Tag Archive: bell


“Just go with him to the mall. Kat can help me with the cooking. He’s missed you, ya know? He needs help too. Last year he bought me a pair of pink sweatpants with ‘peaches’ written on the bum.” Mom rubbed Sara’s shoulders while whispering quietly. Dad had always thought he was the boss of the family, but only mom had the talent of getting the kids to do exactly what she wanted.


“And can you pick up some bread? Don’t let him get any of that squirrely stuff.”


Herb was waiting impatiently for her at the door leading into the garage.

“You ready?”

Sara got into the Subaru and buckled herself in the front seat.

“What are you carrying those around for?” she asked, noticing what looked like panty-liners sticking out from the coat pocket on Herb’s chest.

“Oh yeah, these. Well, it was jo…uh, your mom’s idea.  Guess she, uh…heh! Well, with my condition, keeps my underpants…”

“Ah. Yeah, I get it. No more explanation necessary.”

“I’m doing better though.”

“Mm-Hm. Well, maybe you should put them in your inside pocket.”

“Oh, yeah…probably a good idea.”

The Subaru kept drifting onto the wrong side of the road. They reached the first intersection and Sara noticed that the car stalled.

“Um, the car stalled.”

“Oh, yeah, uh…gas is real expensive now. So I just turn it off at, uh…” The rest of the sentence was lost to Never-Ever-Land.

He parked the car in a handicapped space at the front of the mall’s crowded parking lot, explaining that with his “condition” he was as good as handicapped.  They headed toward the front doors. A glum looking native woman rang a bell near a Salvation Army bucket.

“So what do you need to buy?” Sara asked, already planning a quick getaway so that she could have a smoke.

“Oh, well, uh…I haven’t really.”


“I guess I should probably still get your mom something…I mean, of course I still need to get her something.”

“And we need to get some things for her stocking too. Did you get anything yet?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“What did you get?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Well, I just want to make sure I don’t get her the same things.”

“A knife.”

“You bought mom a knife?”

“Paring knife.”

“Okay, well, why don’t you go ahead and go to The Bay. I’m just going to have a smoke and I’ll meet you in there.”

“Yeah, yeah. Uh…restroom.”

She lit up and sat down on a bench at the front entrance, watching Herb truck off to the nearest facilities.

“You can’t smoke here.” It was the glum woman with the bell.

Sara glared at her. “It’s outside!”

“You gotta be five metres away from the entrance, eh?”

Sara stood up and walked five exaggerated paces to the left. “Is THIS okay? Are my smoking fumes killing you from all the way over here?”

“I don’t make the rules, honey.”

“Yeah, Merry Fucking Christmas!”

After looking for her dad in The Bay for twenty minutes she found him in the lingerie section.  He was holding the frumpiest nightgown she had ever seen…apparently designed by Laura Ingalls Wilder herself.

“What do you think of that?”

“Um, well it’s a bit, uh…frumpy, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, but it’s thirty percent off.  And I can’t get her something like THAT anymore. Not really approp…yeah, better not.” He pointed to a selection of lacy housecoats done up with feather trim.

“Well, why don’t we look around a bit first?”

“Yeah, you’re probably right. I should just get her that heating pad for her bad back, eh?”

“Well, no, I mean I think getting her a housecoat is a good idea, just maybe something, uh, a bit nicer?”

“Oh, okay. Sure. Or what about perfume?”

“Yeah, that’s always nice.”

They headed over to the perfume counter. Sample bottles were displayed upon disappointingly empty boxes wrapped in beautiful paper. Herb reached for a bottle of Polo Black and sprayed it at Sara.

“What about that?”

“That’s for men, and don’t spray any more on me.”

She watched her father approach a counter filled with more feminine looking bottles. A crystal glass of paper strips for testing sat near the display. Herb grabbed the first bottle and sprayed it on his arm.

“Dad, you can use those test strips.”

“That’s okay.”

“Well, they’re women’s perfumes.”

“I don’t care.”

He sprayed three more on his arms then smiled “Oh, I like that one!”

“How can you tell? You’ve sprayed four on your arm.”

“I can tell. Yeah, your mom really likes gar…”

Honestly, she wished he would learn to finish a sentence. What did she like?  Gardening? Garage sales? Garbage? She watched as he grabbed the tester bottle and started trotting toward the cashier.

