“Steven” had received an unusual assignment from Zettie Louise. From time to time, Zettie took short trips, maybe vacations, that left her home empty. She left lamps on in some rooms but it is fairly easy to notice when someone hasn’t been seen in our neighborhood for a few days. I never felt close enough to her to ask about these excursions and frankly, I was frightened of what the answer might be. With Zettie Louise possibly being a former spy, she could still work for the government from time to time. That would explain why she didn’t have a regular job or a visible means of income.
Stevie Junior had been enjoying going to Zettie Louise’s once a week to perform some little tasks and he seemed to enjoy her company. She baked him cookies with wheat germ and he raved about them. His regularity improved also. Maybe I should be sneaking wheat germ into everything.
During Zettie Louise’s next absence, Stevie would use a key to her house to enter it and water her plants every three days. She showed him the location of the watering can, the location and name of each plant and how much water to use on them. Stevie seemed excited about being responsible for Zettie Louise’s plants and wrote down some notes about the assignment. Zettie Louise told him that she should be back in about 10 days. She didn’t tell him anything about the trip and he was focused on the instructions, so he didn’t ask.
On Stevie’s first visit to Zettie Louise’s after she left, he had some trouble with the key and returned home. I asked Steve to watch Daisy and walked down to unlock the door for Stevie. I had not been inside of the house for years and felt a little awkward entering without her being home. I stood in the center of the front room and took it all in while Stevie filed the watering can. It was small, so it looked like it was going to take multiple trips just to water the plants in this room. There was a philodendron that was draped over two door jambs around the top and was snaking its way down the side of another. By the window, a cart held five more plants and there were a couple on side tables. Stevie went about his business, watering carefully. There was a hat rack on the wall that held a mix of men’s things; maybe they belonged to her departed spouse.
I crept over to the doorway and checked out the dining room table. It was covered with fabric and a pattern but I couldn’t tell what Zettie Louise was sewing. A single push pedal machine was in the corner. I slowly moved toward the kitchen and peeked inside. It was spectacular. The paint was turquoise, the counters were a mix of coral and blue outlined rectangles all tangled together. The sink was a stainless dual and the cooktop was shiny and spotless. There were small shelves with a collection of sets of salt and peppers. In the center was a beautiful figurine that I picked up to examine. It was stamped “Made in occupied Japan.” Zettie Louise was quite a collector. By the back door sat Zettie Louise’s army boots, slightly caked with dry mud. Zettie Louise had a table with two small stools on the opposite side of the kitchen. The table was set for one but there was a large ashtray on it with a pipe. A small canister of “Mixture 79” tobacco, some matchbooks and pipe cleaners laid next to the ashtray. Is it possible that Zetie Louise smoked a pipe? Zettie Louise was so mysterious. Stevie called out to me that he was done with the watering. He replaced the watering can in the sink and we left. I let him try the lock a couple of times before we left to see if he could unlock it by himself next time. I might need to have a good reason to come back and help him open the door again.