The Usurpers in Vivian’s Apartment

I heard some stirrings from the bedroom.  It sounded like Uncle Bob was waking up.  I wasn’t sure I was ready for that.

I have to explain about Uncle Bob and his… Eunice.  Uncle Bob is… Well, I guess there’s one in every family.  The odd one.  The one who has to march to the beat of his own drummer, who usually plays something stupid, like the bongos.

Uncle Bob put himself through university by catering pie fights for various campus parties, just like something out of a 1930’s musical.  The men would wear old tuxedos and the women would deck themselves out in ball gowns.  And Bob and his assistants would cruise through the crowd with trays of cream pies.  At some predetermined signal, they would start throwing them.  If anyone was able to make it through the evening without getting hit, they’d win a prize.  Bob charged quite a lot for those evenings and still had trouble keeping up with the bookings.  I have a picture of him somewhere, leaning on the railings of the Sigma Delta Delta frat house in a tux.  Hanging on the gate is a sign that says “Pie Fite Tonite”.  They caught on like wildfire until the dean finally banned them.  There had been a bit of a misunderstanding about an alumni dinner.  Apparently, some of the guests were not aware that dessert was going to be thrown.  I guess getting whipped cream out of a mink coat can be a bit of a nightmare.  To this day, old Bob maintains that he was set up.  By, apparently, the woman who became his first wife.

Anyway, by then old Bob was ready to graduate, with enough money in the bank to finance his next venture, the one that made him a millionaire:  glow in the dark bathroom fixtures.  I’m not kidding, about the toilets or the money.  Bob’s got an amazing business sense, I guess, and he’s never embarrassed by anything.  He can take the dumbest ideas and make the most obscene amounts of money from them.  I’m not sure how he does it.  He’s really pretty amazing that way, I guess.

His personal life is a mess, though.  He’s been married and divorced more times than any of us can remember.  I can’t really blame his wives.  I mean the man is always going.  New ideas popping up, new projects on the go, all the time.  It would drive me crazy.  No one could keep track.

Eunice has been around awhile, though.  Eunice is his… It’s hard to say, really.  They aren’t married.  They live together, but I think it’s more for convenience than anything else.  I mean, they just don’t seem like a real couple to me.  Like, they never go in for public displays of affection or anything.  Not that I’d want them to be all over each other, or anything, but even my parents seem more like a real couple than they do, which is really saying something.

But Eunice is really protective of Bob.  More like, I don’t know, his own personal army of one than any kind of girlfriend.

When I offer to let them stay with me, they get my room and guess who gets to sleep in the living room?  I don’t even have a couch.

They got here a couple days ago and have been crashing around ever since, messing up my kitchen and using all my towels.  How’d they manage to sleep through the phone ringing?  It’s ridiculous.  I live in a teeny tiny apartment in a high-rise downtown.  My parents are, like a block and a half away from the funeral home in a great big house.  You’d think they’d have stayed there.  The only thing this place has over my parents is the view of the river.  Eunice finds it soothing.

Eunice was all worried about how Bob was “taking” his mother’s death.  Like it was going to be really hard on him.  I can’t see why.  Bob wasn’t really all that close to Gran, as far as I can see.  He hardly ever went to see her, and when he did, they always spent the whole time grousing at each other.  But she adored him.  You could just tell.  She always just lit up whenever he walked into a room.  Why is it always the weird ones who are their parents’ favourites?  Look around at the families you know.  Parents always go for the oddballs in a really big way.

“Well, are you at least feeding Uncle Bob and Eunice?”  my mother asked, like, since I failed at Funeral Home, I wouldn’t even know how to treat house guests.

“Yes.  And I waited up for them last night, too.”

“I don’t know why you don’t just give them a key.  That would be the polite thing to do.”

Well first of all, I don’t feel comfortable letting people come into my place when I’m not here.  And secondly, I’d have to actually have a spare key.  Which I don’t.  It’s gonna cost when I move on from here.  They handed me a bunch of them when I moved in, and now I’m down to one.  I keep thinking they’ll turn up one of these days.

I do know how to treat my guests, though.  Sort of.  I don’t really have a lot of food in the place.  But it’s OK, they didn’t want anything last night.  Well, I guess after going back to my parents like that, they wouldn’t.  I think Bob was a little drunk, so he went to bed while Eunice and I stayed up drinking tea and talking.

I never knew how they met before, so I asked her.  I mean, here I was, stuck with the woman and a big pot of mint tea to get through.  Small talk just wasn’t going to do it.  Plus, they’ll probably get married at some point.  I mean, with Bob’s record, it’s a bit of an inevitability.  Anyway, it turns out they used to be neighbours, just after one of Bob’s divorces.  They lived in next-door apartments.  Eunice was married at the time, to a man who beat her.  Like, constantly.  I guess Bob tried to help her out, but Eunice needed to find her own way through it.  That’s how she put it.  I needed to find my own way through.  Like it was a jungle or something.  In a way, I guess it was.  Anyway, Bob eventually moved away, with talk of “if ever you need anything” to Eunice.  So one night, when she’d finally found her way through, she turned up on his doorstep.  He took her in and they’ve been together ever since.

It’s weird.  I mean Uncle Bob has always been sort of the family joke.  The unreliable one who can’t keep a relationship going for more than ten minutes.  If you want to be let down, count on Uncle Bob, is the way most people think of him. And here was Eunice talking about him like he was her hero.  I don’t know why it got to me, but it did.  I guess I just suddenly realized that you can think you know someone all your life and then they turn into someone else, right in front of you.

I mean, if I made a mistake like that about Uncle Bob, what kind of mistakes are other people making about me?  What kind of terrible mistakes am I making about myself?  You can see how confusing this all can get.


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