Snow capped mountains reflected on the lake’s mirror surface. Thin white clouds hovered on the horizon. An emerald conifer tree line met the still waters of Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, the wind silenced by the heat. A jet black raven flew from the nearest tree and landed two feet from us.
“Richard, look how close that raven is,” I said taking a step toward Richard as it hopped closer to me, “oh my god its so big it stands passed the middle of my thigh.”
“Fannie, we’re in a National Park,” Richard said wrapping his arm around me, my head coming up to his chest, “I suspect it’s looking for a handout and you’re the most likely candidate.”
“That’s comforting,” I said leaning into him. “How about we walk down the trail and see if we can loose him?”
“After you,” Richard said.
The raven hopped down the trail after us. A young couple walked down the trail toward us. The raven flew into the tree above Richard’s head. We nodded as they passed. When we lost sight of them the raven made a few clicking noises and flew down the trail ahead of us leading the way. Walking down the lakeshore with our otherworldly escort flitting from tree to tree ahead of us, we turned around at the end of the lake shore trail and returned to the trailhead. Our escort on our heels.
“So do you want a snack before we head back down to Lake Louise and meet Owen and Kate for lunch?” Richard asked looking at the concession stand near the picnic tables.
“Yes and no,” I said looking at our local guide. “Do you think he’ll steal our food?”
“Not if we buy him something to eat while we dine,” Richard said winking his blue eyes at me, “after all Fannie, he did take us all the way down the trail and back, that should count for something.”
Rolling my green eyes and running my fingers through my shoulder length brown hair, I said, “Richard, we’re in a National Park, I think they’d frown on us feeding the animals.”
“Not if we made it look like he stole it,” Richard said with his devilish grin. “Who’s not gonna believe it. I mean come on Fannie, he’s a raven.”
“All right,” I said eyeing the bird who followed us to the concession stand.
One order of poutine and one order of french fries later, we walked over to an empty picnic table. Our escort hopped onto the seat and onto the table top.
I pulled my camera out of my day pack and snapped a quick photo of our companion.
Richard set the poutine out between us and the french fries just off his right hand. Our friend hopped up to the basket of fries. He grabbed the edge of the basket and pulled it with a jerking motion to the end of the table. Leaving a trail of fries in his wake.
“What, you’re not gonna take a picture of the bird stealing our fries,” Richard asked smiling.
“Nope,” I said laughing. “He’s not gonna qualify for North America’s Most Wanted.”
When the raven finished his fries, he made a noise that sounded like, “brrrronk” then flew into the trees.
“You’re welcome,” Richard shouted after him.
We drove down the hill and wended our way through the parking lot and maze of people heading into Chateau Lake Louise. Once free of the parking lot the trip into town took a handful of minutes. Just off the Trans-Canada’s Highway stood a french bistro on Village Road.
Owen and Kate’s brand new 2003 Toyota Tundra sat in the parking lot outside the restaurant.
“They’re early,” I said looking at my watch.
“They always are,” Richard said parking the Love Wagon, a red Ford F150 complete with queen futon and disco ball, next to their truck.
Owen and Kate Summerfield waited in the lobby. Owen spotted us first. He came up to Richard’s shoulders except his frame’s more wiry, thick wavy black hair, a pale narrow face with pronounced cheek bones and dark brown playful eyes. He gave me a quick hug lifting me off the floor almost squeezing the air out of my lungs.
“Fannie, Richard, so good of you to make it,” he said with a Londoner’s English accent, shaking Richard’s hand and clapping him on the shoulder with a dull thud.
“Kate it’s great seeing you again,” I said giving her a hug. She stood about two inches shorter than Owen, thick shoulder length light brown hair, lively blue eyes and a crooked smile. I doubt she ever paid for a drink in her life.
“You two look brilliant,” Kate said her accent softer than Owen’s. “Fannie, I think you may have grown since I last saw you.”
Laughing I said, “It’s the hiking boots, they give me an extra two inches.”
“Shall we go in for lunch?” Owen asked leading the way into the Bistro.
Each booth laid out with white linen, matching napkins in silver rings, stainless steal cutlery, wine glasses and a clear cut glass vase with a fresh red rose and Baby’s Breath. The bench seats covered with black vinyl backs and tan vinyl seats.
I pulled the legs of my shorts down as far as they would stretch before sliding into the seat. About six inches of my thigh touched the vinyl. Richard’s long legs and longer walking shorts spared him the inconvenience.
“It sure is warm for this time of year,” I said lifting my legs from the vinyl.
“I’d say it’s about 26 or 27 degrees outside,” Owen said smiling. “Probably a bit warm for you Yanks.”
“Well at home, 27 degrees would be downright cold,” I said laughing peeling my legs from the vinyl. “Something gets lost in the translation between Celsius and Fahrenheit.”
“We had the craziest experience with a raven up at Moraine Lake,” Richard said shaking his head. “It walked and flew with us all the way down the Lake Shore Trail and back.”
“So what happened?” Kate asked.
“We fed it french fries and it flew away,” I said.
“It didn’t say ‘nevermore’?” Kate asked laughing.
Laughing I said, “no it was more like brrrrronk.”
“It probably took you for an easy mark,” Owen said said laughing. “I’m sure your American accent just shouts tourist.”
After lunch I asked, “Are you planning on seeing any movies this summer?”
“We’re thinking Terminator 3, since it opens next month just after the holiday,” Owen said.
“I’m leaning more toward Legally Blonde 2,” Kate said looking at Owen who rolled his eyes. “How about you Fannie, anything you’re interested in?”
“I’m looking forward to A Mighty Wind,” I said peeling my legs from the vinyl, which chose that moment to comment, “PHFFFFFT”.
The restaurant fell silent. Every head swiveled in our direction. Owen and Kate’s eyes widen just a skosh. Richard looked at me as though I’d come unhinged.
“Come again,” Owen asked shaking his head slightly.
“It’s a Christopher Guest mockumentary that opened in April,” I said the words slowing down as my mind reeled into shocked embarrassment. My face flamed bright red. I burst into my first ever fit of hysterical laughter.
“Fannie, breathe,” Richard said after ten minutes of rubbing my back.
Kate, her eyes twinkling, egged me on, “Fannie, tell me more about a mighty mind.”
After twenty out-of-control minutes, Owen excused himself from the table. He walked out the front door never to return.
“Kate please stop, we need to get Fannie calmed down,” Richard said.
“Richard, this is the most fun I’ve had in ages,” she said.
“What about Owen?” Richard asked as I gasped for breath before the next fit.
“He’ll be fine, he’s out in the car park having a smoke,” she said laughing, “he can entertain himself quite nicely.”
I calmed down to a non-stop giggle.
Richard took a deep breath and said firmly in his deepest voice, “Fannie enough.”
It had the opposite effect from the one he intended. Six painful hours after we said our goodbyes, the fit ended.
October 11th the postman pulled up to our mailbox. He put a small padded envelope in the mailbox.
Richard and I walked out to the mailbox together. The post mark read “Calgary, AB, Canada” with a return address but no name. I ripped the envelope open. I pulled out a note written in Kate’s stylized cursive, “Thank you for the best vacation memory ever. It was brill. Enjoy!” A hard thin black plastic case wedged itself tight into the envelope. Ripping the envelope down the side divulged A Mighty Wind.