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Welcome Wagon


Harold C. Jones



Copyright 2017 Harold C. Jones and Long Cool One Books



Design: J. Thornton


ISBN 978-1-988621-08-1



The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or deceased, or to any places or events, is purely coincidental. Names, places, settings, characters and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination. The author’s moral rights to the proceeds of this work have been asserted.


Table of Contents


Act One

Act Two

Act Three

About Harold C. Jones




Welcome Wagon


Harold C. Jones



Act One



It was a kind of madness that overcame him.

That was the only explanation.

One day, he was drifting through life in the big city, collecting his shitty little disability pension, scraping for nickels and dimes, and for whatever reason, he’d gotten sick of it all. Just another old man dying of cancer—the Pink Floyd lyric had haunted him. Finally he’d started browsing the online classifieds. He was looking for, of all things, a cabin, or a shack, a cave in the woods, anything really different, and ultimately, winding up with an RV in a seasonal park a few kilometres outside of North Bay.

It had all happened so quickly. He must have been nuts—

He’d chucked it all away.

Exactly nothing, not much of anything really, but it was his existence, his known life up to that point, and he’d chucked it nonetheless.

James had ditched a lot of things.

He’d ditched most of his furniture. In the photos, in the ad, the place he bought, if that was the right word, was furnished. He owned the vehicle and a couple of small structures, although it sat on leased land. It had a miniature fridge and stove, sleeping for six allegedly, and there was a kind of glazed Florida room built onto the side of the actual vehicle, which might be mobile but the seller claimed it needed a new battery. If you were a good driver, you could turn the wheel a half inch to the left, drive a few feet and a quarter inch to the left. Just drive away…getting it back in might be another story, but if you were gentle and patient it could be done. This was how it had been explained to him.

Supposedly in running condition. So the man said, and James was taking it on trust that it didn’t need much.

He knew so much and nothing more. Just a new battery. That’s all it would take. James didn’t take it all that seriously, not at the low, low price of $6,700.00. He was afraid to look too closely. It was a 1994 Mountain Cruiser from Amco.

Like an idiot, he’d looked up the company on Wiki. It was all very reassuring…lots of happy people and RVs standing in front of mountain ranges, picturesque lake scenes and of course the Grand Canyon and the deserts of the southwest.

What little he still had in the way of personal possessions, fit nicely into a storage unit on the edge of town. The plan was to come back after a relaxing summer up north. He’d leave it on site, and find some sort of crummy apartment back home to get him through the winter. Hell, he could get a one-roomer and tough it out…eating in restaurants as much as possible rather than share a kitchen with someone. Sharing a bathroom with a bunch of thieves, crackheads and the mentally-ill would be tough. There was always the soup kitchen. In a pinch, he could stay in his mother’s back room or even camp out in his sister’s basement. It was all concrete blocks and dampness. She’d been talking about making it into some kind of an income suite and he could maybe help her with that. He could give some of his labour in exchange for rent. He’d at least done that kind of work before.

When he came in the gate, told them who he was and made a monthly payment on the lot fees, he’d been kind of scared as much as anything. That one shrank the bankroll considerably. When he actually saw the place—saw what he had bought, pulling in beside it on the sandy little parking place, number one-eighty-seven, his heart really started to sink at that point.

That was my life savings.


***


The minivan ticked and maybe even settled into the sand a bit as it cooled in the sun. The leaves were mostly out, and there would be shade morning and evening. Mid-afternoon, it was definitely bright.

It wasn’t even hardly summer yet, and yet there were people everywhere. It was the first real good weekend of spring, and maybe that was it. James was hyper-alert, he just couldn’t help it.

He was the big stranger in town…

James had been waiting for, and dreading, this moment. All of his fears were irrational, but knowing that didn’t seem to help much sometimes.

There were little kids, old people, pudgy, balding men and their fat little wives. They were literally twenty feet away in some cases, walking past on the road, although the trailer beside his seemed quiet. His mouth opened but not too many words came out as someone waved and began talking. He couldn’t quite make out what she was saying…smile and wave, smile and wave.

She was still going, still engaging him as they walked along. All you could do was nod and be polite.

Finally that one turned back to her man, mouth still going. If he was lucky, they’d go home on Sundays, or better yet, die in a horrible car-crash on the 400 in the near future.

Why am I so fucking awful?

And you thought you could escape.

You could never really escape yourself, could you?

And all of those thoughts.

No one next door was about and he was grateful for that, as he opened up the old Dodge and then went to unlock the RV door. He’d have a look around and try and figure out the best place to put his computer before dragging it in.

The phone vibrated in his pocket. If that wasn’t his mother, he would be very much surprised.

She would be worried sick about him, of course.


***


Ignoring his mother, he made his way into the dim interior. The front end, with its captain’s chairs, drink holders, big front window and half-decent looking beige shag rug was somewhat reassuring. The thoughts of licensing the thing and taking it out on the road somewhere, maybe not so much—

That would be a quick road to oblivion, for him and the vehicle.

Even he knew that.

The place smelled musty after being unoccupied for a couple of seasons.

There was a lot of dead skin and old people in that smell.

He knew that after talking to them on the phone.

Am I going to grow old here?

Probably not, but if that is the case, what in the hell was he doing there in the first place.

There was no good answer to this question.

There never would be…would there.

