I might have known something or seen him leave with someone that could have given us a clue to where he was.

Malcolm's family was particularly worried because, wherever he had gone, he'd left his medication behind. It got rid of the voices in his head, but he couldn't stand the other ways it made him feel. He'd felt groggy and slow-witted, and his mouth was always dry.

Eric took Malcolm's disappearance hard. Even when Malcolm finally phoned his family at the end of August, Eric did not believe he was alright. He was living in Toronto, he told them, looking for a job. He did not say specifically where he was living, only that he was okay and he would call again soon.

Eric, Jimmy and Miles had worked on the highway all summer but Malcolm had been unable to hold a summer job. Now the three of them would be starting grade thirteen, and Malcolm would not be returning to school. On top of all the other confusion, Malcolm must have been feeling alienated from his friends. Dad explained this to me—the complexity of Malcolm's circumstances, the factors that were likely influencing his decisions—things that Eric must have already known.

Over the month of September Eric became increasingly difficult to talk to, and while my friends and I began socializing more now that we were back in school, he did things on his own.

I found it almost impossible to provoke an argument, let alone get him to do anything fun.

“I'll have you a game of Clue,” I said, walking into his room and turning down Black Sabbath on his stereo.

“I don't feel like it.”

“Okay, then how about a game of Risk?”

He looked up from the
Popular Mechanics
magazine where he lay reading on his bed. Eric knew I hated Risk because he always won. He seemed to think about it, but then he shook his head. “Naw.”

Pushed into desperation, I snatched the magazine from under his nose. I paused in the doorway before peeling down the hall. He hadn't moved. “Aren't you even going to chase me?”

Flipping to his back, Eric stared at the ceiling. “There's no point. It was boring anyway.”

My father was aware of the change in Eric's mood and was trying to help him in the best way he knew how. I didn't recognize this at first. I only thought I was being treated unfairly.

For some reason I had believed that the older I got, the fewer chores I would be assigned. But when I turned fifteen in August and in September was still cleaning the duck house, I mentioned this oversight to my father. Apparently I was mistaken.

“Whatever gave you that idea?” Dad laughed.

“Well, it seems to me that Eric doesn't do much around here anymore.”

It was true that Eric's work around the farm had tapered off. Dad was feeding the cattle, shoveling hay into the trough through the trapdoor in the barn floor—something my brother had always done in the past. For the past several weeks, Dad was the one who had pulled our weekly load of garbage to the dump, past the duck house, through the woods to the other side of Fiddlehead Creek.

“It's only temporary,” said Dad. “And until Eric is feeling up to it again, perhaps you can help out a bit too. He's got a heavy year at school, his last one, and a lot on his mind.”

Jimmy made many attempts to cheer Eric up. The two of them made plans to see the movie
Gimme Shelter
. Jimmy drove out to the farm in his dad's new Thunderbird. Eric, of course, loved anything mechanical and normally he would have checked out the engine of the car. They would have discussed things like the horsepower and the number of cylinders and the revolutions per minute at great length—amazingly dull details that would make me nearly pass out from boredom. But this time Eric didn't ask any questions. Instead, as Jimmy tried to interest him in the car's features, he only nodded many times in a row.

“It's real nice, Jim,” he finally said.

Jimmy was very enthusiastic about the car and I was sure that Eric had let him down.

“Yeah, I can't believe my Dad let me drive it. He's only had it a day. Are you ready to go?”

“Go?”

“To the movie.
Gimme Shelter
. You know, the Stones at Alt-mont. Jumpin' Jack Flash and all that. Remember?”

Eric shoved his hands deeper into his pockets. He was already on his way to the back door. It didn't appear to me that he had any intention of going anywhere. “Oh, hey, Jim, look, I've got a chemistry lab due. Can we make it some other time?”

BOOK: Hippie House
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