I was surprised to hear that they had completed the crossing. Well nearly. The point is, I hadn’t learned until they were well on their way that they were going. Or at least that Dan was going with him. I was there when Dan helped load the van with everything Mark owned. I stayed on after the loading for the celebratory drinks and the best wishes on starting a new life, but not a word. Unbelievable!

I wasn’t the only one who was surprised. We were all at the going-away party; Jill, Shirley, Raz, Mickey, Rachel, Steve, Joel. They heard nothing either. Other than that Mark was taking a new job out west. We did the math, it would be a four thousand, six hundred mile drive and ten days to get there. If his phone held out, Mark would text us along the way. And Dan said nothing.

“Where are you actually moving to?” asked Raz.

“I’ll be in Duncan,” Mark said.

“Where’s that?”

“Just outside Victoria.”

“That’s a long way to get away from us.”

“I’ll miss you guys,” Mark said, lowering his head.

And Dan didn’t say a thing. He just sat there taking it all in, smiling in that way of his. I wonder now whether he made his plans long before this. I mean a move like this just doesn’t happen impulsively. Or does it? Dan always struck me as a guy who had to have things worked out, not the spontaneous type.

Come to think of it there was that time that he splurged on the sky-blue suede jacket. Not his style really. But he thought he looked good in it. He said it showed off his eyes and made him feel rakish. Whatever that meant.

The first I heard that Dan was gone, I got a text from Steve. “I heard from Dan this morning. He is with Mark in Winnipeg.” That was four days ago. They are likely somewhere on the prairies by now. The two of them. Joy riding across the country.

I drove by Dan’s apartment just to check. There is a “For Rent” sign in the window. What did he do with his stuff? His guitar. His sound equipment? He always talked about joining a band, but never did. He just wasn’t that spontaneous. Other than the jacket. Mark must have made room for his stuff though, because it’s gone.

Steve got a call from Mark and texted the rest of us. It sounded serious. They were out in Medicine Hat. Some bar. Dan said he was beat and was heading back to the motel. When Mark got there later, Dan was gone and so was his stuff including the guitar and amp. Mark swears he wasn’t gone all that long. But how can someone disappear that quickly? And without a trace?

Okay, this is too strange for words. Steve says that the police won’t look. It’s not a missing person case. Dan is an adult and he is free to tell no one where he is going. Or what he’s up to. Mark is beside himself. He is in Duncan now, but can’t focus on the new job. It’s been a week since he last saw Dan.

Steve got an email today. It was from Dan. “Found a guy who refits Westphalias. Gonna help him and earn some cash. He loaned me one, that he says I can buy when I have the bread. Doing okay, jamming with some guys regular. Pretty sweet gig.” The email address was prairiedirtbag@gmail.com.

I looked up “dirtbag” in the urban dictionary and found this entry – “A person who is committed to a given (usually extreme) lifestyle to the point of abandoning employment and other societal norms in order to pursue said lifestyle.”

I never saw Dan as being all that spontaneous. I sure do miss him though.

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