Dreams to Remember

Ana’s Pick
Denis Taillefer


Juno appears in the kitchen doorway, his food bowl locked in his jaws and his head tilted. Juno is a three-year-old black Labrador. He’s become listless and overweight. His gaze is disturbing as it reminds me of my neglect of all things important: his health and mine, the unpaid bills, and my need for a job. Tomorrow I’ll look for the “To Do” list and take him out for a walk. Today, I’m relaxing with my 12-year-old friend, Johnny Walker.

When I tell Juno that today we are watching films, he hesitates, then trudges toward the sofa. He drops his bowl at my feet, and returns to the kitchen where he opens the fridge with his muzzle and snatches a beer with his jaw. I only let him drink beer on weekends or whenever we watch films. I pour the bottle into the bowl, open the Scotch, and pour myself a glass. His beer lapped up, Juno retrieves the remote, sits on the sofa beside me and rests his head on my outstretched legs. A sliver of light forces itself through a slit between the drawn curtains.

The film starts with Mary doing her Vanna White impersonation as she displays our new car. My voice is heard in the background, “So Vanna, please tell us about this car.”

“Well,” she says as she moves her arms and hands in slow, exaggerated motions. “This is not just a car, it’s a cruise ship.” With arms outstretched she says, “This metallic light-blue craft symbolizes the open and unending sky in which we will find new and interesting worlds. The soup├žon of sparkles indicate the distant stars to be discovered, and where we will rest during our long romantic journey.” With this, she winks at the camera.

“All right, Vanna,” I say, “the stars await us. Help me with the camcorder.”

Mary is more beautiful than I remember. She’s no supermodel, and she’s a little overweight, with short brown hair, rosy cheeks, and hazel eyes. I can remember her scent.

Juno barks when Mary first appears, then buries his head on my lap.

The trip through north-western Ontario was Mary’s idea. We hadn’t had a vacation since our honeymoon two years ago. She even picked out the car. Well, I did the research then decided we should buy a Toyota Tercel, but she chose the colour. I hope to put it back on the road someday. I’m sick of taking the bus.

It was my idea to record our journey by installing the camcorder on the back seat, aiming it out toward the windshield, and allowing for a wide-angle view of the driver and passenger.

It’s our first day on the road and we are bouncing to the music of Otis Redding trumpeting from the tape deck. The camcorder had been positioned just right. Ahead, Juno and I make out a long straight highway edged by a strip of gravel—a passage through a dense forest. Shadows play like a slideshow on the car’s hood as the morning sun peeks through the tall pines. Mary snaps her fingers and sways her shoulders while I drive and sing along with a cigarette hanging from my lips.

“Robert,” Mary coos in my right ear.

“Yes,” I coo back, flicking ashes out the window.

“You said you would use this vacation to quit smoking.”

“Yes I did, but I’m still in the planning stages.” I smile and turn up the volume.

“Planning, my eye. You said you wouldn’t bring any.”

“Yes, but, Men are from Mars remember? You’re not supposed to understand.” I turn to the camera and stick out my tongue.

Mary sits back against her seat, her arms crossed. “You turn everything into a joke. You’re never going to try, are you?”

“Shit.” I flick the cigarette out the window. “Happy now? We’re sitting here enjoying the moment, and you decide to harass me with a guilt trip.” I slap the steering wheel. “Shit.”

“Robert, we’re supposed to be working on stuff; you’re supposed to quit smoking, I’m supposed to eat more sensibly, and both of us are supposed to work on our relationship—seeing we’ve been so distant lately.” By now Mary’s voice is quivering and I could tell she’s about to cry.

“You’re right. Sorry.” I’m still pissed off.

Mary leans forward and kisses me on the nose. I feel both irritated and aroused.

“I love you,” she says.

I squeeze her hand. “Me too. Even if you’re not from Mars.”

I pause the video and reminisce about the next scene, which was not recorded. After supper and champagne at a Holiday Inn in Sudbury, we had made love in the hotel’s swimming pool. That was her idea. I got my rocks off on the Great Canadian Shield, I had said. She said it wasn’t funny but laughed anyway.

Juno rises and walks to the door. We both need to pee. I don’t feel like putting on my winter boots so I pull off my socks and we stagger to the back yard and urinate against the cherry tree. I stare at the yellow piss holes that I’ve formed in the snow and tell Juno to hurry. On our way back I glance at the Tercel’s smashed front-end and tell Juno that this summer we’re going to finish that trip—drive all the way to the Manitoba border, as Mary had planned.

Mary and I are wearing dark shades and we think we look cool. We’re off to a late start as we ordered breakfast in bed, and after a bit of frolicking, we showered then went out to meet the noon sun. With thumbs up, we give a Fonz imitation: “Eh!”

“Next star on the sky chart—Sault Ste. Marie.” Mary folds the map and says, “You know, I’ve already planned our next trip.”

“Oh, yeah?”

Mary turns, gives a mischievous smile, and flits her eyebrows at the camera.

I pause the video. This frame represents the last seconds of her life. “Mary,” I say raising a glass to the television, “I finally quit smoking.” I tell Juno to say hi to mom.

I press the play button and see a truck pullout from a side road about a hundred feet ahead of us. Tires screech, a red truck smashes into our car then the TV screen turns blue. The audio goes on for another few seconds. It’s Otis singing, “I’ve got dreams to remember.”

I get up, put on an Otis Redding CD and refill my glass. I continue watching the blank screen.

I look for speckles of light in a field of light blue. Each dot and fleck I liken to a distant star—a new world that Mary and I have yet to discover.

pencil

Denis’s work has appeared in various print and online magazines. Recent publications include The Grist Mill’s Annual Anthology of Prose and Poetry, where he received honorable mentions for both the Spencer Hill Award for fiction, and The Joker Is Wild Award for prose. E-mail: dat.is[at]rogers.com.