The setting was familiar, the voice was familiar. But the combination of the two, juxtaposed in time and space not meant to be mixed, was distinctly unfamiliar other than in the way bacon, lettuce and tomato are familiar… but shouldn’t be blended together into a soup instead of a sandwich.
It was a soul-sapping grey day in a summer of identical days. What miserly heat the sun provided — awol from these parts long enough that residents who haven’t already fled south have tacked up Wanted posters around town — came in all too brief flashes as it peakabooed out from behind thunderheads, leaving the few townsfolk left behind to either scurry like roaches in an unexpectedly lighted kitchen, so unprepared for the dual assaults of heat and light, or fall to their knees, arms raised up as though preparing for the long-awaited rapture.
Just another disappointing B.C. summer.
“Nice morning… for November,” I heard from behind.
The sarcasm, the dark humour inherent in the statement, coming as it did at the end of August, should have been sufficient to identify the speaker who had tiptoed up behind me. But then, everyone I encountered had, by now, resigned themselves to the Summer That Never Was. The path to sanity was strewn with morbid jokes about the weather.
The voice was unmistakable though. It was a voice that could make “Have a nice day, eh?” sound threatening, as though failing to have a nice day could very well be taken as a personal insult to the speaker, an insult resulting in retribution if not the complete annihilation of you, your family and everyone who ever knew you. It was a voice that sounded as though it gargled whisky and ground glass in the morning and lived on whatever nutrition it could suck out of unfiltered cigarettes the rest of the day. It was a voice that was all too familiar, much as a nasty scratch in the back of my own throat foreshadowed a cold to come.
“JJ… tell me it ain’t true,” I said without turning around, hoping if I didn’t see it, it wouldn’t be so.
“Too true, oh my brother. Too true.”
“I’d say you were the last person I expected to run into in beautiful downtown 100 Mile House but somehow running into you is always an unexpected…”