Archive for January, 2011


It wasn’t a huge funeral. Grandpa hadn’t had many close friends. All the immediate family members showed up. A few neighbours. Some grey-heads from his church. Great Aunty April had not, but had sent a bouquet of daffodils. Sara sat between her mom and Tiffany. Mom had cried softly while holding Sara’s hand. Tiffany’s mom, Linda, had brought her new husband, more to annoy Ned than out of respect. Aunty Kat wailed throughout the service, clutching Selina’s fattest and youngest child to her chest. Sara didn’t know anyone who spoke during the service, and barely listened to the words anyway. Her mind was so intently on who was seated behind her that she couldn’t even concentrate on what was happening around her.

She’d strolled in behind Herb wearing a dark grey pantsuit and an ivory blouse. Her hair was pulled back into a bun, making her look even more elegant than usual. She’d obviously done some shopping for dad as well. He was wearing a dark brown, wool suit with a mustard tie. He even seemed to have lost some weight. He looked good…well, better than his normal, dumpy self. She felt Herb’s hand squeeze her shoulder, and then he had whispered something into mom’s ear. They then sat down behind them. Sara could smell the Angel’s perfume. It smelled like lilacs and was suffocating. She could hear dad’s familiar, heavy breathing…almost like a person taking a deep breath before speaking, but without the words, and the same deep breath every time.

A grey-haired woman stood up and sang a mournful tune. Everyone started tearing up. Kat’s wail became thunderous. Two men in dark suits came forward and removed the bouquet of tulips from the top of the coffin. Who had chosen tulips? Grandpa would have hated them. Everyone knew he loved roses. Common sense…a man who tended a rose garden in his spare time would want God damned roses at his funeral. Then one man opened the lid. Kat started screaming and a glum looking Selina led her from the chapel through the side door. Her wails could still be heard clearly through the walls. An usher came to the first pew and Sara helped her mom to her feet. Maybe she didn’t look as grand as “the angel,” but mom really looked smart in a simple black dress, cardigan, and red-wine scarf. Ryan and Ned came up behind them and they walked to the front of the small chapel. Sob-inducing organ music started to play.

Sara had seen a dead person before, so there really was nothing to be shocked about. Grandpa looked pretty much the same as always. He was in his army uniform. Colleen quickly looked down then turned away quickly. She grabbed for Ryan’s arm and whispered “I need to get out of here.” Ryan escorted her to the same side door that Kat and Selina had used. Sara followed, but walked down the hall toward the exit. Aunty Kat’s sobbing could still be faintly heard, coming out of a room probably built for such purposes. Sara spotted an exit and headed outside. The weather was still beautiful. Strange for Victoria. A small garden stood off to the side of the funeral home and Sara went over there and lit up a smoke.

“Excuse me! Please don’t smoke in the garden!  There’s an area in the back!” An old crow had poked her head out of a side window and stared scornfully. Sara headed towards the rear of the building. As she turned a corner, she spied an old granny smoking one of those skinny “cigarettes for ladies” near an aluminum trashcan.

“The fools. One would think we’re criminals these days!  Relegated to alleyways and the backs of buildings,” the old woman complained.

“You’re telling me. It’s not even enough that you smoke outdoors anymore.”

“Yes, quite ridiculous. Cars drive down the street producing bucketfuls of fumes, and yet it is the smoker that is the bane of existence.”

The old woman looked up at her face and smiled. Sara quickly gave the woman a “once-over.” A thousand ancient lines hid what was once a beautiful face. Yet the checks were still blushed and the lipstick applied immaculately.

“Why, you must be Sara. You look a lot like your Aunty Kathleen. Well, back when she was about 100 pounds lighter.”

Sara looked at the woman for a moment, and caught a scent of familiarity.

“Yes, I’m Sara. Sorry, but I don’t…”

“Of course you don’t,” the woman extended a skeletal hand wearing three, huge rings. “I’m your Great Aunt April. We’ve never met.”

Sara shook her hand, scared she would snap it like a wishbone.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I uh…why aren’t you inside?”

The old woman shook her head. It was hard to tell if it was voluntarily. “No, no. He wouldn’t want me in there.”

“I’m sure he, uh…”

“No, that much I am certain of. We are too much alike. I know I wouldn’t want him at mine. Well, I take that back. I wouldn’t mind so much anymore.”

“But I’m sure everyone else would be happy to see you.”

“Oh, it’s enough for me just to see you. What a pretty thing you are too!”

“Thank you. You should come to the reception though.”

“Reception? Back in my day they called it a ‘wake.’ Oh no. I just wanted to come and make sure the old fool was actually dead.” she smiled.

There was a short pause while both women took deep drags off their cigarettes.

“May I ask…uh, well nobody ever really says, so I was just wondering…”

“You sound just like your father!”

“Yes, a lot of people tell me that.”

“What did you want to ask me?”

“Uh, never mind. It wasn’t important.”

“I think you wanted to ask me why your grandfather and I are estranged.” The old woman’s face crinkled up into a smile.

“I know, it’s none of my…”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. Well. Oh my. Well, it had something to do with a piano that belonged to our brother. Your grandfather wanted it for your mom, but Roland had left it to me in the will. I said I wasn’t giving it up. So, that’s the official story. The unofficial story is that I also went off to Korea during the war. That’s right, an army nurse. I was hotter than Hot Lips Hoolihan in those days! We both survived, but then Roland died less than a year later. Your grandfather was close to his brother. He was so angry after Roland died. So angry. I think he resented me for living. He was a very cruel man back then. Was just awful to your grandmother and Kathleen. I think he saw a lot of his brother in Colleen though. She never got much of his ire. And l was never around when Joseph was born, so I don’t know about him at all. Anyway, after Roland died I never really saw anyone again. He totally cut me off. I got married and had my own children.”

“Did they come with you today?”

“No. Edward passed away about ten years ago. Lung cancer. Evelyn lives in Calgary. My Fiona lives in town and she brought me here. I told her to pick me up in half an hour.”

Sara lit up a second cigarette then offered one to the old woman. The skeletal claw reached out again and accepted it.

“So, do you live in town?”

“Well, up in Sidney. Not far away. I have a cottage there.”

“You really should stay for a bit. I know people would be really happy that you came.”

“This is your grandfather’s day. Another time perhaps. I hadn’t planned on coming at all. I sent some flowers.”

“What changed your mind?”

“Oh, who really knows? Last night I was walking down by the waterfront and I just remembered your grandfather and I beachcombing for bits of glass. You can still find pieces of glass that have, at some point, been tossed into the ocean. Their sharpness gets worn down with the passage of time until they resemble a polished jewel. We collected them. Greens and browns were easy to find…and we always got excited when we found a cobalt piece or violet. Our mother kept a basket in the front room full of the stuff.  That’s all. Just some foolish memory. So I called Fiona and asked her to bring me down.”

“You’re very poetic. It’s actually a really beautiful metaphor.”

“Ha-ha. Aren’t we humans a strange breed? We hold on to a grudge for years. Over nothing. I’m not blaming your grandfather. I could just as easily picked up the phone or written him a letter. Such pride. We were both so proud. I suppose that comes from the old country. Our mother was a very proud woman. Anyway, I’ve chewed on your ear enough. You had better get back inside. It sounds like things are coming to a close.”

The faint organ music had gotten a bit loader. Sara reached out to shake the old woman’s hand. Instead, the two claws grasped her body and held her in a quick embrace.

“It was so lovely to see you. I truly mean that. Perhaps we shall meet again?” The old woman smiled. “Now get going! People will wonder where you are.” Sara walked back around the corner. A few guests had already exited the chapel. She felt the moisture welling up around her eyes. Finally.


There was no graveside ceremony. The family came back to the old house. The kitchen table was filled with egg salad sandwiches, strawberries and cream, some squares and tarts. Some wine, whisky, and juice were arranged on the kitchen counter along with glasses and an ice bucket. Tiffany and Tak-Sin had discovered grandma’s old hats from the back room and were trying them on. Mom busied herself in the kitchen…in spite of there being nothing else to prepare or clean up. Kat sat at the kitchen table not caring if anyone noticed that she had already eaten half of the sandwiches. Joe and Wes sat in the front room chattering about something political. Ned, Ryan, and Rupa had all gone off for afternoon naps. Landon had taken Selina and the girls to the airport. Sara found it difficult to sit still. She kept walking into the different rooms, checked out the attic guest room…nosed around in the basement…poked her head out into the garden. It was raining lightly.

The phone had rung about 30 minutes ago. Joe had answered. Dad and Joanne were on their way. They asked if they should bring anything. Sara had started her pacing.

“Would you just sit down please? You’re making everyone uncomfortable,” Colleen finally snapped at her.

Sara sat across from Fat Aunty Kat, and absently picked up a strawberry.

“Did you have a sandwich? They’re real good,” Kat said with her mouth full.

“I’m not really hungry.”

“Well, you should eat something.”


Tiffany snuck up behind Sara and plopped a pink pillbox onto her head, then squealed with glee.

Aunty Kat laughed too…but much too loud for it to be authentic.

“Jackie O!  Look Colleen!  She looks just like Jackie O!”

Mom turned, and gave Kat a forced smile.

“Who’s Jackie O?” Tiffany inquired.

“Onassis!” Kat replied.

“I don’t know who that is either.”

“You know, the first lady.”

