Archive for October, 2008

Snail trails and pumpkins

October 30, 2008

Whistle and I have spent a lot of time together lately. On Monday, we went grocery shopping at the big box store. On our way, we stopped at the Laity Farm Pumpkin patch so that I could take photos of the pumpkins. I was quite disappointed – they were more green that I would have liked and most had dirt attached. I’m a city girl. In my view, a pumpkin cones from a large cardboard box sitting in front of the neighbourhood grocery store and it is orange.

This year, ghost pumpkins are a new rage. Lord knows what DNA they’ve bent to get a pumpkin with a white skin; but I’ve been told that they carve up like ordinary ones AND at night, when you put a candle inside them, the glow orange!!!!
I bought one thinking that I would make fresh pumpkin pie for Canadian Thanksgiving dinner, but as it turned out, there were several guests who did not want pumpkin pie. Besides, I think I told you that we had Mrs. Stepford’s wonderful baked apples, and so the white pumpkin still sits on my kitchen counter waiting for Hallowe’en perhaps.

If I was disappointed with the pumpkins, I was definitely not definitely not disappointed with the visit to the Pumpkin Patch. The Laity Farm has lots of different things for children to do – pumpkin carving is only part of it. There is a wagon ride that takes the children around the farm area devoted to “the Patch”.  Besides, there are trails to walk through where small wooden sheds have been converted into a turn of the last Century pioneer village with a jail, a school house, and various other shops. On each of these, the front door and a big window are open so that you can see the furniture and some life-sized stuffed dolls – the school teacher, the jailer, a felon, the store keeper and other early settler noteworthies.

There are pony rides for children and a corn maze. In the barn there are some specialty breeds of chicken, duck and turkey. There is a petting area for rabbits,  lambs and goats. There are other animals to see, including two emu who strut and run on their stilt like legs in their wire fenced compound.

It was a beautiful sunny day. There were about 100 cars and perhaps double that number wandering through. I took a lot of pictures of their folk art figures. Some were copies of well known Disney characters like Snow White, but many seemed to be creations of the Laity family. These were mostly free standing plywood shaped like the animal and painted with rather homey faces.

We must have spent an hour there before the crowds really got to us – we are both being hermitish – and we went on our way.

Lately, we’ve been trying to batch our chores so that we use less gas in the car. We had worked up a thirst and so we went to the Corporate Coffee Cafe to imbibe before we got groceries. We sat on the patio, despite it being late October since the day had heated up to nineteen degrees. (We learned later on the six o’clock news, that Hugh, in Ottawa, was undergoing a 15 cm snow storm).

Next, we purchased our few groceries, then went to the craft store where I was looking for some fittings for the back of paintings. I didn’t find them but I found some craft supplies that I do use, and they were on sale. Carpe Diem, I understand, for the female gender translates  When something is on sale, you must buy it, or forever pay full price, so of course I indulged.

Next we had a stop at the Post Office to mail a much-prized family tree to one of my family correspondents who is digging deeply into family history, as am I. Then we were off to the bank, I to make a withdrawal, and Whistler to pay his medical insurance.

We’ve been spending a lot of time together and we’ve become comfortable friends, despite the generational difference. He could be my son; he’s twenty five years younger than I am. Yet, we have a similar outlook on life and similar sense of cynicism to societal foibles. We’ve both got a quirky sense of humour, too.

It was thus that he began to poke at my lack of tidiness and organization; and without a hesitation, began to chide his own.

“I can’t say that I’m any tidier.” he chuckled. “The trunk of the car is proof; but I could blame that on you, Aunt Kay, and Aunt Lizbet.”

I lifted an eyebrow, wondering how I possibly could be to blame for the state of his car trunk.

He turned to me and laughed as he proceeded to lay out his case>
“You asked me to take that plant up to Lizbet when I was last going through Nelson, ” he said.

“Yes?” I said, waiting for the connection.

“Well, I took it up as you asked me to do. Somehow it still had a few bugs and slugs on it. The slug dropped off and was exploring the carpet. It did a full circuit, leaving it’s slime trail on the carpet and it dried and turned all shiny, silvery. Now I have to clean it up. “
“What?” I cried. “You’re complaining about having company in the car on your way to Nelson?” It’s a long journey. We provided you with someone to talk to!”

“Besides, that poor slug had never been out of the garden before. We gave him an opportunity to see the world. I bet he never thought he would have a holiday like that, travelling the best roads of British Columbia, all the way up to Nelson. He must have been in Seventh Heaven.”

