LORI OSIECKI ILLUSTRATION
Up North you got snowbirds: retired people who move to somewhere warm and sunny every winter so they don’t have to worry about being in a three-state power outage every time a blizzard rears up, and having to wear overcoats and knit caps inside their own houses.
Around here you got conebirds: retired people who move to somewhere high and dry every hurricane season, so they don’t have to worry about being in the cone of uncertainty every time a tropical storm rears up, and having to watch Carl Arredondo like a rabbit watching a snake.
This year, my mother-in-law Ms. Larda got a job housesitting Uptown for some conebirds, Baxter and Buttsie McPorsche. It works out good at first, living in a big fancy house. But then she starts getting homesick for own bed, not to mention her own bathroom. “I can’t relax,” she says to me. “There just ain’t no john like a home john, if you know what I mean.”
So she asks would I spell her for a couple nights, and I say OK.
The night before I go there, me and my gentleman friend Lust watch a TV show about that millionaire who, they say, had a habit of murdering people. Then he wound up in New Orleans.
I shouldn’t have watched that.
The next day, Lust drops me off at the McPorsches’. Ms. Larda shows me around. “All you got to do is keep things neat and set the house alarm at night. They just want anybody who’s watching to know the house ain’t vacant,” she says.
Um. “Who’s watching?” I ask. “Nobody’s watching! They just want to make sure, is all,” she says.
Then she hands me the house key and leaves.
When it gets dark, I lock every door and set the house alarm. I pick up my phone to tell Lust goodnight, but would you believe, it’s dead. And I forgot my charger. Great. And if there’s a house phone, the McPorsches have hid it.
I keep calm. I see they got a giant TV, and a whole basket of remotes. I click buttons on all of them, and after around 20 minutes of clicking something comes on the screen. “NCIS New Orleans.” It takes me another 20 minutes, three dead bodies and a car chase to get it off.
Just in time to hear footsteps on the porch. I peek out the front window and there’s a man there. Dressed very nice, like that millionaire. But he don’t knock. He bends over, takes something out from under the doormat and then he walks off.
Huh? Were the McPorsches dumb enough to leave the house key there? We always hid ours under that plastic dog poo they throw off Mardi Gras floats.
I keep calm. If he can steal the key, he can cut the alarm wire. I will just make my own alarm. Ms. Larda herself taught me this trick. I lean an end table against the front door. On top of that I balance a tower of aluminum pie pans from the kitchen. (Evidently Baxter and Buttsie like Sara Lee.)
Then I remember reading that wasp spray is as good as mace. I am calmly rooting around under the kitchen sink looking for some, when I hear a crash from the front door. I freeze. Then I hear footsteps inside the house.
I ain’t calm no more. I grab a spray can, and when the kitchen door swings open I leap up spraying.
And Ms. Larda chokes in a hail of Lemon Pledge.
Then the house alarm goes off. A couple minutes later the police show up. They must of been nearby. One cop wants to know if a lemonade stand exploded.
Finally they leave; Ms. Larda heads for the shower and I fix us Irish coffee with a lot of Irish. While we sip it, she explains she got worried when she couldn’t get me on the phone, what with that millionaire and all, so she came back. She thought I might be asleep, so she took the spare key from under the doormat next door.
Oh, she didn’t tell me? Around here, what the neighbors do is they all hide their spare keys under each other’s mats, so if a burglar finds one, he won’t know which house it goes to.
That explains a lot.
Somebody needs to talk to these people about fake dog poo.