Friday, February 24, 2017

Spirited Away

by Jean Roberta

I’ve often suspected that we have Borrowers in our house. (If you don't recognize the reference, these are little people in a series of children's books by British author Mary Norton, first published 1952.)

Not only do socks disappear in the clothes dryer, never to be seen again, but other items get lost, sometimes permanently. Some things reappear where they're least expected.

There were strange goings-on in my house on Friday, January 13, 2017.

(And regarding that date, my mother passed away on Friday, March 13, 2009.)

My spouse Mirtha's oldest son (I’ll call him Sam) won a trip for two to Orlando, Florida, so of course he wanted to bring his live-in partner (I’ll call her Samantha), who has two children by different exes. Sam came by our house on Tuesday to give us a key to his house so we could feed the two cats while he & Samantha were away.

We were told that Big Kid, Samantha’s 14-year-old son, would come home after school on Friday (he has his own key), but his dad would be picking him up there. His younger sister, Little Kid, would be with her own father.

(Family trees tend to be complicated these days, but that is a separate issue.)

Mirtha and I love those cats, and think of them as our grandcats, so to speak. I distinctly remember giving the key to Mirtha, and she put it in her purse.

Friday morning there was no sign of the key. Mirtha searched her purse several times, and all her pockets. I emptied the contents of my voluminous bag (which holds everything I need when I’m teaching) as well as my coat pockets. We searched our house, then checked the gay club (where we go to clean approximately four times a week -- it's a paid job). We went back to the restaurant where we had supper on Thursday, but no one there had seen our key.

Mirtha had to work Friday afternoon, but she was in a panic, since we couldn't leave the cats unfed, and we weren't sure if Big Kid would do it. She asked what we should do, and I said we'll have to call a locksmith, and hope he/she/they will trust that we have permission to get into someone else's house.

It was very cold outdoors (about -35 Celsius), but Mirtha thought one of us (i.e. I) should go lurk outside Sam & Samantha’s house, waiting for Big Kid so he could let me in to feed the cats. We didn't know exactly when he would be home, and we have no telephone number for him or his dad.

I called a locksmith who said no way, no how, not today. Another locksmith said I would have to wait until evening. I didn't think I had a choice, so I waited by the phone.

Some time in mid-afternoon, I heard our Halloween witch cackling in the basement.

Our witch is a more-or-less life-sized (about 5 feet tall) plastic model of a witch in a black dress. She holds a luridly red apple (presumably poisoned), with red eyes that light up, and a recorded message: "You're not scared, are you? Heh-heh-heh." (Her voice is so high-pitched that at first it's hard to understand the words.) We bought her to put in our front yard on Halloween to entertain the trick-or-treaters in costumes who came to our door.

After Halloween, Mirtha and I both tried to turn off the witch's battery, with no luck. (Mirtha said, "You're possessed.") So whenever our witch is jostled slightly, her eyes flash, and she gives her speech. I put her back in her box, and took it down to the basement, where we keep all our Halloween decorations. When I heard her on Friday afternoon, I thought maybe one of our own cats had jumped on or near her.

Mirtha came home from work, still in a panic, so I called the locksmith again. This time I reached the owner of the company, who said he had been at a funeral and hadn't been told I was waiting for a call, but he was willing to meet us at Sam & Samantha’s home.

I put on my coat, and reached into my right pocket. There was the key, even though the pocket had been empty a few hours before, and the key had last been in Mirtha's purse.

I immediately called the locksmith to cancel, and we went to S & S’s house to feed the cats.

The next day, I kept the key on my keyring, because Mirtha was at work, and I took the bus to the house to feed the cats.

We were glad to return the key to Sam & Samantha when they returned. We didn’t tell them about our Friday the 13th adventure, lest they think we were irresponsible cat-minders.

I still wonder: where was the key when we couldn't find it anywhere? If I had checked my coat pocket right after the witch cackled, would I have found it then?

This is not the first time I’ve lost something I thought was in a secure location. Maybe something in the universe wants to remind us that material things are rarely permanent, and are less trustworthy than they seem.


  1. Just last Monday, when we were in the airport security line leaving Hawaii, I realized I had a marijuana vape in my top pocket. I put it into my carry-on at the last minute. When we got home, no vape. It still hasn't turned up.

  2. I frequently find things in the very place where I searched (thoroughly, I swear) several times without finding them. I chalk it up to quantum probability theory (or some phrase like that) in which, if I understand it correctly (not likely), every particle and/or object has a high probability of being in some certain spot, but that doesn't rule out some lesser degree of probability that it will appear somewhere else, so it just might do that.

  3. Wild story, Jean!

    Sometimes I think we slip in and out of parallel universes, without really knowing.

  4. This is a great story, Jean! Lisabet's in good company with the parallel universes theory—that one seems to have gotten fashionable recently! The skeptic in me says the key maybe disappeared into your coat lining. That's happened to me before—there can sometimes be small holes in it that swallow things, and then the things can shake loose later. I like your witch story, though, so I'm going to believe that one.


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