Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Late Night Ironing - or - Isn't She Ever Going To Bed?

The only thing moving in the neighborhood was a large grey cat picking its way across the street carefully skirting the very edges of the golden pools cast by the street lights. We were sitting in the van concealed by the dark shadows of an overhanging tree, concentrating on the single lit window. Willing the woman to go to bed. Inside the van the all that can be heard is the ticking of the cooling engine, the occasional snore from my dozing companion and the gurgling of my interior spaces. Perhaps this wasn’t the best night to try those new fat free chips.

We can’t begin our work until that light is extinguished, and still she works. What is she doing at this hour? Cooking for a party? Alphabetizing her spices? Back and forth she moves, passing the window that looks out on the very spot we need to work. No way to tip toe past and carry out our task and remain undetected.

If we have been undetected. Earlier in the surveillance we may have been seen. While looking for possible routes to the area we need to access, we pulled up on the wrong side of the street next to a hydrant. As we sat there intently staring at the house and its surroundings, the garage opened and our intended victim emerged, practically under our noses, carrying two black plastic bags out to the curb. We started the vehicle and as we pulled away I was aware of the pale circle of her face turning to follow our path.

We stayed away for awhile. Doing a little wandering around, we found a convenience store that was open and picked up a snack. That’s when I dared the fat free chips. We sat in the van in the glare of the storefront lights and ate the chilled, almost tasteless food, killing time. Willing the woman to go to bed.

Coming back, we found the spot under the tree where we could watch the window. Wondering if at any moment a patrol car would glide up behind us, hit the lights and demand to know what we were doing. That would certainly spoil the surprise. It didn’t happen. The grey cat emerged from behind a trash can and slipped up a long driveway and under a gate, making the nightly rounds. Half an hour later, the cat started the return leg of its journey, a silent ghostly presence working its way along the street gliding back toward the pools of light.

Wait! The lights are changing. A new one just came on. A few moments later it is out again, and the kitchen is dimmer. Now the shade is being pulled. Please, please, go to bed. At last, the final light is extinguished. House is dark, we can make our move. Turn on the engine only long enough to get the van rolling, switch off and coast up to the house, stopping just past the driveway. We know the flood lights on the face of the garage are not motion activated from our encounter by the hydrant.

Quickly, we jump out of the van, taking care to leave the doors ajar. No noises to alert our victim. The sign comes out first and I set it up on the sidewalk so I can take advantage of the street light and minimize time in the yard. My companion takes the first load onto the property. The ground is hard, although there are some spots that seem sandy and the rods penetrate a little easier. Three trips for my companion, two trips and the sign for me and we are done, seen only by the grey cat, who circles the van, watching us perform our strange ritual. In ten minutes we are on our way home, slammed car doors and engine noises no longer a concern. The deed is done.

Hours later a voice on the phone tells us how delighted she is, what a wonderful surprise it was, and how much fun she is having. Unable to resist, we have to know – What were you doing until 2AM? The answer – Watching an old movie and doing the ironing.

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