“What’s a first lady?”

“The president’s wife! Like Michelle Obama.”

“So, she’s American?”

“Well, she’s dead now.”

“Was she black too?”

“No!  She was…uh, WESLEY!  What was Jackie Kennedy?”

“I thought you said her name was Jackie Onassis,” Tiffany said with a scrunched up face.

“Whadda ya mean ‘what was she’? She was another damn woman!”

‘You KNOW what I mean, Wesley!  She was Greek, wasn’t she?”

“Aunty!  You said she was American!” Tiffany again interrupted.

“She wasn’t a damn Greek!  Remember, her name was ‘Bouvier.’ That’s French!”

“Oh. So, she was French, Tiffany.”

“Well, I still don’t know who she was.” Tiffany snatched the hat back off Sara’s head and went back to Tak-Sin who was now sporting a lovely, green, feathered number.

“You guys be careful with those!  Colleen is going to put them on E-Bay!” Kat scolded. Mom finally discovered that there was nothing more she could possibly tidy up in the kitchen, and sat down at the kitchen table. She looked to her sister.

“I’m really surprised Aunty April didn’t show up. I thought after all these years they would have been able to put that business behind them,” Kat mentioned absently.

“Well, you know how ornery some old folks are. She did send those pretty daffodils though.” Colleen gave Sara a quick, strange glance.

Sara nibbled on the strawberry and kept silent.

“It was a nice service though,” Kat mumbled, absently toying with another sandwich.

“Looks like Herb is here,” Joe called out. They listened to the footsteps coming up toward the front door. There was a light knock and the door opened. Dad walked in with the Angel close behind him wearing a London Fog overcoat.

Nobody shouted out “hey” or “hello” this time. Wes jumped up to take Joanne’s coat. Sara stayed planted at the kitchen table. Colleen went to put on the kettle for some tea while Kat thrust plates of food into Herb and Joanne’s hands before they’d even managed to sit on one of the aging couches.

“Grandpa!  Look at all of Nana’s old hats! Joanne, did you see this one?” Tiffany put on a bright yellow sunhat.

“Oh!  Aren’t they lovely!  That looks like an Easter bonnet!” Joanne exclaimed with a bright smile.

Sara stared at them quizzically. Obviously the Angel had managed to integrate herself more into the family since she’d last been home.

“Sara, we. uh, I got you, uh something. Picked em up at a yard-sale…”  Herb tossed her a plastic sack across the room. It landed with a ‘thud’ at her feet. She picked it up and opened it. Romance Novels…and the really trashy ones with shirtless dullards clutching massive amounts of female cleavage to their perfectly sculpted torsos.

“Yeah, uh, thought you’d like those!  I know how much you like to read!”

“Yeah. Thanks.” She set the bag onto the floor.

“Did your mom tell you about our business, uh our thing we got going?”

“Yeah, she did.”

“Yeah, it’s uh, workin’ out real good.”

“That’s good.”

“Colleen? Got some real good Sharon Rose salt and peppers on the way down. Stopped by that, uh, thrift store in Abbotsford.”

“Oh, that’s good,” mom replied rather cheerily.

“Don’t forget about the Aynsley!” Joanne whispered.

“Oh yeah!  And a couple of those Aynsley salad plates! Joanne found those on Sunday at this church rummage sale.”

“Really? Great!  How much did you pay for the salt and pepper?”

“Eight dollars. But you sold a pair before for nearly fifty, didn’t you?” The Angel was now speaking directly to mom. Yes. A lot of things had changed. Another thirty minutes of chatter about old dolls, vintage purses, and Nana’s old hats followed. Landon’s return from the airport woke Ned up from his nap, with Ryan and Rupa following soon after. Damn…Landon looked even hotter in a suit and tie.

During a lull in the conversation Joe suddenly walked over to the China cabinet and opened a drawer. He pulled out a large envelope.

“Well, guess now is as good a time as any to get this done. Dad gave me a copy of his will before he was admitted. Guess he knew what was coming.”

Everyone became quiet. Kat started crying, but tried to keep the tears to a low blubber. Uncle Joe opened the envelope and pulled out some papers. He put on his reading glasses and scanned through the first few pages.

“Well, it’s all pretty normal. The house is to be sold off. He’s got some bonds as well. Still has about ninety grand in savings. The house and property was appraised at about $540,000. He’s left 30 percent each to Kat, and I. Colleen? I guess you’ve made some arrangement with him with your house. Six percent each to Sara, Ryan, and Landon. Eleven percent each to Ned and Selina, with the additional funds to be used for your kids’ education. Let’s see…jewellery to be divided between Colleen, Kat, Sara, and Selina. Oh. Mother’s pearls go to Aunty April. Wow. Didn’t see that one coming.”

Sara’s ears suddenly perked up.

“Also, he’s asked that Uncle Roland’s piano go to her as well.” Uncle Joe shook his head, then took his glasses off and looked toward his sisters. “All these years. I really don’t understand why he just wouldn’t extend an olive branch. Honestly!”

He looked back down at grandpa’s will. “Instructions are that we can select what of the furniture and knick knacks we want to keep. The rest will be sold. Total value of the estate is about 900 grand or so. Half of that will go for taxes. Anyway, that’s about it.”

“Lucky!  Come back here with that you damn mutt!” Wes shouted and chased the dog down the hallway, who’d managed to grab the Jackie O hat. The rat, who had been hiding for a nap under the coffee table, started to yap.

The rain finally let up. The ladies cleared up the luncheon and chatted in the kitchen…Joanne and Tak-Sin included. Herb held court with Joe and Wes in the living room.  The young folks went out back into the garden for some smokes, fresh air, and “herbal” refreshment. Tiffany stormed off in a pout when she was told she had to stay inside.

Landon pulled out a couple joints and leant up against the rear of the house. He’d taken his jacket off and unbuttoned his shirt. His trousers were tightly fitted and Sara could see the faint outline of his…”Ack!  Gross, gross, gross! Stop it!” she again screamed in her mind. Soon the joints were lit and being passed around. Rupa didn’t take it when Sara passed it to her.

“What? You’re not having any?”

“Yeah, I haven’t being doing that for a while.”

“What, are you pregnant?” Sara joked.

There was a pause and Rupa quickly looked over to Ryan. “Yeah, but we don’t want to say anything yet. I mean, I lost the other one so we just want to wait and, uh…”

Sara hadn’t heard about the miscarriage. Not a word. “Well, uh, OK. Hope for the best, I guess.”

Ryan stepped in and quickly changed the topic. “So when are you headed back?”

“In two days. Can’t stay long. Couldn’t get any more time off work. Deadlines.”

“Oh yeah. You gonna come up to the valley?”

“No. Probably just stay here and head over to Vancouver.”

Landon stretched, making the outline of his abs even more visible through his shirt. Sara couldn’t bring herself to look away. “So, how much money do you think we’ll end up getting?” Landon asked, letting his muscular arms fall to his sides.

“Fucking government will take most of it,” Ned mumbled. “Be lucky if we get a couple thousand bucks each.”

“Better than nothing. That fucking Sherry took everything I had,” Landon whined.

Sara melted into the bench and put her feet up on the low, patio table.

“So what’s the deal with dad’s girlfriend?” she asked to nobody in particular.

“Whaddya mean?” Ryan responded.

“Well, seems like she fits right in now. Amazing what can happen in a couple months.”

“She’s not so bad,” Ned mumbled.

“Well, that’s a real change of tune.”

“Actually, I think she’s been really good for your dad,” Rupa added. “She just adores Tiffany. And I think this E-Bay thing has really been good for all of them. I mean, your mom and him still argue like cats and dogs over that shit…but at the end of the day they both seem pretty happy. Dad even went over there when it snowed and kept the driveway ploughed. Did your mom tell you about Harold?”

“No. Who’s that?”

Ryan chuckled, and Ned smirked.

“Your mom has an admirer!” Rupa laughed. “He’s a young guy too!”

“Well, he’s not YOUNG,” Ryan explained. “In his mid-fifties. You probably remember him. Used to run that fruit stand over on Swan Lake? Well, him and mom have been going out.”

“I see.”

“Come on, Sara. It’s all good fun. I think she’s having the time of her life!” Ryan poked his sister under her arm.

“Don’t you think it’s all a bit too fast?”

“Ah, who cares? Let her have her fun. Don’t be so judgmental.”

The joint had been passed back to Sara.

“She’s probably jealous cuz mom is gettin’ more than her!” Ned pointed at her and laughed loudly. Everyone started to chuckle.

“You can all just fuck right off!” Sara responded half-jokingly.

The back door opened and the Angel stood on the top step. She’d changed from her funeral gear to some jeans and a comfortable turtleneck of Avatar blue.

“Oh, don’t mind me. I just came out for a smoke.” She walked gingerly down the steps and seated herself next to Landon on the bench opposite the girls. There was an uncomfortable silence, as Sara self-consciously removed her feet from the table.

“Why so quiet? Were you talking about me?” Joanne smiled.

“No, no. Just talking about how Sara doesn’t have sex anymore!” Ned cackled.

“Oh shut up!” Sara barked.

“Well, nothing wrong with that. Although, don’t wait for too long. You don’t want to turn into your grandfather who became a pussy-hound at the ripe age of 90.” Joanne smiled at her kindly.

“Did you hear about that?” Rupa suddenly sat straight up and grabbed Sara’s leg.


