Delivery By Brian Clark

In 1969, on his suburban Toronto paper round, 12-year-old Peter sees something he shouldn't have seen; by Brian Clark.

In 1969, when I was a Grade 6 student at Riverview Public School, Mr. Denholm would trundle a projector into the classroom every Friday afternoon and show us a film.

It was always a great treat, even though most of the movies were not what you would call crowd-pleasers. They tended to be about coal mining in Kentucky or wheat farming in Saskatchewan or dam building in India.

But there's one film that stands out in my memory. It was called An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. Based on a short story by Ambrose Bierce, it opens with soldiers preparing to hang a man from a railroad bridge during the American Civil War. But the rope breaks on his way down, plunging him into the deep waters of the creek below. He squirms out of the cords binding his hands and feet, pulls the rope up over his head and surfaces with a gasp. Overjoyed at being alive, he savours the feeling for a moment before swimming desperately downstream as soldiers fire their guns at him (a scene that set off a chorus of cheers in the classroom). So he escapes and makes his way home. And then...

Well, I won't give away the ending - not now anyway.

But the point is this: on a sunny autumn afternoon, a few weeks after seeing the movie, when I found myself kneeling on Old Man Horton's driveway and peering into his basement window, I knew what a noose looked like.

Between 1968 and 1972, I was the skinny, red-headed, freckle-faced kid who delivered newspapers on Greenbank Drive. Well, I was the main guy anyway. Two competitors delivered the Globe and the Telegram, but only a few people on the street subscribed to those conservative dailies. My paper, the liberal Star, was the middle class journal of choice. And my suburban Toronto neighbourhood was the dead-centre, white-line middlest of the middle class.

Each morning, the men left their bungalows and split-levels and ranch homes and got in their Fairlanes and Impalas and Ramblers and drove off to work as teachers and salesmen and office managers. The women stayed home to do the cooking and cleaning and child-raising. And the children trudged off to Riverview Public School and Heatherbank Middle School and Westcliff Secondary School.

So if you were one of the 42 customers on my paper route during those years, I brought you news about the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the elections of Pierre Trudeau and Richard Nixon, the moon landing, the October crisis, the Canada-Russia hockey series.

The Star was an afternoon paper. So each day at 4pm, I hopped on my bike and rode the few blocks to the local plaza where the big blue Star truck dropped off the newspaper bundles for several paperboys. Grabbing mine, I balanced them expertly on my upturned handlebars for the ride home.

In the garage, I snipped the metal band around the bundles and stuffed as many papers as I could into my carrier bag. I slung the sack over my shoulder, climbed back on my bike - adjusting for the change in equilibrium caused by the heavy load - and set off on my route.

I was a conscientious service provider. I delivered my product on time and in good condition. I made sure my papers didn't get wet on rainy days or blow away on windy days. Most of my customers had a screen door fronting an inner wooden door, and I tucked the paper between the two. During warm months, the inner door was often open, allowing me to drop the Star on the foyer floor. The fat newspapers of the day would land with a thud, nicely announcing their arrival to anyone at home.

As a paperboy, it was amazing what I was able to learn about my neighbours, especially on the two days a month when I collected payments and was frequently invited inside.

I learned that Mrs. Barker, a widow who lived two doors down from me and seemed to wear a housecoat day and night, talked to her dead husband Marvin. I learned that Mr. and Mrs. Turnbull were incapable of going more than one minute without yelling at each other. I learned that Mr. Blankenship wore a toupee. I learned that Mrs. Crenshaw was delusional, believing as she did in the innocence of her beloved Lhasa Apso, even after I showed her the evidence, in the form of a bloody bite mark, that Muffy had nipped me on the hand.

And what did I know about Old Man Horton? Well, for starters I knew that he was the grumpiest codger I'd ever met. I knew that he seemed to face the world with a permanent scowl. I knew that he didn't like it if you walked on his perfect front lawn (he made that clear the one time I did). I knew he owned a midnight blue 1957 Chrysler New Yorker that was still in showroom condition. I knew that he was a First World War veteran. And I knew that his wife was an invalid who was confined to a wheelchair and that they had never had children.

