Susanna J. Sturgis   Martha's Vineyard writer and editor
writer editor born-again horse girl

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Damsel in Distress

August 09, 2005

I can tell this "Tenants from Hell" story is going to go on for a while. Here's today's installment. I'll try to keep it short.

So I volunteered to drive down to the camp, ascertain that the Tenants from Hell were gone, make sure they hadn't trashed the place, see if there was any validity to their charges that the pillows were "black" (i.e., with mildew), and lock the doors in case they had vengeance on their minds. Rhodry prowled about while I looked around. The place looked pretty much the way it had when I was out there a week ago, which is to say "fine." The pillows were not black, though I did find a little mildew in the corner of one pillow cover, and a few of the other pillow covers were clean enough but a little too grungy to put out for guests -- unless you put the pillowcases on, of course. The screen on the master bedroom door was coming loose and the threshold (the bottom of the jamb) was splintering, neither of which I remembered from last week. I locked all the doors, stashed the key in the usual place, and left.

About a mile and half down the single-lane dirt road, I pulled over to let a little sedan pass -- and knew immediately that I was in trouble. I'd pulled over in soft sand that was deeper than it looked. Uhura Mazda has a little four-cylinder engine. She does not have four-wheel drive or a high clearance. We wuz seriously stuck.

A guy in an Our Market (my favorite liquor store) van stopped. We tried to push. Uhura was in too deep. His van wasn't strong enough to tow. I thanked him and off he went. Rhodry and I hiked up to the back entrance to Red Pony Farm, maybe a hundred feet back the way we had come. I worked at Red Pony for a while, and it was Allie's first home on the island; not to mention, the owner's dog Nanu was Rhodry's mother. I figured I could use the phone.

I could use the phone -- sorta. I had my far-seeing contacts in; the glasses I wear with them to read the fine print were back in the truck. I had a hard time figuring out how to use the phone. With some assistance and a couple of dead-ends, I got through to Jim Lobdell, who promised to relay the message to Ginny when she got back from running errands. There's no problem Ginny and her Ford 350 can't solve, so Rhodry and I returned to Uhura and hunkered down to wait. Since my long-ago bus- and subway-commuting days, I've always carried reading matter in my backpack, so I caught up on two issues of Poets & Writers.

Several guys in trucks offered assistance; I said help was on the way, and I better not move lest I miss Ginny and she go all the way to the end of the road looking for me. One guy in an SUV stopped on his way in, asked if I needed help; I explained the situation and he drove on. Maybe 20 minutes later he passed me headed out and said, "Did you lie to me? Is someone really coming?" I assured him yes; he said if I was still there when he came back, he'd get me out. His car had New Jersey plates on. The Tenants from Hell are actually from New Jersey (same difference?). I granted a reprieve to the state of New Jersey: I will not bomb it for the rest of the month, and the ceasefire will last as long as motorists with New Jersey plates are kind to damsels in distress.

Ginny showed up soon after, and the Ford made quick work of the job. Back at the barn we and a summer barnmate swapped Tenants from Hell stories and wondered if there is any waterfront house on Martha's Vineyard that is completely mildew-free in August.

Allie and I had a good ride, and my new editing job was waiting inside the door when I got home. I think I've recovered my sense of humor about the whole thing. Even more amazing, no one asked why I don't have a cell phone.


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