I was standing on my driveway, painting a screen door we'd recently purchased, when I overheard the commment, "She looks skinny enough."
Now, I had no idea what to make of this when I glanced way from my Sunday afternoon project and spotted the neighbor's house sitter tentatively creeping down my long driveway. My first thought was that I hadn't considered myself skinny for a good fifteen years, so I was rather nice to hear. Then I realized it was kind of all a matter of persepective. She was far less "skinny". The woman still standing in the neighbor's driveway across the street was of the same build.
Our lovely neighbors, you know the sort, the ones that leave their trash can at the roadside for half a week, their Christmas wreath up on their front door for years on end, and who only mow when the weeds are done flowering in the front yard...uh huh, those ones, well, they had been gone all week. I was rather enjoying this fact, except that the garbage can had been out all week and there was no hope that the weed field would be mowed down, and the wreath, well I was used to hating it by now. At least their loud pickup truck was only heard a couple times a day when the house sitter showed up to care for whatever she was caring for. I hoped it was their three dogs that I'd not heard or seen in quite some time.
House sitter lady crept closer and shouted, "Could you help me?"
I set down my paintbrush and went to see what this was all about.
"My key doesn't seem to be working. I think I did something to the lock when I was here earlier," she says through panting. Sweat beads run down her face. She's standing next to me now, pointing at the house across the street. "I got a window open, but I can't get in."
Well that explains the skinny comment.
"I got stuck," she whispers. "I took me a while to get myself out. I need to get in and don't know what else to do."
Telling a complete stranger that you managed to wedge yourself in a window has to be a sign of her desperation. She's got their truck and I've seen there there several times all week so I'm pretty sure she's legit. There must be a pretty serious reason why she needs to get inside, like three dogs bursting at the bladder.
"Sure. Which window is open?"
"It's on the side. I have a ladder all set up."
It's a single storey house. Does one really need a ladder?
Then I see the window, it's small. We're talking an eighteen inch by two foot opening. No wonder she got stuck. And it's no wonder she needed a ladder. It's either going to take a front dive through the space or a contortionist wriggle to get inside.
I get up couple steps and peer through the opening. There are no dogs, only a typical messy kid's room complete with piles of toys and scattered laundry. And it stinks like a confined space with too many pets.
With one leg through and the woman babbling her thanks beside the ladder, I take a deep breath and wiggle the rest of my body in. Thank goodness for the stack of photo albums on the floor that served as a step or I would have ended up on my face.
"Can you open the front door?"
"No problem." Having prior knowledge of the house from the charming and neat previous owners, I make my way through the house to the front door. On my way down the hall, also littered with toys and laundry, I get to the kitchen to find a large aquarium with a snake in it. I nearly trip over more clothing before I get to the front door. There's no one there. Wouldn't the front door be the logical one to be waiting at? Alas, no, the house sitter and her daughter are knocking on the back door. I fight my way over the mountains of dirty laundry in the space I can only describe as the-place-where-they-throw-all-their-stuff-that-also-contains-a-washer-and-dryer to the back door and let the knockers in.
"Oh thank you!" They both plow inside. "We'll be sure to tell them how kind you were to help us."
There is no sign of the dogs. Maybe they got rid of them? Maybe their buried out back? There the definite odor of small furry creatures in cedar bedding wafting from somewhere and it's making my eyes water. I make my way back to the kitchen. Dirty dishes are piled all over the counters. I am by no means a fastidious person, but whole place makes me shudder and grit my teeth. I consider asking this outside source about the dogs, but I don't want to breathe in any more of this stench than I have to and the more I stop of focus on the mess the more my skin starts to crawl.
Will the neighbors be thrilled to know I helped them out, or will they be mortified I saw the inside of their house? Then again, judging by the state of the exterior of the house, they probably don't care. We're not on the neighborly chat level with these people so I'll probably never know, and that's okay.
Anxious to get back outside into fresh air, I remind them to lock the window and close the doors before they leave. I escape through the tall grass, spotted with yellow hawkweed flowers. By the time I get to the empty garbage can at the end of the driveway, I come to a full stop. Why, oh why, hadn't I taken down that damned Christmas wreath while I had the chance?