“Well, he didn’t make it up to Nelson alive,” replied Whistler. ” He might have gotten to Heaven, but it definitely was not Seventh Heaven.”

Here was news indeed.

“When we got to Lizbet’s house, she found the poor thing. He had travelled right up to the back window shelf and must have fried in the heat.

“We’ll be getting complaints from the slug huggers,” I chuckled.

“Can you imagine his surprise, if he had made it?” I asked Whistler.

“You mean, he wakes up on a lush and tropical grassy morning on the Wet Coast, then finds he’s been jiggled and wiggled out of his bed in the back of a major transport vehicle (my trunk) and then finds he’s travelled all the way to the Kootenays where winter is setting in and the frost covers the dried grasses during the night. And him without his fur coat!”

We were approaching home. It was the end of our foolery. Whistler shifted his attention to his driving as he shifted down into first gear as he slowed then turned left across the busy street into the driveway.

We were home from our chores and the slug was forgotten.

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The kitchen lamp

October 23, 2008

When Kay first saw the house, it was charming. It was either proof of her love-at-first-sight for the house or, conversely of her complete naivety. She had come to view it at one o’clock and by four, she had made a verbal offer that was binding, with no weasel clauses nor subjects to be removed.. She didn’t know where she was going to find financing nor whether she could even get it. She would have to hasten to sell her little apartment in Richmond or she would be crushed by the weight of her mortgage. She had been a little hasty and she had taken the word of the former owner verbatim for the truth on its condition. Only time would tell.

When first Kay possessed the house, she began her guided tours for friends and relatives who were curious to see the charming house that Kay had bought. When ever she went through the bathroom upstairs, she said, “That light fixture has to go. I can live with the rest.”

It emanated from high on the ceiling right up against the wall with the mirror. It had two large hanging globes capped with faux-bronze fittings. A large-linked chain half hid the electrical cord that swung out a foot away from the wall. There was much to be done in the bathroom – painting, the installation of a curtain rod and caulking of the tile work. The tile work was a little bit busy looking with a posy of colourful flowers in blue and red on a beige background that was a curious failure in representing faux rock or faux marble. Either way it wasn’t convincing. It reminded Kay of the desert lands where large lakes dried up and cracked apart. much like  the Vaseline advertisements for cracked and dried skin. In the ensemble though, the close up view could be ignored and the over all effect was reasonable. She could live with it.

When Kay traipsed the troops of visitors through the kitchen, she would remark, every time, “And this lamp has to go, too.” This lamp also swung out from the wall, to swing,  suspended mid breakfast nook, but this fixture had only a lamp shade in creamy white. It was designed with a very curious fringe, also in white, that looked like shocked, short hair standing on end through the effects of static electricity. It also looked, by original design, as if threads had been pulled, not in a single location but all over! It was far too fussy and cheap looking.

A year had passed. Friends no longer wanted to see through the house. They’d all had the tour. The minor improvements that Kay had been able to make when she wasn’t working at her other duties no longer interested her friends. Day by day, though, Kay was annoyed by this suspended lamp that had been awarded the “Ugliest Lamp of the Decade” designation. It irked. It riled. It offended her aesthetic principles. It was not an acceptable lighting fixture for Kay.

One recent grey Saturday morning while Kay was entertaining Whistler to distract him from his medical troubles, Kay embarked on a Garage Sale hunt. The first sale was designated an Estate sale at a tiny, one bedroom, pioneer’s house. It was slated for destruction. Despite its tawdry, unkempt look, Kay insisted on taking a look. The garden had not been tended for at least two years. A woman stood under a temporary shelter made with an orange tarp strung between two fruit trees and a tumbledown shed that threatened to collapse. Indeed, it was missing many boards. Garden tools and ancient mowers were strewn beneath the tarp.

“Is this it?” asked Kay.

“No, there’s everything in the house,” replied the woman.

The house had lost most of its paint. The rickety stairs had perhaps never seen any. Kay let thoughts of Louisiana poor white trash flit through her brain, but she went, nevertheless to broach the steps to the back door. In for a penny, in for a pound, she thought with mounting distaste.

Inside, she changed her mind. An elderly person had lived here, alone and unable to cope. As her powers had diminished, she had gravitated to the large, overstuffed, threadbare couch and knitted, crocheted and rug-hooked her way up to heaven.The exterior had been let go. The remains of her endeavours was an enormous cache of yarns waiting to be claimed.  Kay found enough yarn to make an afghan. It was brand new or rather, had never been used, never been started. For five small dollars, she walked away from that house with two big cardboard boxes of yarn.