Every second Saturday, usually just after lunch, I would grab my change purse and pad of perforated receipts, don my lucky Toronto Maple Leafs cap, jump on my bike and head out to collect money.

There were three customers I hated to call on. One was Mrs. Crenshaw, because of her yappy, nippy little dog. The second was Mrs. Shevchenko, who would mine the bottom of her handbag to find enough dimes, nickels and pennies to pay the debt, a process that seemed to take an eternity. The third was Mr. Horton, because of his general crankiness.

So on a sunny but breezy Saturday afternoon in late October of 1969, I rode up Old Man Horton's driveway and dropped my bike to the asphalt. I trudged up the walk, past a cluster of bobbing orange chrysanthemums, to the front door of his tidy red-brick bungalow for my final collection of the day.

I rang the doorbell, heard the muffled ding-dong chime, and waited, nervously jangling the coins in my change purse.

After about 15 seconds, I tried again. The big Chrysler was parked in its usual spot beside the house, so I was pretty sure he was at home. But still there was no response.

I tried the bell one last time, then peeked into the house through a narrow, frosted-glass window beside the entrance. A moment later I saw the blurred image of a door open and a figure make its way towards me.

I quickly pulled my head back from the window, straightened my posture and put on my most businesslike face.

The front door flew open and Mr. Horton stood gaping at me. The wide-eyed expression on his fleshy, jowly face suggested anguish, or anger, or shock, or panic, or bewilderment, or embarrassment. Or maybe all of those. A lock of white hair hung over his sweat-glazed forehead. He was wearing a bulky brown cardigan, which stretched tight over his substantial paunch. It was misbuttoned and featured a prominent red stain.

"What?" he squawked at me.

He didn't seem to know who I was. His droopy white moustache quivered.

"It's... um... I... I'm collecting for the Star, Mr. Horton. It's... um... one dollar and thirty cents. Please."


"The Star, Mr. Horton. I'm collecting. One dollar and thirty cents, please."

A spark of recognition finally came into his eyes. He cleared his throat.

"Oh. Right. The paper. No, this is not a good time."

"Oh. All right, Mr. Horton. I can come back later. Um, how about when I bring the paper later this afternoon?"

"Yes, fine, all right," he said, and quickly shut the door.

A second later he opened it again.

"Wait. Look, I'll pay you now. Just come on in for a second."

His voice had the strangled sound of suppressed emotion.

Mr. Horton held the door open and I stepped inside.

"Just wait here," he said and disappeared down a hallway.

I stood in the foyer and looked around. To the right was the doorway I had seen him come through moments ago. I knew from previous visits that it led to the basement. To the left was an archway into the living room. I took a half step and leaned forward to get a better look inside. Mrs. Horton frequently positioned her wheelchair near the fireplace, where she sat reading or watching TV, and she always gave me a smile or a wave if I caught her eye.

But this time all I saw was an empty wheelchair. A dozen or so cards stood open on the mantelpiece. I could make out the lettering on some of them: Deepest Sympathy, Sincerest Condolences, In Your Time of Loss.

The significance of all this, and how it explained Mr. Horton's demeanour, struck me just as I heard him returning along the hall. I retreated half a step as he came into view and saw that his expression of general distress had been replaced by a more neutral look and that he had apparently combed his hair and dried his face.

"Here," he said, thrusting a dollar bill and two quarters at me.

I placed the money in my change purse and started to finger through the coins to find a pair of dimes.

"Forget it, just keep the change," he barked, reaching past me to open the front door.

"Thank you very much," I said, even though I knew the uncharacteristic tip was driven by impatience, not generosity.

Stepping outside, I decided it would be impolite not to say something about what I had learned.

