Monday, June 21, 2010

The Commute


The summer I turned 15 my best friend and I landed a weekend gig cleaning a planing mill under the knight Street Bridge, on the north bank of the Fraser river. That’s about a 45 minute drive from Langley, BC, where I grew up.

Only problem was that my best friend and I were too young to drive to work. Not to worry. We could car pool with three other guys, our new boss said. They were a bit older, they lived near us, and they also had weekend duties around the mill.

We were to meet these guys at the 7-11 store parking lot at 5:30 on Saturday morning. Be prompt, our boss warned. My best friend’s mom drove us there and we waited until nearly 6:30. Just as we were about to give up, a wheezing white van sped into the empty stall beside our car and rolled down its driver’s window.

“You the new grunts?” a young man in his 20’s grunted.

We climbed out of my friend’s mom’s car and into the van with our new co-workers. I was the only one with a lunch box. I quickly tucked it behind my legs, stashing it under the van’s bench seat. Heavy metal guitar screamed from the dashboard speakers.

I slid the van’s door shut as my friend’s mom waved goodbye to us through the window of her car.

“That your mom?” our driver grunted at my friend.

“Uh huh.”

Our driver rolled his window down again and motioned for my friend’s mom to do the same. She did.

“Hey, like, bye mom!” he shouted, punched the van into gear, and stomped the gas pedal to the floor.

The van launched forward out of its parking stall, ground over a car stop, humped over the sidewalk and peeled diagonally across the intersection through a red light.

We looked back through the window. My friend’s mom’s car didn’t move. It shrank awfully fast.

We zigzagged down the street, and sometimes down the sidewalk, putting all lanes to good use. ,

The driver looked back at my friend again. “hey,” he said into the mirror, “how come you didn’t say bye to your mom,”

Neither my friend nor I said anything. We just knew it was going to be a long day. A long summer. Or a very short one. Or a short life.

“Fresh meat!” the guy in the passenger seat cheered. “We got some fresh meat!”

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