“Your mom caught grandpa having sex! Guess she came to the island for a visit. Knocks on the door and there’s no answer. So your mom goes on in. There’s grandpa and some old, redhead goin’ at it on the couch.”

“Ah, Ruby.” Sara replied, nodding her head knowingly, then wondered to herself why she hadn’t seen an old redhead at the funeral.

Everyone turned and looked at Sara. “What? Grandpa told me about her at Christmas.”

“Grandpa TOLD you he was shackin’ up?” Ryan asked.

“Yes. Basically said grandma was frigid and that he wanted to have a lot of sex before he died.”

They all burst out laughing. Ned had a coughing fit. The laughter brought the two dogs to the back door and they started barking. Wes started shouting from inside the house.

The boys decided to go rustle up some drinks, and Rupa left to use the bathroom. Sara started to stand up and follow the boys, when the Angel caught her arm.

“Stay out here a bit. We can finish off that roach. Besides, you and I haven’t really had a chance to talk.”

Sara wanted to make a run for it, but the strength of the Angel’s grip informed her that she wasn’t being asked to stay, so much as commanded. Sara sat back down. Joanne picked up what was left of the second joint from the ashtray and lit it. She inhaled deeply, closed her eyes. She looked like one of those yoga women. A stream of smoke came out from between her immaculately painted lips, and she then passed the roach to Sara.

“Don’t be scared. I’m not the Wicked Witch of the East.”

“Oh, I’m, uh…I’m fine.”

“Don’t worry. I don’t blame you for hating me. And I certainly don’t blame you for being angry with your father.”

Sara blew out a puff of smoke. “Look. It’s not about you. I mean, I don’t approve of your going after a married man. I actually find it disgusting. But that’s your business. And as far as my dad goes, well, he’s done a LOT worse. Trust me. I’m sorry if I cannot just accept all of this as easily as everyone else. But I just can’t. Maybe everyone is right and it all HAS turned out for the better. I don’t know. But I couldn’t really care less about you. Sorry if that sounds callous…but I am much more concerned about my mom. You don’t understand our family’s history.”

“Fair enough. As cliché as this might sound, I really just want your father to be happy.”

“And maybe that’s the thing, Mrs. Lowry. I really DON’T want him to be happy. Why should he find happiness? He caused so much misery for others…why should I jump for joy now that he’s happy?  He could have been happy with my mom if he had treated her with any respect.”


“I know, this all probably sounds really awful to you. You probably think I’m a royal bitch.”

“No, no I don’t. But I think you spend a lot of time upstairs in your own head. Sometimes it’s just good to get out of there for some fresh air. Leave the past in the past once in a while. Gosh, I don’t mean to lecture. That’s neither my forte nor my place.”

“You’re right. It’s not your place.” Sara stubbed out the miniscule remainder of the roach on the armrest of the bench. “Look, I can see you are a really nice person and that everything seems to be working out for the better for everyone. And, ya know, I can treat you with civility. I’m sorry again for what happened at Christmas. But we are never going to be buddies. I just don’t have it in me. I don’t hate you. Really, I don’t. That’s such a strong word anyway. I don’t even know you. And I don’t think we need to get to know each other better. I’m fine if you’re around, and am not going to bite your head off, but I’m not going to run to you with hugs and kisses either. That’s I’ll I can offer at this point, eh?”

“There’s no rush Sara.”

“But ya know? I may never change. I’ve got a lot of that stubborn Bell blood in me. And you will just have to accept that. Things don’t change overnight for me.”



“Where are those drinks?”




 Hello! Just got back from a trip to Kelowna. Just went down with Lavelle to pick up some strawberries. We are going to make jam this weekend. It’s been really warm this week, and everything is in blossom. Keiko is doing fine. She’s such a cute dog, but gets into so much mischief. I will take her down when I go to visit Aunty Kat next week. Lucky will have a girlfriend!  Lucky him!  Haha. Hope you are doing well. Haven’t heard from you in a while, so I worry. Oh, I started that pilates class. I hate it. But, I already lost six pounds, so better keep on trucking!

 Love, Mom 


SUBJECT Happy birthday
 Happy birthday. You are old.


SUBJECT Re: Back safe and sound
 How’s my favourite niece? We’re doing well. Headed down to the timeshare this weekend. Will be nice to get away. Tak-Sin got a new job at a textile company. He gets to travel back to Thailand a couple times a year, so he’s happy about that. And I get to have a break!  Can have a nice scotch in peace! Your mom was down a couple weeks back. She’s looking good. Got her hair done…a nice layered ‘do. Suits her. Even got her to drink a couple glasses of wine!  I think she’s a bit lonely, but seems to be handling things ok. Don’t be a stranger!  Keep in touch! 

Love,Uncle Joe


SUBJECT Happy birthday to you!
 Happy birthday auntie! Dad says you are realy old but I told him he is only one year younger so he is old to! Did you have a birthday party? I hope sombody got you a cake. I am on spring break now. I am staying with dad because my mom went to alberta and I didn’t want to go. When are you coming home again? We can play barbies again. I got a haircut and I have bangs like yours. My mom doesn’t like them but I like them so who cares.BYE!!!Love, Tiffany

 Ps Grandpa took me to the mall with his girlfriend. She bought me a orange joolius but I still don’t like her so don’t worry. 


 Do you know what your plans are for this Christmas? Ryan and I are thinking about going to Australia. But mom says you might be coming home. If you are, let me know. We can leave on Boxing Day if you are coming. If not, we’ll go a week earlier. Let me know!P.S. Ryan sends a BIG heart to you! P.S.S. No I didn’t. 

P.S.S. It appears my computer has been hijacked. He sends you much love and many kisses!


SUBJECT Kathleen
 Hello all! Kathleen is in good spirits after her surgery. She had a bit of applesauce today and asked for a hairbrush…so that is a good sign!  The doctors here are absolutely fantastic. Her surgeon, some Middle Eastern fellow named Dr. Abdullah says she is doing very well and doesn’t foresee any complications. Lucky misses her like crazy, and I do as well. Thanks for all the prayers and wishes. 


Wes, Lucky, and Kat 


 Just thought I’d let you know, your grandfather was rushed to hospital last night. Guess he was having trouble breathing. His friend Ruby called an ambulance. It looks like a stroke. Ned and I are heading down to the island in a couple hours. I’m taking my cell, so you can call me if you need to. Ryan and Rupa are going down tonight.  I don’t know if Kat will come, but says she will try. I will let you know when I find out more. Love, Mom 


SUBJECT Re: Granpda
 Hi,Grandpa passed away last night at about 11. It was peaceful. I guess his body just gave out. We were all there. Kat managed to make it up just in time. I don’t know if you will get this email in time. Wes will pick you up from the airport. Glad you’re getting a flight to Victoria…saves time with the ferry and all. The funeral will be on Thursday. He took care of things in the will I guess, so there isn’t a whole lot we need to arrange. 

I’m doing ok…so don’t worry. He lived a good, long life. Kat is really taking it hard, and I am finding it really difficult to cope with her. Joe has been quite quiet about it all. But he had a nice talk with grandpa before he passed away. Tiffany’s mother will bring her down on Wednesday, so she will be here when you arrive. 

I told grandpa that you were coming. He tried waiting for you. But it just got too painful for him. So I told him you would understand. He left you grandma’s wedding ring. I have it for you. Just don’t let Kat or Selina know. Landon will be here too. We are all happy he got rid of that girlfriend of his.

See you soon. 

Love, Mom 



“Hello there stranger!” Uncle Wes grabbed her to his side. He smelled like wet dog.

“Hi there.”

“You must be plain tuckered out!”

“Oh, I popped a pill that knocked me out. Slept all the way here.”

“Good one!  Well, I’m parked just over there. This all you brought with you?” He grabbed Sara’s small suitcase and headed out the glass doors. It was a beautiful day. The sun was out and a slight breeze blew the scent of the sea and freshly cut grass up Sara’s nostrils. It was the perfect time of year for a visit to the island. Spring flowers were still out, everything was a bright green, and tourists swarmed about like clouds of foreign mosquitoes. Sara climbed into Wes’s “vintage” Lincoln Continental and was immediately jumped on by a heavily breathing, sweaty dog.

“Lucky!  Get the hell off of her!  You damn nuisance!” Wes swatted the dog into the back seat.

“Everyone is staying at the old house. Ned’s here. Joe should be there as well. Kat and I brought the motor home up, so I think there will be room enough for everyone to sleep. Still haven’t heard from April.”

April was grandpa’s sister. The two of them hadn’t spoken in nearly 20 years. Nobody really knew exactly why. Grandpa would just clam up any time anyone brought up the topic.


“And your dad will be down as well. Isn’t staying, but is coming for the funeral service.”


“I see you let your bangs grow out. Your mom will be happy about that.”


The old house had been painted since she’d last seen it. It was now a sea-foam colour, with dark grey trim. As always, the flowerbeds were in immaculate condition and the rose bushes were just starting to form small buds. New brass railing had been installed on the front steps leading up to the front door. The stained glass oval in the door was still there…two hummingbirds sipping nectar from open blossoms. The whole place reeked of Victorian ladies having tea. The motor home was pulled up into the carport on the side, and a skinny Yorkshire terrier was tied up to the RV’s steps.