So I turned around to face him, removed my Maple Leafs cap and said: "Mr. Horton, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry about -"

But he shut the door before I could finish.

Mouth unhinged, I stood staring at the door for a good 10 seconds before I could get my feet moving.

"I just wanted to say that I'm sorry you're such an old coot," I mumbled softly as I plodded back along the front walk.

Reaching my bike, my thoughts turned to Mrs. Horton and how friendly she had been to me, even if our encounters had been brief.

I was absentmindedly putting my hat back on when a gust of wind snatched it off my head and skittered it up the driveway beside the house. I raced after it and saw it disappear under the shiny old car. Running up the gap between the house and the Chrysler, I dropped to my hands and knees, bent down close to the pavement and peeked under the car. I spotted my cap about a foot away and managed to reach out and grab it, my butt sticking up in the air.

With the hat still in my hand, I was straightening up, but still on my knees, when I glanced into the basement window to my left.

That's when I saw the rope. It had been tied into a noose and was dangling from a ceiling support. Below it was a wooden chair sitting on the concrete floor.

I'm not sure how long I kneeled there while my 12-year-old brain processed the scene. It seemed like minutes, but was probably only a few seconds. Around the same time that I realised I had stopped breathing, I saw Mr. Horton come down the stairs and enter the room.

I scrambled away from the window before he could see me and tore down the driveway, stopping in front of my bike. I stood there, breathing heavily, my mind whirling.

What do I do? What do I do?

I thought of riding home and telling my parents. If I pedalled hard, I could make it in two minutes.

But by the time they come back with me, or call the police, it might be too late, I thought.

I considered running to a nearby house. Mr. Treadwell was cutting his grass across the street. He looked up and waved and I raised my hand briefly in return. I wasn't sure why, but telling one of Mr. Horton's neighbours about what I had seen somehow seemed wrong.

And so I charged back along the walk, past the nodding flowers, to the front door, took two deep breaths and started stabbing at the door-bell button as rapidly as I could, setting off a staccato chorus of chimes.

About 10 seconds later I heard the cellar door bang open and the loud thud of footsteps approach the front door. When it swung open and I saw the scarlet face of Mr. Horton, there was no question this time what emotion he was feeling. He was angry.

"You again! What in God's name do you think you're doing?" he shouted, eyes blazing.

"May I please, please, please use your bathroom, Mr. Horton?"


"May I please use your bathroom?"

"My bathroom? Go home and use your own bathroom."

I started to squirm and hop from foot to foot.

"No, I'll never make it. I really really really need to go."

"You were just here a few minutes ago. Why didn't you -"

"Please!" I said, throwing a few extra contortions into my act.

"All right all right," he said, the fire in his eyes waning to a slow burn.

He opened the door wider and stepped aside.

"Through there, to the right, down the hall, second door on the left."

I followed his directions, glimpsing the wheelchair out of the corner of my eye as I passed the living room, glancing into the kitchen straight ahead, then turning right and finding the bathroom.

I didn't have to go at all, but I waited an appropriate amount of time, then flushed the toilet and ran water into the sink to provide suitable sound effects.

Exiting the bathroom, I crept back down the hall, my skin prickling with nervous energy. I wondered: Now what?

I found Old Man Horton slumped in a chair at the kitchen table. At least a week's worth of Star papers were stacked in a corner of the room, pristine and obviously unread. There was a pile of unopened letters on the table. Unwashed dishes filled the sink.

"Thank you very much for letting me use your bathroom, Mr. Horton." My voice had a decided tremor.

He looked up at me. For the first time I noticed how pale he was and that there were dark circles under his eyes.

"I'm sure you can let yourself out," he said wearily.

I approached the table.

"Mr. Horton, my records indicate that you don't take the Star's TV guide."


I cleared my throat and stood up straight.

