So," said Dad, hesitating like he was straining to haul the words up from some well, "you're goin' on your first date tonight."
Jeez. I looked out the windshield. We were driving past my Uncle George's slough, heading up to a field to pick rocks. I could tell Dad had to make some kind of speech. I kept my eyes on the road ahead.
"Well, I can't believe you're old enough." Dad glanced over. I felt my face grow hot. I didn't know whether I was embarrassed for me or Dad or both of us. I hoped this wasn't about sex or something. He'd never talked to me about that. And this wasn't exactly the time as far as I was concerned.
"You know how we feel about Anna-Maria. She's like a daughter..."
I tuned him out like a radio station you can't quite get, like the ones that come skipping in across the prairies at night from Omaha or Kansas City, that fade in and out through the static. So I was going to the Halloween Sock Hop at the high school with Anna-Maria. Big deal! I'd known Anna-Maria since grade five, when her family moved to Lashburg. She's Italian. Her big brother Domenic's a couple of years older than us, a great baseball and hockey player.
Renaldo and Theresa, her parents, are best friends with Mom and Dad. Renaldo owns the hardware store in Lashburg and was in the Italian Resistance during the war. He's a nice enough guy a little moody because of the things he's seen, I guess. Theresa's different, full of fun, always laughing, an incredible cook.
She taught Mom how to make pasta from scratch. Which is not something people in Saskatchewan know muchabout, even though we grow the durum wheat that's used to make it.
Dad cleared a load of gravel out of his throat like he does when he's tense. Don't let this be The Big Talk. I figured God already knew about that party at Peter Bourin's place when we were in grade seven. I'd stayed overnight in town with friends. Someone pulled beer for us and we had a gallon jug of Calona wine, real cheap stuff. We joked about whether it would work better as paint remover or panty remover. Brave talk. Peter's parents were away. We all got pretty tight drinking beer and wine and snarfing all the chips and dip we could, and then everyone got down on the linoleum floor and started playing Spin the Bottle. I got Margaret Handle once she's cute and then Liver Lips Davies, the undertaker's daughter, picked me. You wonder how a girl can have such awful tasting lips. It's not as though you can brush them with toothpaste or anything. Anyway, that got the party going.
Later we were all dancing away to "Love Potion Number Nine" when people started disappearing. I saw Bev Bradley go into a bedroom just off the living room and I followed her in. The lights were out and there was a lot of giggling going on and I could tell someone was in the bed. Bev yelled, "Slide over!"and climbed in and I jumped in right behind her. Brian and Dorothy and Peter and Gayle were already there, but they sure weren't taking up much room. When I got in, Bev turned around and we started kissing. Just like that! You could hardly move, and we were hot and sweaty under the flannel sheets and blankets, and we just kissed and groped away. I finally got up the nerve to touch her right boob and she let me keep my hand there. They were huge, but I already knew that from watching her play sports at school. That's why we called her B.B. She thought for a long time it was because of her initials. She was madder than a wet cat when she found out. Anyway, they sure were soft. I was kneading them through her blouse and that industrial-strength bra of hers. After a while I started to undo her buttons. But she whispered, "No," and that's about as far as I got. After about an hour of necking, we all came up for air and piled out to the kitchen for more food and beer. That party was good for about two years' worth of talk, and the best thing of all was, Bev was a year older than me and in grade eight, so I felt like that was really something special.
Dad drove our new Chev half-ton into the field and we bounced across the ruts. We were headed for some big rocks he'd turned up summer-fallowing. Dad's getting up there, about 42, I think. Not exactly the life of the party, but he plays catch with me a lot, baseball or football, and sometimes he comes out and plays hockey with us on the slough. He was smoking a cigarillo (rum-soaked, wine-dipped) and wearing one of his HOP-X grasshopper spray hats. I'd noticed lately he had bits of gray in his hair. Farming isn't exactly an easy life.
Dad stopped the truck next to a boulder. It was still buried, just the round, white top sticking out like some dinosaur egg. Wouldn't that be something! We got out, got the crowbars and spades out of the back. Dad was thin compared to most of the farmers I knew who generally got fattened up on their wives' home cooking. He jammed the crowbar into the ground beside the rock, stopped, took the cigarillo out of his mouth and horked a gob of spit down into the dirt...