A Place on the Lake
My father was the Maytag Repairman. Sort of. I don’t mean that he leaned against the fridge with his arms crossed, tools hanging from his belt, waiting for the phone to ring. No. My father was the Maytag Repairman from the commercials. But again, only sort of.
What happened is that the department store in town stole Maytag’s campaign idea and hired my father to be their brand’s version of the Maytag Repairman – the Steadman Repairman if you will – and so he leaned whole-heartedy against lesser appliances that, it turned out, needed repairing all the time.
I still see him on faded billboards once in a while when I’m flying down the highway.
When the billboards were brand new and all over the place, we piled in the car and drove up and down the highway, and then as far as Terrace Bay, me and my brother Bobby in the back seat, hot sticky arms pressed together, hair blowing like crazy, our laughter swallowed whole like a ride at the fair. It was dark when we climbed the highway back home, my father’s image here and there like ghosts in the moonlight.
We could see one of the billboards head-on from our kitchen window and Bobby and I used to sit there dying laughing sometimes.
Now they are elusive as deer in the woods, offering only a shoulder, a quick profile, a shudder through the bush.
One afternoon last summer when Bobby came home for a visit, we drove up and down that stretch for an entire afternoon looking out for our father’s image, driving as slowly as the traffic allowed, and not once did we see it. Later that week, after Bobby left, I saw it three times.
You just never know.
I’m the one who stayed, the one who looked after our parents, the one who got stuck with the collections, the photo albums, the quilts. Every time Bobby comes for a visit, I get rid of something, tuck a Red Rose skunk into a shoe for instance, an embroidered pillowcase into a duffle bag, a photograph between the pages of the book he’s reading, a recipe card into his back pocket.
Also, I’m the one who got the house with its long driveway, black walnut trees, and twelve acres which reach all the way into the waters of Lake Superior.
When you’re standing on the small beach, you can see an island in the distance, and it’s mine now, too. What you can’t see is the cottage we all loved, beautifully concealed within the windswept white pines. Our parents used to stay on the island every summer, and Bobby and me were free to come and go as we pleased. When we wanted to go over, all we had to do was stand in the glow on the beach at eight o’clock in the evening, and our father would soon paddle over to us, through the colours, gather us up with a smile, and paddle us away, through the line of gold.
The beach was our teleporting pad.
I stay at the cottage most of the time now and at eight every evening I glance at the beach because once in a while Bobby is actually standing there like a dream come true.
From The Story Parade by Sherry Cassells, which you can order here when I figure it out