Fiction

Rocky Trip

Photo Credit: marceloquinan via Compfight CC-BY.
Photo Credit: marceloquinan via Compfight CC-BY.

Mischief the Black and White Kitten jumped onto the bed and woke me up. I could see through a cleared gap on the double-glazed window that the snow was still piled high in the garden, and it didn’t look any warmer.

The down mattress enticed me back into its folds and sleep began to creep,

“Wake up, sleepy head! It’s a lovely day. The sun is shining, the sky is clear blue, and we’re going to explore for the next few days!”

I jumped up then. A dreadful thought flashed through my mind. I said, “What? Walk about in the snowy wilderness? Not across the Prairie, Dot? We’ll get lost!”

“No, silly. Get packed. We’re off to Seattle. And then perhaps pop in to Vancouver on the way back.”

“Not driving I hope!” I had visions of us stuck nose first in a huge snowdrift.

“No, Canadian Pacific, and then Amtrak. It’s fast, and we shall see the beauty of the Rockies when we leave Saskatchewan. It’ll be a long journey, but the trains are more like hotels, really.”

Dorothy went to pack her own bags, and I stuffed as much as I could into mine.

***

I hadn’t seen the Burden family since the war, but it was amazing how little they had changed. I would have recognised Dot and Margaret anywhere, and their brothers also looked much the same — older of course. They were all married now, and I didn’t know their spouses, except Dot’s husband who had been at school with me in Moose Jaw. They had by now all settled in Regina; Moose Jaw was only a way stop for freight, and a place to collect flour from the Robin Hood Mills. Pity: I would have liked to meet other old friends.

We caught the late afternoon train, and from the observation coach, we saw the vast prairie sunset. We were lucky enough to see orange/red sun dogs appear like posts each side of the enormous sun. On the prairie, night comes and goes surprisingly quickly. As does the winter and summer — barely any time for spring and fall. The aurora borealis flared splendidly, red, pink and shades of emerald green. Hopeful ever, I took photographs.

We slept during the more boring part of the journey across the prairie, and awoke to snow-capped mountains, frozen lakes and a clear blue sky. At Lethbridge we changed trains and soon crossed the border into the U.S.A.

***

In Spokane we stayed overnight and boarded an early morning Amtrak train to arrive about nine o’clock in Seattle. Dot had booked us accommodation at a comfortable hotel. We had pancakes and coffee at a small cafĂ©, and had lots of time to start exploring the city. The Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle Aquarium, the Space Needle and Science Centre. We took a brief bite and coffee on the hoof — at a hamburger stall.

Nearing five o’clock we were completely worn out. Dot remembered seeing an appetising-looking restaurant near our hotel.

As we went through the doorway, we both suddenly felt disorientated. I felt as though I was standing on a bowl of Jello or trying to keep my balance on a very springy mattress.

Dot grabbed me and said, “Stay in the doorway. Don’t move. It’s an earthquake! ”

I gasped, “Oh, Hell’s Bells!”

“It might be!” exclaimed Dot.

Staring in disbelief, we watched the quake roll towards us like a waterfall cascading down. A three-foot swell lifted buildings, sidewalks and roads. The Bank building across the corner was hit by what sounded like a bomb. The structure cracked and boomed as tons of stucco tiles fell from the roof and upper wall decorations right onto the sidewalk.

We grabbed each other and leaned against the doorway, pulling our coats forward over our faces for protection. It felt like being on a swing which wouldn’t stop.

When I realised all that was going to fall for the time being had already fallen I relaxed a bit. We looked around, saw that everyone who needed help seemed to be getting it, and decided to go straight back to our Hotel.

This was a new building, built to withstand earthquakes — not that they have too many in this area, but it was always possible at any time.

We packed up our clothes, checked the time of the train and made for the Amtrak station. We had to walk because taxis could not go across the gaping roads and rubble from fallen buildings. It was hard going, but at least the police didn’t fine us on the spot for jaywalking!

“Well!” I said to Dorothy as we eventually travelled smoothly over the prairie on the comfortable Canadian Pacific train, “You couldn’t have chosen anything more exciting for me during this holiday if you had tried.”