The Culprit, Unmasked

July 24, 2010

Last night around eight o’clock, we heard a trilled “yoooo-hooooo…knock KNOCK!” at our front door, which was open due to the oppressive heat and humidity (Lorelei was just a few degrees shy of fusing to my chest in her Björn). Through the screen door, we spied a middle-aged woman and her companion, a dead ringer for Phil Jackson in the Bulls era – except that this guy had a decidedly beaten-down air about him.

“We don’t mean to bother you,” said the woman, “but we used to live here before Lisa” – the woman I bought the house from in 2007 – “and we see that you’re putting on an addition! Two stories, huh?”

“No,” I said, “just one.”

“Really? Just one?” She was skeptical.

“Really – I swear.” Her intense gaze started to make me feel a little nervous, like maybe it was in fact two stories and I had my facts wrong. She’d be a brilliant CIA interrogator. Phil hung back a step or two behind her, looking uncomfortable. I think he spends a significant portion of his life feeling uncomfortable.

“Do you mind if we go out there and poke around a little?” I looked back at the massive piles of debris in our chewed-up backyard, which included a window (now broken) the guys had removed from our original bathroom, a section of roof gutter, and a few stray sawhorses. Everything was buried in calf-deep grass and weeds.

“Sure, have at it,” I said. This is why I was a terrible lawyer – the idea that she or Phil might meet a gristly, litigious end tripping over a half-hidden circular saw didn’t occur to me until later on.

“Thanks – by the way, what do you think of the wisteria?”

“The wisteria?” I asked, clueless.

“Right here,” she said, affectionately fingering a tenacious, fast-growing vine that has been the bane of my existence since I moved in. It officially lives on a trellis next to the front porch, but that’s merely its home base. Every day it shoots a few new tendrils straight out, wrapping itself around our front railing, our gutters (slowly prying them away from the house in the process), and our mailman. It grows faster than I can beat it back. It attracts great swarms of wasps. It is, in short, a horticultural nightmare.

Until now, I hadn’t known it was wisteria and thought of it only as “that damn vine.” I keep meaning to get rid of it but I’m afraid it might retaliate against my family or cats in some fashion.

“I just love wisteria,” the woman said. “I planted it when I lived here.”

So you’re the one who brought this scourge into our lives!

“Has it flowered for you?”

“No, but it’s, uh, quite a presence.”

“Well, enjoy it,” she said. “Come on, honey – let’s go take a look at the addition. We’ll be back when it’s finished to have another look around.”

Despite the heat, we’re now keeping the front door firmly closed from here on out.

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