“So I needed money to travel.”

Jack and Rose sit across from me on one side of the booth. We’re in the back of a small Japanese place with sleek black furnishings and a happy hour menu after seven. A bank of mirrors along the wall above them beguiles newcomers from the entrance with an illusory doubled-width to the skinny room.

The waitress brings tea and Jack asks for a beer.

 “Where was I going…?”

 “You were going to Europe.” Rose lolls in her seat, cheek smushed in palm with a mound of brown curl above. Shiny green blouse, no makeup.

“Right, Europe… money.” Jack wears glasses and doesn’t own a razor. Blue sweater and wrinkly eyes so kind and gentle. In the summer he got a haircut.

“Well, my van was not in very good condition.”

It’s Jack’s story.

“One time at the 7/11 I backed into a post. The whole rear window shattered.”


“He’s just driving around with the back window wide open…”

But, Jack moved in with Rose three weeks after they met. That was two years ago.

“… In the middle of the Saskatchewan winter.” Rose wasn’t there. She was years away.

 “It was a ‘92 Caravan, purplish, and we took it to Calgary to get this flight to Mexico and Brian—”

“Oh, you have to give a little description of Brian.”

Rose makes sure that Jack tells a story well. She’s also the instigator. He likes to tell his stories, but he wouldn’t if she didn’t start them.

 “Alright. Think plaid fedora.”

“And jeans always too short,” she says.

“Yeah. And this forest green wool coat, with a… rusty fur lapel.”

A what?

“A rusty fur lapel.”


“And taken to fake gold rings—”

“This was before that,” he corrects.

Nearly a half decade before. Before she even met Brian. Before she met Jack.

 “Anyways, Mexico. It was a couple years after I’d finished high school… I think 2001… early 2002, maybe. We got cheap flights from Calgary. Brian came to drive out with us and then take the van back to Saskatoon.”

It’s understood that Jack is en route to career academia. He studies French philosophers and goes to school on scholarship. He wins prizes and gets paid to write papers and work for his professor. He doesn’t really like to talk about these things. I wouldn’t know if it wasn’t for Rose, who, though four years junior to his twenty-six, is graduating with an Art History degree a semester earlier than him.

The waitress comes with Jack’s beer and takes our order.

“So, we’re trying to make the flight. We stop to piss or something and the side door just falls off right in the middle of the prairie.” This cracks me up. Jack takes a drink and waits for me to recover.

“I had some rope in the back, so we just jammed the door back on and tied the handle to the passenger seat.” Jack uses his hands to show the rope going round the seat. It’s unusual for him to gesture like this. He’s usually quite still. Not impassive, but calm. He doesn’t blurt or gush, his words always deliberate.

“So when I get back from Mexico the van’s really fucked. Months later, the door’s still held shut with the rope, rear window wide open…” Jack smiles at Rose when she laughs. His nose crinkles and lifts his glasses.

“Like I was saying, I needed money to go travel again. I got to thinking, why not take it out to the country and crash it?” Jack rumbles his low shoulder-shaking chuckle. Rose shakes her head.

 “At first my dad suggested I wear hockey equipment.”


He nods.

“Did your dad tell your mom? I can just see Viv.” Rose tries an accent and speaks deeper, “you’re not doing it.”

      “That’s pretty good.”

      “But more British.”

“Anyways, we take it out by some railroad crossing and I stick it in gear. My dad’s pushing on the back as I jump out, run along side, then crank the wheel.” Jack takes an emphatic sip and grins, “it just went through the ditch and slammed into a post, it didn’t even roll.”

I ask if the insurance came through.

“Oh, sure. It was a write-off. I told them I had swerved to miss a deer. Luckily, a second post mangled the side with the broken door… They were a bit suspicious about the back window, but I told them some kid put a rock through it.”

The food comes and Rose suggests that Jack tell me the Turkey story next. I’ve heard bits of it before, told differently by each of them. On the journey financed by the martyrdom of his van, Jack worked at a café in a small tourist village on the Turkish coast. He eventually became friendly with the daughter of his boss and was forced to flee when the townsfolk pressured him to marry her. Their accounts differ primarily in the nature of Jack’s relationship with the girl.

Let’s have that one, I say.

Jack coughs and glances at Rose.

“Maybe later.”



- Marc Serpa Francoeur