Life Shattered  Volume 1 in the Pillage Series

Live with Delbert Pillage through the torment of a bullied youth, joy of teenage romance, satisfaction of adult successes and determination to persevere in the face of two tragic events.

Evoking a wide range of emotions, even heart-wrenching at times, Delbert and Sylvia will have you pulling for them to the very end. And along the way, see life on a small Canadian island in the 1950’s and gain a semi-historical view of the Avro Arrow program.

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This is a refined version of "Two Loves Lost".

A worthy read; could not put it down  Peter Morton

Rivets with a great deal of mixed emotions           Norm Goldman,

I read half the day it arrived and finished it the next day — with tears in my eyes. It’s a great read.   Elizabeth Anderson

I  experienced a sentimental side of me that I don't usually see.   Al Dewer

Couldn't stop reading.  Van Karin

I felt like a part of the supportive community that was helping Delbert to excel. I was cheering for him.  Gerry Steen

Life Shattered


“Hey Delbert. That mop almost covers your ears now.”

“Look, one of them slipped down.”

“Delbert, why’s one ear lower than the other?”

“He hears high notes with the right and low notes with the left.”

Each barb got a laugh from the bullies. They didn’t care how it hurt the scrawny little kid. His shaggy black mop hid an oversized forehead. Ears protruded through it and in fact, the left did appear half an inch lower than the right. His worn pants ended in boots scuffed to an indistinguishable color and held on by laces knotted in half a dozen places.

“Shine your boots with clear polish, Delbert?”

“Look at all the fancy knots.”

A strong chin and well-proportioned nose supported a pair of dark brown eyes that gazed rather than looked, missed nothing, and when they settled on you seemed able to read your thoughts. Perhaps that triggered the bullies’ mean streak. Frail, shy and poor made him an easy target for incessant taunts.

Why pick on me, he wondered. I’m smarter than Tommy, Brett and Brian, but I never show them up. What does it take to get them off my back? And why do so many in the class side with the bullies? Are they afraid they might be the next punching bag? They don’t need to join in like they do. Will it ever stop?

Only Sylvia Cairns stays out of it. Perhaps because she’s shy. She turns away or hides in a book when they badger me. It bothers her. I’d like to thank her for showing sympathy but can’t. It might turn them against her too. She’s sure pretty.

Whenever their third grade teacher walked in on the harassment, she put a stop to it. She liked to toss out questions in a way that invited rapid response. The same two children always vied to be first.

“Not you two again. How about you, Delbert?”

“What was the question?”

“Oh, Delbert, pay attention. How do you spell receive?”

“I don’t know.”


“I don’t know how.”

“Dumbert don’t know how,” Brett mimicked.

“Alright, Brett, then you spell it.”

“R e s e e v e.” Delbert suppressed a laugh.

“No, can anyone spell receive?” and then, with a resigned sigh, “OK, Jimmy.”

In this way, Delbert plodded through the school year. He played dumb and seldom participated yet in the end exhibited enough to let the teacher pass him on with a clear conscience.


Words bottled up in school burst out at home, though not in his father’s presence.

“Mum, why do kids at school make fun of my clothes, my boots, my ears?”

“Doesn’t your teacher stop them?”

“It happens when she’s not in the room.”

“Do you want me to talk to the principal?”

“No! That would make it worse. They might beat me up.”

“Then be strong dear, eventually they’ll see you for the wonderful person you are.”

“I’m not strong. If I was strong, I could fight them.”


While still eight years old, she caught him one day with Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, part of her collection of Dickens’ works, a wedding present from her mother and one of her few treasures.

“Delbert, what are you doing with that book? You shouldn’t play with it. You know how much it means to me.”

“I was just reading it. I won’t hurt it.”

“Reading it? You’re too young to understand it.”

“I want to see how Pip turns out. Right now he tries to impress people but he's phony. I want to see if he grows out of it. Usually people in these books end up good.”

Taken aback, “What do you mean books? Have you looked at others?”

Sheepishly he confessed, “Some. I love them.”

“But I never see you read. You never look at your school books.”

“I’ve read them.”

Teresa Pillage was slightly flabbergasted, if flabbergasting permits slightness. Has he actually read them or does he just thumb through the pages? It sounds like he knows what they‘re about. He seems brighter than his grades indicate. Wish I could figure him out.