"The Star TV guide is an indispensable resource for anyone who owns a television. Not only does it tell you what's on each channel every hour of the day and night, it also lists movies and sporting events that will be broadcast each week. And if that's not enough, there are stories about your favourite TV shows and personalities. Plus the weekly crossword. No TV lover should be without it. And all for just an extra 20 cents a week."

Mr. Horton sighed and rubbed his eyes, but he said nothing.

"Actually, Mr. Horton, that's from a memo my supervisor gave me. You know, it has the words I'm sposta use when I tell customers about the TV guide. Well, the customers who don't get it anyway. I know some paperboys who just read it to their customers. But I decided to memorise it. It didn't even take me very long, either."

Mr. Horton closed his eyes and gave a languid shake of his head.

"I don't need the TV guide, thank you. And I think it's time for you -"

"My supervisor says I should also ask all my customers if they're happy with my service. You know, like, how I'm doing? Does the paper arrive on time? Is it in good condition? Are you happy with where I put it or would you like it somewhere else?"

"Everything's fine," he said in a flat voice.

"So I'll just keep putting it in the mailbox then?"


"Well, not in the mailbox exactly. In those claw things underneath it. I guess that's what they're for, eh, for putting newspapers in? So that's where I'll keep putting them."


"For most of my customers, I tuck the paper between the screen door and the inner door. They find that most convenient. But I noticed you don't have a screen door."

"No I don't."

"And on warm days like this, a lot of people leave the inner door open so I can just open the screen door and drop the paper right inside. That's even more convenient."

"Yes, I'm sure it is," he muttered.

"Although, you should've seen what happened a few weeks ago. The Saturday paper is really heavy, right? Well, Mrs. Carlucci's cat Cinnamon likes to lie in the foyer. So when I opened the door and dropped the paper inside, Cinnamon must have jumped 10 feet in the air."

I laughed, but Mr. Horton didn't join in.

"It was really funny."

I slipped into a kitchen chair opposite Mr. Horton. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but just huffed out a long breath.

From this position I was able to see through a doorway into the living room and caught sight of the wheelchair. Mr. Horton followed my gaze.

I said: "Um, did you know that Mr. Weisenborn got a new car? It's a 1969 Thunderbird. He showed it to me. It's really, really nice. He let me sit behind the wheel. It's got power windows. I tried them. You push a button and up it goes. Or down. And it's got a 429 V8 Cruise-O-Matic."

Mr. Horton propped an elbow on the table and cupped his chin in a liver-spotted hand.

"Mr. Weisenborn is a showoff," he mumbled.

"We got a new car last year. It's a 1968 Ford Galaxie 500. Green. It's got a 390 V8. Not as big as a 429, but still pretty good. My dad says it's pretty powerful. We're gonna buy a tent trailer next summer and go camping out west. That should be fun. I've never seen the mountains. Course, I'll have to find someone to take my route while I'm away."

Mr. Horton stood up, took a bottle of ginger ale out of the fridge, grabbed two glasses out of the cupboard and returned to the table.

"As long as you're going to be making yourself at home in my kitchen, you might as well have something to drink," he said as he poured pop into the glasses and slid one across to me.

"Oh, thank you," I said.

My nervousness and all the talking had left me parched, and I drank the soda gratefully.

"So do you think you might get a new car someday?" I asked.

He gave me a sharp look.

"No. I'm perfectly content with my car, thank you."

"Oh, I like it too, Mr. Horton. I like the big fins at the back. And I like the bumper and grille at the front. It looks like it's smiling. And it's the same age as I am."


"Well, I was born in 1957, same year it was built."

I thought I detected a hint of a smile from Mr. Horton. His moustache twitched.

"How 'bout that," he said quietly.

I didn't know what else to do except keep talking. For the first time I noticed I was still holding my Maple Leafs cap.

"Are you gonna watch the game tonight?" I asked.

"What game?"

"The hockey game. It's the Leafs and the Red Wings. So are you gonna watch?"

"I don't know. Maybe."

