In the Pines

He fo­cuses the cam­era on the un­for­giv­ing glare of his wife

Geist - - Contents - Carolyne Mont­gomery

Iless­ness,

t is the end of a year of fa­ther

a year of pale blue aero­grams and rare transat­lantic phone calls. My fa­ther is here in Canada study­ing to qual­ify for his Cana­dian med­i­cal li­cence. My mother, brother, sis­ter and I have re­cently ar­rived from Ed­in­burgh.

It is a Sun­day in Au­gust. We drive from Lon­don, On­tario, to the Pin­ery Provin­cial Park in a new green 1964 Mer­cury Comet. This is our first car. The chil­dren have al­ready found their places in the back seat. My older brother, aged nine, chooses to sit be­hind my mother. I am the mid­dle child and get to sit be­hind my fa­ther. My seven-year-old lit­tle sis­ter is left

be­tween us with her feet on the hump.

We travel in a thick si­lence ad­min­is­tered by my mother, who has just con­firmed that her forty-one-yearold hus­band is hav­ing an af­fair with his su­per­vi­sor’s wife. The chil­dren will not know this for a few more years. At the gate, we buy the an­nual provin­cial park mem­ber­ship de­cal. Af­ter a care­ful ap­pli­ca­tion to the in­side of the wind­shield, we en­ter the park.

My fa­ther leads us along the path through the windswept grove of pine trees, be­tween the grass-cov­ered sand dunes and onto the blus­tery shore of Lake Huron. He is an ex­cel­lent swim­mer—my mother is not. She does not come with us. We splash about in the surf, shiv­er­ing in our new swim­suits.

Hud­dling un­der our damp bath tow­els, we perch on the thick wooden planks of the im­mov­able benches of our first pic­nic table. The sky re­mains cloud-cov­ered. Goose bumps prickle our pasty skin. Un­der our mother’s di­rec­tion, we strap our sandy feet back into our sen­si­ble leather san­dals.

My mother has packed some things into the wicker bas­ket that nor­mally be­longs to the cat. She also has brought an in­su­lated bag—a cooler, we are told. An oval wrought-iron hi­bachi with small wooden feet squats on the pic­nic table. It has two ad­justable grills, each not much big­ger than a piece of toast. My fa­ther ex­tracts lit­tle black pil­lows of char­coal from a colour­ful pa­per bag. We watch closely, squint­ing into the smoke as he strug­gles to light them. The smells of lighter fluid and burn­ing news­pa­per mix with the fragrance of the pine trees.

Even­tu­ally, we eat warmed-up hot dogs and drink red Kool-aid. This is the first time we have ever had hot dogs or the spe­cial soft buns that go with them. Un­til to­day, we have only seen Kool-aid in ad­ver­tise­ments on our new tele­vi­sion set.

My fa­ther, tall and bald­ing, is peer­ing down into the viewfinder of his cam­era. Firmly hold­ing the twin­lensed body of the cam­era at his waist, he fo­cuses on the un­for­giv­ing glare of his wife. He doesn’t ask us to smile.

My mother says she wants to go home. And six years later, she does.

Carolyne Mont­gomery for­merly worked in the field of medicine. She is an emerg­ing writer of fic­tion and non-fic­tion and re­cent grad­u­ate of the Writer’s Stu­dio at Si­mon Fraser Univer­sity. She lives in Van­cou­ver.

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