They drove in silence mostly, the big car gobbling up the miles, the towns & it seemed any expectation of conversation as well. The old man, ravaged in later years by the excesses of his earlier lifestyle choices, was at the wheel, squinting through the grubby bifocals he doggedly refuses to change. The backseat is occupied by his two adult children, both staring out to the flashes of gasping landscape that the recent rains had failed to quench. In the airport, now 3 hours behind them, lingered the hugs & kisses of their fumbling & awkward rendezvous, their union now restored to its familiar state of building tension, a tension that is never far away from these family gatherings.
The daughter, the younger of the two backseat passengers, tried to extract something other than a mumble from her father who in his reluctance to engage, hunched nearer the steering column with each question. Pulling himself away from the numbing bleakness of the fleeting scenery which seemed to have hypnotised him somewhat, her brother answered her query.
‘She always wanted it this way, talked about it in that maudlin way of hers’
She absorbs this & her temper fizzes momentarily
‘Yes I know exactly what her maudlin way was’ her tone indicating the years of suffering an older brother & continued, ‘I was really saying’ her scolding eyes still on him, ‘that I feel a bit, well you know, left out of the whole thing’.
‘The whole thing?’ he said giving her his full attention for the first time since the airport & that look that she always interpreted as being slightly superior, it always shitted her.
Her exasperation begins to uncoil but before she can release it, he says quietly & reflectively, ‘Yes. I do too’ which wrong foots her & she wrestles back her intended words & bites her lip for some comfort.
‘Heather’, a voice from her childhood shocks her into the present. ‘Don’t bite your lip!’ says her father, his spectacled grey blue eyes, glowering at her from the rear view mirror.
Her brother turns & beams at her fully for the first time since the morning, both of them transported, knowing.
Their father disengages his stare from the mirror to the road & then across to the passenger seat. The sash of the seat belt coddles the urn with the initials M.L.L.C. he pats it & allows himself a grin, they’ll be there soon, a countery, a few pots & a motel bed. ‘What kind of cooked breakfast will I have?’ he speculates. ‘Bet there’s fuckin’ butter portions though’ snatching another sideways look at the urn, almost expecting a rebuke. Then his sons voice, deep & manly, not like he remembers, that of the small soft, timid, cuddly boy, quick to tear & to flinch says the word that brought them together for this road trip