Mr. Gerald terrified us.

Jay and I would return home from illicit bicycling adventures and deliberately press ourselves against the creaking wooden railroad bridge as far as we could, hoping Mr. G would not see us.

A whiff of heat-melted creosote on the bridge slats and the distant, metallic buckling sound of a coal train centered us in time and place. It was 1985, and the broad expanse of summer lay ahead.