Welcome to the North Country

By on Feb 17, 2013 in Fiction, Humor

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Man shoveling in trailer park

After completing graduate school, my wife, Mikayla, and I, and Maryanne, our 2-year-old daughter, headed for a small town in the North Country where I started my teaching career. We rented a 12 x 60-foot mobile home, and our life in the North Country began.

On the third morning, we were visited by the trailer park manager, Mr. Miller.

“How do, folks? I come by t’ give y’ this list o’ park rules and tell y’ ’bout th’ roof and th’ heat tape.” He gave us a sheet of paper. “Them are th’ park rules. Y’ got t’ keep y’ yard mowed. Y’ yard is th’ land between your home and the next one.”

“I have to get a lawn mower?” I whined.

“Nope. Y’ can ask Ralph next door t’ mow y’ lawn. He’s m’ nephew. Good boy. Does good work. Don’t charge much.”

“It says here that trash has to be deposited between 5 and 6 a.m. every Saturday morning in the Dumpster that’s at the entrance to the park. Trash must not be put in Dumpster any time before Saturday morning? Mr. Miller, why not before Saturday morning?”

“Bears come out lookin’ f’ food at night. They know how t’ get int’ th’ Dumpster.”

“Bears?” Mikayla asked nervously.

“Yup, bears. I wouldn’t go walkin’ ’round at night, if I was you. If y’ do, I’d get a shot gun t’ keep with y’. Anyway, y’ can hire Ralphy t’ take y’ trash t’ th’ Dumpster. He’s m’ nephew. Good boy. Does good work. Don’t charge much. If y’ want Ralphy t’ take y’ trash t’ th’ Dumpster, y’ gotta get a bear-proof trash can t’ leave in front o’ y’ home. You’ll be okay as long as y’ don’t leave food outside and y’ don’t try t’ play with ‘em. They look cuddly, but they like t’ eat people.”

“Oh,” I whined. “Now, what about the roof?”

“Y’ gotta keep snow off y’ roof. When snow on your roof melts, th’ water will get int’ th’ seams ‘n’ drip down int’ y’ home, so y’ have t’ put on a sealer. Y’ put it on with a squeegee-type tool. Y’ c’n ask Ralphy next door. He’s…”

“I know. He’s your nephew. Good boy. Does good work. Doesn’t charge much,” I said.

“Yup. Finally, y’ got t’ know about th’ heat tape. Follow me.”

At the back was an electrical outlet into which was plugged an electrical cord which went under the mobile home. A plastic bubble, in which there was a small bulb, was at the plug-end of the cord.

“That tape is wrapped around th’ water pipe that comes up from th’ well. As long as th’ light is on, th’ tape is workin’. If th’ bulb is out, that means th’ heat tape ain’t keepin’ th’ water pipe warm, which means the water in the pipe will freeze, which means y’ got trouble. If y’ need a new heat tape, y’ …”

“Call Ralphy next door?”

“Nope. Ralph don’t do heat tapes. It’s a nasty job. Y’ come t’ my office and get a few extra heat tapes just in case. Now, don’t f’ get, y’ don’t want t’ let th’ snow pile up on y’ roof. Just get up there and shovel it off, or y’ c’n call Ralphy next door. He’s my nephew. Good boy. Does good work. Don’t charge much. One last thing. Did y’ notice that th’ home is on cinder blocks?”

“Yup,” I replied.

“And y’ can see space between the ground and th’ edge of your home?”

“Yup,” I replied.

“Well, y’ gotta put up a skirt, around y’ home. That’s one o’ th’ rules. Y’ go to a lumber yard. They’ll tell y’ what y’ need t’ build a skirt. When y’ build the skirt, build a door by th’ heat tape, so it’ll be easy t’ get underneath if y’ have t’ crawl under t’ replace a burned-out heat tape in the winter. If y’ want, Ralphy will build the skirt for y. One last thing. Where you folks come from, the cold is different than it is here. When y’ go out in th’ morning, y’ll think it ain’t cold. If y’ go out thinkin’ it ain’t cold and y’ don’t wear y’ jacket, y’ll turn blue b’fore y’ c’n say Jack Rabbit. That’s all, folks,” he said and walked away.

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While in the Army, Saul Greenblatt was trained to be a Russian language interpreter. At the time (1962), the United States was not at war with the Soviet Union, so he worked as a lecturer and performer, all of which influenced his future endeavors. After he was discharged, he studied at Emerson College in Boston, and, after graduating with a master's degree, he and his wife and first child moved to a small town in New York, where he began his teaching career. After three years, he moved with his wife and two children to teach at community college in Massachusetts, where he taught communication skills courses and English. During his time in Massachusetts, he performed in community theater productions and tasted joy, agony, and defeat when he attempted the task of producing his ten-minute plays for community television. He asserted that he pitied producers. Twenty years prior to retiring from teaching, he began writing, and over the years, wrote stories and stage plays, one of which won a Smith College playwriting contest. He also wrote sitcoms, one of which was a finalist in a national contest. Since retiring, he has been writing short stories, novellas, and novels. His stories have been published online by Xica Love Stories and Flash-Fiction-World, and will be published in two anthologies. Writing has kept his 75-year-old mind working well, and he hopes to be writing when he is 100.