Pineapple or no, the boy gripped the edge of the back-seat bench tightly the whole way down. And it was a long, long way down. It went on forever, first around a bend this way, then around a bend that way. And always on one side a sheer wall of stone rose up farther than the window let him see. On the other side, sometimes only a few feet away, a bottomless drop into a forested gorge. Down and down they drove.
His ears popped occasionally. He spared a glance at his mother, who gripped the steering wheel like grim death as she followed the big yellow truck down the pass. He was secretly glad he wasn’t the only one scared out of his mind. He tried to talk to her once, but the single sharp “shh” was enough for him to abandon communication and suffer in silence.
At one point his sister reached across the bench and gave his leg a squeeze, as if to say everything would be all right. The boy nodded, trying to believe, but he knew she didn’t know why everyone was so scared. He guessed she thought he was worried about arriving in a new town, which was the furthest thing from the truth. He wasn’t afraid of being the new kid in a strange town. That was easy, compared to the eternity of the trip down the Kicking Horse Pass.
It was an agonizing eternity. They continued moving, and the scenery, which was spectacular and foreign and wonderful, and would have impressed the boy mightily had he not been so distracted, seemed to stand still. More than once he lost sight of the big yellow truck as it rounded a massive rock edifice, and once it took so long to reappear that his heart felt like it had stopped in his chest and he was sure the brakes had failed, that the truck had gone screaming over the edge. But it reappeared, picking its slow, steady way down the hill, and the boy’s heart started again.
And then the landscape suddenly changed. The hard stone walls fell away to reveal the floor of a long, narrow valley trisected by two rivers. At first the boy didn’t register what was happening, he couldn’t fit this new information into the world of fear and worry about his father, but slowly it dawned on him that they were at the bottom. They had made it.
The boy breathed a deep sigh of relief. He finally noticed that the sun had set, and that night was sliding slowly across the valley. His father pulled the truck off the highway into a gas station. His mother followed and parked beside the big yellow truck. The boy rushed to undo his seatbelt, losing several seconds as he fumbled with it in his haste. Once free, he pushed open the door and ran up to his father as he stepped down from the driver’s side door. The boys, together again, hunkered down beside the front wheel. The big silver disc of the brake had an unreal reddish glow to it, barely visible in the twilight. He looked at his father who put his fingers to his lips. The boy nodded knowingly. This glowing brake was their secret. Better his mother and sister didn’t know about it.
Then they went in and ordered pizza. Pizza with pineapple, and it was every bit as good as his father had said it would be.