The rain didn’t come till Monday, fortunately. Sunday night was family dinner night at the Jacksons, and if the roads on Sunday had been anything like what the roads had become by Monday night Brady would have had to stay in Winnipeg, which would have made it a partial-family dinner and that’s just not the same thing at all. As it was, Brady was home for dinner, together with his girlfriend Amanda. Randy and Jackie were there with eight-month-old Allison, and Jennifer was home, of course, as she usually is on Sunday nights. Jennifer was excited, as always, to have the whole crowd together, and she was proud as well, of the blueberry crisp she had put together and baked earlier in the day, and which was now warming in the oven as the family sat together at the table.
Dinner was well on the way to being done. True, Andrew still had a mound of potatoes and a major slice of roast beef on his plate but he often seems to have that right up until the very end. The rest of the family was winding down and Amanda, an “almost vegetarian” (she doesn’t eat meat but she loves gravy), had been sitting with an empty plate for several minutes, looking forward to dessert.
Andrew was telling a story.
“I was coming home after the Co-op board meeting, OK, and I turned off the highway and onto the gravel road, and when I stepped on the gas the truck slowed down instead of speeding up. I’m thinking ‘What the heck, did this thing turn into a Chevette when I wasn’t looking?’ But then, I pumped the gas pedal a couple of times and pow! That old truck took off like a bat out of hell and by the time I passed Grant’s driveway I must have been doing 125 at least. I came up over the rise just past the driveway, and there was a car coming toward me so I let up on the gas, but too late. I could see it was a white car and when we passed each other I saw the flashing lights come on and then the brake lights and I figured ‘Oh well, the jig is up,’ so I pulled over and waited.” Andrew stopped long enough for another mouthful of potatoes.
“A hundred twenty-five, eh?” said Brady. “That’ll cost you a few bucks.”
Andrew chewed for a few seconds and then swallowed. “That’s the funny thing,” he said. “Actually, it won’t.”
“It won’t?” said Jackie who had been listening with interest. “Why not?”
“I’m not really quite sure,” said Andrew. “The officer who came up to the window was a woman. Must be new; at least, I haven’t seen her before. She asked for my licence and registration, which I gave her and she turned to go back to her car but then she stopped and looked at me for a second, and said, ‘What’s your danged hurry, buddy?’ and I just said the first thing that popped into my head, which was, ‘I’m just going home to my wife. I haven’t seen her since breakfast, you know.’”
Andrew shrugged. “She just looked at me for a second longer, then went to her car, and when she came back she handed me a warning. ‘Slow down,’ she said. ‘Your wife would probably prefer you come home a little late but in one piece. Don’t let it happen again, because next time it’s going to cost you.’ And I said, ‘Yes ma’am, no ma’am, it’ll never happen again ma’am.’ Made me feel young again, like, about five years old.”
There was a moment of silence around the table.
“That’s pretty lame,” said Randy. “She should have nailed you to the wall. I know I would have.”
“Thank you for your unqualified support,” said Andrew, grinning. “I got the same response from your mother.”
Amanda looked at Brady and laughed. “Must be hereditary, eh?” she said.
The rest of the family looked at Amanda with interest.
“What do you mean?” asked Rose. “What’d Brady do?”
“Brady got one of those photo radar tickets,” said Amanda. “Doing 85 on Pandora Avenue.”
“Dang it, Brady,” said Rose, “haven’t you learned to slow down yet? How much did that cost you?”
“Um… nothing,” said Brady, looking sheepish.
“Nothing?” said Rose.
“He pleaded not guilty,” said Amanda. “Told the judge he was trying to get out of the way of an ambulance.”
“I don’t believe it,” said Jennifer. “My family is a bunch of petty criminals.”
There was a moment of silence. “What’s for dessert?” asked Brady, changing the subject.
There was another brief silence. “Bread and water,” said Jennifer. “Just
bread and water for you.”