CHAPTER 11:

                                                   

“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.

“Yeah?”

“It’s dad.”

“Uh-huh.”

“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.

“Hello.”

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?”

“Hmm?”

“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?

“Mm-hmm.”

“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?”

“Nope.”

“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.”

“Mm-hm.”

“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?”

“Yes.”

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.

“What?”

“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.”

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