House Sitting Ad: Part I
I found a job on Craigslist. Now, before you judge me, please understand something: I am an unpaid intern and full-time college student. The holidays are coming up, I need money to buy presents and participate in holiday activities with my family this year.
I found a job that offered almost $1,000 for house sitting for two weeks. My jaw dropped; this must have been too good to be true. $500 a week, for sitting in someone’s house raiding their fridge and their liquor cabinet, that’s it.
$1,000. I could buy Christmas gifts, and buy myself something nice to celebrate getting straight As on all my midterms.
I sent an email asking for the address off the advertisement, but the email bounced back. That was weird, I thought. I tried to push my reservations aside. After all, my only other option was to be selling pumpkins at a local farm with my friend from chemistry class. 13 bucks an hour for 20 hours of work is a lot less then what I could be making.
I texted the number at the bottom of the post.
When I arrived at the house, I was shocked. It was beautiful; a gray Victorian with freshly manicured rose bushes out front. The scent of the flowers filled my nose and I liked it. A tall, lanky man came out. He wasn’t the type of person who I pictured when I saw the house for the first time.
He was tall and a little bit too thin. He was wearing a stained Carhartt hoodie, with these weird yellow stains that seemed to be highlighted by their presence on the hunter green fabric. The man had his stringy, oily, strawberry blonde hair scooped up in a sloppy ponytail.
The man reached out his hands, the sleeves of his hoodie hung up his bony arms. “I’m Oliver,” he said. He took my hand in his to give me a friendly handshake. “I’m the caretaker of this place. Ben and Julia are in Boston on business for a while an’ I gotta get back home,” he said, his accent sounded country but not southern.
“My mama had a stroke. I got to go take care of her till my sister gets back into town.” The sadness on his face seemed very genuine to me and served to quiet the apprehension I felt.
“I’m sorry,” I said, doing my best not to allow a tear to trickle out of my eye. “Something very similar happened to my grandmother.”
“That reminds me, there’s an extra couple hundred in it for you if you take care of my pets. The family pays me well and they allow me to keep my animals in the guest house. My mother is terribly allergic to dogs, and reptiles don’t travel well. Especially not in the fall.” The handyman’s voice cracked. “I really don’t want to leave my animals here by themselves. They’re pretty much my kids, and I couldn’t imagine leaving them alone in there.”
I put my hand on his shoulder reassuringly. “No worries. I have a guinea pig back at my parent’s house and get it. I’ll look after them for you.” I smiled. I honestly thought it would be nice to see if I can handle having pets of my own. I’ve been wanting a Yorkie for a while now, maybe if I took care of this man’s dog, I would get a better idea of what it would be like to take care of a dog.
I made my way into the house and sat down at the kitchen table. I took notice of a glass vase full of the same blood-colored roses in the center of the table. The teenage goth girl who still lived inside my heart was very taken with the flowers. Oliver gently plucked a rose out of the vase and handed it to me. I turned red, more out of sheer embarrassment that I must’ve been staring at them.
“We can put some more in your bedroom if you’d like,” he said.
“Do Ben and Juliet like toaster waffles?” I asked.
He nodded. “I have some of the buttermilk ones. Feel free to look through cupboards when you go feed Jerry.”
“Who’s Jerry?” I asked.
“Jerry is my ball python, and I’m sorry dear, but you’re going to have to feed him. I’d do it myself but he isn’t going to be hungry yet. The mouse carcass will just rot before it gets the chance to eat it.”
I winced a little.
“Don’t worry, dear, it’s not a live feed,” he said. “No, ’cause a rat can rip the snakes belly right open with its sharp claws.”
I didn’t feel like eating waffles anymore; all I could picture was a snake slowly dying with a half dead mouse hung from a huge gaping wound in its belly.
“Vampy, on the other hand, is a big black wolf mix. He’s sweet as pie if you don’t take his blankies away.”
That image of a dog with a security blanket made me smile.
I decided to go let the dog out of the guest house. After all, I’d be spending the bulk of my time in the main house. I turned on the space heaters in the living room and curled up under a blanket next to the dog, who had, within a few short hours, accepted me as one of his pack.
I took a picture of myself, under a blanket, with Vampy sleeping with his enormous head in my lap, as I ate from a carton of Chinese takeout.
Well golly, Tammy. I sent in a text. I really wish I was freezing my ass off in the rain trying to sell pumpkins right now.
What, you’re not working with us this year? Tammy texted back too quickly.
The pumpkin stand can’t possibly be busy. Not with how quickly you texted me.
Nah, this place is as dead as a male hooker in Jeffrey Dahmer’s refrigerator, she responded.
My stomach swirled uncomfortably at the thought of human remains in the refrigerator.
So, anyway, who are you sitting for? she asked.
This couple who lives in Belmont. I met them on Craigslist.
My phone chimed again, Girl that’s a way to get yourself in hot water. Did you hear about that guy who killed all those women that answered his ads?
Yeah, but they were alone with him. I have this giant dog, he’s like part wolf or something. He’ll keep me safe. He can probably eat the next Charles Manson in about two bites.
I sent a picture of the dog, who is sleeping soundly with his oversized head still on my lap.
By now, I know that my best friend, Vivian, has always had a weird sense of humor. And she’s always been kind of motherly, so it’s her way of showing concern for me in a really strange fashion. But what she said really got to me just the same. I turned off the overhead light in the living room, I fed the dogs, I put on South Park to lighten the mood, and began ripping up pieces of sesame chicken to hold Vampy’s interest.
The picket fence around the outside of the yard made me feel safe letting the dog out to do his business without me, and, to be quite frank, I was a little scared of the idea of going outside in the middle of the night. Maybe it was this place or maybe Halloween was finally getting to me. It’s only night one and I’m already panicked.