“Embankment” by Ben Winderman

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Ben Wnderman

I ran towards the sound and swiftly recognized it as his voice. Volume increased disproportionately to distance, but agony had not chosen words.  I entered indecipherable, a blur between two holly trees, through the rectangle yard, over split rail and across the paper street; “Dad dad”

I chased my breath through nightmarish vines and almost ripe raspberry bushes. The railroad tracks demanded a brief and unnecessary stop; I knew they weren’t electrified. Unexpected quiet, he must be okay, “dad?” I tried to un-think it but couldn’t. I decided to never say it, no way I’d ever admit it, not then and not now. All Quiet on the Western, “dad, DAD!”

A fierce bombardment, then on the whistle; we’re going in with the bayonets boys. Here the ground falls like a sinkhole, I scrambled down the embankment until, I tumbled down the rest. Steepness has bothered since, I learned to do the illogical; lean forward into the incline. It is precisely you’re your mind tells you not to do, so it’s true, my mind gets wrong sometimes. I stopped in that thought, mentally stuck on the embankment, convinced that trusting my mind was a fundamental risk. I looked for an alternative faith, and there isn’t one. Self is simple, reliance is right; my mind had it figured out, but fear tricked. I was afraid to see my dad crushed, and I was also reluctant to find him unhurt, after the sheer queerness of his scream; the embankment as a formidable foe would allow me to create my dad resilient, courageous, surviving the outrageous, an oncoming train, cross cutting to gruesome, “Dad,” I was next to the overturned tractor, my dad was trapped underneath; that’s what happens when you ride a steep horizontally, the old Red Snapper will roll, down embankment, “Dad, dad,” I was next to his face, “Can you hear me okay dad, it’s Benny, can you say ‘hallelujah dad?”


He didn’t say Hallelujah, I don’t know if he could have; he was banged up alright, bruised, confused, and bewildered. He eventually invented an animal in his version, and I always appreciated their furry presence. If he said a squirrel then I made a mongoose, squirrel/mongoose,  beaver/bear, and  weasel/wolf; that’s what I’m admitting too; I’m glad I didn’t challenge him about it, but I sure wish I wouldn’t have cared at all.  “Dad, dad listen, listen,” I remember an awareness of my pounding heart, it felt amazing, and African. “Dad I have to run back to the shed and get some rope dad,” I don’t invent an animal, but I do say that here I touch his head a little, sort of stroked his hair back. I guess it’s possible that I touched his hair real gentle, but I really think it’s unlikely. “Dad is that cool, can you like blink dad if it’s okay for me to run to the shed? Okay great, thanks dad, I will be super quick.” I made sure the tractor was off complete and that it was in a stable spot. Maybe I did touch his head to check for any blood, I sort of remember doing that. I scramble out of that trench like it was 1915, Anzac, Gallipoli, and with all of that bravery it really wasn’t insurmountable at all. It took me a long time to trust my own mind; I’d say it’s a work in progress, a good work.

Which shares with me this vision of cognition; no beguiling nor bamboozling; I was able to launch myself out of the trench almost effortlessly; I was quite a bit more confident than I’d been, but did I have to stop and look back down. I know that’s a wasted worry, fact is that I did turn around, and there’s no changing it, what I saw that is. Compromising is maybe the best word I have imbued; simultaneously he started to moan again, which is probably, or at least possibly true, and in a  Kodachrome moment of immortality, all that I could see was that Red Snapper having its way with my dad, his legs spread oh wide, his voice was rhythmic indecency, and the souls of his Converse were not the least bit scuffed.

I did get some rope from the shed and I did lean forward into the incline. When the mower finally rolled itself off of him my dad became a rodent, twitching towards a scrambled, so long as he was safe…“Dad, dad, there’s no train, you okay dad, you must’ve rolled the mower down the hill on top of yourself, again.”  I showed him where the vines and saplings had been mashed down by the tumbling mower and helped him up the hill.


My mom called SEPTA just for safety and sure enough the R5 service to Philadelphia was delayed briefly; the mower had to be moved a safe distance from the tracks.  My parents had to pay a significant fine.


My mom insisted that I cut the grass going forward, and indeed the Red Snapper was cumbersome. Often the steering would just lock, but eventually I knew how to find my mind’s key.


Eventually my parents sold our back property, a podiatrist bought the land.  His wife was agoraphobic.  He ripped out the raspberry bushes and built a ranch house that his wife never left. Dr. Podiatrist hired me to cut his lawn.


A lot of times I’d stop, take a break by railroad tracks, and look down that steep embankment.

My dad these days – Gary Winderman, Doylestown, PA


For interest in reading more stories about Gary check out the “Ladders” at www.newmillenniumwriters.com nonfiction.

or just google my old pen name H. Boris Timberg and Ladders

And if you’re into creative nonfiction lets chat soon!




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