Tom owns a white pickup truck that he keeps in tiptop shape. He dresses clean and neat. His carpentry work is precise. He’s always polite and friendly, a true gentleman. We live next door to …
Tom owns a white pickup truck that he keeps in tiptop shape. He dresses clean and neat. His carpentry work is precise. He’s always polite and friendly, a true gentleman. We live next door to each other and over the years have had several face to face conversations. You’d think I might recognize him out of context now wouldn’t you?
One day on Audley Dorrer Drive in Callicoon, a man, looking quite a lot like Tom, only driving a beat-up green jeep slows, rolls down his window and chirps a cheery hello. I return the greeting cautiously because I’m not quite sure if it’s Tom. On the way home, I check Tom’s driveway and curiously, there’s a dark green jeep in it. Maybe he has two vehicles, a pristine white truck and a beater jeep. Maybe the white truck is in the shop. I now feel badly I wasn’t friendlier.
A few days later, what appears to be the same jeep rolls slowly past me. I go running after the vehicle, arms flailing and, of course, the jeep stops. I just want to lean into the window, have a quick chat and determine once and for all if this guy is, indeed, Tom. To my surprise, the driver opens the passenger door, quickly moves a bunch of random junk from the seat, and with a friendly smile says, get in! It looks like Tom. It quacks like Tom. It must be Tom, right?
Oh dear readers, do not do what I have done…
I’m suddenly on the road when I notice a few things that don’t jive with Tom’s tidiness; a smashed front windshield, stuff all over the seats and floor, dust everywhere. I ask a test question, “So what happened to your white truck?”
“What white truck?” says the now, for-sure, stranger.
“I thought you had a white truck,” I say under my breath as I calculate jumping and rolling.
“Nope. Never had a white truck,” says the stranger who is now glancing at the books I’m holding.
“What are you reading?” he asks. I look down at the books and see “Sex Offenders.” That’s right. I just randomly grabbed a bunch of books off the shelf in the thrift store and, as luck would have it, that happened to be one of them.
“Uh, nothing too interesting,” I say hiding it and then changing the subject in an effort to figure out just who this person is, “So what have you been up to lately?”
“Just working on the place,” says the stranger now leaning toward me and brandishing a broad smile, which I take as a leer. He’s pretty attractive, but so was Ted Bundy. He’s also considerably younger than me. As we come upon my street, I hold my breath and ask myself, what will I do if he doesn’t make the turn? And then, he turns onto my street and as we approach my driveway asks, “This is it, right?”
“Yes,” I say amazed and relieved, but still wondering who the hell is driving me.
Idling for a moment in the driveway, the stranger mentions that he has forgotten his phone and with that statement, I suddenly remember this guy! He’s my new neighbor! The one who inspired my column “Last of the Landlines” (August 10th, 2021) with his flippant remark, “Caller ID is not even a thing anymore.” As we chat, I realize why I had mistaken him for Tom. They both have beards. I must now learn to differentiate between beards…and jeeps.
The mystery of the look-a-like jeep in Tom’s driveway irks me as I enter my house. I ask my husband if he knows anything about it. “That jeep belongs to Tom’s tenant,” he informs, “and not the guy who just drove you home.” Oh, that guy?
“Yes, that guy,” replies my spouse. I guess I have some explaining to do.
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