There was a dark blue couch, and a kind of built-in place for the dining table. There were three or four potted plants in this end, all dead. Dead, dried up, brown and crumbling to the touch.

Curtains, the usual bad floral sort of stuff, was evidence of a woman’s influence, some years ago.

The kitchenette, next in line in the long, narrow space, was actually pretty nice although the appliances, the fridge and the sink were small. Flipping a switch, a bunch of LED pot lights came on and it was surprisingly cheerful. Back home, now gone, it just wasn’t that bright. His kitchen cubicle in the old apartment had no window. Everything ran on propane, apparently, or the electrical hook-up from the park, and he sort of wondered if there would be problems. He knew nothing about that sort of thing. Old man Beasley, the guy who owned the park, would have to help him with that one. It was interesting to see soups and tinned items in the cupboards. There were some long-dead plastic packets of condiments in the door of the fridge. A couple of small plastic forks, still in the wrapper. They were in the little butter-container in the door. There was bottled water, all lined up along the back wall. An empty ice-cube tray in the freezer compartment. Opening more doors, all walnut-stained particle-board, he saw plates, cups, all kinds of cooking gear. Home. What a word.

With a sour grin, he saw that nothing really matched—it was all stuff gleaned out of the kitchen junk drawer, back at the original owner’s hopefully much nicer place in T.O. or somewhere. Two soup bowls, one of which was cracked but they’d still been using it. The summer home, on a beer budget. There were some plastic plates and bowls, which might have been used for the kids or the dogs.

Ha.

This was the fishing camp up north the guy bragged about at work.

The one that no one ever actually saw—just pictures of him and the wife, on a dock, proudly holding up their prize catches.

This was what it meant to buy a place, including contents. Even so, sheets and towels were expensive, and theoretically, he wouldn’t need to buy a thing.

Holy, fuck.

What a stroke of luck that was—

It was all his, now. He’d get to know them two a little better when he cleaned out the drawers. It was the thought of a philosopher. The hallway, quite narrow, was on the left. There was something there in behind slatted bi-fold doors and he had a look. It turned out to be a tiny gas furnace and a hot water tank, which looked okay to his untrained eye. It was warm to the touch. There was an air conditioner up on the roof, but he would look at that later. The next door, very narrow, was the bathroom. It was small, but clean and modern looking…a lot of greens and golds, bits of chrome. The shower stall looked very small, and it was a wonder how fat people ever managed, or all those elderly people camping out for six months of the year down in Florida. Coming back once a year to maintain their benefits…food for thought, there.

It didn’t have to be Canada.

Next on the right was an open arch into what was clearly a kid’s room, with a pair of small bunks and a tall dresser painted in bright red. The end walls couldn’t be much over five feet. There were cutesy little animals in a border up near the ceiling and the beds were neatly made with children’s patterns in bright colours. There was a heavy curtain to close it off for privacy, but no real door. Thankfully, the drawers were mostly empty except for some cheap watercolour paints, and stickers that he vaguely realized were Pokemon.

Grandma.

And the Dollar Store.

That’s the name of my rock band.

This at least had a window. And the last door, right on the end, would be the master bedroom.

Just like in the pictures, the bed appeared vast in comparison to the room itself. If he had any real money, it would almost be nice to get a smaller bed—it would just be him after all. He didn’t have a dog or even a cat. He supposed people did, and maybe he should. With a bed like that, they probably did have a dog sleeping on it with them. Maybe even two. Maybe that’s what that smell was.

Maybe he should get a dog or something. Faint sounds came in from outdoors and with the thin walls he wondered just how quiet the place would be when the long weekends came around.

That left the sunroom and a small shed to examine. There was a canoe up on sawhorses out there and that was his too. He opened the bedroom window a crack to let the place air a bit. There was a stick there, and he basically just jammed one end in rather than use it lengthwise.

Back outside, he decided to leave the shed for later, and began pulling bags, boxes and other stuff out of the vehicle.

This time of year, on a weekday, he had no idea of when stores would close, or what.

Or what.

It would be smart to get a few basic groceries in there—milk, for instance, and maybe an effing big bottle of rye and some ginger ale. On that thought, he went back out and filled up the ice-cube tray. Looking again, there were some high-ball and Pilsner-style beer glasses in the end cupboard.

Good girl.

It always pays to think ahead.


***


There was enough work to be done that he could forget his problems for a while. Finding fresh sheets in a closet and holding them up to his nose, there was still the faint trace of soap and fabric softener. Making up the bed, he would at least have that much to look forward to—that and setting up his computer, although he had his doubts about the wi-fi hook-up. All of that and a book. A handful of old favourites had been all he could really bring but it would have to do. It’s not like he hadn’t read them all ten times each. They were good books, otherwise he wouldn’t have hung onto them. A book, a big mug of milk and some cookies. It was still light, although at this time of year, surprisingly late in the day. Just this once, he decided to go back to town and lay in some real groceries. He’d call in at some point and get television, cable or satellite, but he wanted to get a feel for the finances first. He could only afford to burn so much gas in a month.

That was for sure.

He’d looked it all up on the internet. He had it all written down in a notebook. The grocery store was open until ten, and being the person he was, or had become in the last few years, he had a couple of plastic bags in the side pocket of the van door. That would save a couple of dimes at least…


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