The next address they were seeking was at the far end of the business district, up in Academy Hills. The grocery store was midway between where they were and where they were headed, so they picked up vegetables, milk and eggs on the way. Next they found 232th Street and the cross road, turned in and started to look for 119 Avenue at 237th. The road wound through large estates – acreage with paddocks and horses. This was all new to Kay and she enjoyed the rural feel of it, the large green fields, the paddock fences in well maintained white, all nestled between huge second growth firs and cedars. Hobby farms, she thought to herself.

In the Academy Hills district, the roads were often dead ends and cul de sacs that went nowhere. One nineteenth street didn’t go through. They backtracked, They got out the map, but many of the  roads had been installed after the map had been made. Kay and Whistler were ready to give up until they saw two pedestrians dressed in jodhpurs strolling with their dogs. Kay stopped to ask.

“Just go up to 117th, turn left, turn back in at 237th, go right, watch your numbers. You’ll be there in seconds. It’s not far away,” said the horsey looking lady and her companion.

Whistler navigated, Kay drove at a racy 30 klicks per hour and finally the Garage Sale house was found.

The house was large and the paddocks stretched far back to the end of the property. A large mastiff lounged in a garden chair and did not stir at our approach. It was neat as a pin with the exception of the attached, one-car garage that contained tools for sale and  unattached five-car garage at the end of the driveway  which was overwhelmed with detritus of a life lived in a relatively remote location. Despite this, everything was clean. There were lots of books and Whistler, bored silly with his confinement while waiting for medical tests, found solace looking through the boxes of books. There were spy novels and thrillers, war novels and history books that would provide him with some inexpensive reading materials. At twenty five cents a book, he could afford to bring some books back home.

Kay, too, found books, and a rotary lawn mower, but it was while she was doing a final check on the other offerings that she found her kitchen lamp. It was made in a stylized shape of a flower in a simple Art Deco style. There were four glass moulded plates of a creamy iridescent and mottled white with brass connecting them together. It vaguely looked like a snow drop before it opened up its petals.

“How much?” she asked, holding the lamp aloft, imagining it in her kitchen. Then, “Is it in working order, do you know?”At five dollars, there was little risk. But if she had to have it rewired, well….that would be something else. It looked brand new, but was it? It was old fashioned and suited the house, but the porcelaine socket didn’t look old.

The woman explained that her husband was an electrical contractor and many of the things for sale had never been used. Kay fished in her pocket for coin and bought the lamp.

Now a month later, the kitchen lamp with the fuzzy fringed shade still offended in the kitchen. The garage sale lamp, the Art Deco lamp, the snowdrop shaped lamp perched on the top edge of the linen drawers. If it didn’t get put in soon, reflected Kay, it was asking for an accident. An electrician, though, was expensive. On that score, she would just have to wait.

Whistler had been on the verge of moving on. He’d offered to install it if Kay would  turn off the main switch, but he hadn’t much experience in these things and Kay silently let his few days left pass. Electricity was too dangerous to be amateured with.

Kay pondered taking a course in electricity, but that too was not an option. If she waited on this, it would be an eon before it was installed. Her only hope was Ron, her nephew in construction. He’d done lots of work for Kay’s mother and nothing had exploded; there had been no fires; the lights did not flicker. Those were good recommendations for his work. The sad fact was, though, Ron never came to the house.

There was only two options left to Kay: Call in an electrician or find a seasoned home renovator amongst her friends and acquantances willing to tackle the the chore.

A month had gone by, but Kay had had few visitors. Time had passed quickly with all her many activities, but the lamp stayed perched atop the kitchen linen drawers. The white fringed lamp continued to reproach her, day by day.

Then Teeny wrote from Victoria. Teeny and her husband would be in Langley, just across the river, and they would be passing this way on Sunday. Could they come see her new home?

Kay. of course, said yes. She hadn’t seen Teeny and Keith for a dog’s age. Teeny was a former colleague from Kay’s business days. Teeny had been one of the first to proffer friendship to Kay when she had started work in the company twenty-three years ago. She had pulled Kay into a group of women professionals who had networked and supported each other all the length of their working careers. Now they all were fast friends.

Keith had worked for a subsiduary of Kay and Teeny’s company. It was as if they were all family.