“Be careful with it. Why aren’t you outside in the fresh air on such a nice day?”

“OK, I’ll put it away in a few seconds.”

Ten minutes later, Delbert was in the back yard batting rocks. With a board the size of a small baseball bat, he hit rocks picked up in the yard out over the bank down towards the creek that ran behind their house.

Still at it when his father got home, “That kid’s out there hittin’ them rocks agin. Sometimes I think he’s auteristic.”

“Autistic, dear, and I’m sure he’s not. Today I caught him reading Great Expectations.”

“What the dickens is that?”

“A novel by Charles Dickens.”

“Well, I got no great expectations fer that kid.”

“At least he rids the yard of rocks.”

“As long as they’re not goin’ inta the garden. Doubt if he has enough meat on his bones to reach it anyway.”

What seemed like endless repetition rock after rock was anything but to Delbert. In his imagination, he laid out an elaborate ballpark. The flight of every rock meant something. Not just foul or fair balls but also singles, doubles, triples, homers, sacrifice flies, bunts, fly ball outs, ground outs, double plays, all based on how the rock flew, where it ended up and the game situation. Carefully chosen zones matched probabilities found in baseball.

He played full baseball games with players on real teams. His schedule copied the National League although he narrowed it down to contenders. He created his own season complete with a pennant race and continued it through the World Series.

Each day, he read the box scores in the paper to compare his players’ performance with the real ones. He tried a little harder on behalf of the better hitters and fine tuned his ballpark zones to improve the correlation. This complexity, of course, hid in his head.

To his parents he mindlessly batted rocks hour after hour. His father, Phil, stuck his head out the door, irritated enough to yell, “Delbert quit hittin’ them rocks. Get in here an’ wash up fer dinner.”


Every spring, the creek behind the house flooded its banks and by summer dwindled back to a well behaved stream. When the warm weather arrived, Phil built a dam to raise the water level about three feet. A log the diameter of a telephone pole spanned from bank to bank. Planks were leaned against the log and driven into the mud to hold the dam in place. Sods dug from the bank were thrown in front of the planks.

The dam created a swimming hole and made the creek navigable for a quarter of a mile upstream. Delbert, his brother Paul and their neighbourhood friend Tony poled a little scow and paddled a leaky canoe up and down the creek for hours.

At the swimming hole they made a mud slide on the bank and plastered closed any mud wasp holes they found. Between the slide and the silt, the water in the swimming hole never stayed clear long. No girls ever played in the creek so the boys often shed their swim suits. The mud slide worked better with a naked bottom and the feeling was more erotic.

Alone in the swimming hole one day, his swim suit hung over a branch, Delbert went down the slide half a dozen times, then floated lazily in the water. He heard footsteps on the path and looked up to see Brett and two girls approach. With no time to get away, he kicked up more silt to muddy the water and covered his crotch with his hands.

“Hi Delbert, whatcha doing?”

“A little swimming.”

“Don’t seem to be making much headway.”

Please make them go, he prayed silently.

“You naked Delbert?”

“No, what makes you say something like that?”

“That swim suit on the branch over there.”

Keep the water muddy. Please make them go. Instead, they sat down on the bank.

“We won’t leave until you come out and get your swim suit, Pillboy.”

Brett grinned and the girls giggled. He could see they meant it. Could he outlast them? It would get cold standing in the water. He summoned the courage to make a break for the branch. Brett beat him to it, scrunched up the swim suit and threw it to one of the girls.

“Give it to me,” he shouted.

“Come and get it.”

He ran from one to the other until finally the younger girl felt sorry for him and held it just long enough for him to snatch it away. He turned his back to the girls to put it on.

“Did you notice his head isn’t the only thing bigger than normal?”

The girls snickered and started up the path. Brett gave Delbert a shove that sent him flying back into the pool, then followed the girls.

Delbert started to cry as he trudged up the path to the house. Why are they so mean? Until now Brett left me alone at home and on the school bus. I thought he joined in at school only to be part of the gang. Guess he had to show off in front of the girls. He’s as bad as the others. Now I can’t swim alone. Sobs racked his little body.

Near the house he stopped and took a number of deep breaths, then wiped the tears from his face. His father might be home already and he couldn’t let him see he cried.


