Hot sunshine beat down through the side window of Andrew Jackson’s pickup truck as he drove into town and pulled into a parking spot in front of the café, right next to Grant Toew’s old Silverado. He shut off the ignition and stepped out of the truck just as a gust of hot wind blew the hat off his head and back into the cab. Andrew grabbed at the hat as it went, missed, and had to climb back in to retrieve it from where the wind had deposited it between the passenger seat and the door. This time, he held on to it till he was inside the café, and a minute later he was setting a fresh cup of coffee on the table and joining Grant, Ben Schmidt, and Gary Peterson, who had arrived ahead of him.
“Mornin’,” said Andrew.
“Mornin’,” said Grant in reply. The other two simply nodded and sipped their coffee in silence.
“What’s new?” asked Andrew. There was a moment of silence.
“Not much,” said Ben. “Life goes on,” said Gary.
“True enough,” said Andrew. “Unless you’re Edward Kennedy.”
There was another moment of silence.
“What’s new with you?” asked Grant eventually.
Andrew took a long sip of coffee and set
his cup down carefully on the table before he answered. “I think I have one too many kids,” he said.
“Hmm.” The other three pondered that for a moment. “Which one?” Ben wanted to know.
“The first one,” said Andrew. “I think we’d have been good if we hadn’t had the first one.”
“Lot of parents feel that way,” said Gary. “Everything starts with the first one.”
“I read there was a study,” said Grant, “that showed that parents who didn’t have a first child lived three to five years longer than those who did.”
“I read that too,” said Gary, “but I also read that parents who didn’t have a first child weren’t as happy as parents who did.”
“Still,” said Ben, “even if they were less happy, they were less happy for longer, so in the end they probably experienced the same overall amount of happiness, am I right?”
“Look,” said Andrew, “if they never had a first child, then they’re not parents anyway. And who the heck came up with a stupid study like that?”
Gary shrugged. “The federal government most likely,” he said.
“So what’s wrong with your kids Andrew?” asked Grant.
“There’s nothing wrong with them,” said Andrew. “Well not seriously wrong. I just can’t afford them.”
“Jeez,” said Ben. “Just be glad you’re not a hog farmer. If you were a hog farmer you might have to sell your kids to the witch in the forest, just to make ends meet.”
“There’s a witch in the forest?” said Gary. “Where?”
“It’s a metaphorical witch,” said Ben. “Like in Hansel and Gretel.”
“Hansel and Gretel? Those are Abe Henkenstedter’s kids, right?” said Gary.
“It’s a fairy tale for Pete’s sake,” said Grant. “Let’s try to stick to the topic at hand, which is Andrew and his extra child, OK?”
“The thing is,” said Andrew, “Randy’s doing good on the farm and Jennifer’s a girl so she’ll probably get married to a guy who already has a farm, but Brady, well Brady’s moved into town to work at the body shop and I’m pretty sure his plan is to buy the place, sooner rather than later, so I’m going to want to help him with that and where the heck is the money supposed to come from?”
“Brady’s working at the body shop?” said Ben. “Boy, it’ll be a nice change to have someone there who knows the difference between a ball-peen hammer and a muffler bearing.”
“No kidding,” said Gary. “Andrew, if your kid wants to buy that place, I’ll lend him the money myself.”
“Seriously?” said Andrew.
“Why not?” said Gary, pushing his chair back and getting up to leave. “As long as we got Autopac in this province, a body shop’s basically a licence to print money. So where’s the risk? Call me when the time comes,” he said, and headed out into the street.
Andrew looked at Grant who was looking back at him.
“Everybody needs one of those, eh?” said Grant.
“Everybody needs one of what?” said Andrew.
Grant grinned. “Everybody needs one friend who’s a grain farmer,” he said.
Don’t miss Rollin Penner and the Traveling Medicine Show in concert in Winnipeg
Sept. 25 and in Steinbach Oct. 9. Visit www.thetravelingmedicineshow.comfor details and tickets.