Someday, somehow, I’m going to find out what happened at my house while I was gone last week.
When Dirtman and I returned dejectedly home after a hellish week at the United States Australian Shepherd Association National Specialty, things looked pretty calm and normal. No sign that the Heirs had been left in charge while we were gone. This came as a surprise because homecomings have not always been positive and normally require the hiring of a Haz-Mat team to do the cleanup.
Instead we arrived home to find things basically as they were when we left. Oh, there were a few signs that a couple of teenagers had been left to run the show for a few days: CDs with strange-sounding names littering the living room, kitchen counters coated with a slick film of milk and Apple Jacks, a dog lounging in what was once clean laundry, and, Dirtman’s personal favorite, the air conditioning on, the windows open and the gas fireplace running. But there was nowhere near the carnage that usually greets me when I’ve not been around.
To be honest, we’d called ahead and warned the Heirs that we were returning home a day early. And I didn’t even utter a self-justified snicker when Heir 1 called back to fuss that he’d “just scrubbed the kitchen floor and Heir 2 came in with muddy shoes and walked all over it.”
So they did have time to hide evidence of whatever went on.
Now before you go calling social services, know that Heir 1 is over 18. In addition, our entire family and half our community were notified that the Jackson boys were on their own. So they weren’t really on their own – they just thought they were.
So, while I was surprised at how little damage had been done, I just chalked it up to the efficiency of the system I’d left behind. In fact, you might say I was beginning to be downright smug about the whole thing.
Then I started noticing things.
First, when I left I’d just bought one of those huge 12-packs of paper towels. Upon my return all but half a roll were used up. That’s more than two rolls of paper towels a day.
Then there was the clothing on the living room floor. It didn’t belong to either Heir.
“Oh! Those are (insert totally indecipherable nickname)’s. He’s looking for those,” Heir 1 explained. Totally Indecipherable Nickname is a kid who rarely shows up anywhere unless there is no chance of adult supervision. I point this out and the answer is that plaintiff whine all parents have to face at some point: “Don’t you trust me?”
The answer is “no,” of course. But we enlightened parents of the 21st century don’t say that. Instead we say, “It’s not you I don’t trust. It’s Totally Indecipherable Nickname.”
Naturally this is a totally inane exchange because I know what two teenagers left to their own devices are capable of doing; and he knows what two teenagers left to their own devices are capable of doing. We just don’t speak of it because, as I said, there is no evidence.
Then there is the smell, a chemical odor, a little acidic, almost industrial. It’s not over-powering; it’s not always there. It’s just that I’ll be walking around the house and catch a whiff and say to myself, “What is that?”
“You’re just looking for something to yell at us about,” Heir 2 sneered.
He may be right. But I don’t know…
The chairs on the deck are all rearranged and the large garbage can we take to the dump that is usually in the garage is out there too. But, still, the bird feeders are all filled, as we instructed them to do, and none of the birds seem traumatized.
And the laundry…they washed towels. We have plenty of towels and I can’t imagine a scenario where my sons would voluntarily do a load of laundry. Unless they didn’t want me to see what those towels were used for…Hmmm.
“Thank you for washing the towels,” I tell Heir 2 and watch his reaction closely. Of course I want to ask why he washed the towels, but then there is that enlightened 21st century thing.
He shrugs. “Your welcome.”
Polite. Maybe too polite.
I have a brief flash of justification when I notice the cocktail shaker is not in its place – until I remember I was the one who changed its location.
And so I am left to wander aimlessly about my house in a desperate search for clues. It’s just a matter of time.
… Or I can take the fast route and get them to rat on each other.
Oh. Right. Enlightened 21st century. Damn.