A couple of months ago my friend and I decided that we should spend a week at her vacation home in Florida together. Just the two of us.
Weeks rolled by, and when I hadn’t heard from her by the day before we were supposed to leave, I figured she had either gotten extremely busy taking care of her elderly mother, or else she decided against spending an entire week with me and left without me. As it happened one of my husband’s employees fell and broke her elbow in three places and I suspected that I was going to get drafted to help out at the office. So I called Diana and left a message on her phone and said, well, I think we were supposed to leave for Florida tomorrow, but I probably can’t go anyway, so, well, call me.
She called me back a few hours later and explained that she had been moving her mother into a senior housing apartment and getting one daughter off to her first year of college and helping another daughter find an apartment for her final year of college, which was not going smoothly because the daughter had just acquired a puppy, and was pretty much in the throes of a complete nervous breakdown.
After talking a few minutes we decided that we should be able to pull off our trip the following week.
Diana made the airline reservations and I made an appointment for a pedicure. The day after my pedicure I woke to find the big toe on my left foot red, swollen and oozing. By Thursday the swelling was gone. By Friday I woke to pain in my right ear, which later that day my doctor would confirm was an inner ear infection. Nothing that a 10-day regimen of steroids, antibiotics, eardrops four times a day and Sudafed wouldn’t cure.
I was in charge of the car rental. Those who have never taken Prednisone may not understand how attempting to make a $240 car rental can turn into an immediate $800 debit to one’s checking account before even leaving the state. I kissed my spending cash good-bye.
Departure day finally arrived. I asked Diana to drive to the airport due to the the fact that while getting ready I could not stop staring at the water glass in the bathroom and wondering over and over if it was I who brought the water glass in, or someone else? Now that I am straight again, I find it hard to believe that people actually take mind altering drugs voluntarily.
When we arrived at the airport we found that our flight had been delayed by an hour. Which gave us time to go back out and move the car to the Super Saver parking lot which charges only $6 per day, as opposed to the Surface Lot we parked in, which charged $13 per day.
Once we were finally airborne I asked Diana what her vacation home was like. “It’s a trailer,” she laughed.
Yes, it was a trailer — a newly-built, two bedroom, two bathroom trailer with a laundry room and and a den with glass french doors — situated on a canal where the manatees play, egrets come to visit, and a star fruit tree grew bulging with ripe fruit. Fifty-nine other little paradises lined the canals. All but eight were empty, though, due to the fact that it was about 300 degrees everyday that time of year.
But we decided that the heat wouldn’t bother us, because I had come to write, and she had come to finally paint some rooms that she had been meaning to since she and her boyfriend had purchased the home four years earlier.
The first morning of my vacation I woke up I looked out the window towards the canal and noticed that a director’s chair in Diana’s yard that had been facing toward the canal, was now facing directly towards our trailer. I didn’t make much of it until after I took a shower and looked out the window again and it was facing the canal again. I told Diana about the mysterious moving chair. “O.K., now you’re freaking me out she said.”
“I’m sure there is a logical explanation,” I said.
We settled into a routine where each morning we would leave to do our shopping and stop at the library. And, unbeknownst to us, someone else was also settling into a routine as well — a routine of breaking into our trailer while we were gone. At first we thought we just weren’t pulling the door tight enough when we locked it. But after finding the door ajar three days in a row, we bent down to inspect the lock and found scratch marks and damage to the lock.
Diana went next door to talk to her neighbor who had a key to her place and kept his eye on things in the neighborhood. Al is Italian and told Diana with a broken accent and in an amimated fashion that there had been a number of break-ins in the area and that he was fed up with the police because it had been going on for two years and he thought he knew who it was — a young punk who had recently been released from jail, right around the time the break-ins had started to increase again.
“He doesn’t steal anything — he just goes in and sleeps,” he said.
Diana and I looked at each other and knew we had to face the fact that the sagging dent in her bed that we found the day we arrived probably was not due to a leak in her Sleep Number mattress as we had initially deduced.
“I told the cops that I have a gun and I will put it to the guy’s head!” Al said.
I made sure I didn’t walk close to Al’s trailer after dark.
From that night on I slept with a chair against my door, a canister of pepper spray in my fist, and my flip flops stuffed under the door. I admit that the flip flops were probably overkill, particularly because they squeaked so loud when I took them out to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night that Diana came runing out of her room half asleep room brandishing a crowbar. I had offered her the cannister of pepper spray that I had bought at a flea market we went to, but when I went to get it, it had disappeared. Probably the intruder took it, planning to use it on us, I figured.
The day we planned to go do Sanibel Island, the locksmith came to change the locks. We decided it was too hot to go sea-shelling, anyway.
Tuesday came, it was time to leave. I took my last two antibiotics, tossed my empty eardrops bottle in the trash, and gave my half-finished bottle of Moet & Chandon sparkling wine to the guy across the street who I was convinced was the intruder all along. I changed my mind about him, though, after spying on him through the blinds one day while Diana was gone and saw him building a set of wooden doors with bars in them. He turned out to be a retired police officer whose trailer was also broken into and suffered thousands of dollars worth of damage after the intruder left the water running. It was the least I could do for thinking he was a criminal.
I know I will return to Pine Island someday, when the weather is cooler, after my hearing comes back, and after I have completed my firearms training class.
And perhaps I will one day find out if the Goldilocks intruder not only likes to sleep in people’s beds, but sit in their director’s chairs and snitch their pepper spray as well.