I woke up with grass poking in my ear.Awakening And up my nose.

“Oh, no, not again.”

Blinding sun blazed red through my eyelids. I knew I was in my front yard. I could hear Fred Willoughby’s mower. It always sounded like it was ready to gasp and die as he putt-cough-putted around his lawn, splattering dust, stones, and dandelions everywhere. A pebble bounced off my forehead as he pushed the antique machine past my place of repose. His clippings tickled as they wafted into my ear.

He shouted over the din. “Mornin’ George! Lovely day, ain’t it?”

I dimly recalled a negative proverb about someone loudly blessing their neighbor early in the morning.

Something crawled up my leg.

As I lurched upright another stone stung my ear. I karate-flailed at whatever the crawly-thing was and pried my eyes open. At least I had pajamas on this time.

A ring of red-topped toadstools surrounded my napping spot. Dead leaves filled my pajama pocket and, from the feel of it, my pants as well. As I brushed grass from my face, a third flying stone exploded a toadstool onto my shirt.

Fred stood still, his mower gagging and backfiring, and stared at me.


“You didn’t answer me.”

“Go away, Fred.”

He harrumphed and pushed on into a crowd of chickweed and buck corn, finally taking his fusillade of mower exhaust around behind his rhubarb patch.

Despite a pounding headache, I emptied the leaves from my pocket and struggled to my feet. Then, shaking one leg after the other, I left a trail of oak, maple, and birch bits all the way to my door.

It was locked.

Although I ran out of leaves a little before I reached my back door, I still felt creepy-crawly. I kept batting at real and imagined tiny invaders as I tried the knob.

Locked, too. Jeepers! It’s not like I owned any original Picassos or priceless oriental rugs. Fred had better stuff than me, for cryin’ out loud, and he hadn’t locked his house in seven years.

Still itching and swatting, I tried one window after another. At the garage, I met with success and climbed gratefully inside. Of course, the door into the house was bolted, but I’d squirreled away an emergency key after the last time I’d locked myself out—I’d come home from a funeral to find I’d left my key in my jeans when I’d put on my suit that morning. Fred had laughed a lot as I borrowed his phone. $250 had summoned a locksmith who demolished my doorknob and let me inside.

The emergency key was exactly where I’d put it—under a now spiderweb-festooned jug of pesticide, in a dark corner between an open box of mouse poison and a small pile of half-eaten acorns.