if you kill one, fifty more come to his funeral

if you kill one, fifty more come to his funeral // movita beaucoup

Six months after Derek’s mother passed away, we stood in the yard looking up at her house. The fog had come in fast and the smell of salt water was heavy on the air. Blackflies swarmed around my head, jamming themselves into every available opening — my ears, nose, and mouth, a few down my top — inching me ever closer to insect-induced hysteria.

“I think we should live here,” Derek said.

“Why wouldn’t we?” I asked as I began sprinting in zig-zag formation. “I mean, you hardly notice the bugs once you get your speed up!”

Nature is a bit much if you ask me, but Derek was grieving so I felt the need to fake some outdoor enthusiasm.

Derek’s father, Gary, passed away in 2008 before I had the chance to meet him. We had only been dating a few weeks when Derek called to tell me his father had died. A day after getting the news he gave me the keys to his apartment so I could look after his cat, Ebony, while he went home for the funeral. Sitting next to me in his car he said, “I was really hoping my father would get to meet you, but I guess that can’t happen now.” Then he added, “If Ebony runs full force at the patio window stay out of her way. She’s trying to kill her reflection.”

Eight years later we found ourselves driving to the funeral home to make arrangements for Jackie. Derek stared straight ahead at the highway and said, “I guess I’m an orphan now.” 

I suddenly felt guilty for still having both of my parents, which is why I suggested that he might like to take them off my hands. 

Both sides of Derek’s family come from Queens County here in Nova Scotia. Highway 3 connects their homes like thread on a quilt. Jackie and Gary’s house is part of what is essentially a family compound, located close to Summerville Beach. A set of four family homes perched on a hill overlooking the sea, steeped in the traditions of fishing and a bunch of other stuff I know nothing about.

Jackie’s house was built by Derek’s great-grandparents. It shares a driveway with the home that his grandparents, Helen and Wink, built next door. Wink was a lobster fisherman and carpenter. If you continue up the hill you’ll find Derek’s uncle, also a lobster fisherman. At the bottom of the hill sits Great-Aunt Ruth’s house (Wink’s sister). In a six month period, three of the four houses would lose their matriarchs; first Ruth, then Jackie, and finally Helen. 

When Jackie died, Derek felt strongly about keeping her house. His sister, Kim, lives just up the road in Hunts Point with her husband and daughter. He figured it would be a great opportunity to keep the homestead in the family and move closer to an ever-shrinking pool of relatives. We’d tackle some repairs and make the house ours, enjoying weekends by the sea during renovations. 

This might be a good time to mention that home restoration makes me very uneasy. There’s the expense, of course, but more pressing is the long list of home-related disaster scenarios I store in my brain. Jackie’s house must be about 150 years old. What did they even know about building things back then? Sure, vintage homes are charming, but they are riddled with safety issues: sagging floors, corroded pipes, faulty wiring. You don’t hear a lot of people talking about how many ghosts are typically released during a large scale renovation, but you can bet it’s happening.

Derek is forever saying “A house needs people.” Because we both work in the city, we continued to live in Halifax while Jackie’s house sat empty. Two years of vacancy took their toll; the renovation list grew, becoming more extensive and expensive. Mice made themselves at home, spiders decorated the windows, and for a short time a raccoon tried to live its best life in the chimney. Now the house is hollow and musty, and when I think of it I miss Jackie so much that my throat gets tight and my eyes start to burn. It makes me miss Gary even though I didn’t ever meet him.

if you kill one, fifty more come to his funeral // movita beaucoup

One evening as I stood in our Halifax kitchen I heard Derek telling a colleague on the phone that we would be tearing Jackie’s house down and rebuilding. “In the next year or so,” I heard him say.

It was the first I’d heard of this plan. This happens all the time with Derek — I’m guessing that he thinks his thoughts and then assumes I’ll use my skills as a mental telepathist to stay caught up. To be honest, I wasn’t insulted that he was telling someone else about his plans before me. I was insulted because he was telling someone who wears a shark-tooth necklace before me.

