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Dad sat in his office again. He stared at his computer, but he didn’t type or whistle like he used to before Mom died. He just sort of looked at the harsh light of the screen and sighed. I sighed too. Usually I would be helping Mom make dinner right now, but I just sat on the couch by the record player.
I would put on a dance in the living room with the music, and Mom and Dad would put their arms around each other and watch. They usually looked at each other about as much as they would look at me, and when the song was over I would down lie on the trampled rug all sweaty. Sometimes I would fall asleep on the rug and wake up in my bed upstairs the next morning.
I liked that song.
I put the vinyl record on the record player like Dad taught me, let it spin, and put the needle on the outside. Maybe since Dad liked it so much, he would stop being so sad. I was sad too, but I knew that Mom wasn’t here, so I didn’t bother crying anymore. Soon the song started playing, almost as exciting and mellifluous as it used to be.
Well, it's one for the money,
Two for the show,
Three to get ready,
Now go, cat, go.
Dad kept looking at his computer screen. His shoulders started to shake up and down, crinkling his white button-up shirt. I thought he liked this song.
Dad kept on crying. I never used to see him bawl like this before. I was about to go take the needle off of the record but he stopped. He rose from his office chair and took a picture from his corkboard. The white light streaming in through the window reflected off of his glasses. “Hey Champ,” he spoke for the first time since yesterday. “You wanna go on a trip?”
“Yes!” I yelled. We haven’t been on a trip since we went to Disneyland last summer; I thought that it was a weird time for a trip though. “Where are we going?”
“To the most beautiful place in the world.” Dad smiled, which contrasted with the tears plastered to his cheeks. He didn’t wipe them off. ‘The most beautiful place in the world’ sounded boring, but I trusted Dad enough to believe that it wouldn’t be.
“This is the last one, Champ,” Dad said with a wheezing voice. We had been getting a bunch of old camping stuff out of the attic in our garage and about had our rusted red SUV full of stuff. He heaved the aged backpack into the back and asked if I was ready.
“Yep,” I said. I was bouncing up and down in place, anticipating the trip.
“Gee, I haven’t seen you this excited since…” His voice trailed off and his face darkened just a little bit, but immediately brightened. “Oh! I almost forgot something!” Dad rushed back into the house and came back with a small powder blue jar.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s nothing you’ll care much about. I can guarantee you that it is very important, though.”
The drive was, in short, long and boring. I watched the snow-covered trees shoot by, and no one else seemed to be on the roads. We occupied ourselves with finding the alphabet on billboards and signs, but the more we drove, the more that stuff became replaced with more snow and trees. It was already snowy where we lived in Minnesota, and we didn’t need more of it.
Finally the road ended. We were surrounded by snow almost as high as my chest, and up above was a bright blue sky. We were in the middle of nowhere.
“Dad,” I said, irritated, “you said we were going on a trip!”
“We are,” Dad responded. “And we’re almost there. Now change into your gear.”
He showed me the big boots and the snow pants and all the other stuff for the… wherever we were going.
After an hour, we were ready to head out. It was right around here that I noticed the little mountain that peeked over the snow. Dad commanded me to get on our creaky, wooden sled. I did, and Dad put some other stuff on, including the blue jar.
“The snow’s too thick for you to walk, so I’ll have to haul you too. But your job is to make sure nothing falls off the sled.” His voice was loud even though he spoke quietly. The silence was just as prominent as the snow.
We trudged through the snow for hours, occasionally stopping for water or a bland ham sandwich. Snot clung to my lips, and the ever-increasing wind made my eyes water. The frigid temperatures bit at my skin, and I began to get tired.
The sled started to slope upward. I hadn’t even noticed how close we were to the mountain. Now that we were closer, I could make out the gentle incline on one side and sharp drop on the other. The top of the mountain was flat, but it could provide a view of the whole world from the top.
“3,000 feet,” Dad yelled over the wind. “But we’re not climbing it today.” He pointed to a cave nearby, and we went inside.
The cave was dry and a little less frigid than the outside. It was shallow though, and was barren of life.
“What are we doing here?” I asked.
“Sleeping,” Dad replied. We pitched the dark green tent and ate more sandwiches. I was getting sick of sandwiches. And the cold. And the snow. I looked at Dad with glaring eyes, but he was already asleep in his sleeping bag.
I woke up from Dad’s light shaking. “We’re getting close,” he crooned. A gleam shone in his eyes. “Let’s go, Champ.”
We left most of our stuff in the cave save a couple sandwiches, the jar, and the sled. Today was much windier than yesterday, but thankfully the mountain had less snow than the surrounding landscape.
The hike was not fun. I was frosty from the rising altitude, I could only hear the wind, and I had to keep the stuff from falling off of the sled.
“Almost there,” Dad yelled between heaves. “Almost there.”
Shortly, we arrived at the top. I sat down on a rock and reached for another bland sandwich. It took a few bites before I saw that dad was standing, petrified, on the ground. Then, I looked past him and dropped my sandwich.
The sky was streaked with greens, purples, and pinks, governing all that lay before it. Trees in the distance stood still against the harsh wind, and a herd of Caribou galloped across the snow, seeking shelter in it, their footprints the only infraction upon the white ground. Charcoal, jagged mountains came out of the right, daring anybody to conquer their slopes. It looked like some painting, only with more incredible detail than could have ever been imagined. This must have been the last place untouched by people.
Dad was crying again. From his coat pocket, he produced the picture that had been in his office, stood back, and smiled. It was a picture of the landscape in front of us right now, only with a smiling Mom and Dad in the foreground. Mom had her hand on her bulging belly, and Dad had his arm around her.
Next, he grabbed the jar, opened it, looked inside, and dumped it’s contents out over the cliff. Apparently some sort of chalky black and white sand was inside the jar. I only saw it for a second, though, because the wind mixed it into all the snow real fast.
Dad picked me up and put me on his shoulders, so I could see down the steep, icy cliff. Dad screamed. It hurt my ears, but then I started screaming, too. I never got to wail like this anywhere else. I felt like a king, like no one else was in the world besides me and dad and our screams and our laughing. We did this for a while, and then ate some more sandwiches, only this time they tasted delicious.