“That’s your mom’s new, little, rat. Hardly can call that thing a dog. It’s quiet enough but dumb as a post. Strange. No cars here. Maybe they all went out somewhere. Anyway, just go ahead and head on in. Sure they’ll be back soon. I’m just gonna take these two mutts to the park and let them run around a bit.”


The front door creaked open. The house smelled the same as always. Almost like almonds. The furniture hadn’t moved in decades. Pictures of dead people, in black and white, filled ornate frames on the left wall. The photographs of the living were delegated to the hallway in shiny, chrome frames. The curtains were fading floral and matched the covers of cushions that sat on two ancient sofas. Grandma’s letterbox still hung on the wall next to the 1960s telephone. The same mother-of-pearl letter opener rested on the coffee table. They boys had loved pretending it was a sword when they were kids…and always got yelled at and told it was “dangerous.”

The portrait of Nana Bell still hung next to the archway leading to the kitchen. She wore a large, white hat with ostrich feathers and cherries on it. Everyone always said Sara looked a lot like her. Nana Bell had a very small mouth, and thin lips. Apart from that, Sara could find no other similarities.

She set down her bag on the kitchen table. One it were several glass cases containing jewellery.  Grandma Bell’s jewels. A double strand of pearls. A coral, cameo brooch. A pair of silver and sapphire earrings. A ring with a small pearl and ruby…grandpa and April’s birthstones. An assortment of hair and hatpins. Some cocktail rings. A small note lay next to the case.

We have just run down to the mall. Needed to pick up some stockings and get hair done. Will bring supper home. Sara, you can stay in my old room at the back. Call my cell if you need anything.Mom


She left the note on the table and crossed over to the China cabinet. She took out a Waterford tumbler and then opened the bottom middle door and pulled out the mysterious bottle. It had been there since Sara could remember.  She’d always loved exploring all the nooks and crannies of the old house. Mom had gotten after her and the boys for it, but grandpa had always said “they’re just inquisitive Colleen. Better than being dull. Leave them be.” One day, she’d found the mysterious bottle and asked what it was.

“It was my brother’s. He was a medic in the Korean war. He survived the war and came back home, only to come down with leukemia a few months later. He bought that the day before he went into the hospice. Said we would share it together once he’d recovered. He never did…so it just sits there. Be careful with it, though. It’s worth quite a lot of money now.”

It was a 1956 Crown Royal Canadian Whisky 4/5 quart. Sara opened the seal, and poured some of the amber liquid into the tumbler.

“Here’s to you grandpa!” she said out loud, and then took a generous sip. It was poisonous Heaven. She walked down the hallway and out the back door into the backyard. As always, it was stunning. The rhododendrons were just beginning to lose their springtime lustre. The birdbath was filled to the brim. It looked like grandpa had used some of the leftover paint to give the two benches a new coat. Sara sat down on one and had another tickle of whisky. She let the rare, Victoria sunshine pet her skin and closed her eyes, taking a quick catnap, yet too wound up to fall asleep.

“She’s out back Colleen!” Kat’s screech shook her out of the daze.  Her plump aunt smiled, and slowly walked down the back steps. She didn’t bounce over with hugs and kisses as usual, but just ambled over slowly, sat down next to Sara, and put her hand on Sara’s knee.

“It’s so pretty out here!  I always said that this is what the Garden of Eden must’ve looked like.”

Sara quickly looked at her aunt’s face. The woman who cried at the death of a gnat, sat stone-faced to the world.

“I hope whoever buys this place keeps the garden up.”

Sara patted Aunty Kat’s hand.

“Hi there,” Colleen walked down the back steps. She wore a long, khaki skirt, a low-cut, orange top, a darker orange cardigan and a stunning, chunky necklace of agates. Her hair feathered the sides of a perfectly made-up face. Sara had never seen her mother looking so beautiful. She stood, and gave her mother an embrace.

“I’m so sorry mom. Are you doing okay?”

Her mother pulled back and smiled. “I’m fine. Really!  Oh, I like your hair!  It looks so much better when it’s long. Phew!  Gosh, you smell like a tavern! Have you been drinking?”

“Yeah. I opened grandpa’s scotch.”

“Uncle Roland’s Scotch?” Aunty Kat asked.

“Yep. And I don’t care if I am in trouble for it either.”

“In trouble? That sounds like the best idea anyone has had all day. Let’s go get some Colleen.” Sara stared at her aunt in amazement. The woman had always proudly proclaimed that “not a drop of alcohol has ever touched my lips!”

Mom laughed and followed her sister’s large ass up the back steps. Aunty Kat pushed Sara into a chair in the kitchen and she and Colleen started getting glasses, an ice-bucket, and washing off some strawberries they’d picked up “from this old guy selling them from his truck.”

“You’re looking really good mom.”

“Thank you!  Yes, I decided I’d had it with my old clothes. So I up and went to The Bay one day and spent nearly two-thousand bucks.”

“Wait’ll you see her fancy earrings,” Kat added.

“I’ve been selling a lot of stuff on E-Bay. I figure ‘why not’?  And there’s a lot more room in the house now. I still have tons of stuff to sell though. You know what your father is like…all that crap he collected.”

“She’s made the basement into her business!” Kat added.

“Yes, I have! I do all the packaging there and have it all set up. Your dad shops around for more crap and drops it off. Then I put it on E-Bay. We split things 40-60. I took 60 percent because I figure I’m doing more of the work. Plus, half the garbage your dad drags home can’t be sold, so it ends up going to the Sally Ann. But we’re making about $1800 a month,  so that’s good. And he’s going to set up a stand at that flea market in Enderby this summer. You know, the tourist one on the highway?”

“You’re doing this WITH dad?”

“Oh, it’s not like that Sara. I might see him for a total of a couple hours each week. He can’t do the computer stuff. He never even learned how to type.”

“Why can’t he get his girlfriend to do it?”

“I don’t mind. And I like the extra cash. Plus, the snooty woman won’t allow him to keep ANY of the stuff at her house. So, we don’t really have a choice.”

“Is she coming?”


“The girlfriend.”

“Where? Here? For the funeral?”


“I don’t really know. Maybe. It doesn’t matter. During times like these, those things don’t really matter.”

Kat and Colleen set everything on a silver tray then they all headed out back into the garden. They heard Uncle Wes yelling at the dogs.

“You leave the rat alone Lucky!  You’re gonna fuckin’ kill the damn thing!”

“Wesley!  Language!”

“Whadda ya got there? By God is that your dad’s whisky? Pour me one of those too woman.”

Kat poured her husband a drink without a second thought. They all settled down on the benches. Colleen picked up her new rat and held him on her lap while Lucky whined for his new playmate to come back down and continue being molested.

“Wesley, did you make reservations at the motel for Selina and the girls?”


“I hope you did. I promised them we would do that for them.”

“I said ‘yes’ woman!”

“Good. I don’t hardly ever drink, ya know. But I guess this is a special occasion.” Sara watched as Aunty Kat nearly choked on her first gulp of whisky.

“Take it easy!  It’s not God damn Koolaid!”

“Oh!  It really burns!”

“That’s what it’s supposed to do!  Puts some hair on your tits!”

Kat continued to cough, then stood up and headed up the steps squealing “I just need to get some water!”

“Good grief,” Wes muttered.

“Give her a break Wes. She’s having a rough time,” mom whispered.

“Yeah, I know. Don’t think she slept a wink last night. Tossed and turned. I went and slept on the foldout. Strangest thing is that she hasn’t cried yet, Sara. Not a drop. And you KNOW that she knows how to turn on the waterworks.”

 Sara couldn’t help but smile.

“Maybe she’s just in shock?” Sara almost asked.

“Course. But mark my words…it’s a comin!  Those floodgates are not very strong. Lucky!  Fuck off!  Leave that poor rat alone!” Wes swatted the pug who went flying off the bench.

“The dog’s name is Keiko, Wes.” mom snapped.

“Yeah, your mom gave her little rat a Nip name. Guess cuz you live over there in Nipland. But nobody calls her that. We all call her ‘Rat!’” Wes laughed.

“And I wish you would stop it.” Mom stroked the poor, shivering rat.

Eventually Kat recovered and, much to Uncle Wes’s chagrin, found that mixing her whisky with Diet Coke made it more palatable. Sara got caught up on all the gossip about “that tramp Sherry,” Selina’s wonderful (but according to grandpa fat and dull) daughters, Lavelle’s trip to Honduras, Tak-Sin’s new job, Tiffany’s sudden interest in boys, and mom’s pilates instructor. They suddenly realized it was six, and that Kat and Colleen had failed to pick up anything for dinner. Wes said he would order some pizzas and went inside to make a call. Kat was on her third whisky and Diet Coke.

“Oh, where’s mom’s wedding ring?” Kat suddenly asked.

“Um, I have it.” Colleen replied.

“Oh good. I was scared it was lost. You can hold onto it for me.”

“Actually, dad asked me to give it to Sara,” mom shyly responded.

“He did WHAT?” Kat slammed down her glass on the bench, spilling her drink onto the lawn. “Tha horrible, old, awful, GOAT!  That ring was for me!  Mother said it wass s’posed to be mine! How can he be so mean even when he’sh dead!”

“Aunty Kat, you can have it. Really, I don’t mind.” Sara soothingly added.

“No. NO!  I don’t want it!  Orrible old man. We wans you to have it? Well, it’s yours!”

