King Of Spain

Wow. That was weird. I’m out $15 and a couple hours sleep because of it.

The doorbell rings. Ranger barks. I’m awake. The clock reads 3:51 a.m. On the one previous occasion where we’ve been awakened by visitors at such an unsociable hour it’s been the cops and they did a whole lot of pounding and yelling incorrectly thinking I was the owner of a car whose alarm had been going off for hours.

I think: what now?

I pull on shorts and a shirt and approach the foyer. Susan follows me and watches from the livingroom. Through the glass in the door I see a solitary figure standing there, head bowed. The black jacket makes me first think police, but the heavy white sweater and the scarf the man wears beneath the jacket knock that down.

I open the door and immediately the guy in thickly accented English tells me his name is Juan Carlos and launches into a convulted story involving a truck with a broken transmission, something about his wife being away with the baby and his credit cards, and he only has $75 and the tow truck guy needs another $25 before he’ll do anything.

And I’m all huh?

He goes on to tell me that he’s a neighbor having just bought the “big place on the corner.”

“The red house?” I ask.

“No, the big place.”

I figure out he’s talking about the recording studio that once was a Pacific Red Car maintenance facility. Sure, it received a paint job a few months back but I hadn’t even seen so much as a For Sale shingle for that multi-million-dollar property.

Inside I’m skeptical, but outside I’m unable to just say no and slam the door. Instead I ask him why us and he says something about his next door neighbors not being home. I tell him that I don’t have $25 cash, I have $10, maybe $15. He counters that obstacle by saying that’s fine, whatever you have… anything.

I’m not stupid. Half asleep maybe but not a total idiot. Warning bells are ringing inside my head: the convenient story of woe; the “neighbor in distress” angle made more implausible by unlikely and apparently recent home purchase; the needing $25 but being willing to accept a lower amount. It’s all adding up to appear like a strange new waaaay-too-early residential version of those tweakers who’ll hit you up in supermarket parking lots needing gas money to get them and their children back to El Segundo.

Even so, color me the sucker: I still retreated to my wallet and returned with $15 that I handed over to him. Why? Maybe because it was easier way to get the guy gone than just saying no. Maybe there was a part of me that admired the balls it took to walk all the way up the stairs to wake a stranger up and ask for money. Maybe a veeeeeeeery small percentage of me believed he was telling the truth.

Whatever my reason, he was grateful and shook my hand, telling me “My home is your home” and promising to have the cash back to me under the front door mat later on in the morning.

Since I’m doubtful that’ll ever happen I should’ve told him to keep it and apply it to a AAA membership.

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