You’re really sure this is a good idea?” Dale asked his wife.
“Dale, I’ve had the tickets since December,” Donna said. Then her phone beeped and she looked down at the screen in her hand while she kept talking. “It’s a little late to go changing my mind now. I’d let the other women down. Oh, good. Laura’s taking her hair dryer. I won’t need mine.”
Donna pulled a hair dryer out of a large backpack spread out on the bed.
“That pack must weigh as much as you. Can you even carry it?”
“I won’t take everything on the hike,” Donna said. “We can leave some things at the hotel before we go on the hiking trail.”
“Can you even lug it to the airport?” Dale said.
“I’ll figure it out,” Donna said, only half paying attention to Dale as she typed another question into her phone. “I wonder if anyone else packed a corkscrew?”
Dale shook his head in disgust and wandered out of the room and into his office, where he turned on his computer and started looking through the latest ag news. A corkscrew? What exactly was Donna planning to get up to?
He hadn’t really been paying attention when she’d first brought it up. He didn’t want to go to Peru.
“Why would anyone want to go to Peru?” he’d asked. But Donna had just laughed at him, and tried to get him interested in the pictures in the brochure her friend Laura had given her at lunch the week before. “Go if you want to,” he’d said. “Get away with your friends. Have a good time. I don’t have time to get away for 10 days. Not in the spring.”
“Not in the spring,” Donna said. “Not in the summer. Definitely not in the fall. And lately, not even in the winter.”
“Hauling all that wheat and keeping the cleaning plant running is a full-time job for more than one man,” Dale said. “And Jeff was away for a week. And Dad’s been gone all winter. Somebody has to keep the farm running. And it’s not like you’re asking me to do something important — you just want me to look at things. There’s stuff around here I haven’t looked at in years. I don’t need to spend all day on a plane to get a new view.”
“Look,” Donna said. “I want to see new things. Try new food. I’d rather go with you, but if you won’t leave this place, I want to go anyway. Laura’s going. She’s got two other women lined up.”
“Book your tickets,” Dale had said, back in December.
“You’re sure you don’t mind?”
“No,” he said. “Put it on the corporate credit card. It has better insurance.”
Somehow, it had seemed different, back in December. Like a harmless afternoon away with friends. Maybe at a spa, Dale thought to himself, though he wasn’t really sure if there were any spas anywhere near the farm.
But now, with Donna actually down the hall packing to spend 13 days away, in South America, hiking up a mountain with three women he barely knew… Well, now it all seemed different.
Dale went back into the bedroom. “I’ve been looking online,” he said. “Do you know people get altitude sickness, hiking in Peru?”
“Some people do,” Donna agreed.
“You don’t seem very worried about it,” he said. “Norma’s doctor gave us some pills. They might work, or they might not. There’s not much you can do about altitude sickness.”
“How can you stand that kind of risk?” Dale said.
“That’s a pretty silly question, coming from a farmer,” she said. “You take risks every day.”
“What if something else happens?” Dale asked. “What if you get a bug? You could get really sick.” “I’d do the same thing I’d do if I got sick here.
Go to the doctor. We have insurance.”
“You don’t speak the language. How will you find a doctor in the jungle?”
Donna laughed. “We’re not canoeing down the Amazon with a lost tribe,” she said. “We’re taking a group tour. Four of us. We’ll have a guide who speaks English and Spanish. If one of us gets sick, the rest of us will get the guide to help us find what we need.”
Dale did not look convinced. Donna looked down at her phone again. “Oh good. Arlene has a power adapter.”
Dale shook his head and retreated to his office.
A few minutes later, he was back, this time brandishing a piece of paper.
“I checked the government website,” he said. “Do you know how much crime there is in Peru?” He looked down at his page. “Purse snatching. Pickpocketing. Theft from vehicles. This place is dangerous.”
“The tour company sent us the warnings. We’ll be fine. People go to Peru all the time.”
Dale went back to his office and sat down. This time, he didn’t turn to the Internet. He just looked around his office. Thinking.
Donna was smart. Sensible. Of course she’d already looked up all of the information about Peru. She was way better than him at researching things on the Internet. Of course she’d be fine. Her friend Laura would be great in an emergency. But why did his wife want to do this sort of thing in the first place? Didn’t they have enough adventures going on at Hanson Acres? They had grandchildren. Weather disasters. Crop disease risks. Canola market roller-coasters. Neighbours to spend time with. Why would she risk that to hike up a foreign mountain? Or to eat food that might taste awful and could make her sick?
It was the questions he couldn’t ask that were really bothering Dale. Now that Donna was spending so much of her time doing things off the farm, was he still going to be exciting enough for her? Was he going to have to give up his farm to keep his wife? How could he even do that? They’d spent their whole lives building this place. He couldn’t leave it now. Jeff wasn’t nearly ready. And hadn’t running this farm been Donna’s dream too? Had she just been pretending to love this place all these years?
He really didn’t know what was going on. He turned back to the Internet and started clicking his mouse. A few minutes later, he went back to the bedroom. Now Donna was folding pairs of hiking socks.
“Look at this,” he said, holding out a picture he’d printed from a travel website. “These people roast rats on sticks and eat them,” he said.
Donna took the paper from his hand and looked at the picture. “Those are guinea pigs,” she said. “A local delicacy. We’re having some with a local family. It’s part of our tour.”
“Norma’s been talking to her cousin,” Donna said. “She and her husband went to Turkey with this same company last winter. They said it was great.”
“Oh geez,” Dale said. He took his paper back from Donna and headed back to his office, wondering what kind of food he would have to eat if he took Donna to Istanbul.
Leeann Minogue is the editor of Grainews, a playwright and part of a family grain farm in southeastern Saskatchewan.