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a teasing brother is a treasure

Dear Uma: Love those marathon telephone talks! I wonder if it is only women who indulge themselves that way, talking for hours about their feelings ?- most likely, given the male of the species' well-known reticence.

Dear Uma:

Love those marathon telephone talks! I wonder if it is only women who indulge themselves that way, talking for hours about their feelings - most likely, given the male of the species’ well-known reticence.

It was good to finally get the whole story of you and Juan; I can’t be anything but glad for you that he has been there for you during this painful time of marital breakdown. It makes sense to me now that Andrew has gone and that you are now largely OK with his going. Isn’t it serendipitous that Juan has been around all these years, harbouring this great and secret regard for you, and isn’t it perfect that he, too, is horse-obsessed? It’s as though it was meant to be, as the romantics would say. Jason will come around, and especially as Sarah is already accepting this new state of affairs, and even more especially because he is so very angry with his father.

Now I feel more inclined to share a funny story with you, knowing you are ready to be amused.

Cee’s brother lives here in Watson Lake and before he became a busy father and successful businessman he was a talented and devious practical joker. In all the tales of trickery Cee told me, the following is my favourite.

Cee had purchased a new vacuum cleaner, an expensive one, featuring all the latest technology of suck. Like all orders from Outside, and even more particularly 20 years ago when this event took place, it was a long wait for the desired object to arrive. It was her brother who delivered it, one of the services provided by his growing business.

The machine was unpacked right away, with the assistance of her helpful brother and his trusty Leatherman. He also assembled it from the pieces in the box, making appropriate sounds of admiration as he did so, being one of those lovely people who take pleasure in other peoples’ pleasure.

Shortly after he’d gone, Cee vacuumed, and was soon convinced it was one of the best investments she had ever made for her comfort and well-being. She stowed it away in a closet and took all the packaging in the large cardboard box to the dump on her way into town.

The very next day as she was getting ready for work, she got a phone call regarding her latest household appliance. A strongly accented voice expressed most sincere regrets, but the item in question had been recently revealed to have a serious design flaw and must be returned immediately.

What design flaw? was Cee’s question, hoping against hope it was one that could somehow be fixed by someone in town.

No, she was told, the vacuum cleaner could only be made good by an experienced technician. The flaw was one of great potential danger, involving fire and the release of poisonous gases. The voice also told her it was imperative that the machine be returned just as she had received it, particularly in regards to the packaging.

Horrified, she informed this faceless representative of this heretofore impeccable company, that she had already thrown it all away.

Retrieve it, please, and be certain to tape the entire package securely, ideally with wide bands of clear Scotch tape. All this was to be executed as soon as possible; he had placed her high on the list of customers to have their vacuum cleaner recalled and fixed, knowing how isolated were her circumstances. She ended the conversation with effusive thanks and immediately set out for the nuisance grounds.

Cee did indeed manage to find the box and the packaging, though the box had suffered some indignities with other garbage and some of the more fragile paper had been partially shredded by the ubiquitous dump ravens. By the time she’d located the stuff she had suffered a few indignities and was herself partially shredded. She bundled the whole somewhat smelly mess into the back of her little car, where it hung out over the rear bumper and made it necessary to leave the hatchback up in order to accommodate its bulk.

An RCMP officer stopped her on the way home. He had her sit in her car by the side of the road as he slowly and thoroughly examined her licence and registration, his patrol car parked behind her with all its lights flashing to the world her criminal tendencies and everyone she knew happening to drive by. He eventually pointed out the hazard and illegality of driving thus and told her the precise amount of the fine she would have to pay should he decide to ‘write her up’ before magnanimously allowing her to continue on her way with a stern verbal warning.

At home, she set about dismantling the machine, hoping the amount of pieces was the same amount it had arrived in.

Wide bands of clear Scotch tape necessitated a trip into town and resulted in the discovery that the hardware store did not carry this sort of tape. At that time in the history of Watson Lake, there was only the one hardware store and Cee stood at the counter with her lip trembling with distress and frustration. The owner kindly suggested her brother might have the tape and it was to her brother she went, throwing herself in a chair in his office and describing to him the horror her day had become. He had the tape, lots of it, and he gave it to her along with sympathy, empathy and a cup of coffee. He even volunteered to come by with his truck to collect the box that afternoon and take it to the bus depot for her. There never was a better brother, she told him, giving him a big hug and a grateful kiss before heading out the door.

The taping took over an hour; the corners of the box had been crushed a bit and bearing in mind the rep’s instructions regarding how everything must be in order to qualify for the free repairs, she took the time needed to do it right. She had to call her boss to tell him she would be late for work. Her job at that time was paid by the hour and thus she lost about three hours’ pay all together that dark day.

When she came home from work, the package was gone.

The summer season was beginning and everyone was busy. It was three weeks before she remembered her vacuum cleaner and stopped in at her brother’s very active place of business to ask whether or not he had heard anything about its return.

Waiting to get a moment of his time, she wandered around the office. In a corner, along with a multitude of ropes and barrels and boxes, she spied a familiar shape.

Clearing around it, she recognized her package! There it was, painstakingly taped and carefully labelled, looking exactly as it did the last time she saw it, though with the addition of a layer of dust. Obviously, it had not made it to the bus for its recall journey; her wonderful brother had not only forgotten to get it there on time, he had forgotten to get it here at all.

Breathing deeply, trying to be forgiving and understanding, she went in search of her sibling.

Somehow, when he saw her striding across the yard, he knew immediately what it was about, why her face was reddening and her pace close to a stomp.

“It was a joke,” he shouted. “I forgot to tell you and I forgot to bring it back. Sorry.”

She stopped, her mouth hanging open in disbelief. “That was you on the phone? That was you?”

“Yeah, good one, huh?” he gave a nervous laugh.

“I’ll show you a good one,” Cee told him as she started towards him at a run, her hands curling into fists.

He ran for his truck.

It was a good joke, Cee says now, but she also says she found it impossible to see the humour for a long, long time and it was smart of him to avoid her for awhile. He was as convinced as she was that, should she get her hands on him, there would be blood.

I’ m glad my brother was never that imaginative.



Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.