The Monster on the Trail
by John for the exercise, "Child's Play" (memoir)
February 2, 2015
John's writing is based on an exercise in writing a memoir from the fall term of English 11 and 12 classes held at the Pearson Adult Learning Centre. Students were introduced to three topics—"Finding Beauty"; "Child's Play"; "Something that Enrages Me." Each topic was supported by an example from an established writer; for "Child's Play" John read an excerpt by Alice Munro from her short story, "Martians Have Landed." Munro writes of two girls who play together by a river, unsupervised, in a rich and complex imagined world. Another way that the class prepared was through writing a short in-class piece on how they had played as children (restricted to games of the imagination played outdoors with others). Without exaggeration, group discussion was the loudest and most animated of the term as students used their hands and bodies to convey the intricacies of some game or other.
In addition, the class went through a practical punctuation exercise, learning the more sophisticated marks (colons and semi-colons; dashes and parentheses) in individual and group exercises then trying them out throughout the term. John got quite good at punctuating towards the end of the semester as you can see. I hope you like John's writing as much as I do. It is an example of a more "free range" childhood, one that reminds me of my own days exploring South Burnaby's ravines and forests. With its humour and true-to-life characters, his piece, "The Monster on the Trail," is well worth a read.
—Brad Hyde; teacher at the Pearson Adult Learning Centre
When I was six, my family and I moved to a typical suburban neighbourhood. It was a maze of streets winding through the neighborhood, connecting side-streets that usually lead into cul-de-sacs. Houses mirrored down both sides of every street. It was nice; it felt like our own community. I still remember the thrill of the first week’s move into our house: helping the family unpack, exploring the new elementary school (which we would soon be attending), and meeting the neighbourhood kids.
At the time, I was a fairly average kid: long shaggy blonde hair (the infamous “bowl cut”), and a pair of Hawaiian swim trunks I would wear to school every day. Yeah, I was a pretty goofy kid. But life was simple, and as far as I knew, life was good.
One bright and sunny day, two friends from the cul-de-sac, my brother, and me made a plan to take our bikes and venture through the power lines on the last day of school before the summer break. The entrance to the power lines was only a street down from our house, and inside it had many paths and trails that would lead into forests, fields, parks; all sorts of fun places for adventurous kids like us.
After what felt like one of the longest days of school, the bell finally rang. We rushed home and grabbed our bikes. It was the beginning of a magnificent journey. We set out into the power lines, heading through dirt and gravel trails with thick brush on each side, eventually reaching a wide-open field. There was tall grass all around with a narrow trail severing the middle of the field like a scar. We kept on riding through, doing tricks and jumps over gaps and bumps and admiring all of what that beautiful spring day had to offer.
I was at the back of the group when I noticed everyone stopping suddenly in front of me. I squeezed the brakes and came to a screeching halt. I jumped off my bike and walked up to the others to see what the commotion was about. Then I saw what they were looking at—a giant slope in the trail lay before us that looked so steep it would seem dangerous walking on foot, let alone riding bikes.
“Yeah, I don't know about this...” one of our friends said.
“C'mon guys, this will be nothing,” my brother said, as he leaped onto his bike and kicked off the trail, speeding off down the hill.
I watched him as he zoomed down the hill with no fear at all. Our two friends followed him shortly after, speeding down the hill and slowing down at the bottom where it flattened out. They were now at the bottom shouting for me to go down. I stood there in deep hesitation. I knew it was now or never. I shook all feeling of fear and anxiety, and took one last deep breath. I finally pushed off from the ground, placing my feet onto my pedals and slung myself, and my bike, forward. I raced down the hill at rapid speeds—my heart pumped faster than ever before—and my adrenaline so high that I didn’t even think to stop at first.
As I reached the bottom of the hill, I failed to pull the brakes soon enough. I tried stopping, but it was just too late. I began losing balance as large pieces of gravel and rock sent me hurtling off the side of the trail until my front tire wedged between two boulders, launching me into the air and tossing me into a pile of dirt and leaves.
I rose to my feet clumsily and checked myself. Thankfully I had no serious injuries, besides some bruises and scratches. They all came running over to check on me and, realizing that I was okay, burst out laughing. I couldn’t help but laugh too.
I staggered home, pushing my bike, talking and laughing with my friends. It was getting dark, and we would probably be in trouble for staying out so late, but that didn't matter because we had the time of our life that day, and no one could take that away from us.