by Pa Rock
I’ve put off telling this tale for several weeks now, not because it’s weird, though it certainly is, but because I don’t want to frighten my children. They are all young adults scattered across America like three dandelion seeds that got caught up in a great gust of wind. And while they are concerned for my welfare, sometimes overly so, they do not have the time or the means to come running every time their father is beset by some strangeness.
It was late October. The days were getting shorter, and the intolerable summer heat was slowly giving way to the welcome coolness of the desert in winter. Most of my moving boxes had been unpacked and finally put away, and the skirmishes with Fat Jack, the grounds manager at the Wheezin’ Geezer Trailer Park, seemed to finally be settling into an uneasy truce.
My attention had turned from the inside of the house to the gravel patch that passes for a desert landscape yard. I had pulled down all of the ugly rose vines that covered the east side of my trailer, and ripped away some of the ground cover that was threatening to take over. The cooling weather had allowed the planting of a few citrus trees in various barren spots, adding definition and productive potential to the rock patch. All in all, the lot was beginning to reflect my tastes – and, if I may be allowed this modest observation, it was looking good. Even Fat Jack gritted his teeth and snarled a couple of compliments regarding the improved appearance of my domicile.
About that time the strangeness began
It was little things at first, barely perceptible changes that would have probably gone completely unnoticed if more than one person lived in my trailer. One day after work, for example, I turned on the television only to discover that it opened onto a channel that I never watched – Lifetime! Two of the neighbors had keys to my trailer – the housekeeper and the occasional cat-sitter – but I could not imagine either having the time or desire to come into my trailer while I was at work to watch Lifetime.
And I had never given Fat Jack a key, although he seemed to think that he had some inherent right to one hundred percent access to my abode and my life. It is possible, I suppose, that he maintained a key from the previous owner, but would that waddling pile of exposed ass-crack risk giving me the opportunity to legally shoot him just so that he could treat his feminine side to an afternoon tear-jerker? Somehow I suspected that even Jack was smarter than that.
Actually I don’t own a gun, but I do have dos machetes! Let the fat bastard’s head roll!
There were more instances of the errant channel selections over the next couple of weeks – mainly Lifetime and Oxygen, and occasionally The Shopping Channel. (I made a mental note to be extra careful in keeping my credit card – singular – on my person at all times.)
And other things also started happening. One evening I detected the faintest hint of cigar smoke, and another time I found one of my jelly jar glasses sitting in the dish drainer, the drainer that I knew for a fact had been empty that morning because I had just put away a week’s worth of clean dishes. A sudden flash of insight led me to open the refrigerator and pick up the wine box. It was definitely lighter than it had been the previous evening!
The pieces of the puzzle were starting to come together in an alarming fashion. Now I realized that the bread really was disappearing much too quickly, and the milk wasn’t evaporating as I had recently joked at work. I began a careful inventory of my larder and came to the conclusion that I was missing cans of tuna, a good amount of peanut butter and strawberry preserves, packaged cheese and crackers, and even eggs. Somebody else was living in my residence when I wasn’t home!
I guess I should have been scared, but instead I was pissed! Really pissed! Some jerk was sitting on my furniture, watching my television, eating my food and washing it down with my wine!
A new reality was setting in.
I awakened to this new reality on the Sunday morning of Thanksgiving weekend as I was struggling to maintain a state of sleep well into the morning. Although I don’t feel the need of an excuse for sleeping in on a Sunday, I had been up late the previous night blogging and watching Clint Eastwood do his John McCain “Get off my lawn!” impersonation in Gran Torino. (I’m also getting older and appreciate the pleasures of undisturbed slumber more and more with each passing year. Clint and John probably do, too.)
But my state of sleepiness had begun to dissipate as the morning sun found its way through the bedroom Venetian blinds, and my tired old body was going through the subtleties of slowly awakening. It was then that I heard it. A sneeze! My eyes popped open and I literally sat straight up in bed. Someone had just sneezed in my bedroom!
I spun around as my feet hit the floor, taking a quick survey of the room. No one was there, and nothing seemed to be out of place. I checked under my old iron bed and discovered only a couple of boxes of books that had yet to be shelved. The walk-in closets and master bathroom were also clear. As my startle response began to subside, I slowly and methodically started to check the rest of the house. Ultimately I was left with the necessary conclusion that the phantom sneeze had been nothing more than a very realistic figment of a dream that I could not remember. That was what I told myself, but something at my core whispered with a quiet urgency that what I heard had been very, very real.
That was how my irreversible slide toward the gaping maw of madness began. Although I had no way of knowing the extent of the craziness that was about to beset me, I was destined to find out very quickly.
Right now I’m shaking too badly to continue this accounting, but I will endeavor to relate more of this weird tale at a later date – if I am still able to do so!