A Fine Mess


    In the end the 13th of June was absolutely the best day of Tamara's life. It all started with a letter from Great Aunt Jenn. In a shaky scrawl that was difficult to decipher Aunt Jenn offered up a plea for help, telling Tamara that she had gotten too old to care for the big Victorian home she shared with her seven cats, and that things had gotten 'a wee bit out of hand'. She wanted some help to get her house cleaned up and back in order again.

    Tamara hadn't seen Aunt Jenn since she was ten years old, before her parents had died. It had been a long time, and truth be told it was partly due to guilt that she sat down and wrote her aunt a long chatty letter in return, in which she committed herself to driving up there on the coming thirteenth of June. Just how much mess could a ninety-year-old lady and a few cats make anyway? The clean up shouldn't take more than an afternoon of her time, and besides, it really is a nice drive up to Shaetown. 'I might even enjoy it.' she told herself.

    The morning of June 13th dawned sunny and beautiful, and it was just around noon when Tamara pulled off the highway into the tiny seaside town. A flood of memories came pouring back, from summers spent there during childhood. How well she remembered those narrow streets, the brightly coloured houses dotting the hillside and the fishing boats in the harbour below. There stood Mr. McKinley's store, where she watched Bobby McMaster steal a candy bar, and then ran like the dickens with him when he was nearly caught. She was also with him a few days later when he sneaked into the store and placed fifty cents on the counter, because his conscience had gotten the better of him.

    Still laughing at her memories, Tamara pulled into the winding drive to Aunt Jenn's house, and did a double take at the sight before her. The once regal Victorian home that she remembered was gone, replaced by a dilapidated gray house with white paint peeling in strips and shutters hanging askew, flapping in the wind. The once beautiful grounds had been reduced to a tangle of over-grown weeds and thorny, unkempt rosebushes.

    Stepping gingerly from her car, Tamara shrieked as something brushed her bare leg, and laughed nervously when a fluffy cat ran off into the bushes. So Aunt Jenn couldn't afford to have the siding painted in a while, or have the lawn mowed. That didn't mean the inside of the house was as bad. Right? She walked up to the door and rang the bell. Not a sound from inside. Ringing the doorbell again she stood on tiptoes and peered through the little window in the door. The glass was dusty and all she could make out were some shadowy forms. Still no response.

    Tamara tried the doorknob and found the door unlocked. She pushed open the door and stepped inside what was supposed to be a kitchen. She let out a sound that was partly a scream and partly a moan of despair. The room was floor to ceiling garbage; stacks of old newspapers, many of them yellowed long ago, topped by empty pizza boxes, tin cans, bags of garbage, and moth-eaten clothing. Here and there a cat sat washing itself amid the mess. The cupboards were buried in the filth, but there appeared to be a narrow path through the middle of it all.

    Following the trail, Tamara found that it led to the kitchen table - all but one corner of which was also buried in trash - and to the living room doorway. The living room was every bit as bad as the kitchen. How could a ninety-year-old woman live in this? Where was she?

    "Aunt Jenn? Are you in here? Where are you?" the girl yelled.

    From the back of the room Tamara heard a voice that was no more than a whisper.

    "Tamara is that you? Oh Tammie I need help! They said they'd put me in a home if my house doesn't get cleaned up. I don't want to go to a home. This is my home. Tammie you have to help me!"

    Aunt Jenn was lying on a grimy couch. Her dirty hair was matted and her frail arms were caked with dirt. The couch was surrounded by empty take-out food packages and for a brief second Tamara thought she saw something small move among them. 'How did my Aunt come to this?' Tamara thought.

    "Don't worry Aunt Jenn. I'm here now. I'll take care of you and I'll get this place cleaned up somehow, but for now you can't stay in this mess any longer. I'll get us a room at the motel until the house is fit again, OK?"

    Aunt Jenn didn't argue, just leaned back feebly against the couch and sighed.

**********************


    They had been living in the motel for three weeks and by now Tamara had given up hope of finding someone to help her clean up the old place. No one wanted to take on such a huge job for the meagre wages she was able to pay. She had been doing a bit every day, but still it seemed insurmountable.

    After a visit to the doctor, Tamara was helping her aunt into the passenger seat of her car when she was startled by a deep voice behind her.

    "I hear you're looking for someone to help clean up your aunt's house.", said the voice.

    Tamara swung around and looked up into eyes as blue as the sea beyond them. Hey! She knew those eyes!

    "Bobby? Bobby McMaster? Is that you all grown up?", she laughed.

    Bobby laughed with her.

    "It's me.", he said, "At least it was the last time I looked in the mirror." He winked at her in that way she remembered so well.

    "Well....yes, I am looking for help. Aunt Jenn's house is a mess, but I can't afford to pay much in wages."

    "Ah, well, truth is, money isn't what I want to be paid with. If it's all right with you, I'd like to be paid with three square meals a day. I can't cook, and since Ma passed on I haven't had a decent meal. Can you cook?" A crooked grin brought out the devilish dimples in his cheeks.

    "I'm sure I can learn!", she answered, with a grin of her own.

***********************


    One month later, Tamara once again drove her car up the drive to her auntís house.

    "Now promise me you won't open your eyes until I say to, Aunt Jenn!" the girl exclaimed excitedly.

    Aunt Jenn still had both eyes covered by her frail hands when the car pulled to a stop. Helping her aunt from the vehicle, Tamara said, "OK Aunt Jenn, you can look now!"

    "Oh my.", was all Aunt Jenn managed. "Oh my, oh my!"

    The lawn had been mown and was already turning a lush green. The rosebushes were trimmed and proudly blooming. Best of all, the stately Victorian house was sporting gleaming white paint and brand new green shutters. It was beautiful!

    The inside of the house was even better. The walls were scrubbed, and the floors gleamed. The living room was once again showing its old splendor, with the graceful old piano sitting there waiting to be played.

    "We turned the dining room into a bedroom for you Aunt Jenn, and even put in a bathroom down here, so you won't have to worry about the stairs. I've hired a local woman to come live in with you, to make sure you take your medicines on time and to make sure you'll be safe when I'm not around. So what do you think? Do you like it?"

    "Oh Tammie, it's wonderful! You always were a good girl!"

    "Well, it wasn't just me Aunt Jenn. Bobby was a huge help. I couldn't have done any of it without him."

    Aunt Jenn looked up at Bobby with a twinkle in her eyes.

    "I hope we'll be seeing lots of you around here young man.", she said with a chuckle.

    As Bobby walked Tamara back to her car he seemed a bit preoccupied. Grabbing her hand he stopped walking and looked down at her.

    "I suppose that now your aunt's all taken care of you won't be coming back." It was more question than statement.

    "Oh I'll be back every weekend to see Aunt Jenn. I've neglected her far too long. It's time I made up for that. Besides, someone has to take pity on you and cook you a home-cooked meal now and then."

    Bobby threw back his head and laughed, and when he brought it back down, it was to kiss Tamara with a newfound tenderness. Yes, June 13th had been her lucky day.

Copyright September 8, 2004
By Charmaine V.
All Rights Reserved


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