The Taste of Warm Blood
True story by Rosemarie G Roth
I was ten years old when my elementary school, in Tweedside, had a field trip to Frankfield Comprehensive High School for a day of Olympics.
For us, this was a time to go to a new town with friends and be totally on our own to make decisions without our parents.
The day was filled with great anticipation of being selected to compete in the relay team and long jump. This was my first visit to the grown-up school and this made me very proud to be selected.
Papa John, my great-grandfather, gave me spending money; I had saved it from selling dry ginger to him. At eight this was a big responsibility to be trusted to be away from home, and with money in my pocket.
The school could have arranged for a chartered bus but decided with the local bus company to transport us since they were going in the same direction. This decision was acceptable because the bus company had been a faithful transporter for the community for many years.
The day at the school’s Olympic was heavenly; I bought ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches, peanuts, and anything that was considered junk food. I was full to the brim. This made me sluggish and I came in third in every race. I still got a ribbon and got used to my usual place on the winner’s platform.
Annmarie and I had the same “pet name” we were inseparable, we played together, eat together and teased the other children when they lost. We played and played and had a wonderful time just being away from home.
In the evening when the bus was ready to take us home the event was not completed, and we hang around with the other grown-ups and decided we wanted to wait with them. The bus was on a schedule, so it had to leave us. We screamed for joy and ran off to play again. Leroy Brown gave me additional money to buy more peanuts.
Just about dark, it was announced by our teachers that a work truck was hired to take us home. By then I was tired, and I missed Papa so that was fine with me. We all climbed into the back of the truck, the small children were lifted to the waiting hands of a grown up. The main teachers sat in the front with the driver and the older students became chaperones.
I was lifted into the back of the truck along with the other students. The side of this truck had spaces between the nailed boards. Wide enough for our shoes to fit just right so our heads made it above the final rail. This truck was used to carry sugar cane to the factory for processing. I followed those who stood on the opening in the sides of the truck and enjoyed the wind blowing in my face.
As I settled in my new freedom I was commanded by Blossom Mayne to get off and sit down in the back of the truck because my papa would be upset if I ever got hurt. I obeyed and while walking to the parallel side to join the other children I felt a sudden shift and the truck rocked violently and I was thrown to the ground. Someone fell upon me as the truck came to a stop and I couldn’t move.
Chaos replaced the hope of getting home in time for bed. The pandemonium of criers, weepers, wailing to God was overpowering. My eyes were open, but I couldn’t see anything. Passing cars came to a stop and provided much needed light. The side of the truck where I was standing was torn off completely. The diver was drunk and drove the truck into the railed bridge. Without the rails, the truck would have plunged into the river. A thought of inconceivable destruction.
While motionless on that dirty uncomfortable floor of the truck all the way in the back there was a slow drip of what tasted like warm blood dripping from the body lying on top of me. It took them a while to find me underneath my friend who was later pronounced dead. (I learned the next morning that she fell on top of a piece of bamboo that went straight through her vagina into her belly). She was standing in the spot I was occupying and was killed; instead of me.
I was frozen, confused, cold, and blood was all over me. How could this thing happen so quickly? We were playing laughing only a few minutes ago. We had made plans to see each other the following day and now she was dead. Somehow this did not make sense to me.
No instructions were given when I was taken out of the truck, so I sat on the ground beside the wounded. There was so much blood on me that they thought I was injured but no cuts were found. The screams continued to echo in the darkness and this gave an airy feel of utter destruction of astronomical proportion. I was checked several times by the adults for injuries due to the evidence of blood on my clothes, but none was found.
The smell of blood radiated in my nostril and the air screamed of death. Blossom came to me, even though she was hurt, and assured me I will get home and I was not to worry about anything. I began to cry and Geneva, her sister came and held me. Comfort in the middle of the night subsided my shaking and fears. The smell lingered, and my clothes now were fastened on my body almost as a protection from the chilly air.
Words had reached to Papa that there was an accident, and “Ann” was dead. He thought it was me! He was awake when I arrived home past midnight and his voice shouted, “Thank God”. His cries of thanksgiving were jubilant to see me unhurt because he thought I was dead. He poured water in his hand basin and washed me from head to feet. My clothes were thrown in an old pit toilet, way out of sight. To him, God had entrusted me in his care and more so since my mother Beverly had died, and that memory was still very fresh. He held me and wept tears of thanksgiving even though there was a deep pain in his heart.
I placed flowers from my garden on Miriam (Ann) Gordon’s coffin as they lower it in the ground. If there are angels; she is one of mine.