“Dad!  DAD! That’s the tes…”  Never mind, she thought.  TWO can play this game!


After another forty minutes at Purdy’s Chocolates where Herb threw a fit because the clerk wouldn’t let him try a “sample” of the Crème de Menthe chocolates, another restroom emergency, and the purchase of the aforementioned heating pad, they headed out the mall doors.

“Wanna go to the Sally Ann?”

“Not really. We need to pick up some bread, though”

“I really want to check the Sally Ann. They bring out all the good stuff in the morning, ya know. Wanna get there before all the antique store owners do.”


They drove two blocks and dad parked the car in front of the local Salvation Army.

“You comin’ in?”

“No, I’ll just wait.”

Fifteen minutes later he emerged with a bulging plastic bag.

“Yeah, got some real good stuff. Fenton, Fenton.”

“I don’t know what that is.”

“The candy dish. It’s Fenton. I got a real good deal on a couple Golden Books too.”

“What in the world is this?” She pulled out a cookie jar in the shape of a large hippo. It was in 1970s green and orange.

“Oh yeah…that’s REAL collectible. I can easily sell that on the Net for a hundred dollars.”

“For this? But it’s hideous.”

“Yeah, Americans. They’ll buy anything. So, where do ya wanna go now?”

“Well, we still need to pick up some bread.”

“Oh yeah, I think there’s a real good bakery by the Pro-Life Thrift Store downtown. They’ve got some of that real good fo-ko-shu bread.”

“Mom said she just wants regular bread.”

“Well, what’s it for?” Oh no…here we go. Dad was getting that annoyed, condescending tone in his voice.

“I don’t know.”

“Well, did you ask?”


“Well, how are we supposed to know what bread to get if you don’t ask?”

“She just said get bread and not to let you get any of the squirrelly stuff.”

“Well, that’s what I needed to know, isn’t it?”


“Well, if you feel you really need to, you can call her on my cell.”

“Dad, I don’t care. It doesn’t really matter. She just said to get some bread! Get whatever you want.”

“There’s no need to get upset.”

“I’m not upset!”

“Oh! There’s The Mission Thrift Store. I’ll just pop in real quick to see if they have any new stuff. Got a nice pair of Royal Albert salt and peppers there last time. They’re worth $120. Actually, the salt is chipped so probably less than that.”

They pulled up to a small parking lot in front of a two-story building.  There were three people-of-sorts hovering around a grocery cart filled with sleeping bags.

“You coming in?”


Another thirty minutes later dad emerged with another plastic bag.

“Got something in there for you.”

He reached in and pulled out a well-worn copy of Danielle Steele’s Fine Things.


“Have you read it?”


“Good. Thought you might like that. I know how much you like reading. Plus, they gave it to me for twenty-five cents because the cover was ripped.”

“Oh. Thanks.”

“Anywhere else you wanna go?”

“I guess just the bakery then home.”

“Oh yeah, right. You can get the bread and I’ll just check the Pro-Life place next door.  Get a couple of those fo-ko-shu buns too. They’re real good.”



“What took you guys so long?” Mom was pretending to wipe the already sparkling kitchen counters.

“Well, apart from stopping at every bathroom in sight, we also had to stop at every thrift store in town.”

“Oh no. What on Earth did he buy now?”

“Whole bunch of junk.”

“Honestly, I don’t know what I’m going to do!  Look at this house!  I don’t have an inch to even put a toothpick with all the crap he brings home. Come here…come look at this.” Sara followed her to the breakfast nook where a window sill had been filled with orangey-red glassware in the shape of cockatoos, pineapples and cabbages.

“What the Heck am I going to do with this stuff? He tells me to sell it online…well WHO is going to buy it? And it is hideous! I don’t want it in my house! I hope Kat’s stupid dog breaks some of it while he’s here!”

“Well, just wait until you see what he got today.”

“He is putting us in the poor house! I thought when he retired he would do something useful, like volunteer or take up a hobby. But, no! All he does is shop for crap! I don’t know why he can’t keep some of this stuff at her..” Mom heard the garage door open then became quiet. Herb’s footsteps clomped up the stairs.

“I got you the bread you asked for,” he said placing a regular loaf of plain, brown bread on the counter.


“Got a real good cookie jar at the Sally Ann too.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.  Well, I’m gonna go watch Judge Judy.”


He trotted off to the family room downstairs.

“The cookie jar is a green and orange hippo.”

