Manassas, Va., the old housing code defined
family as any group of people defined
by blood or marriage. In December 2005 a new
definition limited family to immediate relatives
of homeowners. Parents, children and siblings
were family; uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews
were not. This definition was repealed in January
wouldnt have come up if the window blinds
hadnt been broken. Thats why the
neighbors complained. Carson was compelled as
zoning commissioner to drive over to the
Gibson, he said, How many people are
domiciled in this house?
The sounds of
shrieking children came from inside. Someone
played an amplified guitar in the kitchen, and
four men dealt cards at the dining table.
you mean, people? she asked.
This is our family.
Article II of the town code, he recited,
youre only allowed two or more
persons related to the second degree of
collateral consanguinity or otherwise duly
authorized custodial relationship, as verified by
official public records, living together as a
single housekeeping unit, exclusive of not more
than one additional non-related person. He
took a deep breath.
means you can have yourself, a spouse and your
Nobody authorized my dad to be my dad. My brother-in-law
Als family are here just till he finds work.
there you are. Theyre unauthorized.
uncles here because he has phlebitis and my
nephew takes him to the doctor. The kids just
happened. Its called biology.
conceded, Your children are all right.
five came out all right, but I dont know
about Al and Joanies four.
rose to his full height. You have a three-bedroom
house. How many people should live here? Twelve?
Fourteen? This rhetorical question passed
over Mrs. Gibsons head.
extended family. Didnt your grandparents
come from somewhere, like those islands in Europe?
she asked. You think theres only
five children and your sister-in-law has four.
He squinted. Arent you rather
No, we just lie there.
isnt normal! There are rules about
how many people can live in a domicile. We must
have rules, else why do we have a zoning
commission? The whole thing could come unglued
and then where would I be?
its gotten out of hand.
agree there are too many people to call this a
Jason arrived I said it might be too much.
Quietly, she continued,
Have a relationship. My husband has a
prostate condition, so we agreed Jason could come
and see me.
isnt family! Carson exploded.
in a manner of speaking, I was wife to him and
George, so it was natural to put his bedroll on
Carson put a
hand over his eyes. Mrs. Gibson, Im
leaving, but please fix your window blindsand
keep them closed! He turned, And
dont talk to your neighbors!