Stranger Danger, battery acid in a jar, and the best ruined stew ever.

I met a boy in the trailer park, and we soon became pretty good friends. His name was Andre, and he was from Montreal. He liked playing with G.I. Joe toys, and at this time, I was quite obsessed with an Olympic “Big Jim” toy that I’d received at Christmas. So, we played in the crawl space under his mother’s trailer, and shared time talking about whatever 10 year old boys talk about when the grown ups aren’t around.

I walked to school with Andre often, sometimes with his little sister Josie in tow. Andre and I discussed a recent title bout where Muhammad Ali beat another boxer, whom I think was named Dunn. Anyway, that guy Dunn had definitely been “done” by Ali, and Andre and I laughed about it as Andre mimicked Ali’s winning punch. Andre was also a huge hockey fan – much more so than me. He taught me how to say “He shoots, he scores!” in Quebecois.

One day Andre was hanging out with me at our place, and there was this weird lumberjack drifter guy over with my Dad. He was just like some kind of a small town stereotype, wearing a two day growth of stubble, a tuque, a work shirt and dirty jeans and boots. He literally looked as if he’d just blown into town from out in the bush somewhere. I was suspicious of him, and wondered how the hell he ended up at my place with my Dad.

The weird lumberjack guy carried this jar with him containing a mysterious-looking dark liquid. I suppose it could have been coffee or God knows what else. Dad commented on the jar sarcastically, sniping “What the hell’s that? Battery acid?”, which caused Andre and me to fall to the carpet in uncontrollable convulsions of laughter.

Some months later, I was quite depressed after Andre and his mother and sister moved away. I think they went back to Quebec. I remember talking to the school librarian about how sad I was. Our librarian was a very nice and gentle gay man name Mr. Frazier. In his voice and demeanor, he was a lot like our own version of Mr. Rogers.

I remember sitting at a table in the library with Mr. Frazier. He asked me what was wrong, and I said that my friend Andre had died. His face opened into such a compassionate, worried expression, that I suddenly realized my mistake. “Oh no! I mean he moved away!” I don’t know why I’d said that, but it was some kind of Freudian slip, showing how bad I felt about losing Andre.

I had assumed that the lumberjack guy was a creep but basically harmless, but I was very wrong about him.

Not many days after Dad’s “battery acid” comment, the Lumberjerk was back at our place. My little sister Kim and I were sitting on the bed in my bedroom, basically keeping to ourselves (and mostly avoiding the adults drinking in the front room) when the Lumberjack loser came into the bedroom. He sat on the bed and made some lame chitchat or something, and then with a nervous look on his face, asked if he could feel up my sister for two dollars. I yelled “You’re crazy!” and he ran out.

Where the hell were my Mum and Dad at this time? Probably passed out. I have no idea how we ended up in such close proximity to a creepy predator like that.

Another time, maybe not long after, Kim and I were sitting in the bedroom again talking, when she noticed someone outside the open window. I guess I was facing away from the window, because I don’t remember seeing anything. The guy outside the window placed a certain part of his anatomy right on our open windowsill. Kim ran outside to tell Dad that a man had put his “thingie” inside our window. Dad cursed, grabbed the first weapon he could find – a hammer – and ran outside at full speed, but the pervert was long gone. I’m willing to bet it was that same drifter Lumberjack, since we never saw that guy again.

Lucien, the Motel Handyman. This sketch does not do justice to his toothless smile, or incredible leatheryness. He was a tough but sweet little man, like a French-Canadian version of Popeye.

Another character from the Mountain View Motel was an old French-Canadian guy named Lucien. I think we was like the resident handyman or something. He was a good-natured little man, well into his retirement years, bald, and with skin that was a bit like old leather. He wore horn-rimmed glasses, and in particular, I remember the fact that he had no teeth at all and probably the worst breath of any living creature I had ever encountered up to that point. Having said all that, he wasn’t a bad old guy, and although his stinky loud, toothless mouth scared me, he was always sweet and funny with me and Kim, and tended to laugh or sing fairly spontaneously. My Mum and Dad seemed to enjoy his company.

One night, Lucien was over drinking a bit with my parents. Mum and Dad had made a huge pot of beef stew, which was simmering away on the front burner of our gas stove. In fact, it had started to smell pretty good as it cooked over the course of the late afternoon and into the dinner hour. Perhaps Lucien took a little taste and proclaimed it bland, but something prompted Kim and I to start “seasoning” the stew ourselves. We progressively added more and more of anything we could find: salt, pepper, and then tons of mustard powder. I’m sure we practically ruined that stew.

Lucien was our guinea pig. He took a taste and said it was wonderful, making a big gesture with his hands, which amused me. (I think old Lucien must have had no taste buds left.) Anyway, we didn’t get in trouble, in fact, Mum and Dad were laughing and didn’t seem to mind our act of stew sabotage.


One thought on “Stranger Danger, battery acid in a jar, and the best ruined stew ever.”

  1. Yes, it’s something I recall very clearly. The creepy lumber jack, the perv in the window, ( or innapropriate parts of him). The smell of the stew will never leave. That particular time seems to stick in my memory like yesterday. Bitter sweet memories.

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The memoir and family history of E. John Love