Colleen rolled her eyes, “Kat, just calm down. He probably didn’t even remember any of that. He was hardly himself at the end. You know that.”

“Oooooh. That jus burns me up. DAMMIT, DAMMIT, DAMMIT!  See? He’s even making me swear! He’s dead and he can still just make me feel like a pile of poop!  Yep…just like a big, ole turd!” Aunty Kat’s arms were now flailing. Then she suddenly stopped, and her body dropped limply. All the ruckus had caused Lucky to start barking, then the little rat jumped off the bench and joined in.

“He was an AWFUL man, Colleen. But boy oh boy do I miss him.”

As Wes had predicted, the floodgates weren’t that strong. Colleen put her arm around her sobbing sister and pulled her head toward her shoulder. Sara picked up the glass from the grass and set it on the tray. She never did know what to do with crying people. So, she just held fat Aunty Kat’s hand. Wes popped his head out the back door, said “What the Sam Hell?” and quickly disappeared back inside the house.

The end of part 1…

A big “thanks” to everyone who has been reading. Thanks for your comments, etc. Chapter 11 marks the ending of part 1 of thebluebells. You can expect the first installment of part 2 later this week.



“Who is it?” Sara asked as her mother handed her the phone.

“Your father.”

It was too late for her to say she didn’t want to speak to him. Sara took the phone and went upstairs and sat in the front room. It was dark but for the sparkling of lights on the tree.


“It’s dad.”


“Uh, so why don’t we…I’ll pick you up tomorrow morning. And uh, they got a flea market in Kelowna. Get there early for the good stuff. Real good pancake breakfast too.”

Sara wondered how anybody was able to make sense of what her father said. The family was all used to it by now, but she often imagined how he sounded to perfect strangers.

“Um, sure. Look, could you apologize to Mrs. Lowry for me? I really didn’t mean…”

“Don’t worry. She, uh…she’s OK.”

“Is she going to come to the flea market?”

“She has, uh, her daughter…probably not. Just the two of us. Haven’t got to spend much time with you. I know you’re leaving pretty soon.”

“OK. Well, maybe come by here around eight.”

“OK. See you later.”

Mom insisted Sara eat some cereal in the morning. Herb showed up precisely at 7:50 to pick her up. The drive to Kelowna was mostly the morning news on the radio. Sara pretended to fall asleep in the front seat. They arrived at the Rutland Centennial Hall. A few sellers had decided to fight the cold weather, and had tables of junk set up outside.  Herb jogged toward the building to use the restroom. Sara wandered over to where a big, fat guy with a grey, pioneer beard stood behind some tables. Old tools, 1960s dishes in mustard and avocado, McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, and boxes of cassette tapes were stacked in piles of nostalgia.

“Good morning!” the old guy said cheerfully, while puffing away on a smoke.


She couldn’t believe that people would actually pay money for any of the “treasures” the old fart was selling.

“Could I interest you in some fine lookin’ silver earrings?” He held up a pair of blackened hoops.

“Uh, no thanks. Just looking around.”

“You related to Herb?”


“Saw you pull in with Herb!”

“Oh, yeah. I’m his daughter.”

“Thought so. You look a lot like him.”

What? Was the old fart going blind? How could he possibly think that she looked anything like that decaying version of Dan Aykroyd?


“Well, have a nice day,” the old fart babbled as she headed toward the entrance of the hall.

As a white girl in Japan, she’d always felt like the odd-man-out. She got used to the uncontrollable stares, and the wary glances. She wasn’t one of them, looked different, sounded different…and never would be one of them. But it was strange how she also felt that way when she came home. She’d never admit it out loud, as it almost sounded a bit snotty, but these people were foreigners to her. The old fart’s highlight of the week was probably selling a pair of cheap earrings at the flea market. Everywhere she looked there were further reminders that she didn’t fit in. No piece of clothing on any person that morning seemed to have been designed before 1998. A group of old men huddled around a table near the pancake counter talking about the rising cost of housing. Nearby were their wives…chatting about their grandkids. A native family sat smiling around a table filled with jars of honey. The mom was knitting a bulky sweater and the kids’ faces were covered in sticky grime. An older couple was putting sugar in their coffee…dressed in their Sunday best. The woman had on a new winter jacket…probably a Christmas present from her frowning husband. An East Indian looking guy had a table filled with comic books, action figures, and sports cards. It looked like a brush hadn’t been through his hair in days. As she roamed through the hall, glancing at the assortment of goods for sale, bits of conversation assailed her ears…

“Oh yeah, they left for Mexico last week, eh.”

“Oh please, Paula Abdul is drunk half the time. That’s the only reason she says nice things. That Simon is ALWAYS on the money.”

“So I says, ‘Tanya, you can’t just let him help himself to food or he won’t eat his supper.’ But she never listens to me.”

“Buncha fruitcakes in Ottawa.”

“This is nothing. Shoulda been round for Winter in 1983. That was nuts.”

“Nah, all the good players get snapped up by the Yanks now. Got nothing good on the team this year.”

“Nope. The Pakkies bought the Olsen orchard.”

“Well, I turn off the engine at intersections now. Saves a few pennies on gas.”

“Yeah, I still got a few boxes of apples in the root cellar.”

Who were these people? Were their lives really so simple?  Sara walked by a table filled with antique glassware. She spied a pair of salt shakers in the shape of a yellow-faced Chinese boy and girl…squinty eyes and all. She shook her head in wonderment.

“Those are occupied Japan.” A 50-year-old woman with a pointy beak of a nose smiled at her.

“Hmm? I think they’re Chinese. They are wearing Chinese clothes,” Sara replied. The woman laughed.

“Guess you’re not a collector!  What I mean is that those were made in occupied Japan. Ya know, after the war, eh? That stuff is all highly collectable.” The woman picked up the boy of the pair and showed Sara where it was stamped on the bottom. Sure enough, it said “Occupied Japan.”

“Weird. I live there and have never seen such a thing.”

“Really? Well, if you ever see anything with that stamped on it…grab it. Some of ‘em are worth loads!”

“I’ll keep my eyes open.”

The next table was a table of dolls and bears. Hundreds of them. Suddenly, beak-nose appeared behind the table…only in different clothing. Sara looked at her quizzically.

“Hello!  I love your scarf!” She pointed to Sara’s rainbow scarf purchased somewhere off the street in Osaka.

“Thanks.” She looked back at the occupied Japan table and realized that there were indeed two different women. Twins.

“You, uh, ready? I’m done here,” a male voice boomed behind her.

“Oh!  Yeah. Sure. I’m done.” She looked down and spied a couple of bulky plastic bags in her father’s hand.

“Buy something?”

“Yeah, uh, got a couple…real good deal. Little People, real ones. Fisher Price. Got five of those, and a real good Lesney.”

She knew nothing of what he was talking about, but nodded her head…to avoid a lengthy explanation and display of purchases. They walked out together. The honey-seller’s youngest brat was screaming bloody murder as they left the building and headed toward the car.

“You buy anything?”


“Yeah, uh…huh. Yeah, bunch of junk today,” Herb agreed. Strange…he’d still managed to make a couple of purchases in spite of it being a bunch of junk.

As they got into the car, he tossed the bags into the back seat and started up the engine.

“Yeah, uh, I’m gonna open a little shop to sell all the stuff we got in the house. Joanne and I will run it. Give your mom half of what we make. Only fair. Thinking maybe up in Enderby.”

“I thought you two were moving to Mexico.”

“Just in the winter and fall. We’ll come up here in the…uh, warmer months. Tourists, tourist season. Sell all our stuff.”

“I see.”

“Joanne will keep her place.”


“Yeah, uh, your mom wants me to get all my junk outta the house.”

“That’s a good idea.” And it was. The Bell house had boxes of the stuff stored in every nook and cranny. Not just that, there was an overflowing storage unit in town. Herb had never met a garage sale he could pass up.

“Not my cars though. Not gonna sell them. Save ‘em for you kids.”

Why on Earth any of the “kids” would want his collection of thousands of toy cars was beyond her. But Sara kept her mouth shut.

“Yeah, we’ll sell in the summer and, uh, use the…the money to live for the rest of the…”

They drove along for a couple minutes in silence.

“You hungry? Please up here serves breakfast. Makes their own jam.”

“No, I’m fine.”

“All kinds. Apricot, strawberry, apple.”

“I’m not really hungry.”

“Good French toast.”

“I don’t usually eat breakfast.”

“Oh yeah, me too. Well, sometimes a bagel. Coffee. Maybe some cereal. I only drink one cup though. Rest of the day, uh decaf. Want some coffee?”

Sara realized he wasn’t going to leave her alone until she agreed to ingest something.

“Sure. Maybe just go through the drive-thru at Tim’s.”

“Oh, I think it’s senior citizen day at A&W. I get a free coffee if I get a breakfast sandwich.”

“That’s fine.”

“But you want Tim Horton’s eh?”

“I don’t care.”

“Whatever you want.”

“Anything is fine.”

They pulled up at the A&W drive-thru. As the car approached the speaker box, Herb slowed the car.

“Welcome to A&W. May I take your order?”

“Yeah, uh, two coffees…uh, regular.”

“Cream or sugar?”

“What’s that?”

“Would you like cream or sugar?”

“Oh, yeah. Both. Oh…Sara, what do you…”

“Both,” Sara replied.

