I’m always looking for a nice house to rent. A decent house, not a fancy one, with a backyard and a carport. Apple trees would make it almost perfect. I look in decent neighborhoods, not too nice, not too rough . . . just decent.
It was a nice mid-morning day. As I drove down a side street I saw a lovely blue house with white trim. White shutters would have been nice, but white trim always appeal to me. They make the house seem crisp and clean. I like that. It had a “Rent” sign in the living room window. I parked my fifteen year old Subaru Outback in front and walked up to the door past three apple trees. No one answered my knock. I noted the area code on the sign and wrote down the address and the phone number in my pocket notebook. I peeked in the window. The room was completely empty. I wandered to the back yard. No more apple trees, but there was a pear tree. The pears were not quite ripe, but close. I picked two. Put one in my purse and took a bite out of the second as I walked toward the alley.
The alley had a roadbed of gravel. Perfect. The crunch of approaching vehicles is enough to wake me. There was a two car carport with a simple gate from the back yard. I walked back through the yard and out to my car.
I drove around several blocks to search for other possible homes to rent. Nothing suited me. I drove to the mall and parked. It was just before the lunch rush. I did some window shopping and found a rest room, where I refreshed myself and put on a sweater and cap that made me look a little older and reliable. I walked outside and toward my car. I stopped three people and told them someone had grabbed my purse and I had to go visit my sister in the hospital. “I’m from out of town and I just need a couple of dollars for gas.” Two of the three helped. I didn’t need the money that much, but a little extra in my pocket works wonders. Plus, it’s nice to talk to people and sometimes they assist with suggestions that help. I like people.
I drove to another neighborhood where I saw a small market. I parked and went inside and soon eyed a bulletin board. I found several leads and wrote down the addresses and the phone numbers. I spent the rest of the afternoon just cruising and looking around. At a local park and community garden I helped myself to some fresh veggies and sat down at a picnic table and began making calls. I was in luck, the blue house clicked. I set up an appointment for showing on Friday afternoon. This was Monday. I gave my phone number just in case the place was rented before I got the tour. I let the owner know I really liked it. “Please, let me know if someone is interested, perhaps I can get away earlier in the week to see it.”
I looked up Dollar Tree locations and visited the closest one for a loaf of bread, a pack of Jimmy Dean breakfast sausages, and a carton of milk. At a nearby Safeway, I visited the bathroom, did my duty, and cleaned up. Next, I visited the library. They’re not open as late as they used to be, but still they have books and magazines to read, and restrooms. At dusk, I drove back to blue house, circled the block and then crept down the alley crunching my way to the carport. Once I parked, I climbed in the back of my Subaru and went to sleep.
Both at the market and the library I had seen a flyer about Safe Parking. I really needed Free Parking or rather Safe Free Parking. I had taken a flyer with me as I left the library. I woke up early, before most people leave for work and drove to a nearby park. It was a little on the cool side so I left my car and heater running. As I looked at the flyer I recalled an interview on radio. NPR? or something else, but it was about a Safe Parking group in Santa Barbara. Local churches and businesses let homeless people living in their cars, trucks, and RVs park overnight in their parking lots. There is usually a port-a-potty or two. You need to sign up, but they keep your name secret to keep husbands and crazy boyfriends away. I was so happy reading the details that I failed in my due diligence and missed the red car pulling into the parking lot. Luckily someone walked their dog close by and I looked up just in time to see my ex’s car door slam and him come running toward my car.
Feeling cut off I slipped the car into 4-wheel and shot forward into the park nearly bowling over the guy and his dog who had just walked past me a few minutes before. I turned too sharply and slid about fifteen feet and saw Billy pull a gun out of his belt. I tried reverse and forward but my tires just spun in the wet soggy ground. My head sunk down to by chest and I rested my forehead on the steering wheel waiting for the .38 special I knew was coming . . . but nothing happened. I looked left and right, but couldn’t get a good view. Adjusting the rearview mirror I saw Billy running away just inches from the snout of a German Sheppard as he pulled along a chain leash behind him.
The dog owner came over immediately to see if I was okay. He put a few boughs of fir by my drive wheels for traction and I was able to drive back to the parking lot. As I got out of my car, I saw the dog owner take out a large unsealed poop bag and slide Billy’s .38 into it along with a business card. It fit nicely in my purse.
I never saw Billy again, but I did check out Safe Parking, which gave me a haven until I got a job and rented a blue house with apples, pears, a carport, and a gravel alley. You just never know.