CHAPTER ELEVEN: 

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.

“Mom!”

“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.”

“What?”

“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.

“What?”

“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.”

“Mom!”

“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.”

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