Each step ahead, another rung lower on the thermometer... Colder and colder and colder still. We arrived in Ottawa and stepped outside the motor home, double-coated, toqued, gloved and, scarfed; with zips and buttons and snaps bolted up, shutting the door on winter, waddling around like over-sized toddlers... But still no snow. Sure, the wafts and wisps that floated through the air, the patches on the sides of the highways, but nothing beyond that. Patience, patience... It'll come.
And something else, too, with the end of October creeping closer, was just around the corner, ready to pounce... Big and scary. Halloween.
That first evening, a Haunted Hay-Ride... A darkened barn filled with twisty turny passages. Floors squished like quicksand, blood dripped down the walls, entire rooms spun in circles and made everyone lose their balance and feel sick. Vampires, zombies, witches and ghouls haunted the place, jumping from corners, hissing at people, chasing little children. And running after shrieking Brads, too. "I hate this place!" he yells, in full flight, with Frankenstein in pursuit. "Help!! Somebody, anybody. Please!"
Outside, a tractor was pulled to the door and waiting. We climbed onto the trailer, sat on the benches, and held on. Away, and into the forest, on an up-and-down mud-puddled trail. Barrels of acid toppled from above; an ogre waved his fist from a tree-fort, and threw huge stones; convicts in striped black-and-white shot from the bushes; a madman chased the tractor, lunging and swiping with his chainsaw. But somehow, we made it through.
Ottawa, you said? Yes. Country capital, center-of-universe. So how about visiting the head honcho? Tried, but Mister Pee Em? Not available...
Onto Montreal. The night, itself, had finally arrived. But first, some kindness to be done...
We arrived at the nursing home and they came doddering out, like the snail-sloth-turtle hundred-meter dash. Ida, eighty-two years old. Pearl, eighty-seven. Vita, tops of the bunch; a cool, confident ninety-six. "Hello, ladies," says Val, the smooth, the urbane, welcoming them onto the bus. Pulling away, we left the curb in a rumble of gears.
"Are we there yet?" croaks Ida. "I'm getting nervous. When are we going to get there? Where's Erik?" She says to Chris. "I like him better that you. Where is he? I don't like this anymore. When are we going to get there?" We arrived at the mall and piled out. Very slowly. Creak of bones, groaning joints.
Vita, bent so her head barely clears the handle, wheels her cart down the aisle. A mustachioed man stands in her way; she reaches with a wizened claw and grabs a handful of ass. With a strange cast to his eye, he backs carefully away. She wheels past and along the aisle, hand-after-hand piling her cart with everything within grasp. "Uhh, Vita," asks Val. "You sure you've got enough money for all this?"
Three aisles over; Pearl, in a similar situation. Cart piled high, Chris trailing behind. "Can I have a Cheeto?"
"How about a cracker, then?"
"No," she replies. "Not for you."
"An apple, maybe?"
"Stop following me."
"Well, you're not being very nice, now."
"Leave me alone!"
"C'mon, just one Cheeto? A little one?"
But Brad, what about that Brad? Somewhere across the city, saying his bit on television. Winking at a beautiful reporter-girl. "Say, I'm new in town. I could really use a toury-guide..."
And then it was there... Halloween. Softball-sized pumpkins were carved and handed out; people were buried in piles of them; silver-haired, red-faced devils ran wild on the streets. As we charged past a club, it reached out a grabby hand, and dragged us within. "Noooooo!" Erik screams. "Don't make me dance!! Anything but that!"
And later, much later, traipsing back to the hotel with leaden feet, the sky gave a sudden shiver, and burst its bottom with a silent "poof". Flakes came filtering down, fat, huge, and heavy. Melting on the tongue; sitting in the palm of a hand. Covering the streets with a thick white blanket.
"I knew it!" A jubilant Brad was jumping up and down. "My knees were hurting today, so I knew there was going to be snow. I told you. Man, can't fool the knees! No sirree!"