“Oh, honestly. I have a headache.” Mom pulled a bottle of Advil and Tylenol out of the cupboard and took one of each.

“You get much done?” Sara asked.

“Well, Kat came up and peeled some potatoes then said her gout was bothering her so went back to the motor home after an hour. But, I have the meatballs done, the jelly salad done and made a batch of shortbread. Now I’ve got to figure what to make for supper.”

“Why don’t we just go out?”

“Hmm. Guess we could.  Joe said they’ll be over by six. He’s over at your brother’s place right now. His friend is taking a nap upstairs.”

“So, it’s four now. Well, I might have a quick nap too. Jet lag is starting to set in.”

“Sure. I’ll wake you up in an hour or so.”

Sara walked upstairs. There were three bedrooms. One had been hers, and the boys had shared a bigger room. Mom and dad’s room was a larger suite, which actually had a tub in it near a window overlooking Swan Lake. The boy’s old room was now mom’s room. Mom had started sleeping there after dad’s surgery. She said she couldn’t handle the smell. Sara walked into what was now her dad’s room. It didn’t smell. Swags of pink, silk flowers covered one wall and antique furniture was arranged cosily in a small sitting area. A painting Sara had done of Elizabeth I with a grey face hung over the tub. She had told them she painted it grey because of the lead used in make-up during Elizabethan times. The truth was, she just liked the idea of the virgin queen sullied by grey.

She opened the doors to mom’s jewellery case.  She found the cameo sitting at the bottom where it always was. Dad had bought it for mom on a trip to Naples when they were young. Mom had promised it to her. She was just checking up on it.

Her room was across from mom and dad’s.  It was now a jumble of Barbies and teddy bears. When Ned’s daughter moved with her mom down to Kelowna, they had left her toys at “grandma’s” house.  She hadn’t seen Tiffany in three years either. She was nine now.

Laying down on the bed, which seemed insanely soft compared to her futon in Tokyo, Sara fell asleep almost instantly.


Chapter 2: The Damn Dog


“So you like mom’s designer tree?”  Ryan, the baby brother, poked mom in the ribs. They had all gathered in the front room and were staring at an artificial tree in the corner next to a large, bay window which overlooked the hillside and the frozen lake across the highway.

“Oh stop it. The real ones just make a mess.”

“Yeah, well whatever happened to Christmas ornaments that are red and green? All peach and pastels now.”

“Oh, be quiet. I like it.” Mom was getting annoyed. “Sara likes it too, don’t you?”

“Yeah, well it’s different.” She HATED it. She rarely agreed with her brothers, but in this case it looked like something the Golden Girls would have put together.

“See?” Ryan poked her again. He had started losing his hair. He was still good-looking though. Mom had always said he got his looks from HER side of the family. She always said Sara looked like Aunty Kat.  Aunty Kat was over two-hundred pounds and had two chins and badly-dyed platinum hair.

Ned poked his head around the kitchen corner. “I’m goin’.”

“You’re not staying for supper?”


“I’m making borscht.”

“Then I’m for sure not staying.”

Ned got a sneaky look on his face then motioned with his hand quickly for Sara to follow him. She grinned and quietly slipped out the front door then followed Ned’s lean frame up the hill towards the shed.

“How long’s it been since you had a toke?” he smiled as he shut the door to the shed and pulled a joint out from his pack of smokes.

“Quite a while.”

“Seen Kat and Wes yet?”

“No, mom says they’re in town doing some shopping.”

“She’s fuckin’ huge.”

“Oh yeah?”

“He still cracks me up though. Says to mom yesterday that the only person he wants to spend Christmas with is Lucky.”

“Who the Hell is lucky?”

“His damn dog.”

Sara inhaled. It was like fresh peapods. She closed her eyes letting the long-lost sensation tickle through her tissue.

“Good stuff, eh?”

“Yeah. So, when is Tiffany coming up?”

“As soon as her lazy bitch-of-a-mom brings her.”

“I take it you two are not on friendly terms.”

“You could say that. So, you ever hear from Blake?”


“Mom sends him e-mails you know.”


“She always leaves her e-mail open. I seen a couple messages from him.”

“Why the Hell is she in contact with him?”

“You know she always liked him.”

“Yeah? Well, I’m her daughter, and he’s an asshole.”

