Tuesday, May 15, 2018

WILTON'S CREEK lies at the center of the Great Plains, north of Shepherd's Grove, to the left of Dobb's Point, and just above the bluffs that form Planck's constant. The land is arable and is found primarily on the ground. Once a year, the swirling winds from the Kinna Hurrah rip through the open fields, lifting farmers from their work and depositing them hundreds of miles to the south, where they often resettle and open boutiques. On a gray Tuesday morning in June, Comfort Tobias, the Washburns' house-keeper, entered the Washburn home, as she has done each day for the past seventeen years. The fact that she was fired nine years ago has not stopped her coming to clean, and the Washburns value her more than ever since terminating her wages. Before working for the Washburns, Tobias was a horse whisperer at a ranch in Texas, but she suffered a nervous breakdown when a horse whispered back. "What stunned me most," she recalls, "was that he knew my Social Security number."

When Comfort Tobias entered the Washburn house that Tuesday, the family was off on vacation. (They had stowed away on a cruise ship to the Greek islands, and although they'd hidden in barrels and done without food or water for three weeks, the Washburns did manage to sneak out on deck at 3 A.M. each night to play shuffleboard.) Tobias went upstairs to change a lightbulb. 
"Mrs. Washburn liked her lightbulbs changed every Tuesday and Friday, whether they needed it or not," she explained. "She loved fresh lightbulbs. The linens we did once a year." 
The minute the housekeeper entered the master bedroom, she knew something was amiss. Then she saw it—she couldn't believe her eyes! Someone had been at the mattress and had cut off the tag that reads, "It is a violation of law to remove this tag, except by the consumer." Tobias shuddered. Her legs buckled and she felt sick. Something told her to look in the children's rooms, and sure enough, there, too, the tags had been removed from the mattresses. Now her blood froze as she saw a large shadow loom ominously across the wall. Her heart pounded and she wanted to scream. Then she recognized the shadow as her own and, resolving to diet, phoned the police.

Excerpted from: Above the Law, Below the Box Springs, by Woody Allen, The New Yorker, November 2005 Issue.

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