True Winter Tales: Today's pick
A December night in Quebec by Jamie Mason
A December night in Quebec, and not the pretty kind. Rust-eaten vehicles howl the ice-choked highway as salt smeared road-signs stand guard. The air hangs humid-cold, the kind that creeps up pant-legs and down parka sleeves like a layer of North Atlantic sea-water. Warm in the back seat of my parent's car, returning from a weekend at the ashram of their guru, I study my English text. Margaret Atwood peers out from a black-and-white photograph with a caption about survival. The still calm of her portrait is a welcome change from the colour films the guru showed of himself in the company of Hollywood stars.
What's that? Dad slows the car and parks on the shoulder. On this quiet stretch near Ste. Agathe traffic is sparse and either side of the highway crowded with pines the height of our house. I follow Dad's gaze to an empty patch of sky.
Ooh! I see it! Mother's voice, warmed by enthusiasm, fogs the passenger window. I squint, unsure what she's talking about. She is always first to see what dad sees - swift on the uptake, possessing a gift for collaborative make-believe so sharp it leaves me in the dust, wondering if I'm not somehow defective.
It's a UFO! Dad's voice softens: Visitors from another world ... Look!
I see it! Mother's voice tightens exactly as it did when agreeing that, yes, the guru really could fly! (He claimed to have taught the Beatles how and charged exorbitant fees to learn the secret.) I roll my window down a crack and squint into the blast of cold moist air that slides in. Above the trees I see nothing, just black cut by the white of drifting snowflakes.
I see the disk! Dad declaims like Howard Carter peering into King Tut's tomb. There's a line of bright red neon encircling the hull!
And lights! Mother's eyes twinkle. A checkerboard of light in alternating squares of blue and gold!
Try as I might I see none of these things. Only the sky. My parent's description of the craft is similar to that of a UFO we saw depicted in a movie two weeks ago. Embarrassed for them, I bite my lips and look down at my textbook. Margaret Atwood stares back at me sceptically.
Dad vibrates in excitement. They must be seeking evolved souls!
Beings like themselves!
Or like the Beatles, I think. I close my eyes. Close my book. Drop my hand to the door handle.
The craft! It's beginning to rotate!
I open the door and step into the snow. My parents do not notice me walking away into the forest. As their minds voyage in star-studded Hollyworlds I pause among the darkened trees to stand, drinking in black and white silence, preferring the cold reality of winter to their colourful make-believe.
Jamie Mason is from Duncan, BC