Robert Cormack in Lifestyle, Publishers & Bloggers, Creative Writers Creative Director • Robert Cormack & Associates Jul 16, 2020 · 5 min read · +600

Where Bon-Bons Play.

A short story by Robert Cormack.

Where Bon-Bons Play.

Something arrived in the mail a few weeks ago. I thought it was a birthday card from my father—but it was worse. He sent a listing from the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board. A cottage was circled in red marker. It looked like our old family cottage, only our cottage didn’t have a stone fireplace. I noticed it right away. I thought my father would, too. He built the place. So why was he sending me this listing? And why did he write below in big red letters: “You sold it out from under our noses!”

I should back up a bit. I bought the cottage when my parents retired. I asked what they wanted, they told me. I kept it for five years, then sold it to buy the house I’m living in now. My father and mother knew that. They both agreed it was the only way.

The following year, my mother died. After a reasonable time, my father started dating again. He remarried. I don’t know if one has anything to do with the other — the cottage, I mean. I should have just called my father and told him he had the wrong place. It would have avoided the story I’m about to tell you now. Everything’s connected, I guess. I’m not sure how, but it is.

I found Megan standing by the front doors. Nobody was walking her down the aisle. Her family didn’t approve of her marrying someone twice her age.

My father’s living up in Hanover now with his new wife, Megan. The last time I saw them was at their wedding. When I arrived, all the guests were inside. I found Megan standing by the front doors. Nobody was walking her down the aisle. Her family didn’t approve of her marrying someone twice her age.

So I walked her down the aisle. A week later, I got a post card from this hotel in Hilton Head where they were honeymooning:

Son,

I’ve had time to consider things this past week. First of all, I appreciate what you did at the wedding. You were very thoughtful but, frankly, it was too little too late. I had to make a lot of calls to you when your mother was dying. You could have come down on you own without being asked. Was it such a chore? I hope you’re more considerate when I’m dying. Your old man

It was the word chore that bothered me most. I showed the letter to my fiancé, Stephanie. She held it between her fingers, pushing her long hair back.

“Wow,” she said, curling her feet up under her on the couch.

Where chore comes into it, I’ll never know. I was always there, always available.

I’ve told her about my mother’s death. It was one of those protracted illnesses. I used to get phone calls day and night. They lived out west of Hamilton, about an hour away. “She’s going,” my father would say. I’d race down there, but she was hanging on. Six months she hung on. Where chore comes into it, I’ll never know. I was always there, always available.

“So how did your father meet Megan?” Stephanie asked.

“She was at my mother’s funeral,” I said. “Greta’s her aunt.”

“And Greta is?”

“My mother’s best friend.”

“Your father married your mother’s best friend’s niece?”

“Yeah.”

“Was Greta at the wedding?”

“No,” I said. “She doesn’t talk to my father anymore.”

“Wonder why,” Stephanie said. She turning my father’s letter over in her hand, maybe looking for something on the back, an apology, perhaps.

It was too soon to bring her into all the craziness. “And you haven’t talked to your father since?” she asked.

“Where was I during all this?” she asked. I told her we’d only started dating at the time. It was too soon to bring her into all the craziness. “And you haven’t talked to your father since?” she asked.

“And tell him what?”

“The cottage for one thing,” she said.

She was looking at the listing my father sent, the lot size, the square footage. Stephanie’s in the process of getting her real estate license. “This place is a lot bigger,” she said. “You really should talk to him.”

“They’re still getting settled,” I said.

“Sounds like you’re avoiding him.”

A few nights later, we were having dinner when the phone rang. Stephanie checked the call display. “Speak of the devil,” she said. She handed me the phone. As soon as I picked up, my father started talking.

“So you’re home,” he said. “I figured I’d get that machine of yours.”

“We’ve been busy,” I said.

“Too busy to call your old man? And what’s this ‘we” business?”

“I’m engaged.”

“I didn’t even know you were dating. She got a name?”

“Stephanie,” I said.

“Do I get to meet my future daughter-in-law?”

“First chance we get.”

“What are you and Stephanie doing Saturday?”

“Saturday?” I said, looking at Stephanie.

She pushed her hair back with her reading glasses.

“What does he want us to bring?” she asked.

“What do you want us to bring?” I asked him.

“Just yourselves,” he said.

Stephanie sat with the window open, her hair going up and down like the gulls. At one point she reached over and took my hand.

That Saturday morning, we got out on the road, driving up past newly green fields, the sun bright, small clouds floating in the distance. White gulls rose and fell behind tractors. Stephanie sat with the window open, her hair going up and down like the gulls. At one point she reached over and took my hand.

“Don’t let him get to you today, okay?” she said.

I told her I’d do my best.

“Let’s find a bakery,” she said. “Do they like blueberry pie?”

“My father does. I don’t know about Megan.”

We stopped at a small outdoor market and got a blueberry pie. It was still warm. Stephanie kept it on her lap, hands folded on top. Ten minutes later, we were driving through the centre of Hanover. My father told me the house was off Clark Street. He wasn’t very clear. We found it eventually. It was a small bungalow with a garage joined by a covered walkway. The garage door was open. My father was hanging my mother’s paintings on the wall in there. He was standing on a small stepladder.

