The Invisible Thief, and Other Tall Tales

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Separation.

Why do some people concoct such total bullshit lies rather than admit an innocent mistake?

The Long-Awaited Honest-to-God Secret to Being Happy

When I make up stories, I call it a novel.

After twenty years of excellent service, I seem to have gotten into a pissing contest with a courier over a missed delivery. We’ve had an  arrangement for the past twelve years I’ve lived in this house. For all deliveries, whether personal or for my little publishing company, I’ve  signed  that it’s okay to leave packages at the door. I work during the day, so it’s necessary.

I’ve even had a number of packages picked up at the door, including the two huge boxes of CD jewel cases that were the wrong size for ebooks-on-diskette. That was on Valentine’s Day several years ago, and my then-mom-in-law had brought a couple of great, big presents of candy over and left them on top of the boxes for my girls to enjoy. Unfortunately, she thought the boxes had already been delivered, but they were outgoing, so when the courier showed up to pick up the boxes of jewel cases, he happily left with the Valentine candy, thinking, I suppose, how much we appreciated him.

So last week, I was expecting an overnight delivery—a proof of Vicki’s new non-fiction book that Spilled Candy Traditional is publishing—before giving the okay to ship the first installment of books to me to fill the pre-orders I’d taken on the project. If I’d come home that night and realized the book wasn’t there, I would have assumed it had  been stolen from my doorstep, even though I’ve never had anything  stolen in this neighborhood. But the events of the day went other than  as planned.

I’d met early with one of my teams to discuss their strategy for a new missile. These were old friends with nary a Colonel in sight and I’d dressed comfortably, which is more my preference  these  days.  I’d  forgotten  about  the  early  afternoon awards ceremony that would require me to shake the new General’s hand, so I took an early lunch and ran  home to change into a suit (and a pentacle necklace!).

When I arrived at home, the expected package wasn’t there. It  was about 10:40 a.m. I changed clothes, checked my email quickly, ran  back and forth to the car in the driveway a few feet from my front door several times. There was no pack- age there. The doorbell didn’t ring and no one knocked. No one came to the door between 10:40 and 11:10 when I ran back to work.

But according to the courier’s tracking system, the pack- age had been left on my front doorstep at 10:50 a.m. Huh? I was within 25 feet of the drop spot at that time and within site of it most of that time.

I tried all day to get a response. I needed to give an answer on the proof by that night. The night shift tried hard but couldn’t tell me anything other than what the automated tracking system said…and by  then I was really tired of automated phone systems that wouldn’t let me talk to a real person. Ironically, some courier-related store in California gave me the local number to call.

Of course, since they showed it as delivered, something must have happened or I must have been stupid. Had I looked everywhere on  my  porch? Yep, all five feet by four feet of it.

Had I looked under the doormat? Oh! Wow, so that’s what that huge bulge was! No, I actually didn’t look under the mat. I can tell if there’s a box under the mat, thank you. One of the men thought that maybe it had  been delivered to the same street number  and  a  similar  name.  The  unnamed  driver  had  gone home, so the night crew promised a morning call-back and that the driver would go back to where he left the package and find it for me.

The girls and I took flashlights after dark and scoured the neighborhood but it got too dark and chilly to keep it up, and having  grown up in the wilds of Georgia, I guess I still worry about getting shot walking up after dark onto somebody’s front porch. I’m very grateful none of my cousins live around here!

In the morning, I left a note on the front door, explaining that  yes, this was the place to deliver the package and a phone number if there was a problem. I didn’t get a call-back. When I arrived at home at lunch to check on it, there was no package.

A day-shift employee told me she knew nothing about a call-back  but she’d page the driver and see where he left the package. I wasn’t worried about him describing my obnoxiously green door or the Pan-God doorknocker on the wall. Back on the phone with me about two minutes  later, she told me he’d left it on a basket of pinecones in the chair.

“What basket of pine cones?” I asked. “I used to have a basket of pine cones there, but I threw them away last summer. But the note I left is gone and a box of firewood on the front porch has been turned over.”

“Oh. You know, I think he did say firewood instead of pine cones. Well, anyway, he delivered it and it must have been stolen. You can call our toll-free number and file a claim.”

Something bugged me about that story, so I called the night  shift  that evening.  They tracked down the driver who swore he’d put it on my doorstep but in a more obscure location than usual instead of the easy-to-do location. He hadn’t rung the doorbell or knocked on the door. He didn’t remember my car in the driveway. Someone must have stolen it. And that was that.

The story still bothered me, and not just because I was now missing my deadline, which would result in having to have the first big batch of books overnighted—for which I’d have to pay my courier extra. It’s the scenario that would have had to have happened that troubles me. Here goes:

I arrive at home in a flash and fury, drive right up to my door, and run inside, leaving my car open and my purse visible on the front seat, along with a leather jacket and a backseat full of packages to go to the post office. I run inside, change clothes, and check email a few feet from the door.

Meanwhile, the courier’s truck arrives, the guy shimmies between the car and the shrubs, and leaves the package in afore- mentioned obscure location. He doesn’t ring the bell or knock on the door, and Grendel, aka the Hell Hound, doesn’t raise the roof barking over a sound on the front porch as he usually does.

I run out to the car to take more outgoing orders to the car, and I  step right over the package on the porch—twice— without seeing it.

Meanwhile, some loathsome stranger slips past the gate guard at the entrance of the subdivision I live in. With his X-ray vision, he spies the  package on the porch, though the porch can’t be seen from the street and my car is in the way. He shimmies between  the bushes and my car, slips  up to the front porch, and nears the package.

“Ah-ha! I’ll take that!” he says, ignoring the purse on the car seat three feet behind him. “Oh, wait, a woman’s coming out of the house! Where shall I run? Good thing I’m invisible or she might see me here! Ah, good, she’s gone back inside after step- ping over the package twice, so I think I’ll just take that package for myself because it looks valuable and oh, wow! It’s a writing book by Vicki Hinze! I’ll bet I can sell this on eBay! I’d better run away now because that woman’s coming out again.”

The book never showed up and I filed my claim, figuring it was lost and I was screwed. Either way, it was late, and I was screwed.

On the weekend, the package arrived safely at my door. It had been delivered to a neighbor’s house. A couple of houses in my  neighborhood resemble mine—particularly the one that the kids’ 4:15 a.m. ride to a school tournament always mistakes for ours—and not everyone uses their front door as their main entrance, so the package had been there a while.

Situation resolved? No. I wasn’t able to answer the door to sign for a routine shipment of books today, so the courier left with the packages.  Now they want me to sign for everything, whether I’m home or not.  You  know, since I didn’t believe them.

Guess who won’t be getting Valentine candy from me this year!