Salt Spring Island is the largest of a series of small islands sprinkled along the southeast corner of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Local literature calls it the Queen of the Gulf Islands. Half way up the thirty mile island, a long inlet aptly named Long Harbour almost divides it in two. Ganges, the only town, surrounds the head of this inlet.

Another slightly shorter inlet pierces the southern end of the island. Called Fulford Harbour, a village sprawls along its edge. More important, it has a ferry dock which is the main connection to Vancouver Island.

During Delbert’s early school years in the 1940’s, students were bused from all over the island to a single school in Ganges. Most came from families of modest income, some dirt poor, a few well off. Transistor radios were not yet invented, television unknown. On hearing a radio for the first time, a six-year-old girl screamed because she didn’t know where the voice came from. Children made up their own entertainment.

A tradition developed that repeated every school day, year after year. The soccer game. It started in the morning when the first boy with a soccer ball arrived at school. The teams were always the same; Ganges against Fulford. The game paused when the bell rang, continued through morning recess, noon hour, afternoon recess and after school until the boy with the ball left. The score at that time decided the day’s winner.

Everyone knew which team they were on and there was no limit to the number of players. A bruising no-holds-barred facsimile of soccer with no discernible organization. To an observer it looked like a swarm of shin-hacking scramblers chasing the ball.

Still, buried in the madness existed an element of method. A few outriders often poised to make a breakaway with a clearing pass. They consisted of two types, those short of breath after a hard run and those too timid to join the flailing melee. Delbert fell in the second category. Yet, while others would run from the ball when it came their way, he didn’t.

He would trap the ball, look around and pass it to an open team-mate before the mob could descend on him. Since a pass was not uppermost in the horde’s mind, most thought him afraid to hang on to it. Sometimes one of his tormenters would bowl him over even though the ball had moved on.

“You put the pill in pillage, Delbert,” Brian flung back at him.

His approach never changed, even as the years added firmness to his spindly legs. He still wandered along the fringes of the field and waited for the ball to arrive. However, a few of the better players came to realize the advantage of clearing the ball his way. They always managed to make it appear accidental. Sometimes threw up their hands in disgust while they hoped in secret for good things from his dilapidated boot.


Children brought their lunches from home and usually ate in the classroom. One day fat Tommy slouched by and noticed Delbert had a cookie. The teacher was out of the room so he snatched it.

“Look, I pillaged Pillage’s lunch box,” the slob said in a loud voice. Many laughed.

“Give it back.”

“Make me.” He took a big bite out of it.

Resigned to the loss, Delbert finished his half-eaten sandwich. He hid his inner turmoil behind a mask of forced calm.

Tommy snatched a cookie the next day too. This time Delbert grabbed his fat wrist. The bully shook his free fist in Delbert’s face.

“Let go or you’ll get this right in your ugly puss.”

Delbert let go. That evening, he told Teresa not to give him a cookie anymore.

“Why not dear, I thought you liked them?”

“Tommy steals them.”

“Why does the teacher let him?”

“He does it when she’s out of the room.”

“Why don’t you tell her? Do you want me to call her?”

“No, don’t do that.”

Angered by the treatment he received, Teresa longed to strike back. How could she without endangering him? One possibility came to mind. She baked a small batch of cookies laced with a laxative.

“Let him take one of these, dear. It will make him run to the bathroom and maybe he’ll eventually come to realize your cookies aren’t worth stealing. Don’t you or any of your friends eat it.”

“What friends?”

The cookie thief appeared on schedule and Delbert made a show of resistance. Thirty-five minutes into the class after lunch, Tommy’s hand shot up. Two fingers. The teacher nodded and he lumbered from the room. Twenty minutes later, two fingers again. The teacher looked quizzical but nodded again. He almost ran this time.

Delbert gazed at him, now with a calm inside to match the exterior version. Two fingers shot up a third time. The teacher let him stew for a few minutes. He began to squirm and wave his arm.

“Tommy, what’s going on?”

“I really have to go.”

“Well, go then.”

The next day brought a repeat performance.

“You must’ve eaten something that doesn’t agree with you,” the teacher said exasperated.

He glanced at Delbert who gazed back unfazed. That night he told Teresa they better stop since Tommy started to suspect the cookie caused his problem. The next day Tommy noticed there was no cookie.

“Where’s my cookie, Pill?”

“My mother sees no point in giving me one if you steal it every day.”

“Well, you don’t get one either then,” he sneered.