CHAPTER ONE

“Sir, either put your bag in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you or I will have to remove it from the aircraft.”

Cranky,old cow.  At least run a brush through your hair. Sara watched as the Korean man stood in the aisle helplessly looking at the overflowing overhead compartment and the too-small-space under his seat.

Why had she chosen the cheaper ticket? Singapore Airlines had only been 2000 yen more. After her last flight on Air Crap-A-Duh four years ago, when they had no record of her ever having requested a vegetarian meal and a mother with a baby was told “this isn’t a bar” when asking  a stewardess to warm up a bottle of milk, she’d sworn she’d never fly with them again. In fact, she was so angry that she became a member of Ihateaircanada.com.

“Sir, do I need to remove your bag from the aircraft?”

“Uh?”

“Your bag!  You can’t just leave it there!”

“I don’ know!”

“DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?”

“Yes, little.”

“Just a sec…KEIKO? KEIKO? Can you speak Chinese?”

Sara popped a Xanax into her mouth.

“I’ll pay you for one of those.” The older Indian guy sitting next to her smiled and chuckled. Sara handed him a pill.

“Knock yourself out.”

“I remember the days when they handed out roses to all the women on each flight,” he smiled through his thick moustache.

“Gone are those days.”

“You’re telling me. “

She hated being forced into conversation with seatmates on a plane. Generally, flights from Tokyo were filled with Japanese passengers who were (A) too shy to speak with a foreigner or (B) had an English vocabulary consisting of the words “no”, “I don’t know” and “sexy.”  She invested ten minutes of her time with the stranger sitting next to her explaining that she worked for a publishing company in Tokyo as an English editor, had lived there for three years, was divorced, and NO, was not interested in meeting up for a drink in Vancouver.

Already dying for a smoke, she had four gin and tonics to make the flight more bearable, and then passed out watching an old episode of Corner Gas on in-flight entertainment.

___________________________________________________________

Mom’s hair was long, and she had finally gotten a dye-job too. She looked much better than the last time Sara had seen her when she’d gotten one of those, short perms that so many “women-of-a-certain-age” like to get because it is “comfortable” and you “barely have to do anything with it in the morning.”

Unfortunately, Dad’s pot-belly had gotten even bigger.

“Hey there!”  Hugs and kisses.

“What on Earth have you done to your hair?” Mom reached out and touched her short bangs.

“Is that how they wear it in Japan?” Dad laughed.

“No, I just wanted something different. Have you been waiting long?”

“Oh no. Just thirty minutes. Is that all you have for a coat? It’s cold outside ya know. Guess you don’t get winter over there like you do here.”

They grabbed her luggage and headed outside. It wasn’t that cold. Dad threw her bags into the back of the Subaru, then handed mom the keys and took off in a trot back to the terminal.

“Where’s he going?”

“Honestly, he has to use the restroom about twenty times a day. Just get in.”

“So he’s not doing so well?”

“No, he is fine. It is all in his head. They took out the colostomy bag and say he is totally back to normal. But it is all psychological. Honestly, it just drives everyone nuts.”

Ten minutes later dad was back and they were on the road. Sara sat in the front seat. For as long as Sara could remember, mom always insisted on sitting in the back. Mom hated dad’s driving.

“Yeah, it is just awful. I just feel it coming and I have to go. I messed myself a couple times, so uh, eh…” As was his habit, dad cut off mid-sentence and finished the conversation in his head.

“So are you hungry?” mom asked from the back.

“No. I had something on the plane.”

“Oh! There’s a real good place on the way that has these herb, fo-ko-shu buns. They’re real good. You want one of those?”

“It’s focaccia,” mom corrected from the rear seat.

“I KNOW what it is!”

“Then why did you say ‘fo-ko-shu’ if you know?”

“She knows what I mean!”

“Well, I’m not hungry,” Sara cheerily interjected.

The forty minute drive seemed like a year. She hadn’t been able to finish even half a cigarette on the quick walk from the terminal to the Subaru. She was barely even listening to mom chattering from the back.

“…so I said, ‘you know Kat, we always love having him over but last time he was here Ryan’s digital camera went missing. I’m not saying Landon stole it, but ya’ know that girlfriend of his? She’s a shifty one. Anyway, she’s all ticked off at me now.” The Bell Family Gossip Report continued for the rest of the drive home.

“Sorry about that,” dad mumbled.

“About what?” Sara asked.

“Herb! Oh honestly, open the window. Phew!”

“Sorry, it’s just, uh, after the surgery…phew! That IS bad!”

Sara pulled her turtle-neck up over her nose.

The car veered left at the familiar driveway snaking up the hill on Goose Lake Road. As they turned the second bend a mammoth motor home came into view.

“What’s that?”

“Yeah. Wes and Kat,” dad mumbled.

“They brought their motor home?”

“You know Wes. Said he wasn’t coming unless he could bring the beast. It’s a good thing though, because their dog is a little terror,” mom explained.

“Just plain stupid, those two. They paid more for gas to bring that darned thing up here than it would have cost to fly. Plus, can’t shovel the snow around the thing,” Herb grumbled as he revved the engine to make it up the final and third turn.

“Hon, whatever. If that is what’s going to keep Wes in a good mood, then fine.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Oh, looks like Ned’s here. That’s his new truck.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah. A real lemon.” Herb explained pointing to a rather ordinary-looking, black pickup.

The garage door opened. Half of the garage was piled to the ceiling with boxes labelled in dad’s writing with such varying descriptions as “Sharon Rose Glassware” and “Old Fisher Price.”

They went in through the basement door and into the family room. The pool table was stacked with more boxes and a jumble of teacups and saucers, old toys, Hotwheel cars and junk mail. Ned was at the computer.

“Hey.” His one and only greeting.

“Hey little brother!” Sara hugged him and he gave her his traditional pat on the back.

“What the Hell did you do to your hair?”

Advertisements