Children’s Lit Volunteering/Ramblings

DSC_0477DSC_0479(view from on the way to volunteering; forgot to focus, evidently)

So, the five-week Thursdays story writing with kids is over, and so is Nanowrimo-just kidding, I never even started so I might as well have stopped. More randomness. Nothing makes much sense when you’re this tired, so I apologize for my rapidly declining prose. At least it was fun to escape out of this world and into another for a while – the same thing the kids got working on their stories. Only they took five hours to complete the whole thing, complete with illustrations. Kids these days.


That morning, winter came in full force. Our wheels barely seemed anchored to the ground as gale force winds threatened to levitate our car. Snow drifted in the air but never seemed to collect, leaving us shivering in the eerie dimlit car.

“Want to play I Spy?” I asked just as the engine gave a  muffled groan. I heard Brian yelp and gravity shift as our tires laboured to find traction on an icy turn.

{edit: Story has been editted here:}

“When are we getting off the highway?”

“In ten hours.”

Brian gulped.

“Don’t lie to your brother, Dan,” Mom said, giving me a stern look in the rearview mirror. “We’re all emotional because we’re going to see Dad again soon.”

“And because we haven’t slept,” I chimed in, ignoring Mom’s poisonous look.

“Or eaten!” I could barely hear Brian over the blasting whistle of the wind.

There were several more stretches of highway before we would stop.The imposing walls of rock seemed to slant above us. I began to think about the episode with Shelley as nothing more than a lizard skittering across a desert compared to this treacherous trek across B.C. We rolled into Revelstoke at one in the afternoon, Prince George at three, and Dawson Creek around three. Ms Rosehill’s voice echoed in my head, “That which comes around goes around.” That must be what the wheels were saying to each other right now: Is it possible to go around any more times?

At the reception of the small medical centre at Dawson Creek, Mom parked neatly into a pillbox like parking lot, gathered her breath, and gave the unassuming teal-walled bungalow a long, hard look. I began to unbuckle my seat. “Stay in your seats,” Mom ordered, staring at us sternly. But the wobble of her eyes betrayed her. I gulped. I remembered how Dad didn’t look like his eyes were focussing on me in our Skype call.

A blast of cold wind made us hold our breath as Mom got out, and then we were alone in the car, now a little colder than before. “Is Dad in trouble?” Brian finally asked.

“I think we’re lost.” I ignored his question since it amounted to the same thing.

We both watched as Mom stalked to the building and pushed open the door, where frost had already built up and made a chunk sound as she forced it open. She was gesturing as soon as she got in. The receptionist on the other side began pulling a large sheet of paper from a pad and circling something. She seemed too cheerful, ungainly red antlers waving on her head as if there was a moose behind the counter.

“And Merry Christmas to you too,” I muttered under my breath, staring at the greyness outside. I rubbed the rock in my pocket that Shelley had hit me without thinking.

“Why did you say Merry Christmas?” asked Brian in a shrivelled tone. He was tugging at his seatbelt.

“I said, we can say Merry Christmas to Dad when we get there.” Mom put her purse down on the counter. We would be here for a while. I closed my eyes, hoping Brian would think I was going to sleep. He must have, because he didn’t say more. But then I felt a warm hand sneak onto mine, where I had rested it right above my pocket. Little by little I felt Brian sneak his fingers into my pocket. For the life of me, I couldn’t seem to lift my fingers to stop him. The world seemed a little greyer as my eyelids gravitated towards my bottom ones. Images of Dad floated through my mind, tugging at something inside of me that I couldn’t quite name. The temperature of the car seemed to heat up, as if Brian were fiddling with the heating.

“Why do you have a rock in your pocket?”

I peeked open one eye to find that I had dozed off. “Why not?”
“I thought it was a dog biscuit.” I followed Brian’s gaze and saw that a car had pulled up beside us, with a dog inside.

“Let’s go out and greet them.” I hurriedly stuffed the rock back into my pocket and swung my legs out to stand up and open the door for Brian. I glanced up briefly, just enough to see that Mom was still inside, and had taken off her jacket.

A woman with a sleek ponytail and a rumpled shirt  ducked out of the car, holding the golden retriever by its leash. “Nice to meet you,” she said, noticing Brian right away.

If possible, I felt like I had gotten used to the cold, but this lady wasn’t even wearing a jacket.

“Don’t dogs think it’s cold?” I asked her.

“Not with that heavy coat of fur.” The woman laughed.  

Brian was petting the dog madly, so I continued. “We used to own a little dog that couldn’t stop shivering. But then it was taken away by the police because we couldn’t train it.”

“That’s too bad,” the woman said apologetically while crouching down next to Brian as he pet him. “I’d be devastated if someone took Terry away. He used to be a difficult dog, too. Weren’t you, Terry?” Now I noticed that she had a badge on her coat and the dog had a collar with a few extra tags on it, too. She seemed happy to let Brian pet Terry as long as he wanted in the parking lot of her work place. “Now, what brings you two here?”

“There’s our mom in the clinic.” All the sarcastic words that I had stored inside over the course of the road trip dissipated. “She’s doing her best to get us up north to where our Dad is.”

“Oh, are you three the Kirkwoods?” Both Brian and I looked up in surprise when she said that. “How do you know?”
“Greg Kirkwood’s recovery is one the biggest cases in the area. As you know, the population in these parts isn’t that large.” She laughed. “I may know you, but you don’t know me. I’m Alice, and I’m one of the medics for the Dawson Creek area.”

Alice gently shut the door to her car, where snow was starting to get in. Reaching into her pocket, she held something in her palm to Brian. Brian grabbed the dog treat excitedly and held it in his fist for Terry to lap. The slobbering was too much for him; Brian relinquished the dog treat almost immediately. I clapped along with Alice, feeling the familiar envy of owning a dog simmer, but it was tamped down almost immediately with the memory of having owned Fred, however briefly.

“Now, why don’t we get inside?” Alice nodded at Brian and let him hold onto part of the leash.

Suddenly, even though I had wanted to walk in with Mom, I didn’t want to know what she and the pretentious receptionist were talking about. It reminded me that we were still hours away from where Dad was stationed at a remote hospital even further up north, somewhere so high that our home seemed remote by comparison.


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