HI – I’M HERE!
“Chato, you won’t believe what happened.”
My mom’s voice was trembling on the phone. Christ, I thought, please: no heart attacks or hip fractures.
“A car crashed into the house.”
“I’m sorry, we have a bad connection, it sounded like you said ‘a car crashed into the house.’”
“We’re moving into a motel for now – the police and fire department just left – Jim’s pretty shaken up, and he’s really, really pissed.”
Jim, 82, is my stepdad.
“Okay, wait, back up, how did a car get into your house – you guys live in a gated community where no one drives faster than 20 miles per hour.”
“The hill above. There’s a road up there. Someone left their car in neutral.”
“Christ, everyone okay?”
“No, Chato! This is very stressful!”
“No, I know, I’m sorry, mom, I just meant, no one was hurt, right?”
“No, thank God. I was tidying up in the bedroom, and Jim was napping in the front room.”
By my calculations, the Mini would’ve stopped about two feet short of my stepdad if he was sitting in his favorite chair, the one where he spends most of his day, watching TV and working crossword puzzles. But that two feet is meager comfort – no one, let alone an older person – needs that kind of shock to their system.
It’s been two weeks, and they’re living in the Courtyard by Marriott as the insurance companies sort this mess out – on the bright side, they get a decent breakfast every morning and evening appetizers and wine – but it’s not much consolation to them: they are dislocated.
Dislocated, stressed, unhappy and very anxious about what is to come. My stepdad has threatened not to move back in until a guard rail is installed at the road above. I want to point out to him that the risk of another car crashing down the hill into their house has got to be less than the risk of him being hit driving to Starbuck’s.
But now is not the time.
“This is crap, Chato. It’s not a ticket we would write ourselves,” Jim said to me on the phone yesterday. “If it was my fault, that’s one thing. But I do not take it well when fate throws something like this at me. Someone’s gonna try to screw someone in all this, and I guarantee you it won’t be me.” Ironically, he loves film noir, which is all about the caprices of fate, especially in the form of an alluring, mysterious woman.
Cherchez la femme, no? Or, as the case may be, cherchez la small car.
My stepdad prefers it when his menacing mysteries confine themselves to the small screen and don’t come crashing through patio doors and walls.
“I hate this. We don’t know any more today than we did the first day. I’m gonna stop talking about it now,” he caught himself, “because I just boil. My mouth is too big and too loud. Your mom’s the liaison.”
He put her back on the phone, and I asked her what she thought happened when she first heard the car come crashing through the house.
“It’s strange. I thought it was an earthquake, but just in one spot, just in our living room. A very local earthquake. Once I looked, I ran into the bedroom and told Jim, ‘you gotta get up and see this.’”
And he did…bet you he would’ve preferred to keep on napping.