I don’t think it’s possible for me to walk any slower without actually stopping. Some curmudgeon and his creepy porch shouldn’t intimidate me, but here I am desperately trying to avoid a confrontation with the 86-year old recluse of the neighborhood. I began to count my steps coming up the street. On step 36 I reached the gate, took a breath and headed for the front door.
My uneasiness was enough of a prod to force me quickly up to the door. I crossed the porch expecting creaky boards and unusual sounds. Instead the only sound was the rush of the wind below the house, which gave just enough of a moaning sigh to satisfy my spooky quotient. All of this caused me to jump about a foot in the air when I realized that the door was already open and the old man had been watching me for some time. ‘Hello there, sorry for depriving you of the chance to use my door-knocker – it’s modeled on the holy mountain of the island people of Northwestern Scandanavia – I used to travel there every summer for a few months.’
I stood, mouth open, amazed and dumbstruck. He completely ignored me and just kept prattling on. ‘They used to make the most comfortable sweaters actually, they were warm and soft, actually an awful lot like cashmere sweaters, but so much more organic, you know you just can’t beat handmade clothing. Like this hat I’m wearing now, I got it in India, or maybe it was Pakistan. You know what? It was in that disputed province… what was it called?’
I interrupted the man before he could come up with more obscure geographical nonsense. ‘I’m sorry sir, I just wanted to ask you if you had seen my cat, he’s a white cat with black paws who answers to Kashmir. If you do see him, could you let me know? I live right down the street, number 2541.’
He stared past me out into the street, watching a sedan, delivery vans, and a few pedestrians who hurry by his eyesore of a house. He didn’t say a word, but turned and went back into his house, closing the door and leaving me standing on the porch, wondering what had just happened. I turned and walked away toward the next house to continue my search.
Behind me, the old man came to a window with a kitten in his arms, ‘Don’t wory Kashmir, you’ll be safe here until he comes back, I’ll entertain you with my stories of surfing the cherry waves of the Red Sea back in my younger days.’