Conversation in the car

We are on the way to lunch with a Carla and Dirk* who live about an hour’s drive away, north of Brisbane, Australia.

My sister is driving, with her husband navigating with the help of the GPS on the iPhone from the comfort of the passenger seat.

I am sitting In the back seat on the left, my mother in the middle and my father on the right, all duly strapped in for safety.

As we pass an undertaker’s in a shopping complex along the way, my mother informs us that when her friend Suzie last went to South Africa, her son in Durban was doing very well financially because some years ago he planted “sap-free” pine trees from Japan, and now makes flat-pack coffins and has an order to export 17,000 to Ethiopia.

“Per week?” I interject.

This is ignored because my father says, “There was a fellow who made flat-pack coffins in Harare too; what was his name?

My brother-in-law comments “It’s a very profitable business.”

My sister has it on the tip of her tongue, “Um, Cornwell?”.

“Matt Cornell,” I say, “His favourite shirt colour was lemon yellow.” And I think of his wavy dark hair neatly parted at the side and always combed close to his scalp. The wavy anxiety lines on his forehead seemed to me to match the waves in his hair.

“Ha, ha!” says my sister, “You’re quite right. Yes it was Matt Cornell.”

My Dad says, “He had another business but I cannot remember what it was.”

Now we all know who we’re talking about, my brother-in-law has the answer, “He had that panelbeating shop in Mabelwood.”

As we speed along the motorway, I look out the window at all the gum trees and try to imagine them sap-free.

* Names have been changed slightly.

© Allison Wright, 2015

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