Cue the theme music for The Beverly Hillbillies. Off key. Performed on a banjo missing a string.
Wanna tell you a story ’bout a man named ‘Ned’ (names changed to disguise the guilty).
My eight-eight year old aunt had just moved into her new apartment three days beforehand – the top floor of a gorgeous house my cousin owns. The lower walk-out level had just been renovated so mother and daughter could be in the same general space, but with separate independent living arrangements.
Ned arrives in late afternoon with his aged aunt and a mid-sixties relative from out of town. Drives a nice new Nissan Rogue. Parks in the driveway blocking the entrance to the garage. All three waltz in – empty-handed. No flowers, no wine, no chocolates. Nothing.
The elder lady – friends with my aunt since they were in high school – settles in for a nice coze. The other two lounge on the deck, admiring the skyline. I offer them water because there is nothing else in the pantry and make polite conversation.
As the clock ticks towards the supper hour and well past, I begin to wonder how I can move along the two hangers-on and get to making my aunt, her friend and myself dinner.
But they aren’t making any departure moves. Or talking about ordering take-out.
My cousin arrives home from work and we offer them nachos and salsa. They scarf that down and sink deeper into their chairs. There’s really nothing but homemade soup in the fridge. She has a hankering for cedar-planked meatloaf, but the barbecue is on the deck where they’ve re-arranged the flowering planters and firmly planted themselves.
Somewhat miffed, we hie off to the local gourmet market and ‘pick up a few things’.
Cousin fires up the barbecue. I deliberately crash around the kitchen, loudly slashing cabbage for coleslaw, whipping up dressing in a metal bowl, getting out the dinner dishes. Do any of the freeloaders come in to see what’s happening or offer to lend a hand? But NOOOOO.
Ned looked shocked when I asked him to help me manhandle the table from the kitchen to the deck so we could all sit down to eat. Guess I disturbed the flow of scintillating conversation. I stacked the plates and cutlery on the table, expecting one of the trio would at least set them out. Nope.
By now, my head was starting to throb and I was thinking about serving beverages laced with emetics. Cousin and I – both Type A fussies – open two bottles of good wine, set the table with napkins and serve the food in nice bowls. Nom, nom, nom – the food and drinks disappear, with lots of compliments.
Me to Ned. “What kind of work do you do?”
Ned. “I’m sort of a mortgage broker. In transition.” Meaning the lout is unemployed.
He proceeds to regale us with tales of the last eight years and eight jobs he’s had all over the U.S. His girlfriend is Filipino and he’s followed her to Canada while she finishes the certifications she needs for her profession.
So he’s a freeloader, too. Ugh.
I felt like screaming to the cosmos, “Run away, girlfriend. He’s a schlepp and not worth your time!”
Cousin and I clear the table. Me to the trio. “Are you driving back to Edmonton tonight?”
Ned laughs out loud. I was puzzled, but figure perhaps they were staying with friends.
He and his aunt or cousin or whatever she is, disappear for a few minutes then return with laptop bags and clothing. She demands my Cousin’s wi-fi password so she can log on to her devices and ‘get some stuff done’. Uncouth, but hey, not my circus.
At about 9:30, I asked my aunt what their plans were. She said they were staying over, in her apartment. I should have seen it coming. Here’s where I note there are only two bedrooms with queen-sized beds. I occupied one of them, as a guest whose trip had been planned months beforehand.
My Aunt’s friend and the female person were going to sleep in my Aunt’s room. My aunt said she’d sleep on the fold-out couch in the den. That wasn’t ideal, but she was insistent and I didn’t want to bully her because it wasn’t a terrible solution. I didn’t ask where Ned was going to bunk because I didn’t care.
Finally, I convinced my Aunt to sleep with me, because the only other option was the living room couch. They yakked loudly well after I hit the sack, Ned man-sprawled on the couch, loudly inserting himself into the friends’ conversation like a bon vivant.
Of course my ‘sleep’ was restless. Strange bed, strange sleeping partner whose snores were different than Hub’s. But at least she was in a real bed. But there was worse to come.
I awoke at 4:30 a.m. to the sound of what I thought was partying. Might as well go to the bathroom. Now, in the middle of the night, I don’t turn on lights. I want to do my business with my eyes closed and slide back into bed without fully waking up.
Imagine my fury when I plunked my sleep-warmed butt down and hit the frigid porcelain rim of the toilet bowl. Ned – in a house occupied by four women over the age of sixty-five – had left the damned seat up. I said many bad words, most involving vital parts of his anatomy shriveling and dropping off.
The partying was actually in the den. I caught the tell-tale flicker of television. In stealth mode, I crept up to the door. Ned was in the den, chuckling at whatever he was watching.
I rapped my knuckles on the door. “Excuse me. Do you mind? People are trying to sleep.”
The only answer was a grunt. I feel asleep much later, just itching to get my fingers around his neck, but without a supply of antiseptic, there was no way I’d touch that filthy skin.
The next morning, Ned (a grown man over fifty) wandered out in his jammies, stretching and complaining the couch in the den was too short for him, sniffing the air to see if breakfast was cooking. It certainly was not and wouldn’t be.
Worse still, Ned smelled like an old geezer who’d been living under a downtown bridge for weeks – filthy unwashed hair, etc. That didn’t stop him from wandering out on the deck to survey his temporary kingdom. I would have planted a fist in his face, but that would have taken too much energy.
I mentioned there was no coffee, cereal or other fixings in the house, then suggested he drop by the market down the street and pick up some baked goods and fruit for everyone.
He mumbled around while I kept my face in my bowl of yogurt and blueberries and read my email, thankful I’d taken my toothbrush from the bathroom.
None of the visitors showered (I know because I collected the laundry after they left and the towels were unsullied). Ned suited up, took orders from his relatives then came back from Starbucks with what they wanted. Nothing extra.
My vocabulary of unflattering words was getting a serious workout. As I left to meet a friend for lunch, I pointed to the empty wine rack and suggested they swing by the liquor store and replenish my Aunt’s supply of red and white wine. That got me another puzzled look.
Needless to say, when they returned that evening, there was no wine. Ready for a fight, I asked them to strip the beds the next morning and pile the soiled bedding in the laundry hamper I placed conspicuously in the hallway. I mean, it was my Aunt’s home, not a bloody hotel.
But by eight o’clock, they bolted out of the house like their pants were on fire. No thank you, nothing.
Yup. Like rotting potatoes. Bad, bad guests.