I opened my eyes into shadowy darkness.
Muttola hunched at the door to our bedroom, growling. Two thoughts jump into my sleepy brain at the same time: my Dad is probably in the kitchen vs. a burglar saying, “Don’t worry about dogs, people just tell them to shut-up!”. I open the door. The hall is dark, I hear no movement. Muttola springs ahead of me and trots toward the front door. She’s growling from deep in her chest, yet at the same time, her tail is wagging slightly. Hunching over, she sniffs the edge of the door, then trots over to the patio/balcony door for another round of sniffs.
I can’t see anyone through the glass panel on top of our front door. Dad is nowhere to be seen. I’m so sleepy I want to just tell the dog to shut-up, but I imagine some burglar laughing at me. I open the patio door.
Muttola rushes out, lunges upright with her paws on the top edge of the balcony, her barks are even louder and more frantic as she tries to peer over.
I look over the edge.
A man stands below with a wooden ladder.
I don’t have my glasses. I can’t be sure, but I think it’s Ex, my neighbor’s ex-husband.
“What are you doing?” I ask loudly over Muttola’s growls.
He glances up, then looks at the ground, “I know this looks bad, but I promise you, it’s not. I know they’re out of town, but it’s ok. Don’t worry about it.” I was right, it’s Ex. What I can’t tell through my blurry vision is if he’s as drunk as he sounds.
I hurry inside and go to Jrex. He’s still in bed, I’m sure he’s assumed, like I did, that the dog had lost her mind. As I fumble around looking for my glasses, I tell him what’s going on and ask what to do. He’s not super-awake and I don’t have time to waste. I cross the hall and knock on my Dad’s room. He’s sitting at the desk and working, so he’s more alert. “My neighbor’s ex-husband is out there with a ladder, should I call the cops?”
Dad exclaims, “Of course! That’s breaking and entering!!” I hear a crash. Muttola resumes her barking.
I grab the phone and rush back out to the balcony. When I look over the edge, the ladder is on it’s side and Ex is on the ground, hunched over it.
“Ex, you need to leave or I’m calling the police.”
“Don’t call them. I just have to put this ladder away. Don’t call. I’m going.”
I wait. Muttola and my Dad come and stand behind me in the doorway. We wait. I hear Ex scrape the ladder upright. I glance over the edge again. He’s upright, clinging to the ladder, swaying. Definitely drunk. I wait a little more and hear him drag it under my neighbor’s balcony and into the car port. I hear fumbling noises.
“Ex, you need to leave the premises right now or I’ll call the cops.”
“I’m just trying to put this away. Don’t call. I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine where it is, I need you to go now.”
“I’ll leave it here then, I’m going. I’m sorry.”
He emerges, hands in his pockets, slowly stepping down the driveway like a crab. Sideways is forward. I call out, “Do you need me to call you a cab or give you a ride?”
“No, thank you. I have a place to stay just down the street. Thank you. I’m sorry” He’s steering straight towards a tree, but corrects course and shuffles toward the sidewalk. I wait, dreading the sound of a car starting. Silence. Dad stirs behind me, “We don’t need to wait out here for him, if he comes back, Muttola will let us know.”
We slide the door closed and then pet the dog, “You handled that very well,” he tells me.
I shrug, “Thanks. It’s all the training with emotionally disturbed kids: clear expectations, clear consequences, clear time limit. He was drunk enough to be the same as a two-year old.”
Dad shook his head, “You were much kinder than most people would have been.”
“Well, when he lived next door, he was such a nice guy; I didn’t want to do that to his kid.”
Jrex was standing in the dark of our room, swaying a bit himself, “I’m sorry. What you said barely registered. Is everything ok?”
“It’s fine. We’ve wondered if Muttola would be any good as a watchdog, I guess she proved herself!” Muttola sat proudly between us as we praised her before collapsing back into bed.