They were six. The four kids, hers and his combined. Some part of them both made a weak effort to rationalize the whole thing, to say that it had seemed like a good idea at the time – but the truth was that neither of them believed that. No, it had been a bad idea from the start, and they both knew it.
The endless succession of road trips across Canada had taught her one thing: to really appreciate disappointment, one had to live to the fullest. And have a sense of irony. He wrestles with with the obsolete stick shift, hopelessly lost in reverse. This one thinks he is in control (!) Had she really ever needed a man at all? Superfluous. A family, she decided, was built on warring factions in the back seat. Your side, my side.
Wearied from step-sibling warfare, he invents fictions to connect the back stories of billboards, graffiti, roadsigns. The habit would never leave him. A persistent, inane compulsion. Thirty years on, he is still mouthing delinquent poetry from the ghost of a wall somewhere, long since demolished. Doesn’t understand a word, likes the sound of it is all. A convoy of pickups and crummies cedes the gravel road…stay on your side, tree huggers- it’s spontaneous, an old habit.
The foreman: Easy guys – this is their kingdom – it’s the only part of their lives they feel they’ve got any control over. This gets a nod of understanding from all, no false sympathy. But you swear you’ll never go there yourself, you’ll never allow it.
Sometimes they argue and then he sleeps in the car. Awoke with a clear conscience. This seemed to help the situation. Years later, even after the kids are grown, and she’s left and re-married, he still prefers the car. They’ve bonded. This is wrong,he thinks.