Teeny had not seen the house before. It gave Kay the perfect opportunity to point out the eyesores that had to be changed – the bathroom lamp and the kitchen lamp, the kitchen ceiling, and the cosmetic tasks, like painting the dining room ceiling that was a strong peach colour.

I do not pretend that Kay is without wiles. In the back of her mind, she had a glimmer of hope that Keith might be kind enough to put in the lamp. It ought, she had been told, not to take more than ten minutes.

Kay pointed out her white fringed horror. She expressed her frustration at having to wait for nephew Ron to appear but refrained from explaining how hopeless this wait would be. She pointed out the new Art Deco style lamp in the studio space that had been installed by another visitor, in passing.  She feared that she had belaboured the point. She was tread a fine line. She hated to ask Keith to do it, outright, for fear that she would be imposing. But men hated sitting and visiting, didn’t they? Men liked to do things, to be active. Sitting and gossiping about shared acquaintances was anathema, wasn’t it? And yet, she would be horrified to put someone in a position where they felt they couldn’t refuse and yet really did not want to engage in a task. Maybe that person would never come again; would never bring Teeny again.  Kay could not bring herself to ask. He would have to offer on his own accord. All this waffling had turned Kay to silence.

She  hesitated.

Keith eyed the horror lamp. Kay observed his kindly face begin to calculate. Thoughts of Stuart MacLean’s Saturday radio stories of Dave and Marlene flashed momentarily through her mind. There was a body shift, and Keith looked back at Teeny and then at Kay. The brain wheels were turning. His head cocked as he assessed the task. The silence became expectant and uncomfortable for Kay.

Then slowly, he turned towards Kay. “Do you have a main switch? Can you turn it off? Do you have a screwdriver? Is the lamp complete? I could do this. It should take ten minutes.”

Kay, caught like a deer in headlights, took a moment to react. He had offered!

“Yes. Yes!” she said. “But are you sure? When do you have to catch the ferry, though?” Kay was now feeling slightly embarrassed. You can’t have it both ways, she chided herself silently. It was perverse. She had got what she had wanted and was trying to talk him back out of it!

She showed Keith the main switch. She found the tool box and brought it. She moved furniture out of his way so he could reach the fringed lamp where it connected to the wall. Teeny sat in a kitchen chair watching while Keith led and Kay assisted in the dismantling of the Ugly Award lamp – removed the plastic marettes,  untwisted the copper wires, removed the chain and cable from its hook and it was down.

Mounting the new one should have been simple, but the bar that screwed the fixture to the metal electrical box did not fit and a large washer was needed. Kay whipped down to the basement to see if there were any washers to be found. In luck, she found a plastic pill tube with assorted washers in it, left behind by the previous owner. Keith meanwhile was disassembling the old lamp to trade the bar from the one lamp to the other; and the chain and wire had to be untangled and re threaded.

“…when your having fun. Ha Ha! ” thought Kay. The ten minute task had stretched to forty five.

As Teeny and Keith gathered their belongings, ready to go, Kay was still thanking him. It had truly happened.  She had her prize lamp installed and she was happy. And as she waved them away as they backed their van out of the driveway onto the main road, Kay was  replaying his skills with the lamp – there were parts that didn’t fit but he knew what he needed to adjust them.   He was resourceful in solving problems and he was patient through setbacks. Kay could see that he had done this many times before.That was a man of experience.  Now, there was a keeper!

Millie the hen

October 12, 2008

Kay watched her left hand pressing down on fresh parsley leaves as she chopped them for turkey stuffing. Thumb and forefinger pinched together. The yellow handled knife that she had just honed to razor sharpness slid down the nail on her forefinger, bit through the parsley to the cutting board, slid back up just past the pile of compressed parsley, slid down again in a repetitive motion that felt good.

After each chopping motion, her hand moved back a tiny space, and since Kay had begun to let her hands do the thinking, she allowed her memory to scan in the hinterland of her mind. Then she nodded to herself and reflected ‘Yes! That pinched hand position looks like a chicken’s head! The hand moving back, tiny space by tiny space reminded her of the few hens she had fostered for a brief time in Pender Harbour and the story about Millie the Hen and Heidi Dog.

Rousing herself from her reverie, she saw Whistler standing, waiting for something to do. He had placed himself at beck an call in preparation of Thanksgiving dinner and was enjoying the activity of rote tasks that had to be done for tomorrow’s dinner.

“Did I ever tell you about MIllie the Hen?” said Kay.

Whistler doesn’t talk much. He cocked his head to the right and raised his eyebrows waiting for Kay to go on.

