Copyright 2015 by Lisa Rehfuss
One blistering summer day, Mom took eight of us swimming. Knowing we’d be late getting back, she prepared dinner in advance, cooking chicken three quarters of the way through in a large pan. The pan was loosely covered with tinfoil, then placed on the kitchen counter with a note asking whoever arrived home from work first, Dad or my older sister, Sue, to put the chicken in the oven.
Upon returning, Mom immediately peered inside the oven. “Where’s the rest of the chicken?” she asked.
“I thought you were coming home with more,” Dad answered as eight of us ran over for a hug and to give him a kiss on his ruddy cheek. One of the best parts of the day was when Dad returned home from work. At six feet two, he was both broad and tall, with a calm, keen intellect that served him well as a judge, and a joyful, gentle disposition that served him well as a father.
Mom tapped the counter with two glossy red fingernails. “Why would I do that? I left a full pan of about twenty-five chicken pieces right here on the kitchen counter.”
“Well, Sue and I did what your note asked, which was to put the pan in the oven and the pan was only half-full.”
Sue chimed in, “Remember how strange Duffy was acting, Dad?” Holding a stack of plates she’d unloaded from the dishwasher, she turned to Mom. “We got home at the same time and were coming through the back door when Duffy bolted right past us. In fact, she could barely wait for the door to open. We watched her run down the steps and cower in the corner of the yard.”
This was not typical of Duffy, our laid-back English Setter, who normally required several treats to get her to budge.
“Well, there was a full pan of chicken on this counter when I left,” Mom said, accusingly.
“I think it’s pretty obvious what happenedthe dog ate it,” Dad replied with a half-smile.
Dogs were one of my parents’ favorite pet peeve topics. Mom loved them; Dad tolerated them. He put up with every four-legger Mom brought into the house but didn’t give up needling her every chance he could.
Defending our beloved pet, Mom railed back that there was no evidence Duffy ate the chicken. The dog couldn’t jump up on the counter, Mom reasoned. Besides, dogs leave evidence. There would have been a chicken bone or grease spot or some other evidence of Duffy’s guilt.
Unconvinced, Dad left Mom to figure out how to supplement the evening’s dinner. He retired to the living room where he sat down in his leather chair to read the newspaper. When he lowered his glasses to read over the top of them, they slid off his nose and landed between the cushion and arm of the chair. Reaching down to retrieve them, he came up with a drumstick.
After a brief conference, Mom and Dad called all nine of us into the living room. We were given the task of searching the entire house for the remaining chicken. Dad told us to pay special attention to the furniture. “Don’t leave any cushion unturned.”
“Don’t forget to put it back in place,” Mom quickly added.
For the next hour, eleven of us searched every room in the entire three-story house. We located twelve chicken pieces neatly tucked in the left-hand corner of three couches and nine chairs.
“Clearly the dog didn’t place chicken between the cushions,” Mom said, needing to make this point with Dad.
That evening, after a hastily prepared meal of spaghetti, I was clearing the table and listening to my parents discuss what had happened. It seemed silly to get the authorities involved, but someone had placed the chicken in the furniture, so doesn’t it stand to reason that someone broke in?
“You’d think our fearless dog would have protected the house,” Dad remarked, earning a scathing look from Mom.
The discussion went around for a while until terror-filled screams came from Nancy and Linda’s bedroom. I flew up the stairs and made it to their door ahead of Mom and Dad. Seeing what was smack-dab in the middle of the room, I scooted back behind my father.
On the rug in my sisters Nancy and Linda’s room were three wrinkled pieces of chicken.
Five minutes later the police arrived.
“Looks like we have a food comedian in the neighborhood,” one of the officers said. “Just last week the priests in the rectory three doors down came back from a day trip to find their phone on top of a spiral ham. And you know that flower arrangement Mrs. Floyd puts on the good priest’s dining room table every week? It was replaced with a huge mound of peas.” The policeman rested his hand on his gun belt and chuckled. “Oh, this guy’s a character all right.”
Dad let out a relieved sigh.
Mom was not amused.
“Where was this food comedian when we searched the house?” Mom asked. “How is it that he was able to put three chicken pieces in my daughters’ bedroom not one hour after we’d searched their room? Don’t you think, Officer, that he might still be here?”
The policemen took special care going through the basement, first floor, and second floor of the house, pausing when they got to the third floor. On the third floor were two bedrooms and four storage closets. One could enter a storage closet on the east side of the house and walk through four large, interconnecting storage closets to arrive at Jack’s closet on the west side of the house. Two of the storage closets went deep, way back into the eaves.
The policemen grabbed heavy-duty flashlights from their squad car.
What they found was bizarre, unnerving and sent a slithering snake up my spine.
In one of the storage closets, way back under the eaves, were discarded food wrappers from food our family never purchased, Dr Pepper soda cans (we never drank Dr Pepper) and three cigarettes with green-lined filters. This was the sixties, green lipstick hadn’t yet appeared on make-up counter shelves. If indeed that was green lipstick and not the slimy lip remnants of an alien from outer space.
We had uncovered the food comedian’s lair.
What better place to carry out one’s pranks than a house with eleven family members and secret passageways!
We never did learn the food comedian’s identity and it may be that when his stash was discovered, he found himself another hidey-hole.
Frankly, it was hard to discern when an incident was because of him or the otherworldly beings living in the house. Oh yes, there are many more stories about that house on Madison Avenue in Albany, NY.