Monday, February 15, 2016

"Retirement Home (based on a true story)"

    Retirement is not what you think at all. “Oh, you're retired! It must be so nice to have all that free time!” is the usual reaction when people learn of our situation. I want to slap them in their ignorant mouth every time. Here's the deal; retirement isn't fun in the slightest. Sure, the first few months are fine. Catching up with hobbies, friends, family, and upkeep on the house. After that, though, you are constantly preoccupied with the unrelenting task of trying to fill the rest of your free time. It gets maddening. If it wasn't for my wife, Mitsu, I'd be in the loony bin after the first year. “Now now, Frank”, she'd whisper and take my wrinkled hand in hers, “No need to get so worked up.” She knew I wanted to smack the taste out of people's mouths that gave the smiling, polite reactions indicating that they couldn't possibly fathom to understand, yet. They will. One day.

    I should be considering myself lucky. I have a loving wife of forty years, a house that's been paid off for the past twenty years, and a brand-spanking-new van that I bought outright as a retirement present to myself for various hardware store excursions. Even though I was no longer a foreman, I still found the need to fiddle here and there with various home improvements. After her own retirement from a large software company, Mitsu keeps tinkering with computers, gadgets, and other things that are just way too over my head to grasp. Old habits die hard. So do we, apparently.

    It was in the third year of our retirement that the visits started happening. I guess someone heard my wish for a little excitement in our mundane day-to-day. The first knock at our door perplexed both of us. “Are you expecting someone?” Mitsu asked with a confounded expression. “Hell no”, I huffed, struggling out of my recliner to confront the interruption. I was ready to tell whoever it was to peddle their wares or  Jesus elsewhere, but when I opened the door, I was greeted with red hair and a smile from a small, almost waifish, young girl. “Yes?”, I half-barked. “Uh, hi! I don't know how to say this...”, she peered behind me where Mitsu was poking her head out of the kitchen. “My phone. I have a tracker that says it's here...”, seemingly losing her confidence, she peered down at a mobile phone displaying a map, then shoved the device in my face. “See? That's your house. You wouldn't happen to have my phone... would you?” I brushed her hand to the side, “Now, look here. I don't know what kind of game you're playing, but the only phone that we have is bolted to the wall. Does that sound like your phone to you?!” “N-no,” she cowered, “I'm s-sorry.” She turned, tail tucked, and left. Mitsu couldn't control her laughter. “You're so mean!”, she teased as I closed the door. Later that night as we were watching crime show reruns, a commercial boomed, “Find your lost phone with the 'Where My Phone At?!' app!” Mitsu shot me a grinning, knowing look. I scoffed, smiled, and shook my head.

    After that, the visits became a daily part of our lives. A barrage of different people, either alone, with friends, or even the police, all looking for a cell phone at our home that some tracking application pegged as the last location of their beloved device. Some were understanding, knowing that technology wasn't perfect and that it must be a glitch; others, not fooled by our “elderly couple cover”, were worked up into an angry froth and demanded that we return their stolen property. The local law enforcement soon caught on to the case of wrongful accusations and tried their best to quell the easily excitable masses. “Look, I get it” I told one officer, “People put too much reliability into technology, and when it fucks up, they don't want to admit their own damn stupidity. I just worry about the safety of my wife and my house. I don't need one of these dumb-asses getting drunk, riled up, and coming to my home with their redneck mob.” "I know where you're coming from, Mr. Simms", he nodded, "I assure you that if it should ever come to that, call me directly and I'll be over as soon as I can." It seemed to be about the only assistance that we could get from them. That, and the bullshit explanation as to why this was happening in the first place. Something about GPS, triangulation, wireless towers, and WiFi. In other words, things that Mitsu would have to explain to me repeatedly.

