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The Old Man

Since coming to Seattle, I’ve been home alone a lot. It’s refreshing. Still, I sometimes worry. See, it gets warm here, but apparently not warm enough for anybody to invest in air-conditioning. It’s not like back home, where we sometimes don’t run the air to save money. People don’t even have air-conditioning here. I don’t really understand it, because while it doesn’t get as hot as Chicago, it gets hot enough that opening doors and windows doesn’t really do the job.

So why do I worry? Do I think I’ll die of heat stroke and dehydration? Yes, but that’s not really the problem. The problem lies in the continuous opening of the front door. We live in a house on a hill, so the windows are all right, because they’re all way too high for anybody to get into without an inordinate amount of difficulty. The back door? That’s fine, because the screen door is really little more than a gargantuan steel gate with a screen shoved into it.

The front door is different. Stairs lead up to it. A flimsy fiberglass screen is all that protects me and my considerable heft from being bludgeoned to death by a heroin addict looking for a fix or a potential thief who may have noticed Jack’s parade of Microsoft shirts and decided there may be some high-end consumer goods inside the house.

So I open the door because otherwise it’s unbearably hot. We need to air-flow in the house. So far, I haven’t had a problem. The neighbors apparently are as unemployed as I used to be, so they’re often outside on the weekdays working on their yards or whatever. It reached a point where I actually felt somewhat safe despite being relatively unsafe.

Until yesterday evening. (Cue dramatic musical sting.)

I was sitting in the living room, as I often am, typing away at the ol’ laptop. My sister was upstairs, talking to our parents on the phone. Jack wasn’t home yet. I was minding my own business when I heard somebody talking. This is not unusual. With the doors and windows open constantly, I often hear people talking as they walk up and down the street, or I hear the neighbors yelling or the menacing Saint Bernard on the corner howling in anguish that a chainlink fence generally prevents him from making the kill.

This was different, though. This didn’t have the rising-falling cadence of people passing by. It also seemed extremely close. I glanced out through the picture window in the front room. Sometimes when Jack comes home, he’ll sit on the front porch, have a smoke, and talk to one of his Microsoft friends or his brother on his cell phone. He wasn’t sitting on the porch, so I glanced at the screen door.

Somebody was leaning on the screening door. Actually, physically, leaning into it, like somehow it would magically open if he pressed on it. He didn’t appear to see me, but maybe that was just because he was so distracted by our shoes, arranged in a row in front of the door.

“Got a lotta shoes,” he muttered.

It was not Jack.

Without really having to deal with anything like this before, I sat in contemplative silence for a moment. Should I leap up, slam the door in his face, and lock it, or should I call the police? Or should I do both?

I decided the first and most obvious action to take was to put a maximum amount of security between myself and the crazy hobo. If I made any sudden movements, like reaching for the phone, he might do something crazier than muttering about our shoes.

“Got some nice boots,” the hobo muttered.

Motherfucker. Nobody talks about my steel-toed boots unless they’re an invited guest. I leaped from the couch, went over to the front door, and the hobo looked me in the eyes. He had the same look in his eyes as the man on Van Buren Street who told me Jesus was going to kill me, so despite the fact that he was an old man, it was possible that he could still be a knife-wielding maniac. And, I don’t care how many hundreds of years you’ve been on the planet, when you’re coming after a fat-ass with a knife, there’s ample opportunity to do the job, what with all the extra girth.

As the hobo looked me in the eyes, he muttered, “She sell the house? I guess she sold the house.” He sounded disappointed, but still crazy.

I took immediate and decisive action: I said, “I guess so,” and slammed the door in his face, then locked it.

I immediately ran upstairs to alert my sister, who decided we should call the police. We stood up in her bedroom, which is above the front of the house, and we stared down. The hobo ended up going on his merry way, so we decided not to alert the fuzz.

“He was probably looking for the previous owner,” Tracey said, trying to downplay the fact that a crazy person was just at our doorstep. It was heartily ineffective for two reasons: (1) they’ve been living in this house for over a year, and while the previous owner had occupied it since 1957, that doesn’t make it cool for random people to show up without really knowing who was going to be there, and (2) what the fuck happened to knocking? Or ringing the doorbell? I mean, I know the door was hanging wide open, but that’s still not an invitation to, for example, lean into the screen door and describe all the pretty shoes you see.

That is fucked up.

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