When he hung up the phone I waited for twenty minutes, assuming he would discuss his announcement with me, but when he didn’t I asked, “Are we tearing your mother’s house down?”

“Looks like it.”

“Maybe we should sit down and make some plans. Think about what we want to do?”

“I have thought about it,” he said. “I’m moving there. With or without you.”

Derek is not the sort of person to give ultimatums or get ugly with me. Sure, he’ll say he ate an entire bag of Doritos without saving any for me, but he’s almost always lying. He doesn’t remember threatening to move without the light of his life, but I have a very good memory and I’m happy to remind him of it whenever I can. 

“With or without me,” I’ll laugh. “I mean, who would buy your underpants, honey?”

Derek’s defiance was a call to arms, an invitation I should have declined but didn’t.

“Well, it would be nice to be asked,” I hissed, throwing my hands onto my hips. “Not simply told that I am going to be moving my entire life to the middle of nowhere. They don’t even have a liquor store there!” 

For someone who only drinks three glasses of wine a year, this was an interesting stand to take. And that’s when I realized, unfortunately, that I like Derek far more than anything else. That somehow an hour without him can be a misery, while an entire day with him glued to my side is never too long.

A few months later, we found ourselves back in Jackie’s yard looking up at the house. “Think you could get used to the bugs?” Derek kicked the grass, sending a thousand more pests up into the air. 

“I’ll go wherever you go,” I said. “I just want to be where you are.”

He nodded. 

“Hey,” I asked, “how much do you think a full-body mosquito suit would cost?”

Derek turned and walked toward the car as I swatted wildly at a blackfly cloud.

“If you kill one, fifty more come to his funeral,” he shouted over his shoulder.

“What the hell kind of backwoods talk is that?” I hollered.

Derek grinned at me through the driver’s side window as he locked me out of the car.

13 Comments

  1. Liz on May 30, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    I’d be bookmarking all the sites that sell mosquito suits!

    • movita beaucoup on May 31, 2019 at 8:19 am

      I think I’ll put it on my Christmas list…

  2. Eva on May 30, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    I could read you forever …

    • movita beaucoup on May 31, 2019 at 8:18 am

      Thanks, Eva. 🧡

  3. Anna Fiander on May 30, 2019 at 10:00 pm

    Gram and Gramp’s house was built by his father (Richard) around 1850. The family had a previous house which was located where the 103 now runs. The first house was built there because that was the original stage coach route from Halifax to Yarmouth. The family built and moved to the present house when the village of Summerville (originally called Flat Rocks) was started because people got interested in fishing and wanted to be close to the ocean. Lots of history in that house and the property, from the white horse buried in the pasture to the two babies buried next to him. Ghosts? I guess you are right about that.
    Anna —you know which one. Love your stories about you and Derek, both of you are sweet and dear, as well as oddly funny!

    • movita beaucoup on May 31, 2019 at 8:18 am

      Uh, I’m gunna need to hear more about this horse and the wee ones. A LOT MORE, ANNA. So glad we’re going to be neighbours… 💙

  4. Andrew eisan on May 31, 2019 at 9:30 am

    You know, you can. Ring a bit of the city with you. They have these stand up propane powered big repellants you can buy…. just sayin

    • Andrew on May 31, 2019 at 9:32 am

      Sorry, sigh, should read…bring a bit of the city with you…. and bug repellants ….

      • movita beaucoup on June 1, 2019 at 9:34 am

        I have also learned that standing on the beach there are basically no bugs. Given its proximity to the property I could just sleep there and Derek could bring me coffee in the mornings.

  5. Karen on June 1, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    Don’t sell your parents!

    • movita beaucoup on June 10, 2019 at 7:56 pm

      😂

  6. Lan | MoreStomach Blog on June 2, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    i’d like to visit. but only after the house has been rebuilt and you’ve figured out the best mosquito suit. and when it’s summertime.

    yes. i am inviting myself.

    kthxbye.

    • movita beaucoup on June 10, 2019 at 7:56 pm

      ON IT.

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