Go west Tuesday February 2, 2010, 0 comments

The boy was born in the city and lived in the city till he was seven, a true child of the Big Smoke. The year he turned seven however, the whole world changed. It changed in part because his father decided to follow a dream, and also because the deep recession gripping the country had left his parents with negative equity in their west-end condominium. So, with nothing but a truckload of possessions and a few hopes they moved more than half-way across the continent to a small town town in the B.C. interior.

The boy was pretty excited about the change, largely because it had been presented to him as a grand new adventure like the ones he had read about in his books, but also because he was too young to feel the cold sting of leaving friends and family and everything he knew behind. His sister, older and more aware, was miserable about the whole thing, convinced it was the end of the world.

But move they would, and one warm summer morning, after one last tour of the bicycle path around the condominium building on his orange banana-seat bike, after seeing the bike packed carefully into the big yellow truck and after one last check of the moisture of the soil in the potted plants that filled the family car they would tow across the country, the boy settled into the long bench seat beside his father and prepared for the great experience. His mother and sister followed behind in another car keeping each other company in misery.

Later, the boy would remember driving through endless rows of perfectly spaced evergreens as they drove away from the city. He would remember the feeling of near hypnosis as row after row of trees passed by, so perfectly spaced that he could see lines of trees stretching not only off to the side of the road, but diagonally forward and to the back as well. But that was later, for now he babbled in the way of seven-year-olds, asking his father a million and one questions, and receiving a million and one considered and patient answers about the new home they were heading toward, the particular colour of the sky, the nature of life.

As they drove the topography of the land slowly changed from the gentle flat farmlands and perfectly gridded forests surrounding the city that the boy had always known. Rock formations, bigger than any rocks the boy had ever seen steadily displaced the farm fields and grid-like forests. Drumlins formed further from the road as the landscape became lumpier and more rugged. The boy asked his father if the drumlins were mountains, and his father laughingly responded in the negative, that real mountains were so big that he’d barely be able to see the top from down here.

They had driven for hours before the boy finally asked how long the drive would be. When his father explained that it would take five days to drive across the country, and that they’d see a lot of really amazing things on the way, the boy bounced on the bench seat in excitement and munched on his peanut butter sandwich. Ten minutes later he was fast asleep, his happy dreams blanketed in the steady engine thrum of the big yellow truck.


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