Hi folks. We've had a pretty horrible school year so far. DHS showed up at our door, in a story that gets scarier and more bizarre the further along it goes. Here's how it started:
14 years ago we moved to where we live now. Dh started teaching high school, and I started having babies. It's just outside town limits, and there's not many neighbors. At that time we had one good neighbor on one side of us. She was an older woman caring for her elderly mother who lived in the trailer between us, a "Granny cottage" to use the Australian term. We got along well, and I had many pleasant visits to her house -- except for one visit. Her grown nephew came over while I was there. I greeted him politely, and was abruptly told that as a female I was unworthy to be breathing the same air as he was, let alone talking to him -- only in shorter and ruder terms. I chose not to embarrass my Good Neighbor by asking about Bozo after he left.
Years pass, my Good Neighbor's mother dies, and my Good Neighbor moves to another town leaving the two houses beside me to her Mean Sister, who is Bozo's mother. Mean Sister is dogmatic and close-minded. She can't stand any woman who doesn't work and put her children in day care, or anyone who disagrees with her own far-right conservative views. My children and I are no longer welcome at her house. Still, we stay on amiable terms by never exchanging more than a dozen words
at a time.
Over the years the trailer between us that was her mother's retirement home gets used as a crash pad by various relatives down on their luck until they either find another place to live or simply can't stand Mean Sister any longer. We're used to having people pull up to it, stay for a while, and leave.
Last year the public high school where my husband works has a meltdown and gets taken over by the state. He scrambles and finds a job at a community college 90 minutes away. All this is widely talked about in the town where we live, as he's a popular teacher and the parents didn't want to see him leave. It's a very stressful time for us. Maybe people expected us to pack up and leave immediately, but we were too busy to even start looking for a place to move.
The school year starts. I'm busier than ever, what with two dogs, four ducks, two dozen chickens, two homeschooled children, a toddler, and getting dh off every morning. I sorta notice people moving in and out of the trailer next door, but I don't think much of it -- except to notice that when they gather together to talk at the door, as people are inclined to do before leaving, they don't gather at the front door. They gather at the back door, which can only be seen from our fenced-in back yard. One Thursday evening shortly after school starts the toddler comes with me when I go out to water the birds. He stands at the fence and stares at the group gathered round the back door. I scoop him up when I go back inside, but otherwise pay them no attention. I'm more concerned about the fact that they've taken out the old refrigerator and left it behind the trailer with the door standing open, and glad our children stay inside our fence.
The next Saturday all hell breaks loose.
Day 1: Saturday August 21, 2010
9:00 - The Natchez Trace Visitor's Center hosts a nature photography program in the morning. My husband and the girls go to see it and do some shopping afterward, leaving the toddler and I behind to catch up on our rest. We're in the middle of a heat wave, with the temperature over 100F every day, and the photographers hope the program doesn't get cut short due to the heat. It's going to be another scorcher.
12:00 - I check email. After a few moments, the (land-based) internet connection goes down. I think nothing of it, as this has happened before.
1:15 - I finish the scarf I'm knitting for one daughter and take it up front with the toddler following me. I go to the back of the house for the yarn for my other daughter's scarf. The toddler doesn't follow me. Perhaps he got distracted looking out the front window to see if the car is back yet. He does that a lot.
I hear a strange man's voice in my house.
The doors and windows are locked. How is there a strange man in my house? And more important -- where's my baby?
The man says that my toddler was found playing outside, in spite of the fact that the doors and windows are locked and the baby can't open them. I run out the open door and there's my baby in Mean Sister's arms. She yells at me that the baby was found playing in the road, she's called DHS, and I'm in "a world of trouble young woman!" There's something wrong with that statement but I can't put my finger on it at the moment.
I take my child and say that I'm going home to deadbolt my door. Mean Sister yells, "Don't deadbolt the door! Get another lock, but don't deadbolt it!" Weird.
I take the baby home and look him over. He's fine. That's weird for some reason too, but I'm more concerned about the door right then.
Obviously the regular lock failed. Because the door has a window in it that can't be secured, we have a double-sided deadbolt in it. Otherwise a thief would reach through the window and throw the lock. I get my keys to lock it.
While I'm trying to find the right key (I'd forgotten dh had borrowed it a while back) who should come up to my door but Mean Sister's son Bozo, whom I haven't spoken to in years. He says he's a Sheriff's Deputy now, although he's not in uniform and he shows me no ID. (I later found out he was hired on when the regular Deputies were shipped off to Iraq with their Reserve units.) He tells me that DHS is coming, but I tell him I'm more concerned about getting the door locked. I
notice that the regular doorknob has been pulled almost completely out of the door frame, the door frame is cracked even with the regular lock, the bottom of the door is kicked inward, and the frame of the door window has been yanked almost apart. I point all this out to him. He yells, "Don't lock the deadbolt!"
1:45 Dh and the older children come home, wet, muddy, and grinning from their nature photography walk. I tell dh what happened. He drops the groceries he's carrying on the floor and goes to check the baby.
1:55 A woman who identifies herself as DHS arrives (henceforth to be known as DHS-1), although she shows no identification. Coincidentally, her last name is the same as Mean Sister's mother who used to live in that trailer. It's not a common last name in our area.
DHS-1 says she heard the baby was playing in the middle of the road on the yellow line and wants to see the baby. That's when it hits me -- it's over 100F outside (102F we later learn.) My tender-footed baby is barefoot, as he usually is at home. <span style="font-weight:bold;">There are no burns on his feet.</span> There are no marks of any kind on his feet. How could he have made it to the middle of an asphalt highway?
I point this out to DHS-1. She ignores it. I point out the door being damaged. She ignores that as well.
Meanwhile, dh has taken the doorknob off the door and replaced it. The knob shows clear signs of tampering. He shows it around. The Sheriff's Deputy isn't interested. DHS-1 isn't interested. Since we live right outside the city limits, he calls the cops. The phone isn't working. He leaves to show it to the cops.
DHS-1 complains that there are canned goods in the floor from the groceries my husband brought in, that the girls are dirty from their nature walk, that not all the power outlets have baby blockers on them, and that there are a couple of soft spots in the floor. She wants to take pictures. I refuse.
DHS-1 wants to know if I have ever been treated for depression. Yes. She wants the records. I refuse.
Dh returns. The police are concerned about the doorknob. DHS-1 still is not. DHS-1 leaves, telling us we have 25 days to get the house cleaned and the floor fixed.
What with all the upset, it's nightfall before I get around to mentioning to dh that the internet went down right before this started. Dh teaches computer building and maintenance classes. He gets out his kit and checks the line. He reports back that there's 1/10th volt on the line, and the only thing that could have caused that would be if it were deliberately switched off at the relay station.
Dh goes over to Good Buddy's house to make phone calls. He calls the cops. They say, "Get out. Get out now. It's not safe." He calls a relative in another county for shelter.
We throw everything in the car and leave for the relative's house.
Then things start getting scary.