Polar Bears, Igloos, and Candy
Summary: Maria and Michael take a trip to Canada.
Author's Notes: This is pure foof (is that a word?) meant to poke "gentle" fun at all my American friends who ask me questions about Canada :) I really needed to prove to myself that I could write something NOT angsty—did I succeed? You be the judge!
Maria rubbed her hands together excitedly as she glanced over at her boyfriend skillfully maneuvering their rental car along the Niagara Escarpment. She could already imagine hearing the roar of the falls in the distance, not the American version but the far grander Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the river. They had escaped their wandering group of misfit friends the day before, claiming they wanted a couple of nights alone in a nearby motel, making a break for the border as soon as they were free. Their absence wasn't permanent, rather just a life-long dream of Maria's to see Canada—the Great White North—that finally had a chance at being realized.
As they approached the Peace Bridge border connecting the two cities of Niagara Falls—one in New York, USA, the other in Ontario, Canada—she couldn't suppress the small squeal that pushed its way past her lips.
"Excited are we?" Michael teased from behind his shaded eyes as he briefly glanced away from the traffic lining up at the border.
"I'm being silly, I know," she breathed quickly. "It just always seemed so far away from Roswell, now… I can't believe we are almost there!"
"Well I'm sure it's not going to be any different than where we just came from," he chided. "I mean really, what's there to see here?"
"Oh my God Michael, you have no idea," she gasped, picking up the tattered copy of 'A Winter Wonderland—Tales from the North' on her lap. "It's a land of ice and snow, permafrost and tundra—with below freezing temperatures almost every day!"
Michael narrowed his eyes behind his glasses, scowling as he pictured the scene awaiting them. "And you voluntarily want to visit this place?"
"Yes, always," she confirmed, nodding her head excitedly. "You'll see. It'll be fun."
"Yeah, barrels," he grumbled, looking ahead to see the border patrol guard motioning to them. He pulled up, answered the requisite questions and, within minutes, they were waved through the barricade into their first foreign country.
Maria squinted as he pulled onto the frozen land, anticipating the chill sinking into her bones as she slowly blinked her eyes open. The expected ice-covered land lay before her in all its grassy green glory, kilometers of lush velvet lawns stretching along either side of the river.
"Wha…" she mumbled, pressing her face to the glass as she peered out at the obviously not snow covered land she was promised. "I don't get it. Where are all the polar bears?"
"Maybe they only come out at night," Michael mused. "Like bats."
"But I… the book…" she stumbled, looking forlornly at the icy scene portrayed on the book in her hands. An Inuit man wearing a caribou skin parka stood in the middle of the picture, a fishing pole in his hand dipped into the hole cut in the ice at his feet. A snow white husky rested by his side, seven more tied to the dogsled in the background, ready to run at the first call of 'mush'. She looked back and forth between the book and the outside scene, silently comparing the frozen apparition on the cover to the shorts and T-shirt clad folks walking the streets outside their car. It just didn't make sense, unless…
"Head this way," she commanded suddenly, pointing straight ahead of the car, the border they had just crossed directly behind them.
"Why?" Michael asked dumbly.
"It's north," she replied simply. "That's got to be where they keep the igloos."
Four hours later, the distraught girl finally relented into letting Michael stop at a roadside rest stop for much needed food. Their travels had shown them no signs of the desired snow capped peaks, only endless stretches of highway that wound first through bustling cities and later past rolling pastures of wheat and corn fields. As he pulled the car to a stop in the parking lot, she began desperately rummaging through their bags in the back seat, tossing clothes aside erratically.
"What are you doing?" he asked, turning to look at her half buried body between the seats.
"Finding some warm clothes," she mumbled from beneath the pile of shorts and T-shirts.
"For what?" he said slowly, looking out at the apparent warmth of the surrounding land, the sun baked pavement glinting beneath the clear azure sky.
"The forecast said 30 degrees, you'll get frost bite."
I'll risk it," he tossed at her dryly, opening the door of the air-conditioned car.
The molasses-thick air that hadn't seen a breath of wind in days, rained down its oppressive 30 degree Celsius temperature upon his exposed skin. Michael coughed at the sudden change in atmosphere, leaning over to peer back into the car at Maria who had huddled as far as possible away from the open door, a fleece jacket pulled defensively across her body.
"Um, Ria?" he said slowly, scratching his eyebrow as he fought to hide the smirk growing on his features. "I think 30 degrees means something different up here."
She frowned, but pulled the jacket tighter around her shoulders and opened her own door. The jacket was quickly cast aside as her skin immediately started baking in the hot sun. "It's like 85 degrees!" she exclaimed.