“Yeah. Well, you can have the rest of this,” he mumbled as he handed her the rest of the joint. “I’m takin’ off before Fat Kat gets back. She fuckin’ drives me nuts.”

“OK…well, see you tomorrow.”

“Yep.  And dad is crazier than a bat now, so have fun.”


“Well, I asked your mom when your flight was leaving so that I could say a little prayer to keep you safe.  And Jesus answered my prayers because here you are!” Aunty Kat had squeezed herself in next to Sara on the loveseat near the designer tree.  She had managed to corner her after supper for a “girl-to-girl” chat. Her hair was still coiled up in a bouffant and a sweater with snowmen on it stretched across her massive bosom and belly. She smelled like borsht and roses.

“Your cousin Selina used to have hair like yours when she was in grade four. Of course she’s let her bangs grow out now. She always had such lovely hair. Well, yours is nice too…LUCKY!  Lucky! Stop that! You stop that!”  The foul-smelling pug was attacking one of the prune-coloured cushions in the front room.

“Wesley! WESLEY! Would you come here and do something about this dog!” She screeched at full volume.

A tall, bald man of seventy appeared at the bottom of the stairs that led down to the family room wearing a Texas-sized belt buckle.

“What now woman? Just give him a smack on the behind. LUCKY!  You stop that!” The dog started raping the cushion. Sara finally stood and snatched the cushion from the dog’s crotch. It growled at her then ran downstairs.

“I just don’t know what to do about that dog. He is so stubborn. I pray so much for Jesus to give me patience, but honestly Sara, sometimes I just want to leave him on the side of the road. But then I realize he is one of God’s creatures and God loves all creatures great and small.”

Mom had avoided the “girls’ chat” by insisting on doing the dishes by herself.  Ryan had left right after supper to do some Christmas shopping. Dad was down in Kelowna picking up Uncle Joe and “his friend” at the airport. Sara was stuck. There was no escape from Fat Kat’s clutches. Aunty Kat burped quietly before continuing one of her famous one-way conversations.

“Did you know that pugs come from Japan? Or maybe it’s China. I’m not sure. Wesley looked it up in the Witchipedia thing on the computer. Wesley? WESLEY?”


“Is it China or Japan?”

“What are you yapping about woman?”

“You know, pugs!”

“What the heck are you jabbering about? Honestly, you’re losing your mind.”

“Pugs, Wesley! Are they from China or Japan?”

“Why the Heck would I know something like that?”

“Anyway Sara, I thought since you lived there you might know. I just had no idea that pugs would shed so much. I have to carry around one of those sticky lint things in my purse. Oh, sounds like someone is here! Oh, look out the window. I think it’s your dad with Joe and Ting-Tong.”

“It’s Tak-Sin woman!” Wes shouted from the basement.

“Oh! Let’s go stand right at the front door and give them a surprise!” Kat hoisted herself from the loveseat and headed for the front door.  “Come on Sara!  WESLEY!  Joe is here!”

“I have ears woman!”

“Colleen?  Colleen?”

“Yes?” mom shouted from the kitchen.

“Joe and Tak-Tin are here!”

“Oh for Pete’s sake!  It is TAK-SIN!” Uncle Wes growled.

“You behave yourself Wesley!”

The door opened and Uncle Joe’s smiling, bespectacled face appeared. He was wrapped in a Burberry trench coat, and Tak-Sin stood behind him nervously shivering. Aunty Kat ploughed into Joe with hugs and kisses!

“Baby brother! Wow, don’t you look GREAT!  What a nice coat too! And you still have most of your hair! Aren’t you just a dandy! Oh! Tak-Spin! DO YOU REMEMBER ME? I AM KAT!  I AM JOE’S OLDER SISTER!”



Wes appeared at the top of the stairs. “Tone it down, woman! They can hear you in Timbuktu, and the boy speaks English for God’s sake.”

“Wesley! Language!”

“Hello boys.” Wes gave the new arrivals one of his death-grip American handshakes.

“Hey Wes. Well, we’re hardly boys anymore, but thanks anyway. Whoa! Is that my favourite niece?”

“Hi Uncle Joe.” Sara came over and gave him a hug, then hugged the terrified looking Thai man cowering behind him. “Hi Tak-Sin.”

