This is another bit of flash fiction written in response to the current (at the time of this post anyway) Flash Fiction challenge from terribleminds. This week the challenge is about travel. My story here has hit the 1000 word limit dead on. It was originally almost 300 words over that limit so I revised and revised until I got it down to where it needed to be. Hopefully it has not suffered in the process.
The day I found the invitation to Vince’s wedding in the mail I was having lunch with Tim so I brought it with me. When I got to Mel’s, Tim was lounging in a booth, drinking coffee, and staring out the window. I plunked myself down across the table and tossed him the invitation.
“You get one of these yet?” I asked.
He picked it up, shrugged and took another drink of his coffee.
“Don’t know. I haven’t checked my mailbox in a couple days. Nothing ever in there nowadays but bills and fliers.” He opened the invitation and read it over. “You are cordially invited, blah, blah, blah. Huh. Big bad Vinnie is really getting married.”
I gave a shrug of my own while I pondered the chalkboard with the day’s specials. “He better be. Invitations like those aren’t cheap.”
“He’s lucky you’re not supposed to invite ex-girlfriends to your wedding. It’d probably triple all the bills.”
“I might be wrong, but I’m not sure most of them actually qualified as girlfriends. So what do you think?”
“I’m sticking with the Monte Cristo. You can never be too sure about the specials,” he said.
“Probably a good call, but I meant the wedding dumbass. You going or not?”
He tapped the card on the table and looked at me with a sly smile.
“It’s going to be in her hometown. That’s gotta be a couple days drive…road trip?”
I smiled then too. How long had it been since I’d heard those words?
“Road trip indeed.”
Tim drove of course. Tim always drove back in the day. There had been five of us on those road trips but it was always Tim who drove. I’ve never known anyone who just loved to drive as much as Tim.
It turned out Sudbury to Riviere-du-Loup was about 700 miles so a couple days would do it. Just like in the old days we had little to no plan, only a general route. We would drive until we got tired and stop when we felt like stopping.
It was just the two of us but I stilled called out “shotgun”. Tim chuckled a little at that and then we were off. It started well. We rocked our tunes, talked about anything that came to mind and enjoyed the nearly empty stretches of highway.
It wasn’t until we hit Ottawa that Manny came up. It was hard not to think of him then and perhaps we should have avoided the capital altogether, but we didn’t and it was Tim who brought him up.
“Should we go see Manny?” he asked, straight to the point.
Manny had been the happiest, nicest guy I’d ever met – until he wasn’t. A really bad breakup on the heels of his parents divorce sent him into a bottle of pills. He survived, in a sense, but the brain damage was severe. Now he resided in a long-term care facility in Ottawa.
“Is there a point?”
“Guess not. He might appreciate the visit though,” he said.
“Maybe. But imagine he understood what was going on. Would you really want to tell him we were road tripping and then just leave?”
Tim didn’t bother to answer. There was no need. I don’t think we’d have carried on to Quebec if we had stopped to see him. So we zipped through Ottawa and it wasn’t until we were halfway to Montreal that the mood lifted again.
Traffic in Montreal go so bad at one point that I turned to my phone to look up facts about just how bad traffic in Montreal is.
“According to this, Montreal is, world-wide, the 18th worst city for commuting,” I relayed to Tim.
“You don’t say,” he replied, “I’d have never guessed. Oh wait, hold on tight – I think we’re going to move a couple feet.”
“Sorry. No more traffic facts. Still, can you imagine how many arguments we could have avoided on these trips if we’d had smartphones back then?”
“Can you imagine how boring the trips would have been with nothing to argue about?” he countered. I had to admit, he had a good point there.
We found a roadside restaurant with some authentic poutine a little outside Montreal and finally chose a motel to crash at about 40 minutes from Quebec City. The room was ok but I was restless that night. It was one of those nights where you feel like you’re awake the whole time, though you must have been sleeping because, as you realize in the morning, most of what you felt was dreaming.
I dreamt of road trips and arguments and my friends Manny and Junior.
As we avoided talk of Manny we also avoided much talk of Junior. Tim had always been the one who loved to drive but it was Junior who had always driven us to go somewhere. I couldn’t help feeling tired when I thought of all the energy he used to have. This time it was my turn to bring up our lost friend as we walked through the parking lot of a burger joint in Montmagny, our last pit stop.
“Think Junior will be at the wedding?” I asked.
Tim shook his head, “I don’t think his job leaves much room for spare time. He doesn’t even get back to Canada once a year now. I doubt he’s going to make the trip just for a wedding. He can barely be bothered to email nowadays.”
“You’re probably right,” I sighed. Junior had grown less real in our lives every year since he’d taken an IT job in Asia.
Tim seemed to enjoy the restaurant but I found my burger bland. Walking back to the car I said to him, “Let’s try and get there in time to have a drink with Vince. One last one before he’s married.” I was about to add “shotgun” as we got to the car, but I stopped myself. After all, there really wasn’t much point.