My attempt at some fiction…..
I am trying to push beyond my comfort zone and write some fiction. This is a story that I have had in my head for probably 10 years and I am finally writing it. I thought it would be fun to post each chapter here on the blog so that I can finally get the story out of my head and onto paper….errr…computer.
MY FATHER’S DAUGHTER
The Ford Taurus lumbered along the Forestry road, the last pass of the grader had created a washboard effect and my back was killing me. I had abandoned my navy heels to the passenger seat and was now driving in bare feet, my expertly manicured toes looked out of place against the pedals of the Taurus. Had I known that I was going to have to go out to the lake following the funeral, I would have rented an SUV at the tiny kiosk in the airport.
The pickings were slim at the rental car company. The young girl who greeted me at the kiosk had obviously been midway through a construction project in the moments before her shift. There was sawdust clinging to curly red hair and her worn jeans were dirty where the denim had dragged in the mud. Her friendly smile was infectious and I couldn’t help but ask her what on earth she was doing before her shift.
“Oh! We were building a dog-house and I lost track of time. If I didn’t live so close I wouldn’t have heard the plane coming in and you would have been out of luck!” she said with a wink.
I handed her my credit card and requested the silver Acura that I had spied out the sliding airport doors.
“Sorry sweetie, the Acura is reserved already, but I have a Ford Taurus that is just as nice – we had it cleaned professionally yesterday so it has that new car smell!”.
Clearly, the artificially acquired ‘new car smell’ had worked as a selling feature for previous customers. My tired brain was starving for a bath and a soft bed so I just shrugged, “Sure. The Taurus will be fine”.
Keys in one hand and my hard-sided Tumi suitcase in the other, I made my way out the airport doors into the fresh air. The pavement was uneven and I could imagine my Tumi crying real tears in distress as it was dragged to the parking lot where my grey ‘professionally cleaned’ Ford Taurus sat waiting.
Driving the short distance from the airport to the hotel, I admired the freshly swathed canola fields on either side of the highway. I could smell the harvest air and I was reminded of how magical the Peace Country could be in September. The contrast of the lapis blue sky against the sun-tanned hue of the fields could only be truly appreciated by the eye, not the camera nor the paintbrush.
“If the people at work could see me now!” I laughed. It’s true. My colleagues at my firm were city born and raised therefore had no concept of small town life. They would feel awkward and out of place and probably offend someone with a condescending comment or an errant eye roll.
“You are going to Dawsons Creek?” asked my secretary when I had requested she make my travel arrangements. Her name was Sophia – pencil thin and with a penchant for expensive shoes. This day she was wearing juniper coloured Ferragamo boots with mirror heels that retailed for $6000.00. I never asked how she could afford to feed her shoe habit but we all knew that she had a sugar daddy from one of the high rises nearby. Calgary was full of rich men who had a compulsion to spend their money on expensive things. I don’t judge – we all have our secrets and if pretending was what it took to keep Sophia and her ferocious talent as my gate-keeper on my side of the office, then pretend I shall.
“No Sophia, not Dawsons Creek like the show. Book me a flight to Dawson Creek please”. For my entire life outsiders have queried about the unusual name of my small home-town; I had to remind them that there no was Joey, Dawson or Pacey in my high-school.
A short time later she strutted into my office with my itinerary. “You fly from Calgary to Vancouver and then change aircraft and fly to Dawson Creek” Giggling, she added, “Do you know how small the plane is from Vancouver to Dawson Creek? No business class this time!”
Sophia had managed to book me a flight to Dawson Creek for Thursday, which meant I had one night to get my shit together before the funeral on Friday.
“You are a spoiled brat!” my sister had screamed at me over the telephone a mere week earlier when she had called to discuss funeral arrangements.
“I am a spoiled brat because I don’t want to stay at the house?” My decision to stay at a hotel instead of our family home had rubbed her the wrong way. The truth was, I was afraid to stay at the house. I was scared that the emotions that I had managed to contain over the past few weeks would bubble over and overpower me. I needed to keep it together and that meant staying in a hotel by myself with a fully stocked mini-bar.
The Holiday Inn Express was a new hotel so I was practically guaranteed that there were no bed bugs or lingering cigarette smell on the bedding. My heels clicked on the floor of the lobby as I neared the front desk but the noise wasn’t enough to get the attention of the clerk as her eyes were glued on her computer screen just below the counter.
“Ahem” I tried to politely get her attention.
The blonde head popped up quickly, clearly startled by the sound.
“Oh my God! Grace?”
“Damnit!” The ice cream had fallen onto the crotch of my jeans and now was soaking into the cloth seat of the mini-van.
I managed to press the button to unroll the window and I tossed the empty cone out onto the highway, quickly followed by the chunk of melting ice cream that I managed to scoop from between my legs.
A horn blasted at me from behind and through my vantage of my rear view mirror, I could see the driver wildly gesturing and mouthing the words, “stupid bitch”.
