Fall had just begun, but with so many trees in our yard and around the neighborhood – the yard was already brimming over with autumn leaves. To make things even more interesting (some would say worse) we live at the end of the block. Every breeze guides whatever debris it finds (including neighbor’s leaves) right to our front door. I’m talking tons of leaves. It’s a mess! For some homeowners, this inevitable yearly chore would spell disaster – but we love the house, so we put up with it. However, there’s something about me that you need to know: I love fall.
Okay, I love spring, too. I love every season. Each has something to offer that I just can’t live without, but I especially love Fall! It’s the leaves. While all my neighbors are outside, “sweating to the oldies” to keep theirs picked up – I’m displaying mine like vintage wine. We get a lot of stares. Good thing we have no H. O. A. Fees (Home Owner Association Fees) – we’d be broke with all the fines we’d have to pay. One of my neighbors (true story) one of my neighbors thought maybe I was sick, and gleefully came over, offering to lend me her yard man.
She truly seemed shocked by my laughter as I showed her the door. Old biddy! You know the type – the only good thing she has to say about anyone is the sigh between lies, but that’s another story. Several. Anyway, needless to say, if you’re looking for a picture perfect neighborhood to drive down on a beautiful Autumn day – skip my street. Unless (like me) you happen to think that autumn leaves are perhaps the most beautiful sight in the world. Second only, of course, to rain and snow, and a rare privilege that you are none too anxious to bag up and haul away! If not, you’d best keep driving.
Today was an especially beautiful day. There was an unusually striking autumn haze in the air. You know the one – it’s like you’re walking through a dream, only you’re awake. The sky glistens – not as bold as in the movie Legend, but close. Just wonderful. You feel enlivened and are reluctant to go inside, because you’re afraid you’ll miss something remarkable that nature put there just for you. Yep, that’s the one – the day you remember forever. Having been outside all morning, tending to my plants, I had just come in the house for a glass of tea when I heard a knock at the door.
The doorbell doesn’t work all that well, giving off a sickly sounding alarm, so we have a note on the door, telling people to knock. We also have a “no solicitors” sign out front (so it couldn’t be a solicitor, I’m thinking) and I figured a friend had dropped by for coffee and conversation. Setting down my tea glass, naturally | went to answer it. There is a glass panel in the front door that allows us to see what’s on the other side, and while you can’t make out features, you can make out shapes. So while I’m trying to decide if my guest was male or female, I noticed something odd about the knocker that gave me pause.
Have you ever seen an apple bobbing up and down in the water; or a cork bobbing up and down on the end of a fish line? Okay, that’s what gave me pause, the image through the glass door sort of had an undulating movement thing going on, and it was very noticeable. Perhaps not terribly odd, you say, could be many reasons for this appearance, like shifting weight from one foot to another. Something told me this wasn’t the case. Something else, you know that knot you get in the pit of your stomach, the warning knot? The knot that tells you to be careful? The “duck and cover” knot?
That sucker rose up inside me like a flashing red light at a railroad crossing that subliminally screamed – don’t open the door! I hesitated. I really did. Over the years, I’ve learned to listen to that knot (obviously not all that well, in light of the following events) it does take practice. Get kicked in the teeth enough times, and you learn to pay attention. Honestly, the gnawing in my gut was so strong that I gave serious thought to not answer the door at all, but it had to be a friend, right? Even if it wasn’t, there is something about a knock at the door that’s hard to ignore – just like a ringing telephone.
How many of those can you stand not to answer? Exactly! So, there I am, halfway between decisions (with growing uneasiness consuming me) with a new awareness that I am being pulled toward the door even as I tell myself not to go there. However, despite my hesitancy, I was in the foyer, at the door – slowly turning the knob. It was like a compulsion, yet something inside told me to not just fling it wide open. That’s when six o’clock news headlines flashed across my mind, and not wanting to be the latest statistic nor the next ‘big story’, I opened it to a crack about a foot wide.
Nowadays you never know who’s on the other side. An odd concept for me, because I usually do, as nobody dropped by that wasn’t a friend – or UPS (United Parcel Service). With that thought stuck in mind, and with all the dreadful news circulating, I realized that this person could be anybody, and it pays to be safe. Right? Upon opening the door, what I see staring back at me through the crack, shakes me to my core. Nothing blatant, mind you, but a dark and ominous feeling overshadows me. Peering through the crack, I find a young man in his early teens, maybe thirteen, wearing jeans and a hoodie.
He’s just standing there (not saying a word, just standing there) looking at me beneath that hoodie and a heavy set of bangs. Even with his head tilted down, I knew he was looking right at me, even though I couldn’t see his eyes. You know when someone is looking at you. His presence was unsettling, and if I had been uneasy before – I was doubly so now. My first thought – crack. Oh My God! I’ve opened the door to a crack head. Now, what? I’m tiny, 5’2″ – and this kid was my size, and a whole lot younger; and after deciding to close the door, I realized he was speaking.
Maybe he had been all along, but being so preoccupied with his look – Thadn’t heard a word he’d said. Pulling myself out of a fear-based stupor, I asked, “What? ” That’s when I realized he wasn’t asking – but telling me something, and he was telling me that he was going to rake my leaves. At first, I just smiled and politely said, no thanks. But when he kept insisting, repeating the same phrase over and over – with a lifeless monotone quality to his voice; while never making a gesture, never looking up and directly into my eves. I became even more disturbed, with my decline becoming more poignant.
So, I repeated – no, and asked him to leave. My decline became even more dramatic, when he failed to honor my request, and my irritation at being ignored grew. But annoying me more than just being ignored, was that he acted like he hadn’t heard me, or more to the point – that he didn’t care what I said. It was like talking to a Stepford Student. “I’m going to rake your leaves,” he repeated, over and over like a recording. By now, not only am I annoyed and uneasy – I’m pissed. What do you do when someone standing at your door (with only a screen between you) will not leave?
Stranger still – they don’t seem to hear you, or care what you’re saying. I’m freaking out. This kid (whom I didn’t know, and who won’t leave) just keeps repeating – like a broken record, that he’s going to rake my leaves; the whole time I’m reassuring him he isn’t. I swear it was like a scene right out of an Abbot and Costello movie, with a sinister twist. Still, he undulated; I was absolutely mesmerized, and have yet to figure out how he managed it. His movements reminded me of those “snake charmer” snakes. So weird! It wasn’t until later (much later) this characteristic would take on a new and