“It was up in Pender Harbour. We had twenty four chickens when we arrived, but one by one dogs, cougar and fox were picking them off. We couldn’t get Heidi and Tokey our two Elkhounds to stop killing them just for the fun of it.  Finally, we had three left and I caught them killing a poor chicken.”

‘I had tried every known remedy to stop them from eating the chickens and nothing worked. So I left them this most recently dead chicken to eat – but before I did, I stuffed it with pepper, cayenne, chili powder, mustard – anything that would make it unpalatable.”
“Poor dogs! They ate it and were so sick afterward. They never chased a chicken after that.”

“I don’t know how they knew it was the chicken that had made them ill, but they knew. Cured at last!”

” That left us with two chickens, a red hen whom we called Millie and a mean Leghorn rooster that we had no name for.”

I don’t know how they knew, but now the chickens felt invulnerable. When I gave the dogs a bone, the chickens wanted to inspect it; eat it, even, maybe.”

“Heidi Dog would have the bone between her two front paws. Millie would come up to Heidi, her tiny head, in comparison, right at the jaws of this former chicken killer, and demand to have the bone.”

“Peck. Peck. Millie would tap her beak on the ground. The dog wriggled back a few inches. Millie advanced and equal amount. Peck Peck. She tapped on the ground. And so it progressed, the dog wriggling backwards, the hen mvoing forward, demanding the bone until the dog would back off, leaving the bone for the hen.’ Kay illustrated the movements with her parsley and yellow-handled knife.

“Then the hen made a desultory inspection of the bone and wandered off, no longer interested.”

“The cock became feisty, dangerously so. He understood that the dogs were now afraid of him and he started to attack the dogs with his awesome talons. When I went out the door, I had to have a rake in hand to keep the rooster at bay. He attacked me too.”
“Then a neighbour proposed a trade. A fox had been raiding their hen house. The neighbour was looking for a mean bird to keep the flock in order and to protect it from the fox. So we made a trade, and I got two birds, a young white cock and another hen. The hens ganged up on the poor cock and henpecked him till his head was raw. They wouldn’t let him eat. I had to protect the poor henpecked rooster – he was getting thinner and thinner.”

“Then one day, we found the remains of our three chickens. They were so good at escaping the coop, to their misfortune – a cougar got them. We could see the large cat prints in the mud of the driveway.”
“About a week later, I asked the neighbour how our feisty rooster was doing at his new job. ”
“He made a tasty soup in the stew pot,” he replied. “He was just too mean.”  And that was that.

Whistler chuckled.

“I knew you lived in Pender Harbour, but I was only born the year you went up there. I don’t remember anything about it.”

“It was my hand moving back and my knife moving forward at the same pace that reminded me,” Kay mused. It was curious that a kinetic motion could trigger a memory and a whole reel of film traipsed through one’s mind on replay.

She gathered the minced parsley with her left hand, shovelled the bits and pieces from the board into it and tossed the parsley into the large roasting pan that was filled with dried bread. She crumbled the dried leaves off the Winter Savory and crushed them; and then she chopped fresh sage and added it. Both were from her own garden.  It was going to be a fine dinner, Kay thought, thankful for Whistler’s company and thankful for the bounty in her home.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Lists

October 7, 2008

Kay found the list in the shoe box, stuffed in with love letters and her sisters’ travel letters. Kay groaned. Poor Nonnie was gone, but the evidence of her passage on earth was crystal clear. Still.

The list was a menu and all the things her mother had needed for a dinner party. And she had kept it, like a treasured document. A simple hand written note with things for a fancy dinner. Shrimp cocktail and  sauce. (need cocktail glasses). Frozen corn, Harvard beets, mashed potatoes. Salmon. (8 pounds. Four inches deep. ten minutes per inch). Lemon Sherbet. Squares and shortbread. Tea. Coffee. Purdy’s chocolates.

She stuffed the list back in the shoe box, closed it and put it in a brand new black storage box with fancy handles and a leather trim around the lid edges. If she had to live with all this family archives,  at least she could have them in decent boxes, not cereal boxes, or liquor store boxes advertising Absolut.

Kay muttered to herself. “Obsessive. It really was obsessive. I couldn’t bear those days before an important dinner party when I was at her beck and call.”

“Polish this! Bring out the gravy boat and the pink dishes! Fill the salts and peppers! Count out the silver ware!” It was just too much!

