summer's a bad time for me
(originally published in Canada by Exile Editions)
Stan lowered his phone, shoved it in his pocket.
"He said he forgot."
Muriel tried to let on like it wasn't a big thing, but she couldn't believe it. Seventeen hours flight, three-hour layover, and they'd been forgotten?
"He said it slipped his mind but that he'll be on his way."
"Well," she said, "he's got a lot going on." She tried to sound forgiving, hoping to lure Stan into a similar attitude. But she could already see the red blotches breaking out all over his face.
They lived in Perth. Their son had moved to Toronto three years before, with the new wife. Who had given birth to Stan and Muriel's first grandchild, a boy, named Luke, after the famed Jedi knight. Stan and Muriel had dipped into their modest savings and purchased a ticket to Toronto. When Stan had first called to say that they were going to come, the son paused and said, "Well, when are you planning on coming out, because summer's a bad time for me."
November twenty-third they arrived in Canada to see their grandson. They would have come in September but Muriel couldn't get off work then and October was out because Stan was competing in the club bowls championship. Truth is, they would have come out right away, in June or July, but after that comment about summer being a bad time they thought bugger him then, we won't inconvenience ourselves either.
The trouble with November, though, was that it was cold. They'd been standing outside the arrivals level a good twenty-five minutes, horribly under-dressed. Muriel hadn't been feeling well on the plane and now they were freezing to death on a curb waiting for the son who'd let it slip his mind. When they'd first phoned him with the flight information he'd said, ok, just meet me out front. They hadn't understood so he explained: parking at the airport was murder on the old wallet, so he'd just pull up to the curb in front of the arrivals level and wait for them in his car. He'd track the flight on-line, it wouldn't be a problem. Muriel tried to convince Stan that he was only being practical. Still, when they'd cleared customs and passed through the sliding partition, Muriel and Stan had both privately hoped that their son would surprise them and be among the throng of expectant faces.
When they stepped out into the chilled air and couldn't see any sign of him, Stan went up to a porter to find out if there was another arrivals level but the porter confirmed that this was the only one.
Five minutes in, Stan said he was going to call, to find out what was going on, but Muriel said wait, I'm sure he'll be here any second, I can feel it. Plus she didn't want Stan antagonizing the boy first thing; he was a sensitive sort and Muriel was determined to start the visit off with hugs and kisses. Ten minutes after that Stan told Muriel to go wait inside but she refused, saying she wanted her son to see them both when he pulled up, didn't want him catching a fright if his mother wasn't right beside his father. Besides, she said, she was too excited to see the boy after three years to wait inside just because it was a little cold. Stan said it's a bloody lot cold but Muriel wouldn't budge. Instead, she wrapped her arms around herself and shivered and smiled whenever Stan looked over at her. Finally, after twenty-five minutes she said, okay, call. That's when they found out it had slipped his mind.
Half an hour later, Muriel spotted their son's car. She put her hand on her husband's arm and said please Stan, please.