Laughing and perhaps more than a little intimidated, I reached out the open window and gave him the middle finger before stomping on the gas to get as far away from him as I could. The V8 engine screamed with excitement and I surged ahead down the highway.
The ice cream had been purchased on a whim as I had passed the Husky station on my way out of town. “I wonder if they have Maple Walnut”, I mused, finally deciding to check it out for myself. It’s not often that I found myself alone and able to get away with stopping for ice cream. My twins would be outraged, “Momma! We not allowed to eat in the car”.
They didn’t have my favourite, but they did have a fresh tub of vanilla and sometimes you can’t argue with good ol’ fashioned, plain-Jane vanilla ice cream.
“A cup or a cone?” I could see the clerk’s forearm tense as she jabbed the metal scoop into the bucket and pulled out a massive chunk of ice cream.
“Cone please!” I responded, quickly adding, “I am driving”.
She proceeded to complete my order by ramming the large chunk onto the opening of the cone and I wanted desperately to tell her, “First you fill the bottom part of the cone and press it down. Then, once the bottom is filled, you can add the ice cream on top”. Everyone knows that the ice cream that fills the bottom part of the cone acts like a glue for the ice cream on top!
I hadn’t said a word when she passed the massive cone across the glass case to my outstretched hand and now I was paying the price.
It was typical of me. I could think of a hundred times where I wished I had the courage to speak up. The swim coach who told me to, “suck it up Krista” when I was scared of the deep end and I nearly drowned. The daycare provider who insisted that I bring the twins even though another child had chicken pox and that; “it was better for them to get it while they were really little”. Three weeks later I spent the better part of ten days with both of them in the hospital.
My inner voice was wise, but for some reason I was unable to share it when it really mattered.
I stared at the sign ahead on the right, “Tippy Lake 10 km” and was hit with a wave of realization. Slowing the mini-van, I signaled to turn off the highway.
Today is the day. Today I am going to confront my demons and if it gets me emotionally excommunicated from the family then so be it!
Flipping down the visor mirror I see myself: cropped brown hair fluffed haphazardly early that morning using dry shampoo and wide-set green eyes hidden behind cheap dollar store sunglasses.
Reciting one of my favourite movie lines, I speak to the reflection, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important”.
You is all of those Krista. Now if only I could summon the courage to remember that when the time came.
“Can we hurry this along please?” My patience was wearing thin and I knew that I was going to be the last one to arrive at the cabin.
“Our apologies Caroline, bear with us for just a couple of more minutes?” The Funeral Director smiled at me with that waxy, practiced smile that I had grown accustomed to seeing over the past week. Why do all Funeral Directors remind me of Lurch from the Adam’s Family?
I was weary of this place: the somber music looping on what I assumed was a Spotify playlist, the lack of colour on the concrete walls, the high-backed chairs. It was all too much and it took everything I had left in me to politely wait while Lurch printed out the funeral invoice.
As per usual, it had been left up to me to settle with the funeral home. “The glamorous life of the Executor just never ends!” Krista had reminded me of this when I had mentioned that I was going to be late to the cabin.
I had wanted to throat punch her when she said that to me, but of course I didn’t do anything of the kind. I had just smiled at my younger sister as she prepared to leave with husband and twins in tow.
Her children were monsters and had screamed throughout the service. During the power-point presentation, one of them had escaped his seat and toddled up the aisle yelling, “I haffa poop!” to anyone who would listen. Finally his father looked up from his cell phone long enough to notice and he took the twins out into the lunchroom for the remainder of the program.
“Caroline! Caroline?” Realizing that Lurch was speaking, I tried to snap out of the fog of exhaustion that had begun to consume me.
Paperwork signed, cheque written, urn in hand, I was now free to leave this ghastly place.
Using my left hip to push the heavy door, I exited the building and welcomed the warm September sunshine.
I was done.
It was over.
Time to move on with my life.
What life would it be? Where do I begin? Can I really start over at my age?
Placing the urn on the passenger seat, I carefully wrapped the seatbelt across it, securing it in place.
This day could not end any faster. My hands shook as I reached into my purse to find my cigarettes. I had promised Dad I would quit, but even he would not begrudge me a cigarette today of all days.
The wind made it difficult to light the white dart, but my habit was a powerful motivator and in moments I was enjoying the first hit of nicotine. My body relaxed and I leaned against the car and smoked – the tension of the past week seeping from every pore.
My brief repose was interrupted with the thought that I’d better get moving: Daylight was fading and the narrow road to the lake could be unforgiving when the poplar jungle woke with wandering deer and moose who tend to get confused in the glare of oncoming bright headlights.
Smashing the butt onto the ground, I gave it a final tap with my heel to ensure that I wasn’t going to drive away being responsible for a grass fire erupting in my wake.
As I fastened myself safely in the car and heard the engine roar to life, I glanced over at the urn and resisted the urge to caress the metal exterior.
“You comfortable Dad?”
It was over.
He was gone.
I was free.