She packed the big box on the top of the tall book case, two boxes high and sighed with relief. She’d look at that stuff again in a year when it wasn’t such a weight on her shoulders.

There were still two hours in the evening before her normal bedtime. Whistler was watching a TV show she didn’t care for. Besides, there was nothing she wanted to see.  She turned the light on at the computer desk and found a stack of papers she had left for a month. Really! It was about time she sorted through and ditched the bulk of it.

At first she tackled the accounts from the party. Kay and Lizbet had agreed to share the costs.Then she scanned her business card to send to the Valley Women’s Voice, a newsletter of a networking group she had just joined. To her dismay, she discovered that there was a printing error. The last name, Kerrer, had been spelled just fine on the top, but in the e-mail address, one ‘r’ had been left out. Kerer.aol.com it read. So she fished out the receipt for the recently printed cards, scanned the card she had provided as an example and with Adobe Photo, red-circled the error. That done, she e-mailed to the company and asked for a replacement set.

Next she pulled out a pile of paper work and started to sort it. She threw out charity fundraising requests. Christmas was only two months away. They would all send new pleas for money in late October. Next on the pile was a ring-bound school book with ….

“ACKKKK!!!” Kay reacted in horror.

LISTS!!!!

For the Nelson repairs – Soffits and Hornets; See what’s under the L/R carpet. Call D’Or Gallery. E-mail Fran. Electrical Pipes. Call Fortis. None of it had been finished. Kay had work to do.

The next one was:
Friday Breakfast – Everyone on their own

11:00 a.m. Lunch. Pizza and salad.

Tea – Menu – cheese plate and crackers, vege plate , salmon wraps, chicken wings

Sweets – Mango mousse cake, Lizbet’s squares, chocolate pound cake, cream puffs, Champagne.

6:3o Dinner at The Acropolis Restaurant, and the address.

It was obsessive! Bon Dieu! It was contagious! Kay had caught it from her mother ! Ack!!

Then there was the list for the Maple Ridge house:

Dinner with Ron; Call the Roofer; Date for the Piano Tuner; Write Diana in Mexico;Move the hydrangea bush; dig out the vegetable garden; call the handyman for the back stair railing; cut back the bushes from the roof;

Then there was the list for her art and writing activities:

Photograph pastels; make list of competitions; prepare work for the trade fair; mat photos; unpack the framing materials in the basement

On and on it went like some madness. Madness that had been inherited in the family for list, list, lists.

Kay ripped a sheet from the coil bound book and crunched it in her fist. It was just too much. Her whole world was run on ruddy lists!

Whistler and Kay

October 6, 2008

Whistler has received his medical all-clear and a wind arose from the collective family sigh of relief that he did not have cancer. That being said, Whistler was now ready to move on. He needed a job but it was getting late in the ski-resort towns to get accommodation for the winter season. That would be the determining factor, probably, whether he settled in one community or another.

Kay sighed her relief that he was well, but added a second, sad sigh, because Whistler would be leaving.

“Before you leave, could you do a few things for me?” she pleaded.

Whistler, ever accommodating but truculently taciturn turned his big blue eyes on Kay and said, “Sure. But what?”

“I’ll buy you a Starbucks on the way back,” she wheedled.

“You sure know how to bribe a guy,” he laughed, momentarily lifting out of a grump he had gotten himself into.

Kay, the eternal list maker, brought out her list of things to do. The big one was replacing the printer which had gone on strike right after having two cartridges of toner replaced at a whopping cost of one hundred and thirty six dollars. Both Kay and Whistler took a turn at looking up the trouble-shooting manual on the Internet then fiddling with cleaning the printer. To no avail. The printer obdurately insisted on producing white streaks that dribbled down the page to the bottom of the text.

The toner cartridge was removed shaken,  and returned to its cavity. There was only one way to put it in. There could be no error there. Then the whole cartridge assembly was removed – color inks and all. Whistler found the instructions to clean behind it and he carried that out but when he was finished, the Q-tip came up perfectly clean. It had not been dirty.

They gave up. There was nothing left to do.

Whistler bundled the printer into the trunk of the car, complete with communication and power cords. The last time Kay had taken the printer back, the big box electronics store had insisted that everything come back. Then they gave Kay a brand new printer of the same make and model.

Kay and Whistler had a long list of things to do – fill up on gas at the big box food store, pick up fresh corn at Hopcotts, which was miraculously still selling fresh organic sweet corn this late in the season; take in the printer for repair; return by way of the big box hardware store and pick up screws for the mat cutter and for installing the hose holder. They had to be back by four to see Aimée to help her trim her bushes. It was going to be a busy day.

