Thirty-six degrees,” said Grant Toews. “That’s what the temperature was every day for the last week. Pretty amazing.” He picked up his coffee cup and took a sip.
“That’s the same as it was here,” said Andrew Jackson, who was finishing off a plate of bacon and eggs. “Big deal.”
“Plus 36 though,” said Grant. “Not -36. The night we left it was -34 at the airport and five hours later when we got off the plane it was +34 where we were.”
“That was a bit of a shock to the system,” said Grant’s wife Karen, who had finished her pancakes and was stirring cream into her coffee.
“Not an unpleasant shock though,” said Rose Jackson, before taking a bite of her toast. “We’ve been there. That feeling is quite pleasant as I recall.”
“I hate my ancestors right now,” said Andrew. “They could have gone so many places. Brazil. Argentina. Central America. Arizona. But no. They wandered onto this frozen Arctic wasteland, took a look around and decided this was perfect. What was wrong with those people?” He shook his head sadly.
“I’m pretty sure your ancestors didn’t arrive here in the middle of February,” said Grant. “They probably showed up in July, when it was hot and sunny and too dry for mosquitoes. It’s very deceptive, as you know. There are times when this country seems perfectly habitable.”
“True enough,” said Andrew. “There was that day in 1988. That was a nice one.”
“I remember that,” said Rose. “We had a barbecue and I remember thinking ‘this is not so bad.’ If our ancestors arrived on a day like that I can see why they might have decided to stay. Of course the next day we had a huge hailstorm and the garden was ruined, and the barley on the back forty was destroyed. But the day before was nice.”
“You should have come with us to Mexico this year,” said Grant. “We had a blast.”
“What do you think we are?” said Andrew. “Made of money?”
“Oh come on,” said Grant. “It doesn’t cost that much. You could easily afford it. What are you planning to do? Leave all your money to your kids? What a waste. I say spend it now, on things that make life here almost bearable. And nothing makes life in Manitoba in February more bearable than being somewhere else.”
“I can’t argue that,” said Andrew. “That is a true fact Grant. And that’s why all your relatives live in Abbotsford.”
“Exactly,” said Grant. “Which is for us, incidentally, another thing that makes living here slightly more bearable.”
“Well maybe next year,” said Andrew. “We’ve pretty much decided we’re going to need a warm holiday next winter.”
“In fact,” said Rose, “it’s the only thing we’ve talked about for the last month. What else can you do? When it’s 50-frickin’-degrees below zero outside every day, you either spend all your time complaining about it or you spend all your time dreaming about going away. After a while you get tired of complaining.”
“While you were complaining and dreaming about getting away, I was taking surfing lessons,” said Grant.
“You learned how to surf?” said Andrew. “Cool!”
“No,” said Grant. “I didn’t. But I took lessons. What I learned was how to eat sand, drink saltwater and look like a complete idiot.”
“That’s true,” said Karen. “Grant turned out to be really good at all three of those things. Surfing, not so much.”
“Surfing is really hard,” said Grant. “You have to time the wave perfectly and stand up on your board in exactly the right place and then you have to balance exactly right so the nose of the board doesn’t either dive into the sand or take off into the sky like a Saturn 5 rocket. The closest I came to success was one time when I just lay on the board and accidentally caught a wave, and then I rode it in to shore like a six-year-old on a Boogie Board. I was pretty proud of myself.”
“I am living my life vicariously through you right now,” said Andrew. “There are palm trees and pelicans and five-foot breakers and I’m doing face-plants in the sand and getting conked on my skull by my surfboard.”
“That’s me all right,” said Grant. “To a T.”
“I was getting a massage on the beach the whole time,” said Karen. “Which did not include eating sand or drinking sea water.”
“That’s my kind of massage,” said Rose.
Andrew raised his coffee cup. “Next year in Puerto Vallarta,” he said.
“You already said that last week,” said Rose. “You gonna say that every week till next year?”
Andrew looked at the blowing snow out the window. “I don’t know,” he said. “Depends on the weather.”