When we lived on the southern border of Bear Brook State Park, we often found bewildered-looking hikers standing in the middle of our lawn and scratching their heads. Catamount Trail in the state park seemed to be the culprit. Apparently the trail map or the trail markers weren’t clear enough and many hikers inevitably ended up emerging from the woods directly onto our lawn.
“Where are we and how did we get here?” usually was the first thing they’d ask me, staring at me as if they thought I were a space alien who’d just beamed them there.
The second question was, “How do we get back to the parking lot next to the tollbooth?”
I’d end up taking pity on the poor sweaty people and driving them the mile back to the tollbooth.
Now we live on the north side of the state park, but unlike our last place, the hiking trails don’t end in our back yard. So it was quite a surprise the other night when the doorbell rang and a young couple, a girl probably in her mid-teens and a guy around 20, looking overheated and exhausted greeted me. The girl asked me if I could please call her mother to come get them because they were lost and too tired to make it back home.
With the pair were two small dogs, their tongues practically dragging on the ground. I immediately offered water.
“We never thought we’d find a house!” the girl said. “So we decided that the first one we came to we’d go knock on the door.”
I was in shock, total shock. Two young people without cell phones? The thought crossed my mind that their time machine was hidden in the woods somewhere nearby and they’d actually traveled here from the 1960s.
I asked them where they lived and they named a road about a mile and a half away. I then asked for the phone number and called the girl’s mother.
“You’re kidding!” the woman who answered said. “I can’t come get them right now! I just got out of the shower and I’m in my bathrobe! They’ll have to wait awhile.”
I wanted to tell her that I had a chicken in the oven that was rapidly turning to ashes and if I had to wait too long for her to get here, I’d be serving it in an urn instead of on a platter.
I opened my mouth advise her to please hurry, but the thought of a dripping wet woman clad in nothing but a robe zooming over to my house made me blurt out, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll give them a ride home!”
“Oh, thank you!” she said. “That’s really nice of you.”
That’s when I remembered that my car had no seats in the back. I had taken them out to make things easier for my dog, who just had leg surgery, to climb in and out. And the front seat had so much stuff stacked on it, it practically was blocking the side window.
“Um, you’re going to have to sit on the floor in my car,” I told the couple. “There aren’t any seats in back – I took them out.”
The look they gave me told me they probably were wondering if I’d also removed the door handles and was going to trap them in there and hold them for ransom.
“My dog had leg surgery,” I quickly explained. “She can’t jump high enough to get up onto the seats, so I took them out.”
Their relief was obvious. “No problem!” they said in unison.
I checked out the back seat – actually, the back floor – and it was covered with dog fur, dried up mud and the remnants of a dozen or so dog biscuits. I could just imagine what the mother would think when they walked in looking as if they’d been wrestling with a pack of wolves.
During the ride, the guy suddenly said, “I’m married to her sister. Three years now.”
I couldn’t conceal my surprise. “You look too young!”
“Thank you!” he said, smiling. “But I don’t look as young for my age as you do for yours!”
I had to laugh. The guy had no idea how old I was. I could have been 35 for all he knew. Either that, or he said I looked young for my age because he thought I was 80.
At any rate, I suddenly had a strong urge to adopt him.
They profusely thanked me when I dropped them off. I quickly headed back home to my charred chicken.
“You’re brave,” my husband said over our extra-crunchy dinner. “Those two kids could have been Bonnie and Clyde for all you knew! What if they had conked you on the head, tossed you out of the car door and then drove off?”
I shook my head. “If they were criminals, they’d have asked to come inside to use the phone so they could case the place. Instead, they asked me to make the call for them. That told me they didn’t have axe murdering on their minds.”
“Speaking of crimes,” he said, unsuccessfully trying to stab a piece of chicken with his fork, “you should be arrested for committing chicken-cide. I feel like I’m gnawing on a horse saddle!”
From now on, whenever the doorbell rings, I’m going to make him answer it.