62: Holiday Harpooning

62: Holiday Harpooning

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Holiday Harpooning

Decorate your home. It gives the illusion that your life is more interesting than it really is.

~Charles M. Schulz

Early morning phone calls on a holiday weekend are always cause for alarm. When I saw that it was my neighbor on the caller ID I feared the worst.

“Cathi,” she said, “I hate to bother you this early, but I wanted to apologize for trashing the side of your house.”

“Wait. Trashing our house?”

“You mean you don’t know?”

“Know what?”

“Go outside and take a look.”

I hopped out of bed and walked out the front door. My neighbor called me to the side yard, where she held up the twisted and tattered canvas of her patio umbrella.

“Wow. Where’s the rest of it?” I asked.

She pointed above my head. I turned to find the umbrella pole lodged in the side of the house with the accuracy of an Olympic javelin. “What on earth?” I asked.

“Remember the big wind gusts last night?”

I recalled the fierce howling of the wind before bed. “Yeah.”

“Well, we ran out to grab the patio furniture before it blew off the deck, but we were too late. The wind picked up the pole, and it shot through the air like a missile.”

“Obviously.” I looked at the pole’s location in relation to the inside of my bedroom. “Uh, that’s awfully close to our bed.” I cringed. “And it’s my side, too.”

“We thought your bed might be along that wall, but we figured you were okay because we didn’t hear a scream.”

“I hate to point this out, but if it had impaled me in my sleep, I wouldn’t have had time to scream.”

“Good point.” She winced.

We stood there a moment, taking in the sight of the pole suspended from the siding. “I suppose I’ll call my insurance company to file a claim.”

“Do you want us to help you remove the pole today?” she asked.

“I think we’ll leave it there because they’ll have to assess the damage. But thanks.”

“We’re so sorry,” she offered.

I wagged my finger at her. “It’s because our dogs bark early in the morning that you’re trying to kill us, isn’t it?”

“No, actually, it’s because you accidentally set off your house alarm one too many times.”

I looked toward the death spear. “Well, the alarm certainly didn’t go off when this thing came barging into the house unannounced.”

My neighbor and I parted on amicable terms, and I went back inside to find my husband standing in the kitchen. “What’s all the commotion?” he asked.

I motioned for him to follow me. We walked into the bedroom, and I pointed to the visible drywall chips on the floor by the bedside. On further inspection, we saw that my nightstand had cracked in half. The pole had sliced though the siding, the wall, and the piece of furniture.

“What the heck is that?” Michael asked, pointing to the pole’s end, which protruded a good ten inches through the bedroom wall.

I nodded toward the neighbor’s house. “Their patio umbrella.”

He stood for a moment trying to comprehend what happened. I explained the wind gust and my near harpooning while we slept. “I don’t know what disturbs me more,” he said, “the fact that a pole came slicing through the side of our house, or that we failed to notice.”

“If it had sounded like one of the kids sneaking in after curfew, or one of the dogs barfing on the bedroom carpet, I would’ve shot right up in bed,” I offered.

Later that day Michael called the insurance agent to report the incident, but due to the holiday weekend it would be a few days before an adjuster could come out.

“A few days?’ I said. “What do we do in the meantime?”

“Just ignore it.”

It seemed like we could ignore it, but others had a more difficult time. When I went back outside, a woman walking her dog stopped on the sidewalk and called out, “What happened there?” Then a few phone calls from neighbors came in, followed by cars stopping curb-side. It appeared the pole had become a public spectacle of sorts, so I decided to make the most of our newfound celebrity status.

I hung an American flag on the pole. It was, after all, Memorial Day weekend. After a day of stares, snickers, and headshakes from passersby, I decided to try a new décor — hanging planters — petunias, impatiens, ferns, and moss roses, which caused more cars to slow and take a gander. People hung out of their car windows, pointing and laughing.

Two days later, our son Holden came home from his friend’s house and asked, “Mom, why are there bras and underwear hanging from the pole on the side of the house?”

“Because they can,” I replied, smiling at my creativity.

Piper, our daughter, laughed and said, “What the heck, Mom? Cars are stopping in front of the house. Can’t we have a little privacy around here?”

“Privacy?” Michael chuckled. “We no longer have privacy since your mother decided to air our dirty laundry in front of the neighbors.”

“Can’t we just go back to normal?” Holden asked, tired of the parade of people.

“Normal? Oh, you mean just the pole jutting from the side of the house?”

“Exactly,” he said.

Fearing the display of intimate apparel might eventually cause a traffic accident, I removed the garments from the makeshift clothesline.

By the end of the week, the adjuster arrived at the house. He stood, shielding his eyes from the sun while peering at the now barren pole. “Isn’t this the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?”

Michael glanced at me and smiled. “Close.”

~Cathi LaMarche

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