Time seemed to be running out. They skipped Hopcotts’ in favour of getting the printer fixed. It was a long drive and Whistler had agreed to take the wheel of Kay’s car so that Kay could brandish her camera at anything she thought interesting along the way.

“When I’m driving, I can’t take pictures. The traffic goes too fast,” complained Kay, “and when someone else drives, I can take pictures if we don’t go too fast.” Whistler blanched at the thought of Kay driving and photographing at the same time, and said nothing.

Kay turned the camera power on, holding the camera aloft, waiting for the perfect picture. As they drove by, she clicked away at each set of farm buildings that she had been eyeing for months, long, low, full of geometric shapes in horizontal harmony.

At the Pitt River Bridge where all the new bridge construction was in progress, she added twenty more pictures of pylons, cranes, diggers and earth movers in hopes that maybe one or two would be sufficiently clear to use for a painting.  She had been wondering about the pylons that seemed to have windows all the way up them. No one whom she had asked could provide an explanation for pylon windows. There were  two bridge supports with three prongs each reaching into the sky, The construction crew kept moving sand piles around and rerouting traffic but progress did not seem to advance. To the north of Lougheed, a large field that had been filled with mounds of gravel and sand had lately been flattened and a new retaining wall constructed close to the highway, but that was just dirt moving. When were they going to make the ramps? the bridge deck? tension the cables? There was still so much to be done.

“I hate to ask a stupid question,” Whistler spoke, breaking a comfortable silence that they had maintained since they had started out.  “Did you bring the proof of purchase?”

“It’s right here in my bag. I put it on the counter so I wouldn’t forget it. It’s marked in big letters. Couldn’t miss it. It’s got to be here….” Kay started to shuffle papers and belongings in her black carry-all. She drew out three different papers, all three of them lists in varying stages of completion.

“I’m sure I brought it….?” All assurance had gone from her voice, trailed off, disappeared altogether.

“Last time, they didn’t need it. They just looked it up in the computer. We’re not turning back. We’ve gone twenty kilometers already. If they can’t do it out of the computer, then we’ll try again tomorrow. For now, we’re so close, we’re not going back,” she said resolutely.

Five minutes later, they stopped at the electronics store. Whistler took the printer from the trunk, waited while Kay closed the car and locked it, carried the printer to the store entrance half a block away from the nearest parking space he had been able to find, carried the printer up the escalator and found himself right in the returns line. A sales associate motioned for him to place the printer on the counter, then waved him back to the line.

It wasn’t long before a lovely young lady in her early twenties motioned Kay and Whistler to the desk.

“What can I help you with?” she began.

Kay explained about the printer. She explained about the proof of purchase sitting on the kitchen counter. Patiently, the associate extracted sufficient information – telephone numbers, address, postal code –  to bring the extended warranty up on the computer.

The Associate then relayed the information to another who was sent to bring another printer of the same kind from off the shelf.

“We can give them a new replacement, any one that has a pre-opened sticker on it,”she called as a young man went off to obey her instructions.

That would have been repaired ones coming back refurbished, guessed Kay.

He returned with bad news. There were no more printers of the same kind. After looking them up in the data base, there were no more available anywhere in the Lower Mainland. They weren’t ordering them anymore; they had become obsolete. That brand had produced an upgraded model and it was a hundred dollars more. Kay  could have that one if she wanted to spend another hundred dollars.

“Or we can offer you any other brand at same price as you paid. We just give you a credit on the last purchase,” said the Associate.”
“But it wouldn’t be as good, would it?” said Kay

“Well, no. Printers have gone up in price,” was the reply.

“I want the same printer.” Kay persisted. “I just paid one hundred and thirty six dollars for new cartridges of yellow and black last week. They’re brand new. I can’t take them back because they’re already opened. I have an extended warranty. We haven’t talked about getting it fixed yet. That’s what the warranty is about. And I want to get the benefit of my new inks.”

The Associate got on the phone. She repeated the story into the speaker of the phone, then hung up.

“The manager says that if we send it out, they’ll only send it back at the end of six weeks. There are no more parts for this model. You would have to wait for six weeks. ”

It was absurd, thought Kay. She had a warranty and they were trying to make her buy something new. She looked at Whistler for support. But Whistler was lounging against a support pillar not so far away from the service desk looking bored, apparently not following. It was Kay’s problem, Kay knew. Whistler was not one for conflicts or tough decisions.  He simply would defer to Kay. That also, Kay knew; and she turned back to stare at the printer and sift out the options.

