Convertible (MEC, 2019)
He’s just arrived, drove all the way up here from Toronto. Took him a couple of days; he’d been calling along the way to let us know of his progress. The top is down and I’m sure that baby blue Buick convertible has caught the eye of all the men and women in this small northern town I’ve come to know as home. After a strong, warm handshake with our right hands and synchronistic shoulder grab with our left, the closest we’d ever get to a hug, I had him go back into his car so I could snap a photo with my Brownie camera.
“Hurry up,” he says through teeth clenched into a tight smile, “I’ve got to whiz so bad my back teeth are floating.”
“Ha! There you go,” I say, quickly capturing the moment. “That should do the trick. Beer?”
“You bet! I’m positively parched! But first …”
“First door on the right once you’re inside.”
“Thanks, man,” he says breathlessly as he breaks into a tight, controlled run past me, up the three cement steps and into the small white house. He tosses his keys to me as he goes past, “Take ‘er for a spin!”
We’d been great friends through school, but where I’d settled down into my forestry job and married a girl from town, he’d stayed in the city and was making the big bucks now. The city was what he knew, and he was comfortable there – yet, he’d driven all that way to come and see me. Oh, and to show off his new car, I supposed. I winced inwardly, embarrassed at myself for thinking ill of his good fortune.
I flipped the keys around my fingers. I’d always dreamed of owning a convertible one day, but with one thing and another, first Marina and then the kids, well, it turned out that starting a family was more important to me than a two seater at this stage of the game. And, where would we put the dog?
I walked over to the car and ran my hand along it’s gleaming fin, still warm to the touch from the miles and the sunshine, right up to its headlights. The wind screen and hood were coated in bug guts – I went back over to the house and unraveled the hose. Wally wasn’t just a good friend, we’d known each other since grade school. He was like the brother I never had. I cranked the rusty faucet on and brought the dribbling hose over to the car, soaking it down. The sooner we start working on those bug guts, the quicker and easier they’ll come off.
I had thought I’d resent seeing him, that I’d be wishing I hadn’t come here to work and to live, but I realized that no, I was happy here. Settled. The joy of the birth of our daughter was just so much greater than having any kind of car or however else men measure success. It felt cheap to me to have even considered comparing my family and our lives together to a new car – even if the car was a baby blue Buick convertible.
Wally returned from the house, a beer in each hand, and offered me one. We tipped the bottles together – clink! – and took a long, thirst quenching drink, the beads of perspiration on the dark bottles dampening our palms.
“Good to see you, Wally.”
“And you, Jim. This almost didn’t happen – had a close encounter with a moose along the way. Grateful to be here.”
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