"I have to watch it. I absolutely have to. Wanna know why? Because my favourite player is playing. I mean my absolute favourite player in the whole entire world. Can you guess who it is? I'll give you a hint. He doesn't play for the Leafs now, but he used to."

He leaned forward and fixed me with a steady gaze. The look on his face was not unkind.

"My God you talk a lot. Did anyone ever tell you that?"

"Oh yes, I know that. My mom calls me a chatterbox."

"Well, she's certainly right about that."

"Jackie Gleason would probably call me a blabbermouth. A BLAB-BER-MOUTH!"

I laughed.

"Do you like the Honeymooners, Mr. Horton?"

"No, I don't."

I took a drink of the ginger ale.

"So can you guess my favourite player?" I asked.

"I'm not very good at guessing."

"It's Frank Mahovlich. You know, the Big M. I was sad when the Leafs traded him to Detroit last year. I mean, I was really sad. So now, when the Leafs play the Red Wings, I don't know who to cheer for. But in a way it's OK because I'm happy if the Leafs win and I'm happy if the Red Wings win, especially if the Big M scores."

Mr. Horton shook his head. "Yep. A real chatterbox."

"Yeah. Sorry. I guess I can't help it. So anyway, after they traded Frank Mahovlich, I had to find a new favourite Leaf, so I chose Dave Keon. I like him 'cause he's a great skater, really fast, and a great scorer, but also good at defence. My dad says defence is just as important. I also like Tim Horton. Oh, are you related to him?"

"Not that I know of. Sorry." He said the last word with a touch of gentle sarcasm.

"Oh that's OK. But wouldn't it be neat if you were? You could probably just call him up and get free tickets to games at Maple Leaf Gardens. You know. Maybe."

"Yeah, it would be neat all right," he said.

"So yeah, I like Keon, and Horton, and Ullman, and Walton, and Ellis, and Henderson, and -"

"None of them could hold a candle to Charlie Conacher. The Big Bomber they called him. Played on the Kid Line back in the '30s. He had a great shot. I remember one game when -"

He stopped, his mouth still open. A look of confusion came over his face, like he was surprised to find he had actively joined the conversation. He looked down at the table and swept away a scattering of crumbs with the side of his hand.

"Anyway, he was my favourite player, I guess," he said.

"Well, I think I've heard of him. I'm pretty sure my dad told me about him. Said he was a great player. But you wanna hear something funny? When I was seven years old, I told everybody that I wanted to be a hockey player when I grow up. I know that's not going to happen now. I'm only in house league. I haven't got any goals yet this season. Last year I only got seven goals. That's not very good, eh?"

Mr. Horton shrugged.

"So then when I was nine, I decided I wanted to be a policeman. Now I think I'd like to work at a newspaper, maybe at the Star. You know, as a reporter."

"Really, a reporter?" Mr. Horton said. "Well, that would be interesting. A reporter who does all the talking."

He laughed. I mean he actually laughed. It came out as a single sharp bark, but still, it was an expression of amusement.

I laughed, too.

"Oh, I know. When I'm a reporter I'll need to talk less and listen more. That's something my teacher already tells me sometimes. And my mom."

I looked down at the pile of unopened mail on the table. One of the letters was from the Royal Canadian Legion.

"May I ask you a question, Mr. Horton?"

"I'm sure there's nothing on God's green earth that could stop you."

"Well, you were in the war, right? The First World War?"

"Yes I was."

"Well, what was it like?"

Mr. Horton shifted in his chair and crossed his arms.

"It's not something I like to talk about."

"Oh, sorry. My grandfather fought in that war. He died in 1962. I think it was 1962. My dad says he didn't like to talk about the war, either. My dad was in the Air Force. He trained as a bomb aimer. Oh, but that was for the Second World War, of course. But the war ended before he could, you know, fight in it."

"Well, your father's lucky. War is an awful thing. Believe me."

He knitted his fingers together and dropped his hands on the table.

