At least I had my pants on. But my phone, my keys, and my children were on the other side of the door. And I’d left my cat burglar kit in a previous life. On the plus side, I had found the dog.
That’s why I’d stepped outside at six thirty a.m. in the first place–to call the dog back in. The dog’s name is June. I rescued June from the shelter ten years ago, but for the last four of those years, she’s lived on the farm with Husbot’s hunting dogs. Yesterday he brought her home to stay. This morning I let her out by herself, just to pee, and by the time I opened the door three minutes later, she had vanished.
We are some distance from the road, with a gate between us, but June is part Australian border collie and a neurotic adoptee, which means that she is still looking for her Forever Home. I did not want her to find it on Pebble Creek Parkway. It would take just a moment to find her, fast and easy without the Midgets.
I am very uneasy leaving the Midgets alone in a room together for even twenty seconds. Things happen. The rate of entropy in the space around the Midgets rises by a power of M2 as my distance from that space increases.
I told the Midgets I’d be back in a moment. I raced outside, turned one corner. No dog. Sprinted the other way, turned the other corner. Dog. Whew. Back to the door, which was…
I blinked. I tried the latch again. It was definitely locked. I could hear the Midgets a foot away, making noises of an indiscernible origin. “Mbot, unlock the door!” I demanded, feeling like I was in a Coen brothers movie.
“I can’t,” he replied.
When we first moved in, we’d removed the lock so the Midgets couldn’t escape. Now just a metal nub protruded from the door hardware, which Husbot and I could twist to lock and unlock at will, but which remained beyond the Midgets’ coordination level.
The trouble was, it was much easier to lock the door than to unlock it, even for me. Thankfully there is a bookshelf beside the door. I sometimes have to use a copy of Lit to bang it into place, knowing Mary Karr would be okay with that, and if it is really stubborn and requires a hardcover, My Life in France works great. Thank you, Julia Child.
But such sophisticated reasoning is beyond the Midgets’ skill sets.
“Go to the patio, Mom!” called Mbot helpfully through the door. Well, at least he was thinking. He obviously did not fully grasp the situation, or he would have been pushing a chair to the counter toward the finger paints I’d left on the counter the day before. What else had I left on the counter? A knife, for slicing a pear. Or slicing a hand. A tape measure, for measuring superhero costumes. Or for garoting your brother.
Since giving birth, I have been uncharacteristically careful about locking the windows and doors each night. Including the patio door, and the door from the garage to the laundry room, which I’d fortified with a childproof lock. There would be no getting in the back way.
I was calculating which window would be cheapest to replace after I broke it, but had not yet gotten to the part about how I’d actually break it, when I heard a voice from across the parking lot. It was Mr. Jeff, the nice man who trims the palo verdes and the verbena.
Mr. Jeff already thinks I am addled because about a month ago I had to ask him the gate code. I had been living here a year. Actually I didn’t ask him the code, I told him the code must have been changed because it was as no longer working. I can remember phone numbers without writing them down. I can remember all my various passwords. That is why I didn’t consider that I was wrong when I was punching in the wrong numbers for the tenth time while the noise from the backseat rose.
Mr. Jeff told me the right code with a smile that let me know he’s pretty much seen it all. But, of course, he hadn’t.
Because there I was this morning, braless on the front walk, locked out of the house by my three year-old.
He had an extra key. He suggested I hide it outside.
When I entered the house, with June, the Midgets had not finger painted the living room rug or the antique cat. They had not stabbed or strangled themselves or each other. Mbot was in the process of climbing into Gbot’s crib, which he knows he is not allowed to do, while Gbot watched in admiration.
I pulled Mbot down from the rails, put on a bra, and made breakfast. But not before hiding the key.
Are you carrying the keys you’ll need? Are you sure?