She would be out the cost of the new inks. It was a lot of money when one was living on a pension. If she didn’t want to spend money, she would have to take a lower quality printer, maybe not even a laser printer as she had now. If she got the newer one that they proposed, she’d have to pay a hundred more, plus lose the cost of the recently replaced inks. She made up her mind.

“I have a warranty,” she stated, stubbornly. “I shouldn’t have to pay for anything. I want it repaired so I can use my inks and I want a loaner while you are getting it fixed. ” She stated it flatly. She wasn’t going to back down.

The Associate picked up the phone, turned her back and then said something that Kay could not catch.

Within seconds, a new young thing, maybe twenty seven, Customer Service Manager approached with an aggressive air about her. “Is there a problem?” she said importantly.

“I don’t think so, ” Kay said evenly. This young lady has been helping me very well with my repair problem.”

Kay thought inwardly, it’s them that have a problem,not me. I have a warranty they need to honour.

The Manager stated her position, but Kay was ready.

“I’m a pensioner. That one hundred thirty-six represents my entire food bill for the month. Either way I’m having to lose it. I’m can’t afford to buy a new printer, not even the upgraded one at one hundred more. I have a warranty. I want it fixed.”

Other customers were beginning to stare.

The manager was reshuffling her cards. Kay watched as the Manager determined eyes assessed Kay’s obdurate stance.

At that moment, the young man, Associate, came with a brand new latest model of the printer brand – a minor upgrade from the one Kay and Whistler had brought in.

“It’s only twenty seven dollars more than the price she paid,” he said.

“Only twenty seven?” repeated the Manager. “You can have the printer at the same price as the last one and transfer the remainder of the warranty to it.”

Kay accepted the offer, negotiated a new four year warranty to boot, and went away, Whistler carrying the new printer, happy with the conclusion of their adventure.

“You’ll have to show me how to use Craig’s list,” she said to Whistler as they went.

“What for?” he said. It seemed like such a non-sequitor to the events that had transpired.

“I’m going to try to sell those full cartridges of ink,” beamed Kay.  “They’re brand new!”

The remainder of the day went quickly. They found the promised Starbucks cafe and enjoyed the late sunny afternoon.

With a bit of deference, Whistler said, “You did all right back there. You got a new printer. I was proud of the way you stood your ground. And I learned something. When that Manager came out to take over, I saw myself doing that.” Whistler has been a hotel front desk manager and trained many a new employee.

” She just took over from the first girl who was really doing quite well. It destroyed the Associate’s  credibility and it made you look like you were being a problem. A customer is never a problem. It would have been better to have offered assistance; to ask what had occurred to date.  That manager just came this close to making you want to shop elsewhere,” and he held up his thumb and first finger with nary a slice of light to pass between them. “I bet that the Associate felt about this high,” and the thumb and forefinger separated an inch, ” and then the manager probably lost her cooperation. Not cool.”

Kay and Whistler enjoyed the sunshine over their coffees, then they went to find their few purchases – eggs, cheese, bread and a ready-cooked chicken from the big box store; they skipped the hardware store to get to Aimées on time. Aimée had so little for Whistler to do in the garden that it was finished in a jiffy.

Later that evening, Kay and Whistler were visiting at the Stepford’s for coffee and recounted their day.

“Hee, hee, hee” laughed Mrs. Stepford. “You pulled out the old pensioner trick, didn’t you!”

Kay gulped. Perhaps it was unworthy of her dignity to have referred to her pecunious state. Perhaps it would have been better to  refer to the price of printer. A full set of replacement ink – cyan, magenta, yellow and black – was more expensive to buy than the printer. She could have said that it was the price of a new printer!

“Well, it’s true,” Kay finally said defensively. “Oh, maybe I spend a little bit more on groceries than that, but not much. A hundred thirty six is a lot of money. I’m out that much money, still. Remember?”

“And anyway, that’s the third printer I’ve had on that warranty. There’s something the matter, that they just can’t fix them.  Can you imagine all that plastic just going down to the landfill? It’s crazy that the whole electronics industry is making their equipment obsolete in three years and it just gets chucked. It’s irresponsible. It’s obscene, even, don’t you think?”

And all of them at the kitchen table nodded sadly. Kay had won her battle and had a new printer, but Mother Earth had just gained another obsolete piece of plastic equipment and two full containers of toner that were just wasted.