“Hello, Low Tar Roofing, Lorne speaking. Hi mom, yep. We’re on the highway, just coming into West Van.” Lorne checks his rear view mirror and pulls over into the slow lane, fumbles the telephone to his left ear while holding the steering wheel with his right hand.
“Yeah, dad and I looked at a job up in Hope. Big one. Yeah, I think I’ll take it, Well, I’m heading into traffic, talk to you later.” He clicks the cellular button off, looks towards the passenger side of his small pickup truck, “That was mom, she sounds better now, guess she’s accepting us the way we are, eh?” He settles back into the seat, flinging his right arm up onto the back of it. “Ah, the freeway, we can cruise from here.” He shifts into fourth gear, picks up the phone again, pushing buttons as the tones echo in the little cab.“Gonna call Sue,” He says, checking his mirrors again. “Hi sis, it’s me. Oh we’re fine. Who? Me and dad. We’re on the freeway heading for the ferry. Talked to mom and she’s feeling better. We’ve been to Hope. Stopped at Harrison and reminisced about our trips up there. Yeah, that was fun in those days. Remember the little evergreens you pulled up from beside the road on those trips? They’re real trees now. It’s quite a major resort up there now. Busy? OK talk to you when I get there.” He turns the phone off, transfers it expertly to his right hand and puts it on the seat beside him. Shifting gears again he concentrates on the road as the s-curves and downhill slope runs into Horseshoe Bay. The highway straightens out just before the Squamish turnoff, he relaxes again. Glances over to his right, “Sue’s fine. She wondered where you were. She’s glad you’re with me. Let’s stick together, eh.”
Lorne reaches under his seat, pulls out a can of Molson’s Blue and pulls the tab, juggling it against the steering wheel. “I know you don’t approve, but I need this one.” He takes several long, satisfying gulps of warm beer.
There is no line up at the Langdale booth as he pulls up to the open window, hands his commuter ticket to the attendant, “What time’s the next one,” he asks the uncommunicative young man in the booth. “Two thirty.” The booth window closes with a thud.
“An hour to kill, eh. Oh well,” he pulls away from the booth, follows lane 29 until it changes to lane 6, and coasts slowly to the head of the empty row. “Guess we shouldn’t have stopped at that truck stop in Chilliwack for coffee. Oh well.” Turning off the ignition, he releases his seat belt, finishes off the can of beer and reaches under the seat for another. He flips on the radio, looks over to his right, lifts the can of beer in a toast, and chuckles as he begins to sing along with the radio. “Trailer for sale or rent,” he sings loudly, then stops. “Remember that trailer you built us when we moved from Edmonton to Red Deer. Us three kids, you and mom, all crammed into that little homemade caravan. Sue pretending we were gypsies.” He chuckles, takes another gulp of beer. “Yeah, that was a pretty good trailer, your first of several.” He watches in his rear view mirror as a moving van pulls up behind him. “Yup, we’ve spent a lot of time in these ferry line-ups haven’t we? Remember heading over to Sechelt, the whole family crammed into the old Pace Arrow; dogs, cats, the whole tribe?” He laughs, but his laughter has an edge to it, a cynicism that always comes out after a couple of beer. “And Harry’s birthday, remember Harry’s fortieth birthday. Sue made a treasure hunt for him and he had to go all over Sechelt searching for clues. He had to ask a woman in the drugstore for a key. Found his gift in Sue’s post office box. Yeah, that was good. Good old Sue. She’s great, Sue is. Yeah.” he lets out one long sigh, and leans forward onto the steering wheel. “And remember those horrible renovation jobs I had? You saved my butt on those ones. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. And Mrs. Briggs, Bags, whatever, she knew it. Boy, she knew I didn’t have a clue. She was after my hide, that one. What a oh, sorry.” He turns his head to stare out his side window, watching as a car pulls up beside him. He sits in silence, watching, as the lot fills up for the next sailing.
“And my old wooden boat. ‘Chief.’ Boy, I couldn’t have got it going without your help. I sure wish we..” A tap at his window interrupts his train of thought. He rolls the window down, looks up into the face of a police officer. “Doing a spot check on cars today, sir, where are you heading?” The officer speaks pleasantly, leaning down to peer in at Lorne. “To my boat, in Sechelt, sir.” He pronounces each word slowly and carefully, trying not to slur.
“You do realize it is against the law to consume alcoholic beverages in a public place?”
Lorne puts the beer can down on the floor, “Sheesh, no, I never thought about it. Sorry.”
“How many have you consumed?”
“Just one, this is my second, I just opened it, wasn’t really thinking.”
The officer peers past Lorne, looking at the seat beside him. “What’s in the bag, sir?”
Lorne looks to his right, pats the seat, “That? That’s my dad.”
The officer straightens up, pulls the door open and stands back, his hand still on the handle.
“Will you step out of the truck please sir.”
Lorne looks over to his right again, hesitates and then gets out slowly, stepping out of the officer’s way. “May I see what’s in the box in the back?”
“That’s just my tools,” Lorne heads toward the back of the truck, opens the large black wooden box that holds his boat-fixing tools. As he does this, the officer leans into the cab of the truck and lifts the large white bag off the seat, looks inside, pulls out a large white plastic container, holds it up, reads the label and then carefully puts it back into the bag, and sets it back on the seat. He turns to Lorne with compassion in his voice, “Sorry sir. You’ve been to your father’s funeral. Taking his ashes home, are you? Sorry.” He walks toward the car behind them, turns and looks at Lorne, “Be more careful with that beer sir,” and then walks away.
Lorne gets into the cab, shuts the door, reaches down, picks up the can of beer and takes one long slurp. “Whew, thanks dad.” He laughs a loud and bitter laugh, “you just saved my butt again.”
©Sharron R. McMillan