Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Risk of Helping

So what do you do when you're in the shower, your boy is expecting the neighbor kid to come over any minute, and he comes into the bathroom to tell you that there's a stranger knocking at the door, a guy he doesn't know who's wearing a ball cap backward on his head?

First off, I got out of the shower. Then Nick told me that the guy talked to him through the window, telling him he is out of gas and wants to buy some. Crap! I don't want my boy talking to people who show up at our door.

Then, I slowed things down. Nick said that the guy was leaving. I wasn't sure if this was good or bad. I wouldn't get a chance to scope him out, but was not willing to look out the window until I was fully clothed. I told Nick to call the neighbor kid and tell him not to come just yet. The doorbell rang. It was the neighbor kid. Then, there were other reasons I wanted to get dressed quickly.

The stranger had come to his house too, he said. I called Mike on the phone. If someone really was in trouble, I wanted to help. Mike said I should go look along the road in case it was real.

I wanted to go outside armed. I got my pepper spray from my purse. I locked the dog and the boys into the house and looked around. I didn't see anyone in the yard. When I got to the road, there was an old Ford truck pulled off the road by the neighbor's recycle bin. My grandpa had that kind of truck. There were two people sitting in the truck. I walked along the road, got the mail from my box and tried to see what type of people they were. I saw the hat, reversed on the passenger's head. Their windows were open.

I approached the truck with my hand on my pepper spray in my pocket. They didn't see me. I tried yelling over the highway noise.

"I heard you ran out of gas," I yelled.

"Whaa, waa, whaa, whaa, wa," the driver said out the window.

"I can't hear what you're saying," I said. "Do you need some gas?" Both guys looked at me and nodded. The driver got out of the car. He had a short haircut and no tattoos. There was a blank look on his face, not stupid, just not apparently planning anything.

"I called a buddy and he's coming," he said where I could hear him.

"I couldn't come to the door when you rang. I have some gas if that would help get you going." I tried not to emphasize that I wanted them to get going.

"That would be great," he said and proceeded to follow me back to the house. I kept my hand on my pepper spray in my pocket. I felt as though I should have walked along the highway. The inner path between the neighbor's house and ours felt too private. I thought of that too late, walking through a screen of trees to the path. The man hung back to let me go first. I really wanted to keep him in front of me, not behind me. I kept turning around to see his face. He still had that blank look on his face.

Then, he sort of held back when I went along side the garage to open the door, another tight spot. I couldn't keep my hand on the pepper spray while I unlocked the door. He pretended to look at the sliding door's mechanism. He didn't come into the garage with me. I wondered if he'd look at the value of the tools in Mike's garage.

"This is normal gas, I think, and that's stuff is a different color."

"For the weed whacker?"

"I think so. Let me call my husband." Crap! Now he knows that my husband isn't home.

"Hi hon, the big container with the broken spout is the one, right?"

"Right," Mike said.

"Okay, I'll talk to you later. Bye!" I told Mike.

"Do you want me to leave my driver's license with you?" the man asked.

"No, for this old thing with a couple of gallons of gas in it?" I asked. I was starting to relax. People don't usually offer their driver's licenses if they're going to kill you.

He walked down the driveway with the gas can in his hand.

Boy, it's hard to know if it's safe to help people, isn't it?

Thank you for listening, jb

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