Megan appeared from the side door of the house.

“My God,” Stephanie said, “she’s younger than you.”

My father came and stood beside her, silver hair, Kortron pants, bifocals on a string.

Megan stood there in shorts, ankle socks and sneakers. Her hair was cut into a page boy. She didn’t wear make-up. My father came and stood beside her, silver hair, Kortron pants, bifocals on a string.

We got out the car and walked up to them.

“So you’re the intended,” my father said to Stephanie. “This is my bride, Megan. The light of my life.”

“Nice to meet you,” Stephanie said. “We brought a pie.”

She handed it to Megan.

“Thanks,” Megan said. “It’s still warm.”

They took us through the house, showing us each room. One of the spare bedrooms had an art table with all sorts of pens and brushes. It was Megan’s studio. There were caricatures and cartoons tacked to a bulletin board. Above her student lamp was one showing a stork with a baby.

The caption said, A baby? For me?

Stephanie nudged me. I nudged her back.

Out in the dining room, the table was set with the good china. “We hardly use this stuff now,” my father said. “Not many visitors in this neck of the woods, are there, Megan? We keep ourselves company, don’t we?”

“We’ve had a few artist’s in this family, haven’t we, sonny boy? He tell you his mother was an artist, Stephanie? Darn good one, too. All those paintings outside are hers.”

Megan went to get the casserole out of the oven. She brought it to the table, putting it in front of my father. As soon as she sat down, my father started going on about her cartoons. “She’s a talent, I’ll tell the world,” he said. “We’ve had a few artist’s in this family, haven’t we, sonny boy? He tell you his mother was an artist, Stephanie? Darn good one, too. All those paintings outside are hers.”

“I didn’t get much of a look,” Stephanie said.

“We’ll go out later,” he said. “Megan’s my artist now, aren’t you, Megan?”

Megan told him they were just stupid caricatures.

“They’re good enough for me,” he said. “Megan does impersonations, too. Do your Shirley Temple. That’s my favourite.”

“They don’t want to hear that,” she said.

“Sure they do.”

“It’s just something I do for fun,” she explained to us.

“You wanna hear her Shirley Temple, Stephanie?” my father asked.

“If Megan wants to.”

“Really, it’s no big deal,” Megan said.

“Of course it’s a big deal,” he said.

“Let’s eat first,” she said.

We ate the casserole and then my father was back on those impressions again. “Go ahead, Megan,” he said. “We’re all family here. Or we will be once sonny boy makes an honest woman out of Stephanie.”

“I’ll clear the dishes first,” Megan said.

“Can I help at all?” Stephanie said.

“I’m fine,” Megan replied.

A few minutes later, Megan came back through the swinging door with this wide-eyed expression. She curtsied with her hands behind her back.

She took the plates out to the kitchen. We heard them clatter in the sink, then water running. A few minutes later, Megan came back through the swinging door with this wide-eyed expression. She curtsied with her hands behind her back.

“I’m so glad to be here today,” she said. “You folks are so awfully nice.”

Then she starts singing in this little-girl’s voice:

On the good ship lolle-e-pop
Its a sweet trip to a candy shop
Where bon-bons play, on the sunny beach of Peppermint Bay.”

“What did I tell you?” my father laughed.

Megan did another little curtsy.

“I’m not very good,” Megan said.

“I think you are,” my father said. “What do you think, Stephanie?”

“Very cute,” Stephanie said.

“I’ll shut up now,” Megan said.

She started to sit down, then suddenly got up again.

“I forgot the pie,” she said. “Does everyone want ice cream?”

“Sure they do,” my father said. “Who doesn’t like ice cream?”

We ate pie and ice cream, then took our coffees to the living room. There were boxes of photos on the rug. Megan sat cross-legged next to them.

“Megan’s kept all our old photos,” my father said to me. “She’s a regular archivist. I think that’s what it’s called. You’d know better than me being a writer and all, right, sonny boy? Megan’s even put dates on the covers.”

“Would you like to see some pictures?” Megan asked.

“Of course they do,” my father said.

Megan opened a box and took out one of the photo albums.

He pointed to a picture of me as a baby. My parents had given me a chocolate pudding moustache.

“Sit next to me, Stephanie,” my father said. “Let’s see what we have of your intended.” He opened the album. “Here you go.” He pointed to a picture of me as a baby. My parents had given me a chocolate pudding moustache.

Then he turned the page.

“Here’s his mother,” he said. “That’s where he gets his looks.”

He kept turning the pages until he got to ones of the cottage.

“That’s our old summer place,” he said. “Built it from scratch. You get that listing I sent you, buster? Three hundred thousand. That’s what they’re asking now. He tell you about that, Stephanie? Took us for a song.”

He winked at her. I put down my coffee cup.

“You tell her what you paid?” he said.

“I paid what you asked,” I said.

“In a pig’s ear.”

“Dad, that wasn’t our cottage in the listing.”