I said: "In Grade 4, our teacher, Miss Fenton, took us to that place for Remembrance Day, you know, the place with the statue of the soldier. What's it called?"

"You mean the cenotaph?"

"Yes, the cenotaph. And there were speeches and prayers and they put down flowers and a guy played the horn."

"The Last Post."

"Yeah, the Last Post. And I saw you there, standing together with other old soldiers. Do you remember?"

"Well, I go every year."

"And you were wearing a blue jacket with medals on it. And a hat with a crest on the front. And then all of you saluted. And you looked... well, you looked sad."

He let out a breathy sigh and smoothed his hair with a fluttery hand.

"Well, of course I was sad. I was thinking about all the soldiers who died for their country. All the fellas I knew who never came home."

"Oh. Yeah, that's what I thought. I'd be sad too if my friends died. Really sad."

Mr. Horton turned his head and looked out a large bay window into the backyard. A breeze stirred the yellow leaves on a pair of birch trees.

"So I'm in Grade 6 now. Mr. Denholm is my teacher. He said we'll be visiting the cenotaph again on Remembrance Day. Will I see you there?"

Mr. Horton looked back at me, then down at the table. For the longest time he said nothing as he resumed brushing away crumbs with his hand. I stared at him. I felt impertinent but I willed myself not to look away.

Finally he raised his head and looked at me.

"Well, like I said, I go every year."

I let out a long breath as quietly as I could.

"Good. I'll wave to you. Well, I'll wave to you after everything's finished."

Mr. Horton got to his feet slowly.

"I'm going to take a nap, so it's time for you to go."

"Oh. OK. Well, thanks for the ginger ale."

I headed for the front door, with Mr. Horton following. Again I glimpsed the wheelchair on the way past the living room. Mr. Horton opened the door and I stepped outside, then turned around to face him.

"I wanted to say that I'm sorry about -"

He cut me off.

"Yes. I know you are," he said in a gentle voice.

And he closed the door.

The Saturday papers weren't due for another hour, so I went home to wait. I was a jittery mass of sparking nerves, pacing around the house, fidgeting at the kitchen table. My mother finally asked me what was wrong, and I almost told her. Instead I said I was having trouble with a history essay.

I rode into the plaza parking lot at ten to four to pick up my papers, but then had to wait around for 40 minutes for the truck to arrive. The other paperboys passed the time by doing bike wheelies and engaging in a spirited discussion about who would win the Stanley Cup (Toronto was the consensus choice) and who the sexiest movie star was (Raquel Welch won hands-down). I made one halfhearted attempt at a wheelie and tossed in a few comments during the conversation, but for the most part I just fretted and waited.

When the truck finally showed up at 4:30pm, a half hour late, the driver mumbled something about press problems as he and his helper heaved the papers onto the pavement.

I hoisted the bundles onto my handlebars. The thick weekend paper made for a higher-than-usual load, meaning I had to pedal standing up to see over the top. This didn't stop me from tearing home as fast as I could, with barely a nod to the rules of the road.

I briefly considered reversing my route and going to Mr. Horton's home first instead of last, but decided that such a momentous change might bring bad luck.

So I stuck to my routine. I delivered my first paper to Mrs. Barker, then carried in her groceries (she had the uncanny knack of arriving home from her weekly shopping excursion just as I was arriving). I exercised my usual caution at Mrs. Crenshaw's house, keeping an eye out for the dreaded Muffy. And Mr. Weisenborn, who was washing his new Thunderbird when I arrived, found some new things to tell me about his beloved car ("Feel that leather, it's like a baby's bottom").

When I reached Mr. Horton's house, it was bathed in the glow of the late-afternoon sun. For the second time that day I dropped my bike onto his driveway. The big Chrysler was still parked beside the house, like the old man's only friend, loyal through good times and bad.

