I’ve been bouncing from project to project a bit lately. Like many other writers, I have a Sekrit Project on the go, but as of Thursday it has been sent off to someone for a Look. In the meantime, I’m here:
Dill opens the back door of the overlarge truck, throwing his backpack inside. In the process he knocks loose an obstruction, a cinderblock-sized cardboard lump encased in box tape, emblazoned with the logo of an overnight courier company.
“Careful,” Fanny snarls as it bounces out of reach.
“Sorry.” He has to all but bellyflop into the back to retrieve it from behind the driver’s seat. Something shifts within the box as he sets it back on the seat. The sensation has a distant, disturbing familiarity; he examines the box, but it is too dim to see the printed return label.
“Hurry, will you? You’re letting out all the warm air.”
“Nag, nag, nag.” Squaring away both box and luggage, he scrambles back to a standing position, nose wrinkling as white puffs of truck exhaust billow around his ankles. Warm diesel fumes exhale clammy, petrochemical warmth onto his jeans. He climbs into the front.
The truck cab smells of dog and scrambled egg. Fanny hands over breakfast. Her make-up is minimal this morning . . . a whitish foundation, pink lips. For some reason, Dill is reminded of The Mikado.
Three little girls from school . . . Dill yawns. “You must’ve got up at the crack of dawn to do this.”
“Didn’t sleep.” Fanny’s knuckles whiten on the wheel. “Got the package and . . . ”
“And didn’t tear it open? Not like you.” Inside the bag is a medium coffee, double double, the breakfast sandwich and a trio of donut holes with chocolate chips–clustered in the bottom like that, they look like fish eggs. “Does that mean you already know what’s inside?”
“It’s my sister.”
“Sister. Sarah, right?” There’s something he’s not getting here. He bites into the lukewarm biscuit, dredging gossip: sister and Fanny are fraternal twins, she made it through a Master’s degree in . . . music theory? And then had a mental breakdown.
She ended up a heroin addict and a boozer in Vancouver . . . but she’d cleaned up, hadn’t she? Now she’s shipped something across the country and suddenly Fanny needs a favor.
This is going to be bad, Dill thinks.
Fanny pulls out. The truck waffles on the snowpack, then finds traction into the groove made by the vehicles that preceded it. Beyond the window, the whole world is grey–the gradually lightening sky, the dirt-tinged drifts, the hulking structure of the Saint Lawrence market.
“So. It’s from Sarah?” Dill repeats.
Fanny shoots him a look of white-hot suffering and grinds the truck into a left turn. The box moves again and Dill reaches back to steady it. Something shifts inside, like sand.
“Sarah, yeah. I mean no, that box isn’t from her, it is her. Her–”
Oh. It’s ashes. “Jesus, Fanny, I’m sorry. What happened?”