Blame it on the Wind Chill

Chapter 2

It’s almost five in the morning and I’m sort of freezing my ass off.

Waiting outside Pearson, with my luggage in tow, I’m curled up in a fetal position on a bench. A group of idling travelers’ children raise their eyebrows at me, but I don’t care. This is why you should never listen to CP24; I checked their website at the airport and it wasn’t supposed to be this cold, so I’m braving the elements in a thin Ducks sweater. Well if the wind chill doesn’t get me, there’s always the homicidal Leafs fan.

Being a seasoned flyer, you’d think that I’d have the common sense to bring a jacket as a carryon instead of shoving it deep into my suitcase amidst the snowshoes and other unmentionables. Currently it’s tied up with that airport yellow-plastic twine, but I’m literally two seconds away from ripping that apart with my teeth to get to the gold.

I look up to the sky for a sign from above, anything, to tell me everything’s going to be okay and that I’m imagining the tingling feeling in my fingertips. A little white flake lands on the bridge of my nose. Of course, snow would be the icing on the cake for this way-too-early start to my day.

It would be pointless to call Uncle Eric again; he spent two minutes ranting about how unsafe it is to use electronic devices while driving the last time I called to check up on his whereabouts. The man is admirable, but has the attention span of a child; I swear if he’s sitting at Tim Horton’s right now, stooped over a café mocha, I’ll camp out the rest of the night in baggage claims. Or call a taxi, whichever’s more convenient.

Cars whir by in a flash of weather-worn metallics, looking every bit inviting and warm. A man in a corporate suit sits down next to me and scooches his well-dressed ass over to the edge momentarily before being jumped by an unidentified object in a snowsuit.

“Daddy!” it squeaks in an impressive octave. A woman follows closely behind and I feel like a creepy outsider watching the family embrace in a three-way hug, pressing their hands together, clapping game style, while chanting some family motto. As they finish, the scene is completed with high fives all around and a father-daughter multi-combo handshake complete with the finger pullaway, like spindle fibres in mitosis. How incredibly...cheesy.

A string quartet breaks into a spiffed up rendition of Joy to the World as the happy family aboard their Magic School Bus and drive off into a CGI sunset. Oh God, now I’m just seeing things. Maybe I’ll close my eyes—”

“You still alive, kid?” A hazy figure stands before me like a mirage on a sunny day.

“Jesus Christ,” I say groggily.

“You wish.” Without a doubt, parked before me is the old beat-up hockey van, as shoddy as ever, in all its fire engine red glory. I remember those 7 A.M. practices and getting strapped in by my uncle while I was semi-unconscious, with a chocolate bar half shoved down my throat. The days of pimpin’ around town with the boys in this baby, Big Red, as we called her affectionately, stopping for Blizzards at Wendy’s and pushing the hunk of metal up out of potholes, while Uncle Eric yelled at us from the driver’s seat in true hockey coach fashion. “We have to get going, Sleeping Beauty; I have an early morning practice at noon and I’m not giving you a damn kiss.” He tosses my bags into the trunk with a deafening thump and I fly wordlessly towards the door.

“You defrosting okay?” he quips, strapping himself in.

“Like a waffle in a toaster.”

“You know that’s what I like to hear, boy. Glad I got the heater fixed? Banging and cussing are no longer necessary.” He fumbles with the keys and wipes the fog off his glasses. “You know, when I got the call from your mom about back problems I thought she was talking about your dad.” He chuckles. “So how is it old man?”

“Not as bad as yours. Older man.”

“On the contrary, my back’s as strong as an underaged Asian gymnast. Don’t you ever make fun of me for the yoga again.” Last spring he took it up while recovering from a little ‘tweak’ in his back on the recommendation of his trainer. “He’s Swedish, you know? What can I say; the Swedes know their shit pertaining to the back-strom.”

“Haha,” I say drily. “I still can’t fathom your need for a trainer in the first place. The way I see it you still fall into the category of fat bastard.”

“So how’s your beautiful mother?”

“Awful segue. And she is great, might I add. They’re in Tuscany now. Of course I don’t expect you to know where that is; it might be a little off the map for you.”

“Okay, now you've offended me,” he says, shaking his head. “This is why no other relatives wanted to take you and right now I’m considering between taking you back to the airport and dumping your scrawny ass into a ditch. Now, if you were my son I’d have you all nice and disciplined, but of course Perry’s kid has got more lip than Pamela Anderson. Sometimes I feel sorry for you. It’s not your fault you got the bad genes physically, hence your ugly face, and missed out on having a real male figure in your life, like, say, myself.”

“Pity. Adopt me then.”

“Hey, don’t push your luck, I don’t feel that bad.” We pull up to a Tim Horton’s drive thru. “I’m not friggin’ Angelina Jolie, either.” He orders some coffee and gets me a honey crueller. “Kids still like sugar, don’t they?”

“Always.” I bite into sweet decadence, while rubbing my hands up and down the coffee, working mad friction. “You realize you just made two pop culture references in one breath. You’re starting to lose your cool factor.”

“I know. I’ve been hanging out with the wife; it’s the empty nest effect.” He looks genuinely sad for a moment. I remember back when the house was like a hub for neighbourhood children and wild animals we snuck in. Back when children fuelled the tetanus shot industry. Things have certainly changed since then with all of us grown up and his kids at schools in Narnia or somewhere equally far. “I’m still getting used to life without the noise and all you no-good maggots breaking my wife’s figurine collection one slapshot at a time. Although I could do without the smell, you kids left your mark, alright.”

“Maybe you should bottle it and sell it. Your slogan can be, “want to smell like an NHLer?’”

“More like, “want to smell like gangrene?’”

I laugh. “That’s not nice. I bet it’ll be a sell-out. Kids can spray that shit all over their bags and trick their parents into thinking they’re getting their daily dose of recommended exercise, while really playing Nintendo games behind a snow bank. It's awesome.”

“Don't get any more ideas. You’re still annoying,” he says, swerving off the highway and stopping at a red light.

“And you’re still balding, but I’m not focusing on that, am I? See, I like to place a bigger emphasis on the person within,” I point to this chest, “rather than trivial things.”

“Alright we’re here. You can shut up now,” he says pulling up to the semi-detached house as a wave of nostalgia sweeps over me. It’s still the same save for a more attractive front yard. The mountains of snow are intact and swept to the side, making a clear path for the driveway. The garden lights, now fixed, light up the front yard in a solar powered glow. I can tell they’ve painted over those black rubber marks on the garage door and the rollerblade bench on the deck is replaced by some wicker furniture. It looks cleaner, more polished, but not as children-friendly.

I step into the cold air and it feels refreshing, as opposed to before. Mostly because his van still smells like a yeast infected jock. When he’s not looking I wipe my sugary hand on my pants before helping him out in the back. “I see you’ve neglected to change the broken windshield wiper.” The back window looks as gnarly as ever, with impenetrable scum except for a 3 o’clock pizza. “How do you even see out the back?”

“I don’t,” he says. “Parallel parking is a bitch, but I’ve copyrighted this look.”

“What ‘look’ would that be? The crappy red van?”

“No it’s the look of a winner. The broken wiper is just as iconic as the stunner itself. Do you think Michael Jackson would be where he is without that glove?”

“He’s dead.”

“Right. I knew that.”
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More rambling from me and thanks for the comment, Leslie! My Internet's been down for the whole week, so I'm using a friend's laptop. This chapter ain't done, but I felt like posting something. More characters will be introduced in the next part. ;)