It wasn’t a long drive, only four hours or so in total, but it had been a while since any of us had been on anything that could even charitably be called a road trip. There just wasn’t the need, living where we did: Marco in res, and Libbie so close to class you could see the cross on St. Michael’s College by hanging your head out of the bathroom window, as we’d discovered one afternoon toking. Jay lived further out, but in practice they spent more time at Arjun’s place or at mine, just two stops from the Sandford Fleming building on Line 1, and more than once, I’d come back from class to find them still asleep on my futon, a winter coat tugged on as a blanket.
“When does it start?”
It had been long enough since the hillbilly comment that I stirred like I was waking. In the rear-view mirror I could see Marco sitting up too: his breath had fogged up a neat circle on the back-left window.
“Midday,” Libbie said. She was the one who’d done all the correspondence and planning. “I don’t know when it’ll wrap up. Maybe an hour or two? I figure we can stop for food somewhere on the way back; don’t think there’ll be much by way of dining.”
I stared at the GPS for a moment: the little white arrow of the car, fording flat shapes in grey and green. The road we were on wasn’t named, just numbered.
“Did Jay ever mention anything much about growing up here?”
“Nothing good,” Arjun said. He was looking out the window, the pupils of his dark eyes juddering as he watched the trees sail past, like some kind of personal strobe light.
“I think it basically sucked,” Libbie elaborated. “I don’t think there’s much to do out here unless you really like fishing. Or hunting. Or like… tilling the field.”
“Ah yes,” Arjun said. “Jay’s three favourite pastimes.”
“What about people?” I said. “Grandparents still alive on their mother’s side I think, right?”
“Father’s,” Libbie corrected from beside me, and briefly looked over. “Why?”
I shrugged. “I dunno. Trying to think of what to say.”
“At the wake? You’re speaking?”
“They asked me to.” Begged was probably the right word for it, but it seemed an ugly thing to detail. “I guess they wanted a friend to do it, since the funeral’s family-only.”