I met the painters at six in the morning with my to-do list and a bag of laundry. I grabbed my soiled pants from earlier in the week from behind the house and added them to pile. The crew set up their equipment while I loaded boxes of donated items into my car.
Boo Boo appeared on the lawn eating a piece of thick toast. “The lady across the street is involved with the homeless project at her church. I bet she would take that extra stuff from you.”
“Where did you come from?” I asked.
“Next door, Mike makes cinnamon texas-toast and coffee before he watches the news.”
“I would love to give these blankets to the lady across the street but it’s a bit early to go knocking on people’s doors.”
“Nah she’s up. Let me go bring her out to check on noise or something. Stay there.” Boo Boo appeared across the street just as a sprinkler head sprang to life shooting water at the front window of the house.
An older woman in grey sweatpants and a cat tee-shirt came flying out the front door. “Dam, dam, dam.”
“Oh wow, let me help you with that.” I walked across the empty street with a box of items in hand. Boo Boo showed me how to twist the sprinkler fitting back in the right direction.
“Thank you, it’s always something with these old houses, isn’t it. Are you moving in?” She asked.
“No, I’m selling. This was my mother’s place. I live out of state now.”
“Yes, of course. I remember her. She kept to herself and traveled. She had gatherings of nice-looking people. Always kept the front looking perfectly manicured. It’s hard to keep up with a large lawn that large.”
“Yes, she had a book club or a wine club, both probably. Hey, can you use any of these old blankets and household things?” Boo Boo jumped on the back of the lady's car and pointed to her bumper. “I saw the church sticker on your car. I thought you might have a line on a donation program.”
“Why yes, my church helps run a homeless shelter. If you have things you want to donate you can put them in my back seat and in the trunk. I’m going over to help at the kitchen later today. Somebody there will help me get them out. God works in such mysterious ways.”
“He sure does.” I shook the neighbor’s hand lightly and loaded my boxes in her car.
Boo Boo laughed and popped back across the street. “I’m doing God's work now, yee haw. Ask her about an oxygen machine. She’s old I bet she knows where to get one.”
“I hate to bother for anything else at this early hour, but do you know where I can get an oxygen machine or a concentrator, this California air is killing my Asthma. I only need it for a few days then I’m back home to New York.”
“Oh I know it, we seem to always be on fire somewhere in this state. I don’t have one but I’ll be working with several people this morning. I’ll see if I can find you one. But if not there is a medical supply downtown on H and fourteenth street.”
“That would be great, thanks. I’ll take a trip downtown and see what they have in stock.” I wrote my phone number on the back of a political ad I pulled from the mailbox and handed it to my neighbor before joining Boo Boo across the street.
“We might have finished two big errands this morning, good call.”
“I am here to serve Ma’am.” Boo Boo tried his best to copy the voices from the old westerns he watches with his toast buddy.
“Will you be okay leaving your friends from here behind if you follow me home.”
“They don’t know I’m here with them. Besides distance isn’t an issue. I can still pop in on them when I want. My concern is keeping an eye on that thing you keep indulging.” Boo Boo watched intently as one of the painters walked out to his truck. By the time the man walked back in the house Boo Boo had changed his appearance to match him exactly.
I took a long look at the beautiful front yard. “Liro’s help won’t come cheap. I don’t know what his involvement with this house sale is really going to cost me. I plan to meet him tonight to hear his plan.”
“It will cost someone’s life. Maybe not your life but it will work out better for Lirot than it will for you. That much of this shitty plan you are considering is easy to see.” Boo Boo practiced walking like the men in the house. It didn’t take too many strides across the lawn before he looked just like them.
“I’m staying here at the house to watch things while you do your errands. That thing knows you have people here today.”
“Sure he does. Lirot knows I won’t come to him tonight if he disrupts my progress. This is part of how he gets free. You won’t have any problems with him today. Encourage the men to do a good job, and get out quickly just in case I’m wrong.”
“Um-hmm, that’s the smartest thing I have heard from you today.” Boo Boo walked into the house. You could see his energy overpower the entire structure. A white-blue glow shimmered from every window. If anyone caught a glimpse of him it would look like one of their co-workers walking by.
I found a laundry mat listed on Yelp and started my clothes. The quick trip I envisioned was taking days longer than I had hoped for. I still had seven days left of my vacation time but I wanted to show the house by the weekend.
Most businesses I needed were not open until nine so I walked across the parking lot to get a coffee and a breakfast sandwich from the little market on the corner. An old man in a tattered dark coat began walking towards me.
“Miss, would you have any money to spare for an old vet?”
“No, I’m sorry I don’t.” I put my head down and kept walking.
“Come on Caroline don’t be such a tight ass, give the poor guy some of your money.” Lirot's voice buzzed in my ears.
“Lirot, leave this man alone. He’s old you’re going to hurt him.” The homeless man had been hunched over and walking slowly. Now with Liro’s influence, he was standing tall and briskly moving toward me steadily.
I began to shake, tears filled my eyes, and my stomach began to turn. The smell of sulfur gathered quickly around the beggar. Lirot was slowly killing him. “How are you here? I bound you to the house.”
“You bound me to the dirt little one. The same dirt that’s now on the bottom of your shoes. I only need a speck to take this pitiful creature. Our meeting tonight you plan to keep it?”
“Yes. Do you intend to get in my way today?” I whispered.
“I wouldn’t dream of it, my Dear. I’m just out for a walk to stretch my legs.”
“Leave him alone, let him live his life, give him back his body,” I begged.
“He is very itchy and I don’t think his mind works anymore. It would be a mercy to end this creature’s existence. Besides, why do you care? You were just afraid this frail old man would hurt you. You lied and denied him money. What you have in your pocket would feed him for a week.”
“I have a ten in my pocket, that won’t feed anyone for a week. You don’t know what you’re talking about Liro. Let him go.”
“Give him your money and keep walking. Don’t look back or I will drop him here on the ground where he stands. By the way, the godly woman you spoke to this morning, she found you a machine. You are out of excuses to meet with me. Now give the man your money and walk away little one.” My trembling hand found my pocket and pulled out a crumpled ten-dollar bill. I handed it to the man standing in front of me and walked away.
“I look forward to seeing you later Caroline.”
“Fuck you Lirot.” A trembling whisper was all I could manage but I heard his laugh clearly. Lirot’s voice is like a bird's song to me, it’s unmistakable, and sometimes its exact origin is hard to place.
I walked on to the market and bought my breakfast with my debit card. By the time I made it back to the laundry mat my washer was finished. I put my clothes in the dryer and sat in the sunshine filtered by the glass storefront window. The old beggar was nowhere in sight.