“Yeah, both.”

“OK. So, two regular coffees cream and sugar.”

“Yeah, double, double.”

“Just one in mine, dad.” Sara interrupted.

“Oh…just one double, double.”

“Got it. Would you like anything else this morning sir?”

“Yeah, I want two of those breakfast sandwiches.”

“Which ones? We have the bacon and ham muffin, the sausage and egg sandwich, and the breakfast croissant.”

“What’s that?”

“Sir, I think there’s a breakfast menu just above the speaker.”

“Oh, uh, yeah. Yeah. I see it. Oh, I’ll take that taco things.”

“Pardon me?”

“That taco things. Says they are 99 cents.”

“Oh, you mean our chicken wraps? Actually, those aren’t available until 11 o’clock sir.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, they’re not on our breakfast menu.”

“Well, you shouldn’t put up a sign for them if you’re not going to sell them.”

“Sorry about that. Can I get you one of our breakfast sandwiches instead?”

“Yeah, I’ll take two of those croissants. Put some salsa in there.”

“Pardon me?”

“Salsa!  Salsa!”

“Uh….OK. Alright, your total is $7.48. Thanks.”

Herb pulled out a pocketful of change and handed it to Sara. “See if I, uh, got enough.”

They pulled up to the window. A chubby girl in a headset opened it.

“You got my senior discount, right?”

“Uh, no…you didn’t tell us. Um, so one of those coffees should be free. Hold on…”

“Nope. Two. Two free.”

“Um, the discount is only for senior citizens, sir.” The girl glanced at Sara in annoyance.

“They’re both for me.”

The girl scratched her head. “Both coffees and sandwiches are for you?”


The girl shut the window and rolled her eyes.

“Dad, I think we can afford $1.29 for a coffee.”

“Ah, these places make tons of money. They throw out half their stuff.”

The girl returned. Herb gave her a fistful of coins and she handed him two cups and a small, brown bag. Herb drove the car forward and was about to turn out onto the street when the car came to a screeching halt.


“I, uh…restroom.”

“Well, you can’t leave the car here dad! People have to…” Before she could finish Herb was already out of the car and jogging toward the restaurant. Sara set down her coffee, opened the passenger’s door and walked around to where her dad had left the driver’s door wide open. She sat down, put the car in gear and moved it to a handicapped spot. By the time she was back in her own seat Herb had returned.

“Sorry, uh, bout that. Oh…we might as well eat hear…can’t eat while I’m driving.”

To avoid any lengthy discussions, Sara accepted one of the croissants.

“I feel real bad about, uh, ya know. Christmas kind of got a bit ruined. I shoulda…oh well. It’s in the past now. I just wanted to, uh…well, you’re upset and I wanted to talk about this, uh…”

“I’m not the only one who’s upset, dad.”

“Yeah, but the boys will come through. Plus, they’re not going anywhere. You leave in just a couple days. Sure would be nice if you came by Joanne’s place. She’s a great…”

“It’s not going to happen dad.”

“I know you are upset with me. But Joanne…”

“Upset? Hardly. I am really pissed off. I do not understand you at all. This is just really fucked up!”

“It’s OK to be angry with me. I know I wasn’t always the best, uh dad…and also with your mom…”

“Oh, just SHUT UP! Really!” She threw her coffee out the window and tossed her sandwich on the floor, then turned to looked at Herb. “I’ve forgiven you for a LOT of shit, dad. But this is too much.”

“There’s no need to yell!”

“What? Why? Why can’t I yell at you? You certainly spent a good portion of your life yelling at me, so why can’t I yell? I’ll yell all I want!”

“You do NOT yell at your father!”

“Fuck YOU!”

The word instinctively caused Herb to raise his hand. She braced for the impact…but it never came.

“Go ahead dad!” She was screaming. The rage she so industriously tried to contain broke through.

“I don’t do that anymore!”

“Yeah? Well I do!”  She didn’t hesitate and slapped him hard across the cheek. His coffee cup flew from his other hand and splashed over the driver’s side window and his shoulder. His face was stunned. His bottom lip began to quiver.

“Well, now I know!” Herb screeched. His whole body shook and his eyes were brimming.

“You know WHAT?”

“You still hate me!”

“Take me the FUCK home!”

Herb didn’t bother turning off the engine at any of the intersections. He sped up the hill when they got to the house. Sara slammed the car door when she got out…not saying a word. A note on the fridge in the kitchen said that mom had taken grandpa down to the airport and she would be home later.


She called her airline to find out if she could change her ticket and fly home earlier. No luck. Then she tried checking if there were any available seats on flights to Vancouver. She figured she could kick around there for a couple days before heading back to Tokyo. Fully booked. Mom got home just as she had started looking at the Greyhound Web site.

“What are you doing?”

“I’ve gotta get out of here.”

Colleen set a bag of groceries on the floor then put her hands on her hips.

“What happened?”

“You people are all nuts!  Everyone in this fucking country is nuts!”

“What did he say?”

“You’re wrong mom. He hasn’t changed one bit!  Same asshole he always was.”

“Well, if you’re not going to tell me what happened then I can’t help you.”

Sara laughed!  “Mom, how did you ever help me when it came to him anyway? He is the same as ever!  A fucking control freak who lashes out when he doesn’t get his own way!”

“That’s not fair. I did everything I could to protect you kids.”

“Except to LEAVE the fucker!  But no. You wait until we’re all grown up for that.”

“You are really not being fair. He stopped any of that business long ago. You know that.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Are you saying he hit you?”

Sara turned to face her. “And what if he did, mom? What would you do about it? Nothing? Hope that he wouldn’t do it again? Be grateful he didn’t cause any serious physical injury?”

Colleen collapsed in defeat on the settee near the basement door.

“You think I’m a wimp, don’t you?”

“Oh please, mom. Don’t get all passive aggressive with me.”

“I don’t even know what that means! But I know I did the best that I could!  I was the one who stood up to him and told him to straighten up. I was the one who threatened to take away his kids. I got him to change his ways. I MADE him change. I stayed with him when he went through the cancer business. I raise his kids, bring in an income, clean his house…and you think I’m a wimp because of it.”

“And you still invite him to your house and to family dinners? After all you put up with, how can you be in the same room with him?”

“Because he is YOUR father.”


Kat and Wes’s son Landon and his (crack whore) girlfriend Sherry hadn’t made it for Christmas dinner. With all the other excitement nobody had noticed. Ned’s friend Bernie had also been a no-show. He was a cameraman for the local news channel and called to say he had to cover a crash that had killed a father and child. Again, nobody had really noticed. Kat called her son to make sure he was OK and that he would show up for “the Christmas dinner sequel.” There was still enough uneaten food to feed “the German army” as Uncle Wes had put it, so mom and Kat packed everything up and took it over to Ryan and Rupa’s place. Rupa had the house decked out for Christmas in her catalogue-looking front room.

“What the heck kind of Christmas ornaments are those damn things?” Wes bellowed.

“Wesley!  Language!”

“Looks like she’s got a damn flock of peacocks makin’ nests in the tree.”

Rupa appeared from the kitchen wearing one of those aprons with the torso of Michelangelo’s David on it…making the wearer look like they had a tiny, marble penis.

“That’s what they are!  Those are real peacock feathers. I wanted something different!” she responded cheerily.

“And what the tar-nation are you wearing woman?  Look like a God damn idiot in that stupid apron.  Good God!”

Rupa blinked back hurt and astonishment and returned to the kitchen. Mom and Kat bustled by with boxes and Tupperware filled with food. Bernie sat like a lump on a couch next to the tree. He’d let his hair grow out since Sara had last seen him. His shit-eating grin also informed her that Ned had brought over some of the “good stuff.”

“I like her apron. Funny!” Tak-Sin whispered.

“Peacocks in a Christmas tree and a damn COCK on an apron. What the heck is the world comin’ to?” Wes muttered as he set Lucky down on the floor who immediately was attracted to Bernie’s feet.

Tak-Sin informed them that Joe was taking a nap, and Ryan, Tiffany, and Ned were in the basement playing with the Wii. He chattered away as he took grandpa’s coat and offered to bring him some tea. Still high off his big win, obviously. Soon Ryan and Ned clomped up the stairs with Tiffany in tow…who ran to hug Sara.

“Where’s Herbert?” grandpa hollered. Everyone was silent for a few moments until Ryan stepped in and said “I don’t think he’s comin’.”

“No, Colleen said he was coming and that I should be on my best behaviour,” grandpa replied. Ned shook his head in confusion and headed out the back door. Ryan looked to Sara.

“What? Don’t look at me,” she muttered.

“I’m lookin’. Is he coming?”

“Talk to mom about it.”

“I’m talking to you.”

“He-he…that’s totally Robert De Niro!” Bernie chuckled as only a stoner can do.

“I’ve got nothing to do with it,” Sara said as she pushed past Ryan and headed toward to kitchen. Ryan was in hot pursuit. The ladies were busy unpacking food.

“Mom, did you tell that man he was invited to my house?”

Colleen ignored him and started spooning stuffing into a large casserole.


“Oh honestly!  Yes, he’s coming. He is still part of this family!”

“I don’t want him here!” Rupa put a finger up to her mouth to motion for Ryan to “shut up.” It had no effect.

“No, Rupa, it’s MY house and I do not want him in it!”

