Friday, October 2, 2009



I was way in the back of the house in my office reading about a legally insane killer on the loose in Washington State. I was feeling kind of proud of myself for being able to read a story like this and not get too rattled. This was partly because the killer was last seen in Spokane, Washington, which is pretty far away, and partly because nature always seems so much more unpredictable and dangerous than mere mortals. I don’t typically squander my worry on serial killers.


I’d heard the call the first time, but ignored it. Our squeaky front door had opened and a deep voice said hello, but I was busy reading my article and I assumed it was one of my son’s friends announcing the group’s arrival. I could hear people shuffling in, the door closing behind them. There are probably twelve teenaged boys who regularly come and go in my house and their voices are always in flux. None of them sound like they did three weeks ago. So even though I wasn’t sure who specifically had come in, I was reasonably certain who it was in general.

Imagine my surprise when, at the third hello, I finally make my way out to the front door only to find three strangers standing in my foyer. The man is in his early forties and the two women with him look a little younger. They’re all dressed to go out on a Saturday night, but my first thought is, “Is this guy planning to kill me? And if he is, why did he bring his lady friends along?”

We stood regarding each other for what seemed like an awfully long time. I don’t have the ability to raise one eyebrow (as my son can) but I do have a whole squinty-eyed/brow-furrowing look that even a stranger can tell means, “I think you have some ‘splainin’ to do.” But that look seemed to mean nothing to him, and that really scared me. The insane killer I’d been reading about was a paranoid schizophrenic, slave to the voices in his head, so certainly this man in my foyer must be riddled with the same affliction.

Ultimately, I broke the ice. “Um, who are you?”

The man finally looked appropriately mortified. “Isn’t this Rich G’s house?”

“No. They live next door.”

What followed were lots of “Oh my Gods” and “I’m so sorrys,” as the three of them backed sheepishly out of the house.

Minutes later the phone rang. It was Laurie from next door. My interlopers were old friends of theirs but had never been to their house. I told her how odd it seemed, my standing right in front of them and their still not getting that they’re in the wrong house. “Once they saw me, you’d think they’d realize that it wasn’t your house?” I said to her, feeling rattled by serial killer thoughts after all. “I mean, I’m obviously not you.”

“They thought you were the help,” she said.

1 comment:

  1. Many years ago in my distant youth, I was in bed with my then girlfriend at her apartment engaged in, you know, when there came a scratching and rattling of a key in the lock of the apartment door. And then the lock turned and the door began to open! We both sprang from the bed to find a creepy old man (so he seemed at the moment) making his way through the door. Both of us stark naked rushed forward and pressed our weight against the big door, pushing it closed. But he was as determined as we. He pushed back and managed to crack it open and get a foot in. His horrible wrinkled face peered, red and straining, through the cracked door. "Who are you? What do you want?" we shrieked. "I live here" he rasped, continuing to push hard against the door. "Who are YO?. What are you doing in my apartment?"
    I held the door while my girlfriend pulled on a bathrobe and called the police. The guy wouldn't quit. He was plenty strong. It was like a nightmare scene from a Drew Barrymore movie.
    It turned out to be more like a John Cheever story. He HAD lived there for years, and had moved not long ago to a nearby nursing home. He still had the key, and had gotten confused, lost in time, drawn by nostalgia perhaps. It's something I could now imagine myself doing sometime soon, becoming the creepy old guy trying to barge into his past.