Letter to a House Sitter

Terryl Rushing

Article by Terryl Rushing Featured Author


Dear Desperate for Money:

Thank you for agreeing to house sit for us this week. I thought it would be a good idea to jot down a few suggestions to make your stay more enjoyable. Or less of a disaster.

First of all, we gave you a key to the front and a garage door opener to put in your car. I strongly suggest you use the key. If you do come through the garage, for your own safety, stay on the hoarder’s path that leads to the back door. Do NOT get off the path, there be dragons. We might never find you again. Same with the back yard; as it says in the witch’s forest in the Wizard of Oz, “I’d turn back if I were you.” And don’t even think about parking your car in the garage; getting a bicycle in there would be a stretch.

When you come through the door, the first thing you’ll notice is a very intimidating-looking dog, who’ll check you out and run to another room. Yes, she’s a pit, but her name is Princess Leia, and her big secret is that she sleeps with cats. She’ll be giving you puppy dog eyes if you eat something that smells scrumptious.

Yes, there are cats, which will be evident when you look to your right. If the Christmas tree isn’t on the floor, all of the ornaments will be. If you have a little obsessive-compulsive disorder, you’ll enjoy replacing the ornaments. Every day.

The large marmalade feline is Top Cat, and the small black one is Smudge. They’re just coming out of kittenhood, which will explain the throws off the couch and chair that are on the floor, paper that was set on a piece of furniture and has blown away (and possibly eaten), and your slippers being who knows where. Top Cat is primarily responsible for entertaining the dog; Smudge is just for entertainment. They love to watch any sport with a ball on TV, and occasionally get carried away enough to try to swat.

The other Christmas decorations around the house appear to be safe. Or incredibly boring. With one exception: Saint Joseph ends up face-planted in the creche every night. No one owns up to it, but my money’s on Mary. She could easily still be holding a grudge about the 70-mile donkey trip at full-term pregnancy. And, of course, he forgot to make reservations in Bethlehem.

As for the house itself, there are a couple of things to know. The faucet in the kitchen was installed backwards, so it indicates cold water when it’s actually hot. There’s lots of ice in the freezer if you forget. And the water lines were crossed under one of the sinks in the master bathroom, so the faucet operates backwards. There’s some Lidocaine back there somewhere.

Another hazard is the leather recliner in the family room. It has some hypnotic effect that produces long naps. It also can grow tentacles that keep a person tethered in it for hours, thereby preventing chores from getting done. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.

You will notice that there is little parking in the cul-de-sac, but you could run a used car lot on the pad at the end of our driveway. It wraps around the house and could hide a car, if you have a friend in the witness protection program.

As far as safety is concerned, you can see the lights in the Madison Police station parking lot from our back yard. Only call them if you mean it though, because they tend to over-respond (“The tag and the driver’s license are expired; I’m going to need backup.”). Your only serious worry is one of the neighbors, who is heavily armed and a little paranoid. She likes us okay, which should be to your advantage, unless you let Princess Leia pee on her grass. If there’s a gas leak, call 911, and you’ll get to meet several really nice firemen, and probably a couple of police officers.

Speaking of Leia, the Princess gets a walk every evening, around 5:00. Don’t worry, she won’t let you forget; she starts whimpering about 4:30. Her halter and leash are hanging in the laundry room, and, if you make the mistake of heading that way late in the afternoon for any other reason than to retrieve them, 80 pounds of hope and willpower will be charging right into your legs. If the walk isn’t long enough to suit her, all 80 pounds will turn into concrete about a block from the house, and she won’t budge until you give her another five minutes.

The previous owners installed a security system, which is unconnected. I guess it could be armed to sound an alarm, but we don’t know how. If you burn something, though, the smoke alarm, which is hard wired into the system, lets out a God-awful noise. And then the police come, and you have to explain to three different officers why you can’t toast a bagel. At least Pizza Shack is a block away.

AT&T is pretty reliable here, but, if there’s a problem, call customer service, and a nice Pakistani lady will talk to you for a while and then transfer you to someone else.

The washer and dryer are pretty reliable, and the dryer plays a little music at the end of its cycle. If you’re curious, it’s Schubert. I didn’t know the Chinese were familiar with him.

That thing sitting in the driveway every morning is called a newspaper. Those things sitting on your chest every morning are hungry cats.

Have fun!