“Of course it was,” my father said. “Seventy thousand, Stephanie. That’s what he paid. Stole it right out from under our noses. It was worth a hundred and fifty if it was worth a penny. What does he do? Sells it again for a potful.”

“I didn’t sell it for a potful,” I said.

“Maybe we should look at some other pictures,” Megan said.

“Seventy thousand,” my father went on. “What’s the world coming to when you can’t trust your own son, eh? Hope he treats you better, Stephanie.” He winked at her again. “Not like his old man, that’s for sure.”

Megan put her hand on my father’s leg.

“What?” he asked.

“Going?” my father said. “You just got here.”

I looked at my watch.

“We should get going,” I said to Stephanie.

“Going?” my father said. “You just got here.”

“Stephanie’s studying for her real estate exams.”

“You haven’t even seen our honeymoon shots yet.”

“We’ll come back another time.”

Stephanie and I stood up.

“It was a wonderful lunch,” she said to Megan.

“Thanks for coming all the way up here,” Megan said.

“We don’t take enough drives,” Stephanie said.

“You’re always welcome, Stephanie,” my father said. “Even if you’re not with knucklehead here.”

They followed us out to the covered walkway.

“Let us know when this wedding of yours is taking place,” my father said. “Don’t leave it too long. I’m not getting any younger, you know.”

We got in the car and backed out of the driveway. My father and Megan stood on the steps, his arm around her waist, her arm around his. They waved.

“It wasn’t so bad,” she said, but we were quiet after that.

On the way home, Stephanie took my hand. We drove past the same fields, the same valleys. They didn’t look so green now.

“It wasn’t so bad,” she said, but we were quiet after that.

That night in bed, before turning off the light, Stephanie asked, “What is a bon-bon exactly?”

“A candy,” I said.

“I’ve never had one.

“You aren’t missing much.”

“Are you going to call and thank them?”

“We thanked them,” I said.

“You always send a note or call.”

“I’ll get a card or something tomorrow.”

“Don’t forget.”

A package arrived a week later. Inside was a photo album with a letter attached:

Son:

Thanks for coming up Saturday. I should have given you this when you were here. I guess my mind’s not what it used to be. Fortunately, Megan’s got all her faculties intact. She’s an angel, that girl. I’m absolutely blessed. Anyway, I thought you and Stephanie would like to keep this album. Something to show your kids — if you’re so inclined. Your old man

A caricature fell out as we turned the pages. It showed my father and Megan standing on a boat. The mast was an ice cream cone. Across the top, it said: Sailing across Peppermint Bay.

On the deck was a baby basket with a big pink bow.

My father wrote something underneath:

Looks like we both lucked out, sonny boy. Stephanie will make a beautiful mother — if Megan doesn’t beat her to the punch!

On the deck was a baby basket with a big pink bow.

“Is he serious?” Stephanie said.

“He’s winding us up.”

“Are you sure?”

“The man’s in his seventies.”

“Well, she’s not.”

“He’d be crazy. I’m sure he’s bluffing.”

But we kept looking at that baby basket with the pink bow and my father waving from the stern. He was grinning from ear to ear, a big caricature grin.

It was like everything had been decided.

Maybe it had. That grin seemed to be getting bigger.

Robert Cormack is a satirist, novelist, and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Skyhorse Press or Simon and Schuster for more details.





Robert Cormack Jul 20, 2020 · #11

#10 Well said, #Ian Weinberg (as always). To a certain extent, we accept it with the masses, but find it particularly disturbing when it's our own family. It's the same believe system (let's all suffer together) but you'd think you'd be safe within the confines of the family unit. We're a weird bunch, and Hunter S. Thompson couldn't have described our present situation better when he said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

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Ian Weinberg Jul 18, 2020 · #10

As a species we're still struggling to evolve. Seems like schadenfreude remains the dominant behavior - deriving joy from others' suffering/misfortune. And if I'm suffering more than them, create a bit more suffering for them so that I'll feel a little better. Additionally if you can apportion a little guilt/blame to them and better still, try and whack their self esteem and purpose for living - that really spices up the mix. Many get their rocks off on this - its become a science. Talking about science, for some reason this damn virus has really got them spewing.

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Robert Cormack Jul 17, 2020 · #9

#8 Yes, #Jerry Fletcher, some families are "a little further 'round the bend." They do make for good copy.

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Jerry Fletcher Jul 17, 2020 · #8

Robert, Families are such fabrics of interwoven weirdness. Yes, we live in the same world as the conspiracy theorists. They are just a little further 'round the bend. And so it goes.

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Ken Boddie Jul 17, 2020 · #7

#4 Ha, ha. I won’t throw stones at yours, if you don’t throw stones at mine. 🤣

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Robert Cormack Jul 17, 2020 · #6

#3 "Pedo swirls," "stories about little girls"? If you're going to comment, idiot, at least read the fucking piece.

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Robert Cormack Jul 17, 2020 · #5

#2 It has its moments #Pascal Derrien. I guess everything becomes family-oriented at some point.

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Robert Cormack Jul 17, 2020 · #4

#1 We do, #Ken Boddie. I guess that's why we have glass houses. Keeps things interesting. Must be the inspiration behind television.

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