“Night Visitors”

Some years ago, the doorbell rang. It was nighttime, so I did a quick glance at the calendar to make sure it wasn’t Halloween. It wasn’t.

At the door, were two girls in their late teens. “What can I do for you?” I asked.

One of the two spoke in a vaguely Israeli accent. “We are students going to art school in Jerusalem—and we are selling some paintings we’ve done to make money so we can return to school next semester.”
If they were looking for a sucker, they’d come to the right place.

“Come on in, “I said, in vintage rube fashion. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”
My wife started rolling her eyes like a pair of roulette wheels.

“This is a scam,” she whispered to me. I whispered back, “Yea. That’s what you said about the guy who sold me the boat.” She whispered even louder, “You mean the boat that sank the next day?”

So using my canniest resolve, I wound up buying only one painting from the “students.” I bargained hard—and got it for a mere forty dollars.

After pocketing the cash, the duo beat such a hasty retreat to their car—and down our driveway—I figured Kasey Kahne was at the wheel.

The next morning, I proudly showed off my newly acquired masterpiece to a neighbor. Then he showed off the one he had also bought from the very same “students.” It was identical.
Those young people were artists, all right—scam artists.
“What did you pay for your painting?” I asked.

“They must have seen a sucker coming when they saw me,” my neighbor said embarrassedly. “I paid thirty bucks for this thing. Can you believe that? What a doofus, I am!”

Nowadays, it’s easy to think that everyone who shows up at your door is pulling a scam—and I’ve become suspicious of everyone since purchasing that “one-of-a-kind” painting.

A few years ago, an older man and woman showed up at our door—claiming to be my wife’s parents. Sure, they looked exactly like them—answered all of my questions—and my kids called them Grandpa and Grandma—but I still thought they were up to something.

I turned them away.

But just three nights ago, our two dogs starting barking crazily. My wife went to the front door and peered out. She saw a very sketchy guy getting out of a car carrying a couple of boxes he had taken out of cooler.
“There’s a creep coming to our porch,” she said to me. “He’s either a murderer or a pervert. Go to the door.”

“Sure, “ I said. “And thanks for thinking of me as your delegate to do that.”

I opened the door just as the man of mystery was coming up the porch steps. He seemed quite amiable for a murderer-pervert.

“How ya doin’?” he said in friendly fashion. “Do you like seafood and meat?”

Sure do, I thought. And I always prefer to buy my seafood and meat from a guy who comes to the door at 9:30 at night.

“What kind of meat do you have?” I asked.
“Animal, mostly.” he replied.
“My favorite,” I said. “What kind of animal?”
He thought for a moment and then said, “Cow.”
“What about beef? Do you have that too?”
“Yea. Both.” he said. He kept looking over his shoulder nervously. I was beginning to enjoy this.
“How about your seafood?” I wondered. “Whatcha got?”

He didn’t seem too certain. “Uh, well, take a look for yourself.” He opened the seafood box and I peered inside. “Are those sea horses?” I asked, pointing at some frozen shrimp.

“I’m not really sure,” he replied, increasingly twitchy.
“I don’t generally buy them if they don’t come with the tiny jockeys,” I said.
The guy just stared.

I finally said, “You know what? I’ve got a hankering for some jellyfish! You ever had a peanut butter and jellyfish sandwich? So good!”

He seemed to sense things weren’t going well.

Then I asked, “By the way, do you have a business license?”

He looked stricken—and then sputtered, “Uh, sure. It’s in the car. I’ll be right back.”

He rushed to the car so quickly—he mistakenly left the box of seafood behind.

He laid so much rubber down the driveway, he must have been driving on rims by the time he hit the street.

I felt a bit bad that he’d left his box of seafood behind. I figured I should have at least given him something for it.

Like a painting I have in the closet.