When in Carbondale, we stay at my brother-in-law’s parents’ home, the Bradleys.
Jason Bradley is Tina’s brother’s boyfriend, but he may as well be Michael’s husband, because they’ve been together 15 years.
Jason’s dad is a retired psychology professor, and he is eccentric in many ways. Suffice it to say, he’s particular about a lot of things.
In the past, he will ask me to do little chores around the house, which is completely fine. For example, he asked me to sweep the dinning room after dinner a few times. Once he asked me to vacuum the upstairs floor. He identifies different chores to each of us while we are there. And it’s our job to follow through.
While there this time, I was given a few tasks straight away. I moved chairs out to the poolside for everyone to sit in. I swept around the pool. These were things Jason’s dad asked me. It was all pretty easy.
The first morning we were there, Michael — who picked up smoking again after he quit for a few years — came out to the pool and said, “I’m going to have a cigarette, and then clean the pool.” I looked at the pool and there were a few leaves in the bottom, but otherwise it was clean.
I said, “I’ll do it. I’m already swimming in it.”
So I grabbed the skimmer, and started plucking out leaves.
I sank back into the pool when I was finished, and proudly looked over the clean pool which I conquered.
I beat my chest, and roared like a lion.
Later that day, I was in the pool with Tina and I heard a voice calling down to the pool from a nearby deck above us. From certain places in the pool, you couldn’t see who was up there. The deck overlooks the pool from the main floor of the house.
It was Jason’s dad. He said, “Is Michael down there?”
“No,” I said.
“I was going to tell him how great the pool looked. I’ll have to tell him later.”
“I don’t mean to laugh, Mr. Bradley,” I said. “But I cleaned the pool. Had I known you asked him to do it, I wouldn’t have.”
Mr. Bradley thanked me. But I could tell he was stewing over Michael not completing the task.
Mr. Bradley is particular.
Another example is Tina had placed a wet towel over Talulah’s crate in our bedroom. She did it, because it would help it dry and because Talulah likes it dark when she sleeps. That’s what we tell each other anyway.
Soon after, Mr. Bradley walked up to me, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “Would you remove that wet towel from Talulah’s crate and hang it outside?”
“Sure,” I said.
“We don’t hang wet towels inside during this humidity. They will never dry.”
You had me at, “Take the towel outside, Mr. B.”
Besides, what was he doing going into our bedroom while we weren’t in it? Weren’t the doors shut? He is a nosey mother fucker. What if Tina were in there naked?
These are minor examples, but over the course of the weekend, the stories build up to become a collection of “All the things Mr. Bradley asks you to do.”
Just before we left for home on Saturday, we were gathering our bags. Each of us packs a grocery bag of snacks to munch in the car. Tina was gathering our groceries. She placed our grocery bag from the floor onto the counter to make it easier to reach.
“Tina, would you please put that filthy bag back on the floor,” Mr. Bradley asked. “It was just on the floor, and we don’t put dirty things on our counter tops.”
Tina didn’t hear Mr. Bradley at first. And after repeating himself a few times, he finally told us a story that Mrs. Bradley read an article about how women’s purses are loaded with bacteria, because they go to public bathrooms, put their purses on the floor while they do their business, and then go home and put those dirty purses on their countertops or tables.
Tina said, “Mr. Bradley, I’m not in the habit of putting grocery bags on the floors of public bathrooms.”
Mr. Bradley didn’t.
In the meantime, Jason picked up a bag off the floor and put it in the exact spot that Tina had put her bag. And Mr. Bradley didn’t say a damn thing.
Apparently the rules only apply to the strangers.