When you wish upon a star, the Sûreté du Québec may show up
My partner had been pestering me all week to take her to see the meteor shower. This requires getting away from the city lights, and I’d been putting it off because Montreal bridges aren’t my favourite things about this town.
I finally gave in. We rounded up our teenage niece, Kendra, and crossed the falling-apart Mercier Bridge en route to our regular viewing spot.
It’s not far from an old farmhouse my parents used to own in Howick. There is a wicked S-curve on Scotch Concession with an old tractor trail off one of the sharp bends.
When Melani’s little sister was in elementary school, we’d pull in there, cut the lights and wait for our eyes to adjust. Within moments the air was so full of fireflies you could almost read a book by their light.
Thousands of them blinked away as we sat there breathless for minutes, for an hour.
I don’t know whether chatter bothers fireflies, but we’d speak softly and laugh quietly so as not to disturb the sparkles of heaven a hand’s-breadth away.
But the tractor trail is overgrown now. There is no shoulder on the barely-two-lane road and tall, dark trees obscure most of the sky. Driving along that road, it’s tradition for someone to say spookily: “I seen this movie!”
If you ask a farmer nicely, he’ll probably let you park on his land to look at the sky from his fields. But if you don’t ask, if you just show up in the middle of the night, he’s going to get cranky. My goal for the evening became “don’t anger the farmer.”
So we looped around to St. Martine, a beautiful town along the river. I’d like to retire there, in a house with a wraparound deck protected by mosquito netting and a dock I can lie on to watch the stars and think heavy thoughts. Or no thoughts at all—really, that’s more like me.
“Ooooh, there’s a cemetery,” Melani said, pointing. “Can you pull in?”
I parked near the gate to the graveyard. A sign noted it is closed after sundown and the gates were locked. We followed the fence to where it met a cornfield. The gates were locked, but the fence just ended, so of course Kendra walked around it.
“The police’ll be along to check on the car,” I told her and she reluctantly came back to us.
We lay in the dewy grass directly beneath the Milky Way and saw a few weak shooting stars and talked about boys and planets and other Very Important Things.
When I heard the crunch of gravel behind us, I said, “Well, there’s the cops.”
Kendra panicked a little, but as I got up, I said, “They’re not going to shoot us. Just walk over very slowly.”
There was no choice but to go slowly. They had their roof lights on full blast; it was brighter than a noontime sun. I walked close to the gravel road and stopped, waiting for them to come to me.
“I can ask what you’re doing here?” the Sûreté du Québec officer said.
“We came to see the meteor shower,” I told him with a smile.
“You’ll have to tell me what this is, a mett-E-or shower.”
Melani’s French is better than mine. “Les étoiles filantes,” she told him.
“Oh, that’s tonight?”
“It’s all week.”
He looked back at me. “And it’s your car?”
“You’re from where?”
“Oh, so you should speak French.”
“I grew up in Toronto,” I said. It’s no excuse, but when people hear it, they cut me some slack.
“Okay,” he said. “Enjoy the show.”
I’d been ready to drive away. “You mean we can stay?”
He laughed at me. “Sure. Have fun.”
Well, that went well. The police continued their patrol. We wandered back to our corner by the cornfield. Melani and Kendra decided that since the cops had already been there, it was safe to go into the graveyard.
They didn’t go too close to the headstones—it was midnight, after all—but Melani flopped down on the cemetery side of the fence.
“You’re going to lie down here?” Kendra asked, following suit.
“You might as well,” I said. “Everyone else in there is lying down.”
I’ve never seen two people move so fast in my entire life.
The Lyrid meteor shower is April 16-25, peaking on April 21 and 22. There will be a new moon April 21, which means dark skies and a better light show from 10 pm till dawn.