“You can’t stay here,” I snapped, my voice cracking. “Because, uh…. we’re moving!”
It was an excuse, but it was true. We were moving in with my grandparents, who had become increasingly frail. My parents had sold our house in the country and we were getting ready to move into town.
“Great!” Vera bellowed, clapping her hands together. “We just LOVE Lucy & Al! They’re our last livin’ relatives, you know?”
Shane rubbed his pregnant wife’s enormous belly and winked at me. God help us.
As we loaded up our stuff to move, our house-guests were quick to skim whatever they felt they should ‘borrow’. Shane gathered up a stack of my movies and a lamp, a small television and some end tables, carrying them away to his trailer. I started to protest. “Let it go,” mom whispered through gritted teeth. “Maybe they’ll get what they want and leave.”
That wasn’t the case. They quickly started to assemble ‘camp’ in the vacant lot beside grandma’s house. We told them the lot didn’t belong to us, that it belonged to a prominent business owner in the community, Bruce. And he probably needed the space, we insisted. This wasn’t a problem for Vera. “Oh! Well I’ll just go and ask that guy, whoever he is, if we can park our boat on his lawn! ‘Taint hurtin’ nothin’.” She grinned at me, revealing a glint of a metal crown. Please Bruce, I prayed silently. Shut them down. Call the cops. Arrest them for trespassing…
To no avail. Vera hammed it up and easily convinced Bruce to give up his empty lot for their bevy of vehicles. They dragged a hose and extension cords out of the basement, snaking them across the backyard. Now they had power, potable water, and my copy of Heathers. Shane continued to use our bathroom whenever he was struck with the urge. He often camped out on the toilet for long, leisurely poops while he read his fishing magazines.
We were not impressed, but Grandma seemed amused by our strange visitors. Vera cursed like a sailor and told an array of impressive tales. Grandma would listen intently and press her for more. Vera would haul out grandma’s old photo albums and pester my grandpa about what he remembered. She’d get all gloopy and teary-eyed thinking about her relatives who were dead and gone. And here was Al (and Tom, his half-brother), seemingly unmoved by the emotional display. Al would promptly turn down his hearing aid and sneak away for a nap.
As the weeks and months passed, townsfolk would slowly drive by, gawking at the bizarre additions to the neighborhood. One evening, Vera was out and rang up mom to ask a favor. “Mary-Jo!” she barked. “Can you go get Shane some smokes? I don’t want him drinkin’ and drivin’ again. He’s three sheets to the wind and he sure as hell don’t need another DUI!” Besides, he was a family man now.
Mom was still wearing her hat from church when she got to the convenience store. “Can I have some DuMaurier Lights, King Size, please?” she asked, glancing down at the scrawled note.
“Mary-Jo?” they laughed. “You smokin’ now?”
Later, at the behest of Vera, Tom grudgingly agreed to lend his fishing pole to Shane. “It’ll keep ‘im out of trouble,” Vera explained. Grandma leaned back and cackled; “they just want to be able to go to the river, and throw in their line, and pull out a fish!” “Maybe so,” Tom said, eyeing Shane suspiciously. “He better bring that fishing pole back.”
I went away to school. Dad basically lived at the office to avoid them. My parents went on a three-week road trip, praying that the hell-guests would be gone when they returned. No dice. Mom’s formerly limitless patience was wearing thin. Then came the announcement. “We’ve bought a place! We’re moving to Thessalon!” Dad nearly croaked.
When Tom finally got his fishing pole back, years later, it was significantly worse for wear. “I always thought they were a bunch of bums,” Tom explained to me on the phone last week, now in his 97th year. “I guess I kind of feel sorry for her, having to put up with that no-good son and husband of hers. I hid the fishing pole in my garage. They won’t be getting that, that’s for sure.”
Their various business ventures – a garage, a truck-stop, a restaurant – didn’t quite pan out. They eventually packed up their caravan and headed back to Grande Prairie, where they could buy a piece of land and subdivide it, and haul a trailer onto the lot, and build a garage and a storage shed on the side. Live there until they were done, then sell it and drag a new trailer onto the next lot and do the same thing, over and over, until the end of time.