How I Lost A Good Job
“Don’t worry about Boots,” my friend said.
Boots was a cat. He hid in the back of a deep closet shelf. I did not see what he looked like.
“He will come and stand by the front door at night. Let him out.”
My friend lived in the country, a remote area next to a swamp. I was to babysit her house, her two dogs and Boots, the cat.
“I’ll be back in two weeks. My number is by the phone.” She pointed to an old rotary dial phone next to a pad of paper on a small wooden table.
What could go wrong, I wondered. The house looked neat and orderly. The dogs were friendly and well behaved.
Next day she called from California, where she was attending a family wedding.
“Yes,” I assured my friend. “All is fine here.”
But it was not fine. This lovely, sprawling home had no locks on the doors. I had to block every door with furniture and shoved a large dresser by the room where I slept. Boots, a pretty looking large white cat, had indeed appeared by the front door and I let him out. But he had not returned.
When morning dawned, I pushed the dresser from the door and went outside to look for the cat. Something slid between my legs and I assumed it was Boots. I was to check the mailbox which stood about 50 feet from the house by a wooden fence. As I neared the mailbox, a proper looking country gentleman approached.
“Good morning,” he announced in a neighborly tone. “I’ve been watching you. You’re the house sitter for Carol.”
“Good morning,” I said, wondering who he was and why he was watching me.
“You’re wearing short sleeves,” he said.
That question bothered me, but I said nothing.
“Dengue fever,” he announced sternly. “The mosquitoes come in from the swamp over yonder.”
I had heard of this disease, but like most people, was not paranoid about it.
“Go and put on something with long sleeves. Right away.”
What nerve, I thought, for this stranger to tell me what to do.
I retrieved some packages from the oversized mailbox and returned to the house, wondering how I could check the mailbox the next day and still wear my short sleeved T-shirt. After all, it was summer and this was a semi-tropical area. Would this man accost me again and make a scene?
I approached the house and wondered why a nice lady like my friend would live in a remote place and have no locks whatsoever on the doors. But it was daylight, and I had survived the night, feeling a little bit better.
When I walked past the closet where Boots would hide, I noticed that the cat food I had placed in the bowl had been eaten. So Boots was back. I sighed with relief.
Then I walked to the master bathroom to wash my hands. There, under a raised white marble hot tub, lying on the white shag carpet, was the bloody body of a jackrabbit. His head had been severed and was about a foot from the dark, furry body.
So when my friend called from California, all I could say was that everything was fine.
“Call me if you need me for anything,” she said.
“That’s okay, no need, “ I said.
“What do you mean?” she inquired
“Oh, I’ve had an emergency and have to leave. Please make arrangements with a neighbor to watch your place.”
She never contacted me again. I heard from the local grapevine that she sold the place a few months later and moved to California.
That was the last time I house sat, pet sat ,or took on any responsibility for someone else’s property or animals. That career was lost and gone forever.
When I hear the word jackrabbit, I cringe a bit. If I ever get a cat, I will not name him Boots.