I cast an apprehensive glance at the basement window, then started up the front walk. Pulling the last Star out of my slack carrier bag, I folded it lengthwise and tucked it into the mailbox's claws. Then I stood at the front door and listened, hoping - even praying - to hear some sign of life from inside: footsteps, running water, a TV or radio. After checking to make sure no one was watching, I briefly put my ear to the door. But I heard nothing.

I peeked through the frosted window beside the door, which provided only a fuzzy view of an empty foyer. I stepped back. To the left was the living room window. The drapes were drawn. If they had been closed during my first visit, I hadn't noticed.

For a moment I considered ringing the doorbell again. But what would I say this time? Could I come up with another pretence? I looked at my watch. It was going on six and I was due home for dinner.

I was going to have to look in the basement window again. I had to know.

I made my way back along the walk. By the time I turned the corner and caught sight of the thigh-high window beside the old car, my legs had turned rubbery and dread had forged a squirming knot in my stomach.

Standing beside the house, I thought about the film I had seen in class. How did it end? The condemned man arrives home to see his beautiful, smiling wife approaching him across the lawn. He runs to her and just as they embrace, his head snaps back. The film immediately cuts back to the bridge, where the rope pulls taut with a jolt, the man hanging dead from the end of it. I remembered that I had gasped, along with most of my classmates. In the discussion that followed, we reached the conclusion that the escape had merely been an illusion that played out in the man's mind in the seconds before he died.

I pushed the image away and stepped towards the window. Dropping down onto my knees, I shut my eyes.

"It's just a dumb stupid movie," I whispered. "It's just a dumb stupid movie."

I willed my eyes open.

The rope was gone.

The chair was gone.

I blew out a long, slow breath and felt my shoulders sag with relief.

"What are you doing down there?"

I looked up to see Mr. Horton staring at me from the backyard. He was wearing old work clothes and garden gloves, and carrying a trowel.

Scrambling to my feet, I stood looking at him. He didn't appear to be mad. I tried to speak but only managed a few croaking sounds.

He came towards me, lightly tapping the trowel against his other soil-stained glove.


"Well, sir, I... um... I dropped a quarter and it rolled away... and um... I chased it and I found it here just by your car."

He looked over my shoulder and gestured to my bike lying on the driveway, which sloped down towards the road.

"The quarter rolled uphill, did it?"

"Um, well, not exactly. You see -"

Mr. Horton held up his hand.

"You better be getting home, Peter, you're going to be late for dinner."

It was the first time I'd ever heard him use my name.

"Yeah, you're right, Mr. Horton. We're having ribs tonight. Well, good night."

I hurried down to my bike and picked it up. Looking around, I saw Mr. Horton disappear into his backyard.


  1. A bit slow to start and went at a leisurely pace, including detail which probably could've been omitted, but a good yarn nevertheless. Lots of atmosphere! What an amazing twelve year old Peter was!

    1. Thanks for the feedback. You make a valid point. I probably could have done a little judicious trimming.

  2. There is something about unlikely friendship stories. They get me every time. “Delivery” delivered.

    1. Thanks, Mark. I knew it was important to try to get the dialogue right. Hope I did.

  3. Good story, very Canadian in all its references .... a clear and poignant snapshot of a time and place. It's about community and what holds it together... and about a kid's conscience. The reference to the movie is well integrated into the meaning, and the dialogue builds the sense of connection between the boy and the old man.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments. By the way, Peter is still waiting for his beloved Maple Leafs to win the cup. The Canadian readers will understand.

  4. Very suspenseful...Peter took the tactic of stalling to a whole new level. His agonizing wait between speaking with Mr. Horton and finding out what happened later that afternoon reminded me a lot of what Red went through in Shawshank Redemption, waiting to find out what Andy had done with his rope overnight. Great story.

    1. Wow, I certainly never made that connection. Shawshank is one of my favourite movies. Thanks for your kind words.

  5. Because as a boy I delivered the Hamilton Journal afternoon paper from my bicycle for two years, I loved this piece. Thanks.