Angela and Heather urge us to explore Halifax more thoroughly before we depart. We listen, but not too closely. We both want to get home, so we bypass the busy downtown, and instead opt for a quick drive along the coast. I picked the route by looking at an imprecise map, so we shortly find ourselves rolling past rundown homes and unimpressive tracts of forest. The brief glimpses of harbors and coves are gorgeous but fleeting. Thirty minutes later we’re back on the highway, flying westward, heading home.
Like yesterday, the drive is mostly uneventful. We make turkey sandwiches with the supplies stashed in the cooler. I control the iPod and we alternate between mellow tunes and podcasts of Radiolab. We drive and drive and drive, floating along the empty roads, feeling like we’ve gotten away with something. I misread the directions, we miss the exit, but it’s not a problem, we shoot back onto the highway, barely missing a beat. The border starts to close in, so again, like yesterday, we rehearse our story.
“Let’s just say we went to Halifax for one night. Because we had a place to stay.”
“Do you think they talk to the Canadian guys? We told them two days.”
“So what?” I counter, “we came back early.”
“Yeah, whatever, it’ll be fine.”
I’m behind the wheel this time. We pull up to the window and get the same sort of questions.
“Where you headed?”
“I live in Waterville and he lives in Brunswick.”
“Where you been?”
And on it goes. Basic questions looking for simple, believable answers. We’ve actually done nothing wrong—once the worms are in your system it’s legal to possess them. I’m still a little nervous. Maybe it shows. When I tell him we drove to Halifax for one night, he smirks. He thinks he’s caught us.
“Halifax? For one night? Come on.” He steps out of the booth and pokes his head in the back window.
“Yup. It’s not that far.”
“We went to a bar. Brussels. We got some seafood.”
“C’mon. One night? You mind popping the trunk?”
“Sure,” I stutter. Why am I scared? Our only contraband is microscopic and flowing through Malcolm’s bloodstream. I pull the lever, the trunk pops, the officer looks. He ambles back to my window grinning.
“You still got two beers back there,” he says with a slight snicker.
“Oh, we’ll get to ‘em,” I say with a forced laugh.
He hands over our passports and I step on the gas. Twenty seconds later we’re already talking tough.
“Haha! Stupid customs! We’re home free now!”
We feel bold, empowered. We haven’t really got away with much though; we just like the feeling of being daring international smugglers. Downtown Calais flies by in a blur, then we’re back on quiet roads lined by inerrant pines. The miles click past on the odometer, then suddenly we’re in Bangor, back on the interstate, almost home. For a while the road hugs the river, and out of the corner of my eye, a flash of motion. Looking over, I see a huge bald eagle and gasp. Malcolm turns his head and together we see the bird slowly flapping, grasping a dripping fish in his massive talons.
Malcolm has refrained from scratching, mostly. When we pull into my driveway, I feel like I’ve come home after a long trip abroad. Really, it’s been thirty-six hours and the only exotic activity was eating mayonnaise with my French fries. That and sticking a patch covered with a microscopic parasite onto my brother’s arm. Malcolm climbs out of the passenger seat, stretches, pisses in the woods beside my house, and sinks back into the car, this time behind the wheel. As he turns the car around, I wave from the doorway. He pulls out and waves back and in the yard worms struggle to the surface of the ever-growing puddle.