“It’s not up to you,” mom replied with just a tinge of annoyance in her voice.

“What are you talking about? I have every right to invite or not invite anyone into my home!  He is NOT setting one foot inside my front door!  I’ll sick Murdock on him!” Murdock was Ryan’s black boxer. She was a female, but Ryan had insisted on calling her “Murdock” and referring to her as “he/him” as he claimed “all dogs are boys.” Everyone joked about his “dyke-dog.”

“Oh stop it. We had a pretty miserable Christmas yesterday, so let’s do our best today.” Mom handed the empty stuffing container to Sara, who had no idea what to do with the damn thing.

“And Ryan?” Oh God no. Fat Aunty Kat had to get her two bits in. “Ryan, all God’s children make mistakes, and if Jesus can forgive even people like Hitler then I think we should forgive your dad for his mistakes too.”

“What the fu—-that doesn’t even make sense!  Mom, call him NOW and tell him not to come.”

“Well, he’s already gone to get Joanne…”

“He’s BRINGING that fucking woman with him!” Ryan’s arms flew into the air in a dramatic gesture knocking the Tupperware out of Sara’s hands. “I like how everybody seems to know but me!  My fucking house and nobody tells me!” He kicked the Tupperware across the floor as he stormed back down into the basement. Sara picked up the container. Rupa ran after him mumbling “for fuck sake” as she brushed past Sara.

“What the heck is goin’ on in there woman?” Wes hollered from the front room.

“Oooh…just mind your own beeswax Wesley!” Kat shouted back.

“Well, keep the ruckus down!” Lucky then started to bark.

“WESLEY!  Take the dog out!  He probably has to go poopies!”

“He does NOT have to take a shit!  He’s upset because of all the damn yelling!”

“Wesley!  Language!”

Mom was now trying to lift the turkey out of a cardboard box. Sara went to help her.

“When are they coming?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe in an hour or so.”

“It is just too soon mom.”

“I know. It’s soon for you guys. But we’ve gotten used to it, I guess. I’m actually quite fond of Joanne.”

“Your mom and Joanne actually went to school together in Alberta,” Aunty Kat interjected.

“Wow!  Even better. He cheats on you with a friend.”

“It’s not like that, Sara.” Mom started digging around in a cupboard box for a roasting pan.

“Your dad was friends with Mrs. Lowry even before I knew her.”

“What happened to Mr. Lowry? I mean, if she’s a ‘missus’ I’m assuming there must be a ‘mister’ somewhere.”

“He passed away three years ago. Lung cancer.”

“Does she have kids?”

“A daughter in Port Alberni.”

“Does she know?”

“Oh yes. Herb says she’s a potter.”

“A potter?”

“Yes. She makes pottery for these ritzy tourist traps in Victoria and Vancouver.”

Suddenly there was a loud slam of the front door and a “MERRY CHRISTMAS” shouted from downstairs.

“That’s my Landon!” Kat squealed!  “LANDON!  Merrrrry Christmas!!!  Ha-ha-ha!” Kat bounced out of the kitchen.

“I hope he forgot to bring that frightful girlfriend of his with him,” mom muttered as she began covering the turkey’s drumsticks with foil.

“I think that she’s going to be the least of your worries tonight, mom.”

“She stole your brother’s digital camera you know. Probably sold it for drugs.”


“I’m serious. Wait until you see her.”

By the time the turkey was in the oven, Rupa, Kat, and the mysterious Sherry had all reappeared in the kitchen. Sara could see why everyone in the family hated Sherry…pink streaks in peroxide hair, three nose piercings, a tattoo on her neck of a fairy, and a lip ring.

“Sara!  Come meet Sherry!  This is Landon’s girlfriend!  See? She likes interesting hair-dos too!”

“Hey…” Sherry cooed. Well, mom was right about one thing. This girl was definitely on something. Landon then appeared in the doorway. He gave Sara a pat on the shoulder and she shuddered. She always shuddered when Landon’s body was near hers. He was an absolute stunner…from the dimple in his right cheek, to the cheeky grin on his face. His skin was dark…thanks to his native mother, and his hair was blonde…thanks to his unknown, Caucasian father. He’d been adopted by Kat and her first husband as an infant.

“Yuck!  You’re disgusting!” Sara screamed to herself in her mind when she suddenly realized she was lusting after her COUSIN. She blushed.

“He-he-he.  Sara, you’re like, totally red…that’s so weird!” Sherry oozed her words, not so much spoke them.  

“Oh? Really?  No, I’m just hot…maybe I’ll go outside for a…” she avoided any eye-contact with any part of Landon’s person and headed out the back, sliding doors. Mistake. Before she’d had even a moment to adjust to the darkness she heard a loud snarl and felt her own body flying through the air….then….


“She’s OK!  Look!” She opened her eyes to see Landon’s beautiful, brown eyes staring down at her. His lips were full and glistening with a hint of a morning-moustache on his top lip…an angel about to give her the kiss of life….”NO!” She bolted upright to a chorus of people shouting “No!” “Be careful!” and “Easy there!” She was laying on the couch next to the Christmas tree. She felt Lucky chewing on her sock.

“Are you OK? Sorry about that damn dog. I thought she was chained up!  RYAN!  I told you to chain her up!” Rupa wailed.

“Do you need some water? Kat, get her some water!” Mom’s cure-all for any bodily illness or injury was a glass of water. Are you coughing up blood? Why, have a glass of water!

“Here, here’s some, uh…” A familiar looking hand with fat, sausage fingers snaked around the front of her with a glass of red liquid.

“Herb, maybe it’s best not to give her wine.” Now THAT voice was not familiar at all.

“Maybe we should take her to the emergency room just in case?” Uncle Joe. The voice of reason.

“Nonsense. You young people go to hospital for a broken toenail these days. It’s just a bump on the head.” Grandpa. The voice of cantankerousness.

“Well, might be a good idea. When I was in the marines this one fellow bumped his head on a motorboat and dropped dead two days later!” Uncle Wes. The voice of exaggeration.

“Aunty? I think Murdock ripped your sweater.” Tiffany. The voice of journalism.

“What’s that smell? Is something burning?” Ryan. The voice of practicality.

“Shit!  The potatoes!” Rupa. The voice of profanity.

“I’m fine!  Really, I’m fine. I just really need a cigarette. Really!” The voice of truth. Sara pushed herself onto her feet.

“Hey, hey!  You need to lie down for a minute!” Herb bellowed. Sara ignored him and headed toward the stairs and the front door. She heard mom whisper to Ned too loudly “you’d better go with her.” Sara stared at the floor. She passed a pair of panty-hosed feet hiding beneath a pair of ivory, silk pants. At the bottom of the stairs were a pair of navy high-heels…the type of shoe mom would NEVER wear. She opened the front door and let the cold air hit her full on the face. Already she felt better.

 A few seconds later, Ned sat with her on the bench next to the front door and lit up a joint.

“Everyone thinks you’re crazy living so far away. Me? I think you got the right idea. Here…have some of this. That’ll make you REALLY see stars and birdies.”


She looked a bit like Kate Jackson. She was quite thin, and wore linen pants with a flowing, matching top along with a simple gold chain and an opal pendant. She had on make-up…but just enough to conceal the tiniest bit of blotchy skin. Her nails were perfectly manicured and held a glass of white wine. Nobody on God’s green Earth would have guessed that the frumpy man seated next to her with the top button of his jeans undone was her “lover.”  She spoke, but not too much. She laughed at all the appropriate times. She offered to help mom clean up, but didn’t push too much when her offer was declined. She even maintained her dignity when Bernie mentioned something about Mr. Lowry. Every man in the room was charmed. She had them all eating out of the palm of her hand…apart from Ryan who refused to come upstairs and sat down in the basement playing Guitar Hero in protest. She was so perfect that she even had an imperfection…excusing herself after two hours to have a smoke. Sara could find nothing wrong with her, well apart from her being a husband-stealing, black widow. The conversation lulled. It was silent except for the rattle of mom, Kat, and Rupa in the kitchen and a snoring Lucky on Uncle Wes’s lap.

“Are you sure you’re feeling all right, dear? That’s quite a bump you took.” Sara did a second take, and realized that Charlie’s Angel had spoken to her.

“Me? Oh, yeah…yes, uh…”

“Wow!  You sound just like your father. You have very similar speech patterns.”

Bitch. She smiled unconvincingly at the woman and didn’t respond.  The only other person in the room who did not seem amused at all was grandpa. He sat next to Bernie in stone-faced silence. Joe and Tak-Sin sat on the floor in front of the tree. Finally, Wes broke the silence.

“So tell me Joanne, what do you think of Rupa’s fancy Christmas decorations on that there tree?”

Sara watched as the Angel pushed her glasses back up onto the bridge of her nose then craned her neck to get a better view.

“Ah…I see. Peacocks. Well, they certainly are colourful.”

What the HELL? She even got that right!  Sara finally thought the woman had been trapped!  By simply saying they were ‘colourful’ the Angel both indicated to Rupa that they were attractive and to Wes that perhaps they were in poor taste. Could the woman do no wrong?

 “I think they’re awesome!  I’m totally going to do blue and green streaks in my hair now!” Sherry moaned from the corner where her head rested on Landon’s bulging shoulders and thick neck…”Aaaaah!” Sara again screamed inwardly.

