|The fruit bat|
I arrive at my brother's house to dog sit while he and his wife travel. The dog is a Chihuahua pup, untrained, looks like a fruit bat. Sweet little thing but yappy and hyper beyond belief. She's like a two year old, constantly into things she shouldn't be. She needs a vigilant caretaker. Thank goodness for my two teenage grand-nieces who want to stay with me and help. They play with the fruit bat, remind me to take the garage door opener when we leave each morning, and check to make sure the two inner doors are left unlocked as there are no keys for them.
One week ago:
The fruit bat goes to bed at 9 and wakes at 4:30. She yaps incessantly. She needs a dental bone each morning, a treat each afternoon. She knows when to expect such things and if they are not forthcoming, she climbs whatever leg is available and screeches. While we are gone for the day, she chews shoes, loose paper, pillows, blankets, rug edges, curtains, pencils, the cat. The high pitch of her voice echoes in my fillings. I am beyond exhaustion. I am counting the days until her owners return.
Last night: 10:30 pm
The girls are taking a break to visit their dad. I am on my own for the weekend. I throw the bouncy ball for the fruit bat to fetch, make dinner, hold one end of the old necktie while the fruit bat tries wresting it from my grip, clean the kitchen, throw the rubber bone for the fruit bat to fetch, put out the cat, throw the squeaky toy for the fruit bat to fetch, tidy the house, throw the rag doll for the fruit bat to fetch, try to read. Finally it's time to put the fruit bat in her crate and go to bed. I brush my teeth, turn out the lights, lock the outer doors and fall into bed.
I lay thinking. Those two unlocked doors bother me. What if the outer doors are breached? What if the cat is still in the garage? What if... I get out of bed, check the garage for the cat and lock the inner door behind me. I go upstairs and turn the lock on the second inner door. A little voice in my ear says, "Oh boy! The last time you did this you locked yourself out of the house. You had to make an embarrassing phone call to Maine to ask where the spare key was hidden. You better leave these doors unlocked."
I scoff. "I'll just write myself a note that the doors are locked and unlock them before I go out in the morning," I tell the voice. UNLOCK INNER DOORS I scrawl and put the note in the middle of the kitchen counter where I'll see it first thing. I climb back in bed and sleep peacefully until the fruit bat wakes me at 4:15 a.m.
Saturday: 4:30 a.m.
I stumble into the kitchen and turn on the kettle. I scoop some cat food and step out into the garage to fill the dish. I close the door carefully behind me so the fruit bat won't escape. I turn to go back into the house. The door is locked.
Saturday: 4:35 a.m.
It's still fairly dim outside. There's a fog that drifted in last evening after the rain and the garage floor is damp and chilly on my bare feet. I can't believe I've done it again. I am good and truly locked out. The fruit bat is locked in. Along with my car keys, the spare key, the phone, my purse... I say every curse word I know.
Saturday, 4:47 a.m.
I look around the garage for something with which to pry open the lock when my eyes fall on my bicycle. My bike! I pause. I am a 65 year old woman wearing nothing but a thigh length nightshirt. It is only five o'clock in the morning. My hair is not combed. But my niece has a spare key and her house is only a mile and a half away. She will surely be asleep but I'm desperate. So is the fruit bat. I can hear her little claws ticking on the floor. I can hear her yipping. I pray that the rest of the neighborhood is still sleeping. I don't want anyone who knows me to see what I'm about to do.
Saturday 5:00 a.m.
I pass house after sleeping house. I hold the handlebar with one hand and tug my nightshirt down with the other as I pedal furiously along the road. I have no hands left to slap mosquitoes. I leave the side street and turn onto the main road. I bend my head, pedal as fast as I can and hope feverishly that no one who knows me will drive by.
Saturday: 5:06 a.m.
I stand shivering on the doorstep, my hair plastered against my head, looking, I'm sure, like something raised from the dead, and pound on my niece's door. No sound from within. I pound again. Please, please open the door! She does, looking at me with alarm. "What's wrong?" she asks as I duck past her.
"I did it again," I say. "I locked myself out of your parent's house just like last year. Can I borrow your key?"
She looks me up and down. "Did you walk here?"
"I rode my bike," I say.
"In that?" She points to my nightshirt.
"Yup," I admit, "And I have to hurry back before traffic starts up."
She begins to chuckle. Then she snorts. She guffaws. Finally she leans over double, ha-ha-ing and hee-hee-ing as I shift from one bare foot to the other.
I hold out my hand and she puts the key into it. Nothing has made me this happy in a long time. I clench it in my fist, dash out the door and grab my bike. I can still hear my niece as I pedal off down the drive.
I hear a car behind me and as I dare to look up, I see another headed in my direction. I duck my head again just in case. Whoever it is gives a cheery toot. I have no free hand to wave. I just pedal on, turning down the street toward my brother's house. A dog barks as I fly past. Around the corner, up the slight incline and into the drive. The fruit bat is at the window, barking furiously. I drop the bike, lunge up the front steps and unlock the door, slipping inside just as the newspaper man turns into the drive. I hear the paper thud against the garage from the safety of the house. He toots as he drives away. My heart is racing.
Saturday: 5:13 a.m.
The fruit bat is so excited to see me she pees on the floor. Then she poops. I stand there panting. She dashes off for the kitchen and leaps at the treat bucket.
"Not a chance in hell," I tell her.
I clean up the mess, unlock the inner doors, make a cup of steaming tea and sit shakily down. The fruit bat hops into my lap. I think inanely that biker Lance Armstrong has nothing on me this morning. Who needs performance enhancing drugs when all one needs to do is own a Chihuahua pup and lock oneself out of the house now and then?