FathomOnline

 

 Fathom 1992

Cover

 

Inside Cover

 

Poetry

Derrick E. Higginbotham (2)
KimRilda LeBlanc (2)
Sean Kirby (2)
Graham Touchie (3)
Julie Traves
L.M.
Ken Samberg (3)
Gina M. Beaton (2)
C.B.
Dana James (2)
Morgan O’Connor (3)
Alex Mason (2)
G. J. Munro
Stephen Saunders (2)
Steve LeBlanc
Duncan McCue (3)

Prose

L.M.
Adrian Vanderwiel

[PDF]

Adrian Vanderwiel

 

 

The Storm

     Raindrops stung my exposed skin and filled my eyes with water as I resisted the natural inclination to wipe and protect my face. I impulsively pulled on the brake lever and applied pressure to the foot brake in an attempt to slow the motorbike down from 120 kilometers per hour to a safe stop on this road suddenly sluiced with rain-fall. Elaine buried her head into my back, protecting her face from the rain as I summoned whatever courage I could muster to pull my hand up and push the water from my eyes. I had to make an effort to keep at least one contact lens from floating around my cheek and down the road. Meanwhile, with the throttle shut down, momentum carried us onward with every intention of drawing us into oncoming traffic or casting us down on the railroad below. Each physical motion in that sudden flood of rain was intended to slow the boat down and leave the road while this deluge of raindrops persisted. So the motions were: lean into that turn, wipe, squint, and gently lean. Meanwhile, in an effort to maintain brake pressure while easing the bike to the shoulder of the highway, I quickly wiped again and squinted one eye to catch sight of the white line, slippery with rain and marking the road’s shoulder. This line determined the area of safety which, once crossed, could afford us some protection from the stream of trucks, campers and cars which were following us down that stretch of highway. I focused my eye on that line, released the brake pressure, and eased the bike across that endless white ribbon. Here, within that border determining the road’s shoulder, I could, with a little extra courage, resort to a panic stop as the traffic from behind swept by, cascading waves of road water onto us.
     After kicking the stand forward we crouched together behind the motorcycle in an effort to gain some protection from the torrent of rain and the waves of water erupting from beneath the wheels of the traffic on the highway. We were unable to hear one another speak so we huddled in silence as water penetrated our rain gear through every opening, zipper and seam and soaked our clothing. We had spent the weekend camping in the North Okanagan and we still had six hours of travel before gaining the comforts of home. Our watches and commitments reassured us that the time was five in the afternoon, and the two of us were expected to be at work the following morning in Vancouver. For the time being all we could do was wait out this storm alongside the highway while puddles collected around our feet. All our hopes now centered on a ray of light near the horizon which encouraged us to dream that this water might dry up and a possibility existed that we could drive home in some comfort.
     That day had started out like any other Monday of a summer long weekend. Our leisure at White Lake had ended as we slowly packed up the camping gear. We had taken our time stowing luggage while we entertained excuses which could legitimately delay departure, although we knew that we would be at work the next day. Though the sky was hazy the temperature remained high, and we expected the trip back to the city to take about seven hours if we included about an hour for a meal and a couple of stops for fuel. After a brief walk along the lake and a final check to make sure that the camping gear was securely attached to the motorcycle, we slowly drove out onto the dirt track leading to the highway. Although we were now on our way, we had about twenty kilometres of this track to ease our way down before turning out onto the pavement. As the dirt turned to the gravel which signified that the track was almost upon us, Elaine pointed to the dark clouds in the distance, far off in the direction of Kamloops. We stopped on the side of the road as we came up to the highway and dressed in our rain gear. Experience had taught us that in order to save time, and sometimes prevent rain, it was best to be prepared for adverse weather.
     Through an opening in front of a transport we pursued a spot in the rat race traffic bearing down upon the coast. Every camper appeared to be bent on reaching home before midnight. And the amount of westbound traffic suggested a long night stuck between snarling motors gunning their way up the highway. Though it was late on a summer afternoon the dark clouds began to shade the road; and though we expected a bit of rain the torrent that blasted upon us was much worse than anything we had expected. While we drove along the banks skirting the Shuswap River, we became aware of a thunderstorm at the sound of each volley rolling its way up the river valley. By Monte Creek the highway pushed its way up and above the trees hiding the road and the riverbed and exposed the scrub-covered mountains characteristic of the Kamloops region. Immediately we saw the lightning, source of the thunder. The lightning-bolts snapped out of the dark clouds and disappeared behind the peaks. Our fascination grew as each charge was accompanied by a swifter response of thunder. Yes, we expected rain, though in our awe of the storm we ignored the odd raindrop. A brief over-my­shoulder conversation with Elaine, interrupted by exclamations of “Look! Did you see that one?” revealed that if the storm hit quickly we would push on toward Kamloops, eat an early meal, and hopefully depart under improved conditions at a later hour.
     Before we had any time to prepare for the deluge the storm had sprung upon us. And while we huddled, lost in thoughts of the miserable trip home, we had the opportunity to consider how it was that we got into this predicament. As the water penetrated our rain suits, soaked our clothing, filled our boots and formed puddles around our feet, we encouraged ourselves with shouts of “It shouldn’t last long,” and discouraged ourselves with loud grumbles of “I’m soaked. How about you?” After about forty minutes of streaming rain, a dose of hail, and constant spewing waves from the traffic, the torrent became a steady rainfall and the horizon began to brighten. The improvement in the weather prompted us, with our spirits dampened, to climb back on the motorcycle and make our way, once again, toward home. Wind plastered wet clothes against our skin and suggested that we may very well have a cool and chilly night trip to the city. Together with the telltale signs that Kamloops was drawing nearer, we began to entertain hopes of drying our clothes a bit while we enjoyed a bowl of hot soup in a highway truck stop.
     The hot soup warmed our bodies and though we were still damp we were eager to set out for home again. After a quick repacking under drying weather conditions we made our way back to the highway. Our rain gear was stowed away, and the light grey highway taking us to the West Coast renewed our hopes for a dry trip home as we watched the sun dropping toward the horizon. The heat of the desert wind carried the perfume of the sagebrush-covered dry lands surrounding Cache Creek toward us, and in passing quickly dried our clothes. These warm winds and the beginning of a sunset renewed our spirits. Ranchers’ fences, the odd salt pool, and the constant hills forcing the highway into curves flitted by. Our thoughts returned to the beauty of this magnificent landscape. It was going to be a wonderful drive to the city, and we would make it home safely that night. The sun was setting and sinking into a huge ball of fire as it settled on the hills far away on the horizon.
     This anecdote describes a short trip on a road I have traveled many times, in all seasons and in all kinds of vehicles. My memories of this specific adventure are tinged with feelings ranging from extreme awe to terror to wonder. The experience is exclusive to Elaine and I and the country we were traveling in. In keeping with our view of the Canadian landscape, this event embodied raw beauty and experience. If we had traveled in a car on that trip, on the same stretch of highway, we would have remained separate from our environment into which we were thrust. The storm very well may have been forgotten; we may have noted the lightning as it flickered briefly across the windscreen. I probably would have switched on the wipers in response to the rain, with an exclamation regarding the messy driving conditions we may have had to endure for the next six hours.
     Though this was an event which was exclusive to the Kamloops area of British Columbia, we recall it often. Each time we have traveled that particular stretch of highway since that Monday afternoon we recall the storm. And each time while traveling, when we encounter a storm, we recall that particular stretch of highway.

 

last updated August 17, 2007 | © 2007 Fathom Publishing
poetry, prose, and artwork © individual authours | website created by Alana Paul