People Ruin Everything
originally published in New Pop Lit
The summer people choked the road, filled up the taverns, trashed the beachfront, and parked everywhere and anywhere, even in places they shouldn’t. Moss’s father was on the city council and had tried, unsuccessfully, to find funding to build a lot so driveways wouldn’t get blocked. The idea of a new parking lot was great, and some other council members, Susan Elliot in particular, thought the price was doable, given that her brother-in-law owned a paving company just over in Shelton, but then Joe Haskel and Fran McNamara raised an excellent point: what would it be used for in the off-season? A new parking lot that sat vacant for eight or nine months out of the year was a silly idea. Moss’s father had had open-heart surgery the summer before, and this was his last year on the council in any case, so he didn’t push the point.
The house Moss shared with Angeline perched on a steep slope. The only place to park was in a small pull-out off the state highway at the base of a long set of stairs. Getting up those stairs in the daylight was hard enough. At night, in the dark after a few beers, it was treacherous. Angeline always cut herself off in time so she could let Moss go first, and guide him if he wobbled or started giggling. Moss wanted to secure another way to get into the place from above, which would require annexing part of the neighbor’s property. The neighbors were city people whose primary residence was in Seattle. They didn’t come over to the Hood Canal very often, so Moss and Angeline left their car in their driveway. Once, the neighbor’s son showed up from out-of-state and wasn’t happy about finding Moss’s beat-up Jeep in the way. Angeline invited him in for coffee and gave him a freshly baked blueberry muffin. Afterward, Moss moved their car, and the incident was forgotten. When the son left, they re-occupied the driveway. At Angeline’s suggestion, Moss worked out a system with the neighbors where they would text ahead to say they were planning to come and stay. When that happened, Moss put their car in the pull-out down below. They hadn’t visited since the pandemic started. Maybe something awful had happened to them because a realtor put up a For Sale sign a few weeks after Christmas. No one came to look at the house, and Angeline and Moss hoped it would sit a long time before being bought.
Even so, to prepare for that inevitable day, Angeline made a sign to ask people not to park in their cramped little pull-out. When the first, which said, “No Parking,” was ignored, she tried, “No Parking—We Mean It,” to which she later added the words, “And We’re Mean People.” Moss didn’t think that was appropriate. It sounded too threatening. There was no reason to be harsh. She told him she’d take it down, and didn’t. That was months ago.
One evening, as the early summer twilight filtered down through the branches of four big-leaf maples surrounding their backyard deck, they reflected on the toll the pandemic had taken not only on their wallets but on their souls. Before it hit, Moss and Angeline both waited tables at Glory Bee’s. Then the governor ordered restaurants to close, except for take-out, and no one seemed to want to get omelets and hash browns to go. The Mexican place in town did great, so did the Chinese place, and all the burger joints, too. Angeline said it was hard to keep an omelet warm in those Styrofoam boxes, and cold eggs were just the pits. Angeline’s parents back in Ohio were willing to finance her adventure living in the wilds of Western Washington a little longer since college hadn’t worked out. The understanding was the minute jobs were to be had, she’d land one. If not, she had to come back home. Moss pointed out she was twenty-two, an age of independence. Angeline agreed. Her father just liked to talk tough. Her mother was softer, and Angeline would work on her if she had to, when the time came. As for Moss, he was handy enough with cars to get a job at Moe’s Garage doing oil changes, so his income kept trickling in. The house had been in his family for decades, and now belonged to an elderly aunt, so there was no rent to pay, only utilities. It was a good deal.