"No sh-it," Michael mumbled, slamming his door to make his way towards the tiny restaurant attached to the gas station.
Following behind, Maria held her arm out in front of her curiously, waiting for the deep freeze knew was hiding in the air to settle in and send goose bumps surging up from her skin. None came, and she sadly entered the restaurant with Michael, taking a seat in the closest booth.
The menu advertised a mixture of foods that neither of them had heard of before—from 'fries, dressing and gravy' to 'moose droppings'—and stuck with the safe staple, hamburgers and fries—minus whatever this 'dressing' stuff was. When their meal was over, Maria was staring out the window forlornly at the blistering summer day when she suddenly shrieked and jumped in her seat.
"Michael, Michael, look!" she screamed. "Meese!"
The waitress approaching their table snickered as she followed the confused boy's gaze out the window to where two moose were walking leisurely along the side of the road.
"Meese!" Maria exclaimed again. "I've always wanted to see one!"
"I don't get it, what's a meese?" Michael asked. "Looks like a fat horse to me."
The waitress couldn't help herself as she placed the bill on the table between them. "She means moose," the woman offered.
"Yeah, moose," Maria said, her gaze never leaving the impressive animal. "You know, goose, geese; moose, meese."
"It's goose, geese; moose, moose; as in fish, fish," the waitress said, her grin now spreading from ear to ear as she shook her head at the obvious not-from-here's. "And that'll be $12.45… Canadian, eh?"
Turning to watch the woman walk away from their table, Maria whispered excitedly to Michael, "she said 'eh'! Our first taste of Canadianese!"
Michael rolled his eyes at his animated girlfriend, pulling some of the Monopoly colored money they had collect before crossing the border out of his pocket. Tossing one of the purple colored tens and a blue tinged five on the table, he slid out of the booth and motioned for Maria to follow. She tore her eyes away from the retreating moose long enough to slither out behind him, stopping by the cash register to select an item.
"Buy me this," she said pouting.
"What is it?"
"Moose droppings! The things on the menu."
"You want me to pay for moose shit?" he asked incredulously.
"Not moose sh-it. Look," she said, pointing at the tiny jar. "It's chocolate."
"Oh, how cute," he mumbled, passing a handful of the $2 and $1 coins to her and turning towards the door. "It's getting late," he said glancing out at the darkening sky. "We should find somewhere to stop."
"There's a place just up the road, there," the waitress said as she checked Maria in, smiling as she made another buck from a gullible tourist willing to buy anything that had a maple leaf stamped on the side of it.
Maria thanked the woman, and followed Michael back to their car, sliding gingerly onto the heated seats as he pulled out of the parking lot. Twenty minutes later, they were pushing open the door to their 'we're-on-a-budget' motel room, looking distastefully around at the furnished accommodations.
"Well at least there's lots of places to sit," Maria said hopefully, staring at the two arm chairs bookending the windows, double bed adorning the center of the room, worn couch on the far wall, and two more chairs pushed up to a table against the side wall—all of it straight out of 'That 70s Show'.
"Yeah, Eric and Kelso would feel right at home," Michael muttered, picking his way through the crowded room to the tiny washroom.
Maria peeled off the clothes sticking to her sweating body and crawled up on the bed to collapse. When Michael emerged five minutes later, he let a low growl escape his mouth, walking up to the bed to kneel on the mattress at her feet. Nudging her with his hands, he succeeded in stirring up enough energy in her to prompt her to roll over, laughing at the smile that lit her eyes when she saw the horny look painted on his face.
"Wanna play, do we?" she teased.
"I wanna see if Canadian girls are as good as they say," he said huskily, sliding up her body to hover above her face.
"Michael, I am not a Canadian girl."
"Well we can pretend can't we?"
She laughed, but pushed at his chest as he fought his way to her face. "Don't, I'm all sweaty."
"I don't care," he murmured, his strength winning out as he pressed her hands back to her body, lowering his face to suckle her neck. "You taste sweet."
"And you're yummy," she returned, her own mouth exploring the freshly cleaned opposition to her own skin.
Falling to his back on the creaking mattress, Michael pulled his girlfriend on top of him, laughing to himself at all the dreams for a winter vacation she had planned, instead ending up in weather hot enough to rival the desert. He could care less, if she wasn't happy with her destination choice, he sure as hell was going to try and make her forget that disappointment tonight.
Maria found herself losing the battle her mind was waging against the image of Canada she had always imagined and the reality that lay in the world around them. She gave in to the urgent kisses coming from the boy beneath her, pushing aside her dreams of tobogganing in the summer to just enjoy her time alone in a foreign land with her love.
And so it was… on a hot August night, in the land of no polar bears and fewer igloos, there was still candy.