    On a particularly cloudy day, we received our regular knock at the door. Ready to blow off yet another lost soul, wandering without purpose since the loss of their electronic life, I whipped the door open. “Where is she?!” was hurled violently at me from the mouth of a black leather clad biker type, “Where is my sister?!” I was taken aback by the sudden change of question. Phones, I could deal with. I had experience with those. Missing girls, not so much. “Where is she?! I know she was here!” he belted once again, holding up a tattered photograph of red hair and grinning teeth. The very same face that I had turned away weeks ago when this all began. “Look...” I tried to explain as I saw three police officers approach behind the large man, “I don't know what you're getting at, but there's no one here. Just my wife and me. No cell phones and definitely no girls.” He seemed confused by my answer, but pressed on, “I know she's here.” He motioned to the cops, “And they're gonna find her.”

    The police officers presented us with a warrant and then escorted Mitsu and myself out to the front lawn. They explained to us that since this was a person and not a phone, they had to take this situation a little more seriously. Her last location, according to her phone and her mother's phone that she used to track it, was our house. She never made it home. We were the last people to see her alive. The situation with the tracking glitch was explained to her brother, but he still insisted on searching. “Feel free to do whatever you need to do”, I told the officers and the burly gentleman, “I'm sorry about your sister, so if it helps to search our home, please... We have nothing to hide and want to assist in any way that we can.” His face softened a bit as he came to the realization that a retiree and his little, elderly wife couldn't possibly have anything to do with the disappearance of his sister.  “I'm sorry”, he resigned, “I just don't know what else to do. This was my last resort.” “It's okay”, Mitsu took his hand gently, “You'll see her again. I promise!” That was all it took to drop the guy to his knees in a stream of blubbering tears. I smirked at the display of tenderness from my wife and the fact that this tiny Asian woman just took out a six-foot-plus giant.

    An hour later, the police left our house a bit disorganized, but thankfully not destroyed. “I'm sorry, sir, but there doesn't seem to be anything here”, one of the cops informed the missing girl's brother, “I wish we could be of more assistance, but this seems to be the same tracking error.” After the police left, the biker thanked us and apologized again for the trouble. “Come in for tea”, Mitsu begged him, “Tell us about her.” He obliged as she served him a cup of hot herbs and honey at the dinning room table. They talked for a bit about the red haired girl. How she was the first one to come to our door looking for her phone. About how I scared her away. About how my wife ran back outside and asked her to join us inside for a cup of tea. He looked up and inquired, “What kind of tea... is this...?” “The same that I give all my guests! A special Japanese blend that I make myself!”, Mitsu beamed. “I... I don't...”, I watched in silence as he tried to stand up, but failed miserably and fell to the floor with a thunderous thud. Mitsu giggled and clapped gleefully.

    Dragging the biker's unconscious body down the stairs to the basement was more daunting than I thought it would be. I was afraid that he would come to with every stair that his head hit. “How does a petite girl have such a beast of a brother?!”, Mitsu grunted. Upon landing at the bottom, I went over to the hand-built shelves lining the far left wall and clicked the flawlessly hidden switch that swung it open to reveal the walls of a small room lined with cinder blocks and thick metal links. I dragged the biker inside as Mitsu clanked a pair of wall shackles on him. She exited just in time to see him struggle against the grogginess in his head and the chains on his wrists. He turned his head to the right allowing his eyes to take in the full horror of  decomposing corpses all around him including that of his sister. “No! No!!!Why?! I'll kill you! I swear to god, I'll kill you!”, he screamed, shaking his restraints. “See?”, Mitsu smiled, “I promised you'd see her, again!” The screams became a string of vulgarities to which I responded with closing the shelves and latching it shut, returning the basement to silence once more. “You built that so well! I can't hear him at all!”, Mitsu exclaimed with sheer delight. I hugged her close and kissed her forehead. I don't know how I'd survive retirement without her.

    Mitsu pushed away from my chest and shuffled over to her computer in the far corner. She turned off the wireless jamming device, turned the WiFi back on, and continued coding the latest patches for her “Where My Phone At?!” app...

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