Dad brought in the bags while Joe and Tak-Sin did the hug routine again with mom. Soon enough, everyone had a mug of hot chocolate and was sitting in the front room in the glow of the “designer” tree. Wes took Lucky back to the motor home after he pissed on mom’s antique curio cabinet. Dad, as per usual, escaped downstairs to the hockey game. Kat had squeezed herself in between Joe and Tak-Sin on the couch. Sara sat on the floor leaning up against the chair Colleen was sitting on, and let her mom play with her hair. Sara had always loved mom playing with her hair.

“DO THEY CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS IN YOUR RELIGION?” Kat set her paw onto Tak-Sin’s skinny knee.

“Um, yeah.” Tak-Sin mumbled shyly.


“Actually, my family is Catholic,” Tak-Sin replied nonchalantly.

Dead silence fell about the room. Everyone suddenly avoided Tak-Sin’s gaze, and he suddenly realized that he must have made some grievous faux-pas. Mom stepped in and veered the conversation away from “Catholics.”

“Well, I thought Ryan would bring Rupa by to say hello. Guess she must have been tired. It was her last day of work today.”

“Is he still with that girl?” Kat scrunched up her double chins.

“Yes, they’re engaged now, you know.”

“Really? Well, don’t tell dad about that when he gets here. You know how he feels about those Asian people…NO OFFENSE TOK-TING…DO YOU UNDERSTAND ‘NO OFFENSE’?” Sara watched Uncle Joe reach his hand behind Aunty Kat and grab onto Tak-Sin’s shoulder as if to say “she’s an ignorant bitch…just let it go.”

“Well, he’s going to have to get used to it, ya know,” Uncle Joe quietly muttered.

 “Thank God mother isn’t around to see it. She was worse than him, ya know.  Mixed marriages are very difficult, I mean, look at poor Sara!”

Sara felt her spine go rigid. She could feel her mom’s fingers press firmly into her shoulders as if to say “she’s an ignorant bitch, just let it go.”

“Actually, Aunty Kat, Blake was English,” Sara calmly said with a smile.

“That’s what I mean. I mean, there are all these cultural differences. Marriage is hard enough. I just hope that Ryan and Rupa learn to get past that and pray together for the Lord’s guidance.”

Uncle Joe took one of his long, deep breaths. That only meant one thing with Uncle Joe…someone was gonna get it!

“Kat, Rupa was born in this country. She’s never even BEEN to India. And what are you talking about? You married some yank from Texas! Sara did not get a divorce because of CULTURAL differences, she got divorced because her HUSBAND couldn’t keep his fly shut.”

Kat set her chubby paw on Joe’s shoulder. “Honey, you just don’t understand. You’ve never been married. Oops…I think I need to use the little girl’s room.” Kat grunted herself to her feet, and then waddled her way down the hall to the bathroom.

“Can you believe her, Colleen? Honestly, some people never change,” Joe whispered as soon as he heard the bathroom door click shut. Mom rolled her eyes and made the international gesture for “she’s as nutty as a royal nut-bar” with her index finger at the right side of her head.

A crash suddenly broke the tension as dad raced up the family room stairs, knocking over an umbrella stand in his rush.

“Oh no! It’s real bad this time…”

“Herb!  Your pants!  We have guests!” Mom shouted as Herb’s full frame appeared, pants already unbuttoned and creeping their way down toward his knees, bow-leggedly running towards the bathroom.

“Hon? There’s someone…”

“AAAAAH!!!” Kat’s shriek was heard all the way to Timbuktu.

 “Well, next time LOCK THE DOOR!” Everyone watched as Herb raced back down the hall and up the stairs, now with his underpants halfway to his knees, and a shit dribble running down his left thigh.

“Sorry!” he hollered as he raced up the stairs.

“Oh honestly!” mom shouted.

“COULD SOMEBODY PLEASE COME AND SHUT THE DOOR?” Aunty Kat’s voice echoed through the house.

Colleen rushed off and the rest of them burst into laughter. Tears were spilling down Uncle Joe’s face by the time mom was back.

“You guys!  Stop it!  That’s not nice…” but Colleen couldn’t contain herself either and tried choking back her cackles. Kat soon reappeared and sheepishly scowled at everyone’s amusement.

“You are all a bunch of immature kids!” she scolded.

“You get a good look at Herb’s dick, or was it the other way around?” Joe teased his sister. Everyone cracked up again, and Kat looked at her brother and shouted “You…you are a PERVERT!” She then stomped down the hall and headed straight out the front door. They looked out the window as she waddled down to the motor home bawling.