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The intruder in our midst

Su Lum

My son-in-law Bruce had left to return to run their antiques store in Leadville, so my daughter Hillery and I were alone in my mother’s house in New Jersey: I in my old room in the attic, and Hillery in Gran’s room on the second floor.When I trotted down that first morning, Hillery accosted me with a hypothetical problem: “What would you have done if an intruder had come in during the night?” The implication (correct) was that I would probably have slept through the event. But she, being in Gran’s room (reportedly haunted) had imagined it and realized that the closest thing she had to a weapon had been a box of Kleenex to whap the intruder with.My immediate reaction was logical: Here we were in the midst of the Great Storm, not a likely time for an intruder to leave footprints and tire marks. With our rental UsV in the driveway, not a likely time for an intruder to think the house was uninhabited and ripe for the plucking, not to mention a bad time, what with the storm, to haul out large armoires and corner cupboards full of old china. If an intruder were unlikely, what was her real fear? Was it death itself, the one intruder from which there is no defense? Be that as it may, Hillery kept a heavy skillet in Gran’s room for the duration of the trip, and with every creak, rattle and knock (the furnace sounds like cannon fire) we would look at each other and say, “INTRUDER!”A couple of days after we had left and the house was empty, my brother-in-law Hal stopped by to check on things and found trash bags in the drive and towels thrown on the skeletons of the hydrangea bushes. He looked into the overflowing Dumpster parked by the kitchen door, noting that it looked as if a large animal had been burrowing in the contents.Shortly after entering the kitchen, Hal looked out the window and saw a male human head emerging from the Dumpster – a real, live Intruder! Hal opened the door and shouted at the man to get out. The police were called and arrived immediately, an officer striding to the Dumpster calling in an exasperated tone, “Get OUT of there, Larry!” – an intruder with a name and, apparently, a reputation.Larry grumbled that he wasn’t hurtin’ nothin’ – he figured the old lady died and he was just doing everybody a favor by lightening the load. On the face of it, it was reasonable enough. I know people in Aspen who have built serviceable, if not lavish, living quarters from discards at construction sites and Dumpsters.Still, I’m glad that I wasn’t the one to see the Intruder rising up out of the debris, without even a Kleenex box as a weapon, and even more glad that it wasn’t Hillery, armed with a small skillet. Su Lum is a longtime local who prefers bears. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.


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