I love house sitting. And conveniently enough, I know some people with pretty fabulous houses who just happen to travel constantly. Currently, I’m back in Mill Valley in what my brother calls, “The Big House.” It’s pretty substantial, with lots of hidden nooks and crannies: a hot tub here, a ping pong table there, and random bedroom I never knew existed…It’s great. In fact, Zoe, Alex, New Chris and I had a lovely little dinner on the deck, over looking Mt. Tam while we drank wine and ate amazing food.
But then of course, everyone leaves and here I am, alone in a big old creaky house, with a thousand possible points of entry, surrounded by spooky trees and shifty eyed day laborers. The very gorgeous and very mellow dog and cat do nothing but saunter and sleep, although they have a tendency to wander the house late at night, creating mysterious sounds and freaking me the fuck out. And the seemingly hundreds of random rooms with random closets do nothing but provide hiding space for serial killers and Satanists.
Last night, I sat in the den curled up on the couch, drinking Chardonnay and doing my nails while enjoying a West Wing marathon. The dog, Marilyn, had been asleep in the corner for ages and I’ve come to rely on the fact that she’s rarely far away. All of a sudden, I hear footsteps upstairs. Honest to God footsteps.
My heart races, I feel suddenly nauseous and reach for my cell. Oh god, my cell is upstairs, no doubtedly being ripped apart by drugged out gypsies or survivalist mountain hermits, come down to kidnap a spouse.
The footsteps continue. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. I’m completely paralyzed on the couch at this point, hand in mid-manicure, West Wing on terrifying mute. Why even grab for the house phone, I’m so sure the wires have been cut.
The footsteps continue, wandering from room to room, across the kitchen, through the living room, around the foyer. I can almost see my attacker; ski mask, kitchen knife, needlessly uncomfortable twine, duct tape, various torture devices…Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.
I put down my nail polish and crept off the couch. Tiptoeing down the hallway to the bottom of the stairs, I cautiously say, “Hello?”
Nothing. But something’s moving around up there. My heart is in my throat and I’m mentally preparing myself to fight to the death. I will not be taken alive, I will not subject my body to the sadistic whims of a smelly ex-con with mother issues, I will not wind up chained to a radiator in some dilapidated basement.
I have worked myself into such a frenzy at this point, I actually begin to cry. I’m 27 years old, I’ve had 2 glasses of Chardonnay, my nails aren’t even dry, and I’ll be found by my boss tomorrow when I don’t show up for work. Someone will have to break it to my family. Someone will have to plan my memorial service. Someone will have to produce my video montage.
Finally, it occurs to me. Where’s Marilyn? I sneak back to the den, assuming she’d been there the whole time, curled up beneath the fireplace as usual. She’s not. She’s not on my floor at all.
“Marilyn?” I yell. Nothing. “Marilyn!”
The footsteps start up again, and then move faster. They’re coming towards the stairs, and then they stop.
Down she comes, looking oblivious and unconcerned.
I could’ve laughed. I could’ve cried. Instead, I chose to release the most offensive and appalling expletives upon this poor creature, shocking even myself.
I fell asleep hours later, lulled into slumber by the reassurance that I was now emotionally prepared to handle anything. That, and the fact that I had a baseball bat, a cell phone, and hairspray which I planned to use as mace sitting at the ready on my bedside table…