The Edge Of The Highway

Elliott always enjoyed the long drives home with his mother on Friday nights after his weekly treatments at the Sick Children’s Hospital were over. Free from all things clinical, he’d sit with his eyes fixed on the side of the road as it whizzed by providing a non-stop commentary that she never tired of.

“How many squirrels do you think are living in that forest right this minute? My guess: a million. What do you think, Mum? Would you like to like to live there? I would … I’d climb trees and play chicken with the cars going by all day … Would you play on the highway like the squirrels do, Mum? I don’t think you should, it could be very dangerous and you don’t play a kid anymore, do you? …”

Elliott, pausing briefly to catch his breath, glanced at his mother and watched her familiar hands curved around the edges of steering wheel. He stared at her profile and the edge of her smile.

“Do you think I’ll drive a car someday, Mum?”

“Well, not for a few years yet, but someday, yes, I really hope you will.”

“But, I don’t know want to,” Elliott replied, “I wouldn’t want to have to stare at the road all the time. There’s much more interesting stuff on the edges. Remember the deer I saw last spring? And the billboard ads I’ve learned to read? ‘All you can eat Chinese buffet, KIDS EAT FREE!’” he shouted proudly.

“But you’d have to keep your eyes on the road if you were driving, wouldn’t you?”

“But I like the edges more,” he answered. “I like the edge of the lake more than the middle where it’s deep and scary. I like the edge of the yard because I can see the rest of the neighbourhood from there. I like Fridays too,” he added, “the edge of the weekend, right?”

“So, young man, why do you never eat your crusts?” she teased, “aren’t they the edges of the bread?”

“That’s different,” he replied dismissively and continued with his list: “I like the edges of space, because no one has been there yet; I like the edge of the rug in my bedroom because it’s patterned; I like the edge of morning in the hospital before anyone else is awake; I like the edge of presents because you don’t know what the surprise inside is yet ...”

Thirty years later, as Elliott stands on the edge of his mother’s newly dug grave, he recalls that very conversation … although it’s more likely a compendium of many such conversations they’d shared back then. Defying the odds, he’s outlived her. He has a wife and two children, works as a radiologist at the local hospital, plays golf most Saturdays, carries a hefty mortgage and, of course, he drives his own car. There’s very little time to notice the edges of things anymore …

Back at the house, drinks and dainty sandwiches are served. Elliott eats only his crusts.