“Uh, I just need to..uh…excuse me…sorry, gotta use the…huh!  Again. Geesh…three times tonight…” Dad hoisted himself off the couch and rushed down the hall towards the bathroom.

“Light a match when you’re done!” Wes hollered after him.

Everyone laughed at the lame joke politely, except Grandpa, who also rose from his feet and announced that he was going to “lie down. All this fun is not good for my heart!”

Suddenly Sara heard a soft voice from behind her say “Auntie? Uncle wants to know if you wanna come play Guitar Hero. We need a singer and Uncle really sucks.” She turned and saw Tiffany’s gap-toothed face staring up at her from the stairwell.

“What’s that?” Wes shouted.

“Nothing!” Tiffany hollered back and ran down the stairs.

“Thought she said something about ‘retards are here’ and I was about to agree with that!” Ned cackled at Wes and yet another “WESLEY!” echoed from the kitchen.

“She said ‘Guitar Hero.’ It’s a game.” Sara explained.

“A game? I wanna play a game…” Sherry slithered off of Landon and sat up.

“Um, yeah. Sure. They need singers.”

“Your Aunty Kat has a good voice,” Wes stated surprisingly seriously.

“Um, well, I don’t know…”

“KAT!  They’re playin’ a singing game downstairs!  They need ya!  Hurry up woman!”

Kat appeared from around the kitchen corner. “Really? Oh!  That sounds real fun! Colleen!  Colleen, you and I can do a duet!  Oh, we could do ‘Mr. Sandman’!”

“Aunty Kat, I don’t think…”

“Well, let’s head on down then! Come on everyone…let’s go see what this game is all about…”

“Um, you guys?” Nobody was listening. Everyone stood and started heading toward the stairs.

“Oh God,” Sara muttered.

“Don’t worry. I won’t go down there.” The voice startled her. The Angel had remained seated on the couch. Mom and Kat came out of the kitchen.

“Oh, come on girls!  This sounds like fun!” Kat squealed.

“Joanne, aren’t you going to come join us?” mom asked in her sweet telephone-voice.

“Oh, I’d better not. I have my daughter arriving tomorrow morning so I should be getting home. I’ll just wait until Herb is, uh, finished and have him give me a ride. But thanks so much for the lovely evening Colleen.”

“Are you sure? You’re more than welcome.”

“Unbelievable!  LET THE FUCKING BITCH GO!!!” Sara looked to her mother’s shocked face and then to Aunty Kat’s quivering second chin.


“Sara. You need to apologize to Mrs. Lowry immediately!”

The sudden realization hit Sara that she had said the words aloud. She felt all the blood run to her cheeks.

“Oh…I…oh, I didn’t mean!  Shit!  I mean, I didn’t mean to say that out loud…uh…no, I didn’t mean that at…oh, I am so sorry!”

The Angel calmly picked up a scarf, said “thanks again Colleen. Tell Herb I’ll be in the car” and floated down the stairs and out the front door.

“Oh mom…I’m sorry. Maybe it was the bump on my head!  I didn’t mean to say that out loud. God, I’m so embarrassed.”

Mom started walking down the stairs, and quietly called back. “Don’t worry about it, honey. I’ve been wanting to call her that for years.”


Naturally, the plans for everyone playing Guitar Hero didn’t work out…as none of the old folks new any of the songs. They settled on Wii bowling. Aunty Kat thought she had to run toward the screen as one would have done in a bowling alley. Twice she fell on her plump bottom, much to the delight of a stoned Bernie and cackling Tiffany. Tak-Sin won nearly every game…continuing his winning streak for the day.

At around ten, they loaded a sleepy grandpa into mom’s car and mom drove the three of them home.

“Oh, the Heimans sold their ranch.” Mom pointed to a blue Victorian house surrounded by barns and pines. Sara had no idea who the Heimans were, so just said ‘Oh, yeah.”

“And I guess I told you that Donna left her husband.’

Who was Donna? Was she one of the Heimans? Again, she simply responded with “Oh, yeah.”

“She wanted to retire on the island, and he said he wasn’t moving. So, she just up and leaves him.”

“Good for her.”

“Well, not so good for poor, old Ed.”

Sara still had no idea who they were talking about, but played along.

“Yep, seems like everyone I know is getting divorced these days. Never thought I’d be a divorcee as well.”

“Well, at least you know that you’re not the only one.”

“Small comfort. I never thought I’d be 62 years old and alone.”

“You have the boys, mom. Your family is close.”

“I know. All I ever wanted was to get your dad out of the house so I could have a few moments of peace. Now that I know he won’t be coming home…well…”

“You’ll get used to it. And ya know, now you’re single!  You can always meet someone new.”

“No way.”

“Why not?”

“Do you know what men my age are like?  They all need mothers!  They have never done a darn thing for themselves in all their lives. Your dad couldn’t boil an egg. They all need a mother to scrub their poopy underpants, fold their socks in a particular way, make sure the fridge is stocked with their favourite drinks, book appointments for the doctor and dentist, get them to take their medication…no way. I am not about to do that again. I’ve had my fill of it. Did you know that I had to iron the damn pillow cases for your dad? I’m not kidding you. His mom did it so he expected me to do it too. Can you imagine?  Why would anyone iron a pillow case? But that is what men my age are like.”

“Well, there are also positives.”

“What, you mean sex? That’s all anyone thinks about these days. Sex, sex, sex. Well, let’s just say that what your father lacked in technique he made up for with speed!”

“I really don’t want to hear this.”

“And I am happy now that I haven’t had to put up with his ‘manly needs’ for a long time now. He uses Viagra ya know.”


“Oh stop acting like such a 12 year old kid.”

“You really want to be talking about this stuff with your father in the back seat?”

“He’s dead to the wind. Besides, he took his hearing aid out.”

“Well, I don’t want to talk about this.”

“You’re not talking. I am. And all I’m saying is that I do not need another husband. But maybe a boyfriend. Something casual.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Why should you find that so shocking? Do you think I don’t know about you? I know you’ve slept with a lot of guys.”

“I have not!  What, do you think I’m some big whore?”

“No, but you’ve had your share.”

“How do you know that? You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“So, I’m just saying you shouldn’t judge me. I want one of those friends with benefits.”

“La-la-la-la-la…” Sara covered her ears.

“Oh how mature of you. Stop that!” Colleen batted at her daughter’s hands playfully.

“But isn’t that sinful? I mean, how many times did I hear the lecture about keeping myself pure as my body is the TEMPLE of GOD? When you found out I was no longer a virgin you cried for days!”

“Maybe I’ve changed.”

“Not that much.”

“You didn’t even notice I got my ears pierced.”

Sara reached over and pulled her mother’s hair back. Sure enough, there was a simple gold stud in her ear.

“Looks nice.”

“So I’ve changed too. And when Christmas is over I’m going on this diet Lavelle told me about. You don’t eat or drink anything but maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and lemons. And I am going to start one of those pilates classes. Maybe I’ll even come visit you in Japan.”

“Whatever you want, mom.”

“And so what if people think it’s a midlife crisis or something. I mean, your father did it, so why can’t I? And I want to go on a cruise too. Maybe a singles cruise.”

“So is all of this in response to what dad has done?”

“Don’t try to analyze me. For Pete’s sake…so what if it is? This may be the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

“Maybe you should see a counsellor.”

“No way. I am not going to share all my personal details with some stranger who thinks all my problems can be solved with a handful of pills.”

“Sometimes it is just good to talk these things through with someone.”

“Well, I’m talking to you. And I talk to your Aunty Kat.”

“I’ll bet that’s a LOT of help.”

“She’s smarter than anyone thinks.”

“Well, I think she’s retarded so I don’t know if that means much.”

“Sara!  That’s my sister you are talking about.”

 “Sorry. Just take your time mom. There’s no rush, eh?”

“Of course there is. You are young, so you don’t feel the pressures of time. I don’t have as much time as you.”

“You are hardly on death’s door.”

“You know what I mean! I have about ten more years before you kids try to put me in a home.”

“Mom, we are not going to put you in a home.”

“That’s what they all say. And then when push comes to shove, nobody wants to be bothered.”

“You didn’t put grandpa in a home”

“But it would probably make our lives all a lot easier if he was in one. We’ve been tempted.”

“Mom, we are not putting you in a home. Anyway, why are we even talking about this now? You’re not even old yet.”

“It is important to talk about these things. Oh, which reminds me…I want you to look through the house and choose a couple things you want. I’ve told the boys to do the same. We will write it into the will. The rest can be auctioned off.”

“Oh God.”

“Don’t swear.”

“Just choose something for me.”

“But we want you guys to have things that mean something to you.”

“OK. I’ll take grandma’s charm clock.”

“Oh…well, I think Ryan really had his eye on that.”

“OK, then I’ll take the war portrait of Grandpa Bell in his uniform.”

“Actually, Ned asked for that.”

“See?  That’s what I mean. Just choose something for me.”

“What about the wooden pelican from Guatemala?”

“Why would I want that?”

“You always liked it when you were a kid.”

“Exactly!  When I was a kid. I know…I’ll take that little leather-bound set of Shakespearean plays that you got from Nana when she died.”

“Oh that? Actually, I sold that on E-bay a couple years ago.”

“You did what? Mom!  I always loved that set. You know that!  Why are you selling stuff like that? Those are family heirlooms!”

“Exactly!  That’s why I want to know what stuff you kids want.”