When I got home from my trip I struggled with the padlock on the gate, finally got a wrench from my car and banged it open, and noticed my lounge chair was in the middle of the deck, though I knew I had taken it inside when I left. One of my rugs was out there crumpled up by the backup generator, along with a small pair of shoes next to a Costco tote: something was wrong! The sliding door was unlocked and I walked in and noticed dirty dishes on the counter and a nasty cooking pot encrusted with food in the sink.
The bathtub was full of muddy water with a pair of jeans soaking in it, the shower curtain pulled down, most of the drapes yanked off their rods, and there was writing on the counter and door frame. “My house not yours!” said one line, the homeless tweekers lashing out at a world which they were usually not allowed to enter, ie, my guest cottage.
One bathroom drawer was filled with misc from my misc drawer in the kitchen, the laundry hamper had a pile of more misc junk in it, behind the building was a garbage bag filled with nice Ikea tablecloths, the missing drapes, a good-sized bra which seemed oddly familiar, a half-filled “Patron” tequila bottle, and many other random useless items. A bestseller by Michener was propped open on the retaining wall and there was a yellow stained “Island Tribe” dress hanging on the deck railing.
The kitchen window screen was missing, they must have come in that way.
I immediately suspected my friend’s son Max who’s been half-living out on the streets and the other half in a cabin in his parents’ backyard, he knows most of the town’s homeless residents (the street artist Ron is like his mentor). His parents came by the next day to check out the damage and try to deduce if it was he who had visited.
The mother wanted me to call the cops in to take fingerprints and then haul her son to jail, thinking he needed a “wakeup call” to get his life together? I declined the suggestion, saying it was enough of a hassle already without police crawling around, compounding the interest. She looked in the freezer, picked up a package of fancy sausages, and said he would have probably taken them.
“If it were Max,” I said, “I imagine he’d just hang out, watch some TV, and eat some food. Maybe it’s an illusion but I still see him as a friend.” (He had done a lot of grunt work for me the year before, digging out invasive bamboo and scraping moss off the roof of the house.) They left after a while, convinced that it wasn’t their thirty-year-old kid because of the style of the writing. Later a neighbor came by to inspect the damage and offered his opinions and ideas about the culprits.
After a couple days the shock of the invasion wore off and I put on a pair of vinyl gloves, got a bucket and bailed the muddy water out of the tub into the toilet, about twenty buckets worth. I pulled the plug and thankfully the water drained out, then reached in with my senior grabber and scooped out the pair of jeans and deposited them on an old grow pot outside.
I poured out the crusty saucepan in the yard, filled it with hot water and left it to soak, then tossed the Tupperware with my previously frozen turkey soup leftovers down the hill, along with the dried out pie mouldering in a bowl on the counter.
I took a bunch of pictures and over the next few days laundered everything which had been touched by the invaders, while waiting for the cleaning lady to arrive from Ukiah for an emergency exorcism of my tweeker demons.
She showed me that though “Love” had been scrawled on the refrigerator, “Hate” was also there, hidden behind a small painting. She couldn’t get “Hate” scrubbed out so just re-covered it with the picture: her opinion was that it had been a young couple.
After a day wiping and scrubbing she had the place mostly back to normal, then we sorted through the misc which had been gathered up and I threw away a lot of it, though still saved many unnecessary items.
(Hanging out with Max’s parents for that half hour made me realize my problems were pretty small compared to theirs, having to deal with a mentally ill son on a daily basis.)