This is the FINAL installment. Thanks for your patience.
* * * *
After I thanked him and was about to look in the phone book for a locksmith, he suggested an alternative. "Let's see if we can break in," he giggled. "Do you have a ladder? The kitchen window may be unlocked."
Mr. Wilber was slight and stooped and rather frail. He and the previous owner of our house worked together in the legal department of the now defunct railroad before their retirement almost 30 years earlier. His slacks were belted several inches above his slim waist and he wore a perpetual grin.
I parked the baby buggy and the baby in the shade and helped Mr. Wilber position the ladder beneath the window. "I'm afraid you'll have to be the second-story man," he laughed. He steadied the ladder as I swam headfirst through the window. I was slender, but I was also nursing and my bosom was . . . large.
After my hips cleared the sill, I rotated my body 180 degrees and maneuvered myself into a seated position in the sink, straddling the faucet, with legs extended out the window. My technical climbing and yoga skills came into play as I twisted and tucked myself into an origami shape the most sophisticated of contortionists would admire. Mr. Wilber applauded as my feet disappeared through the window.
I rooted through a drawer by the telephone and found a key that fit the lock. The rest of the week was uneventful, until the day my neighbors returned.
On Saturday morning, my husband and the eight year-old offered to feed the puppies, since the baby was still asleep when they awakened. I gratefully accepted, and snuggled back between the covers for approximately 3 minutes until the screen door slammed and my husband charged up the stairs. His face was pale.
"What's wrong?" I asked, seeing his terrified expression.
"One of the puppies is dead."
Like an idiot, I blurted, "Are you sure?"
"It's hard as a carp," he said.
"Stay with the baby," I said, and sprinted next door.
I returned a few minutes later. "Was I right?" my husband asked.
"She's not only merely dead; she's really most sincerely dead," I confirmed.
I watched for my neighbors' car all day and intercepted them in the driveway as they arrived home in late afternoon. I tearfully gave them the bad news. Clearly in the middle of a sleep-deprived, post-partum, hormonal meltdown, I explained how I'd gained entrance to their home without damaging the structure, or being arrested. They began to laugh.
"I put her body in the freezer," I whimpered, "in case you want to have an autopsy performed."
"The vet told us to expect two of them to expire within the first 72 hours," they said. "You did well to keep four of them alive."
They'd left home three days after Tess had whelped. If I hadn't given birth two weeks earlier, I might have whelped, myself, right there in the driveway.