Reginald Tanner stomped to the top of the stairs, clutching a wet bath towel about his ample middle.
“Melissa?” he called. His wife didn’t respond.
The bitter-apple taste of his brand-new body wash prickled his tongue and he could feel a thin rivulet of suds easing over his left brow. No doubt the stuff would burn like hell once it found his eye. He tried again.
“Melissa? The bathroom lights are out and the water’s off. Did you forget to pay the utility bills?”
“Come on down, Reggie,” Melissa said.
“I’ve got soap all over me. I need to finish my shower.”
“You need to get dressed and get down here.” That was her ‘we have a situation’ voice.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” she replied. “But there’s a man at the door who says he can explain everything.”
His glasses were still in the bathroom. The scene below was just a wash of colors, but Reggie could see that there was someone standing at the door with Melissa; someone wearing a scarlet jacket. It looked like a uniform.
Reggie retreated along the hall in search of something more substantial than a towel.
It was a uniform. Red Serge, the formal attire of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Reggie had pulled on rumpled jeans and an old, gray Stones tee-shirt.
“Morning, Mr. Tanner,” the fellow in the uniform said. “I’m Sergeant Kent McKenzie.”
“You’re a Mountie,” Reggie stammered.
McKenzie stood at parade rest, his hands clasped behind his back. He filled the open doorway, with his broad shoulders and his big hat, and the crease on his midnight-blue jodhpurs looked sharp enough to cut paper. Reggie felt wadded up and tossed away. Nothing more than dryer lint.
“I mean, you’re Canadian,” he said.
“Yes, sir. So are you.”
Outside, an air horn sounded. It was the sort favored by truckers. The house swayed, as if pushed by a heavy wind, swayed again and settled. The heady scent of exhausted diesel fuel wafted through the open door.
“What’s going on out there?” Melissa asked.
Reggie could feel her warm breath on the back of his neck. He tried to push his way past McKenzie to get a look outside, but the sergeant blocked the door. There had to be as much starch in the fellow’s spine as in his collar.
“Everything is under control, sir,” McKenzie said. “Part of the process.”
“Why did you just say I was Canadian?”
“You’re one of the lost Canadians.”
“I’m not lost. I was born in the United States. Right here in Seattle.”
“We won’t be in Seattle much longer, sir. I’ve taken the liberty of having your house jacked onto a flat-bed trailer. We’re northbound on Interstate Five just now and we should be in Vancouver by noon. There’s a parcel of land waiting for you. Fantastic view of the mountains.”
Reggie pushed himself up onto his toes, trying for a peek over McKenzie’s shoulder. No luck; the fellow was just too damned tall.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” he muttered.
“I wouldn’t kid you, sir,” McKenzie said, shaking his head. “Officers of the R.C.M.P. are not allowed a sense of humor.”
He paused, offering Reggie an opportunity for rejoinder, and then plowed ahead.
“Your parents moved down here — ”
He pulled a small notebook from his tunic, flipped through its pages until he found what he wanted.
“ — forty-two years ago, just before you were born, and they forgot to register you as a Canadian citizen.”
“They didn’t forget. They’re still here. American citizens now. I’m an American citizen.”
“That’s not how Canada views the situation. It’s all been an oversight that the new amendment to the Citizenship Act has corrected, as of this past April seventeenth.”
“I don’t want to be Canadian.”
“Of course you do. Canadian citizenship is precious. It’s respected all over the world.”
“No insult intended, Sergeant, but you can’t just show up and house-nap people, move them over an international border on a semi-trailer. What about my job? What about my wife and kids?”
“Spouses and children are covered by the amendment. They’re Canadian citizens now, too.”
Melissa gasped. Something of size thumped onto the floor. From the sound of it, Reggie was certain that Melissa had fainted; she had never been very good with sudden change. But he was just as certain that McKenzie would consider it a sign of weakness if Reggie broke eye contact to check on her.
“We have a new job lined up for you, Mr. Tanner,” McKenzie said. “Canada needs workers with your particular skill set.”
“Look here, Sergeant. My family and I don’t want to move to Canada, regardless of what sort of job is waiting for me.”
McKenzie took a step forward. They were just inches apart now. Reggie caught a whiff of aftershave. Brut.
“There are other benefits. Lower housing costs. Lower crime rate. A dependable rail system and great beer.”
“All that sounds wonderful, but — ”
“Comprehensive medical coverage for all citizens.”
“Yes, but — ”
“Then there’s the repatriation stipend.”
“No! It’s not about — ” Reggie stopped and studied McKenzie for a moment.
“Yes, sir.” For the first time since he appeared at the door, McKenzie looked a bit abashed. “It’s not very well publicized.”
“What does that involve?”
McKenzie glanced about and then stepped even closer. He whispered for a moment, as he touched Reggie’s collar.
“How much?” Reggie stammered.
McKenzie whispered again. When he stepped back into the doorway, he snapped to attention.
“Well, sir,” he asked. “What do you say?”
Reggie reached to his collar and fingered the enameled bit of red and gold pinned there. A maple leaf.
“I say that after forty-two years stranded in this God-forsaken country, it’s a-boot time my homeland came to the rescue, eh?”
“Yes, sir.” McKenzie nodded. “I couldn’t have said that any better.”
K.C. Ball is a retired newspaper reporter and media relations coordinator. She lives in Seattle. In addition to Every Day Fiction, her flash fiction has appeared in various online and print publications, including Flash Fiction Online, Boston Literary Magazine and Murky Depths. Her flash fiction, “Hair of the Dog”, was included in The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008 and her short fiction, “Coward’s Steel”, won third place in the 1st Quarter 2009 Writers of the Future competition. K.C. blogs about writing at A Moving Line.