Fiction

Derek Mascarenhas

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Grand Opening

Aiden and I ate kielbasa and crackers in the car while we waited for our dad to come back. We each had a sleeve of crackers open, and took bites from the same coil of kielbasa. Mom said not to share food or drinks with people, but my brother and I had the same germs, so it was okay. We tried not to get crumbs on the back seat, but I wasn’t the most careful cracker eater. I brushed the crumbs from my summer dress and the blue vinyl seat down to the car floor mat. We had the windows down and the car was in the parking lot of the small mall, with the Home Hardware.

“Do you know where we’re going today?” I asked Aiden.

“Down by the bay. Where the watermelons grow.” Aiden took out two crackers.

I continued the song we’d learned at camp last summer when I was nine. “Back to our home, we dare not go, for if we do, our mother would say…”

“Did you ever see a whale with a peacock tail?” Aiden said.

“Did you ever see a kangaroo taking a poo?” I added.

Aiden took a big bite of the kielbasa followed by the two crackers; they made triangles stick out of his cheeks. I puffed my cheeks up with air and pretended to chew too. When Aiden saw me, he tried to hold in a laugh, but blew bits of dry cracker at the back of my dad’s seat.

Days out with Dad were different from days out with Mom. With Mom, we knew where we were going and when we’d be back, and she’d pack lunch for when we got hungry. With Dad, it seemed like he made the plans as he went along. Sometimes there’d be a big gap in the day and we’d drive around, or go see a movie. We never checked the movie times or what was playing until we got there, and then often just saw whatever started the soonest. Last time though, we really wanted to see The Addams Family, so we drove around and looked for something else to do in between. “We got some time to kill,” Dad said. When we were with Mom, she’d ask us, “How would you kids like to spend your time today?” I wasn’t sure sometimes whether I should be killing time because there was too much, or spending it like money because there was not enough.

I felt a soft breeze through the open windows, but was startled when my dad opened the car door.

“Just me Ally, sorry. What were you dreaming of?”

“Nothing.” I was still upset at Dad for missing my soccer game yesterday evening. My team won the championship game, and I got two assists. After the game we got a can of pop, a bag of chips and a trophy with a tiny gold man at the top standing mid-kick, with the ball at the end of his foot. Dad had said he would come to the game, but then took a shift at work instead.

“Here.” Dad handed back two scratch lottery tickets and a penny and a dime. He then started the car, and reversed. “See if we’re lucky today.”

Aiden took the dime, I took the penny and we went to work. We held the colourful tickets against our knobby knees, pinched the coins, and scratched away the small squares. Dad had his Travelling Wilburys tape playing. He tapped the steering wheel and hummed along to End of the Line. I could still hear the low clunk, clunk, clunk, our old Chevette made when we turned right. The car’s clicker went extra fast when we turned left. When we were younger, we used to call Dad’s car a Corvette, but now we knew the difference. Aiden said we should have gotten a Pinto to match our last name. I thought so too.

My lottery ticket was a dud. I brushed the scratchings down to join the cracker crumbs and put the penny in my pocket. Aiden won three dollars on his, the cost of another ticket. Mom didn’t like Dad buying lottery tickets. He’d won four hundred dollars once, but that was a few years ago. He said his luck had evaporated.

“Where we going, Dad?” I asked.

“A grand opening.” Dad always knew when and where all the new store openings were.

“What kind?” Aiden said.

“The grandest kind.” He looked in the rear view mirror at us to see our reaction, but I looked back to my scratched ticket.

“Where are we going after that?” I asked.

“Depends how much time we have to kill. We could visit Berne in the hospital. We haven’t done that yet.”

Berne was our old neighbour. She lived alone and baked chocolate chip cookies. Mom told us that she’d broken her hip coming out of the bath. Mom said, “How unfortunate it was for her.” Dad said, “Unlucky.”

“If you’re not up for that, we could go bowling.” Dad still had bowling trophies resting above the fireplace – they had the same gold man on top as my soccer trophy, but the ball was about to be released from his hand instead.

“I vote for bowling.” I hated hospitals. They smelled like strong soap and reminded me of the taste of blood. I had to go there two years ago when I cracked my head at home. Dad was lying on the carpet watching the hockey game; Toronto was losing to Pittsburgh three nothing. Aiden and I climbed and balanced on Dad’s legs, but I fell off right into the corner of the wall. I got six stitches at the hospital. I remember afterwards the doctors asked me if my dad had hit me. I told them it was the wall that hit me. As we drove home from the hospital, I heard on the radio that the Leafs had come back and won the game in the third. Dad clicked his tongue; I could tell he wished he hadn’t missed the game. I remember feeling worse than I did hitting my head.

“Aiden? What do you say?” said Dad.

“I say bowling too.”

“You kids are the boss. Bowling it is. Let’s see how this grand opening is first.”

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