I arrived at the entrance to the trailer park and checked the address Dad had given me over the phone. This was it – 555 Clayton Road. The numbers were printed on a shiny black plaque, much like what you’d see on a headstone in a cemetery. The plaque was attached to one of two granite pillars, each holding a long black wrought iron gate that looked like they had been opened remotely, allowing the driver to proceed. But these gates were fixed open—purely for show, not function. Inching down the paved lane, I passed mobile homes with tidy little driveways, each with two cars parked neatly side by side. All of the homes displayed a patch of green grass in front, some brandishing brightly coloured gnomes or other garden ornaments. Checking the address on the seat beside me, I saw that Dad was in #4. I looked to my right and sure enough, there was #4 with Dad’s perfectly clean blue Ford Galaxy and Rose’s spotless red Ford Escort parked in front. I pulled in just behind them and got out. Dad was waiting by the open door and yelled over his shoulder to Rose, announcing my arrival.
‘So these are the new digs’, I said, glancing around as Dad took my jacket and hung it in the closet with the bi-fold doors in the small foyer.
‘Yeah, we’re pretty much moved in now. Just a few minor touches left to do. Rose! Where the hell are ya?’
Rose came mincing down the hall, looking flushed and freshly powdered, fluffing her short gray hair. She pecked me lightly on the cheek. I could smell her lipstick, knew she’d left a red kiss on my face, and discreetly thumbed it off.
‘How are you, dear?’ she said. ‘Lovely to see you and so nice of you to come all this way’.
‘I know … it’s been a while, hasn’t it. How long have you two been here now?’
‘Six months on Saturday, dear. But never mind. Your father has all the small things taken care of now. It’s pretty much all done. Come and sit down and have a cup of tea. I just made a fresh pot. And I’ve got some nice ginger cookies I bought at Safeway today’.
She disappeared into the kitchen just off the hallway and Dad gestured for me to sit down on the sofa. He was a shy man, and I could see he was struggling to think of something to say while Rose busied herself with the tea. With some effort, he lowered his ample girth into an overstuffed chair.
‘So how are things at the university’, he said. ‘Busy, are ya?’
‘Always busy, Dad’. I knew that was the answer he was looking for. No slackers in his family. Toil and make money – that was the goal. He’d worked all his life at the mill and was proud of what he’d accomplished.
After Mum died, he sold our old house in the ’burbs and was living in an apartment when he met Rose at a Kiwanis bingo game. Rose, a single woman all her life, lived in an apartment complex too, so Dad moved into hers. They had been married for six years now and seemed to bring out the best in each other. But Rose wanted something more than an apartment. Not a whole house with a big garden, just something small and manageable where she could grow a patch of flowers. They had no luck finding anything close to what she wanted, so Rose came up with the idea of buying a mobile home after seeing an advertisement in the newspaper.
She came back from the kitchen with a tray full of tea paraphernalia and started pouring from the china teapot and offering us cookies from the box.
‘So you were the one who found the trailer, Rose?’ I asked, taking a cookie.
‘Mobile home, dear’, she corrected. ‘Yes, I did. I’d had no luck at all finding a house small enough, and a mobile home seemed like the answer. We started looking right away, and when I saw in the newspaper that they were developing this mobile home park on the river, I said to your father we should go and have a look. There was a display unit all set up and we were both taken with it right away, weren’t we, Ted?’
‘Yep. Rose loved the place and they really had done a hell of a job on the display home. She took one look and said if they could give her exactly that, we’d take it’.
Rose looked at me and said, ‘Finish your tea, dear, and I’ll take you on a tour’.
I wiped the crumbs off my mouth with the paper napkin Rose had added to the tea tray and stood up. ‘I’m all yours’.
Given we were in the living room, Rose started by pointing out the sofa and chair, nubbly-tufted in a pinky beige that perfectly matched the carpet and the curtains. There were two small faux wood tables holding a white-shaded lamp on each, and in front of the sofa stood a matching table that held the tea tray. No ornaments or framed photos graced any of the shiny surfaces. Against the wall loomed an armoire made of the same stuff as the tables, home to the TV and stereo. Next to the sofa I noticed a large woven basket piled high with balls of coloured wool; an orange ball placed on top had a pair of knitting needles stuck through with a small knitted sampler.
‘Have you taken up knitting, Rose?’
‘Oh heavens no, dear. I told the salesman in the display home that I wanted things exactly the same – everything the same. That basket of wool was part of the display, just as you see it now. Pretty, isn’t it?’ I agreed it was lovely.
We proceeded into the kitchen off the hall. The counter was spotless and uncluttered – not even a toaster or ersatz potted ivy in sight. On the table near the window sat a pair of tiny salt and pepper hakers in the shape of two white poodles. There was a shiny chrome kettle on the stove and hanging behind on the wall was a papier mâché rope of garlic.
‘That’s a nice touch, Rose. Did you make that?’
She answered somewhat impatiently, ‘Honestly dear, no. That was in the display home too’.
As I followed my tour guide down the cream-carpeted hall, she introduced the bathroom on the left. Peeking in, I saw pale apricot-coloured walls, two towels in chocolate brown hanging on a chrome towel rack, and a fluffy chocolate mat lying in front of a gleaming white bathtub. On the wall next to the mirror over the sink hung two framed pictures of Little Bo Peep with her sheep. And in front of the mirror, reflecting back on itself, stood a large glass vase filled with imitation hydrangeas and stems of dried poppy seed heads.
I pointed at it and said, ‘Like the display home?’
‘That’s right, dear. Just so’. I was starting to get the hang of it.
Leaving the bathroom, we finally reached the master bedroom at the end of the hall. A king-sized bed covered with a brown and white print bedspread in a swirly design resembling a cinnamon bun dominated the room. Oversized pillows with the same material were plumped up against a beige, plush buttoned headboard. On either side of the bed stood a small night table holding a brown lamp with a cream-coloured shade. My eyes passed over everything else and came to rest on a red book, lying open and face down under the lamp. Printed across the cover in gold letters read: Pride and Prejudice.
‘Rose, that’s an amazing coincidence! I’m in the middle of reading Pride and Prejudice!’
‘Oh no, dear’, she said. ‘I’m not reading it. That’s just the way they had it in the display home. Lying there, turned over … exactly like that’.