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The International Writers Magazine: The day in which my friends astounded me with their lack of preparation.

The Art of Preparation
• Diane Malk
Like a fireman summoned to the scene, I raced across town to my friends’ house in response to a panicky phone call the night before. Could I help them pack? Gayle and Hal wondered. 


Oddly enough, that’s exactly what I was doing. I had listed, sold and repaired my house and the closing was next week. We were having parallel lives; or were we?...

The huge rented UHaul was parked outside in the driveway. Waiting, expectantly. When I pulled up, the garage door was open and I could see all the clutter inside. Nothing in there had been packed yet. Tools were still on the pegboards. Various categories of things were scattered on the driveway and the sidewalk. I tentatively pushed open their front door.  A heavy air of anxiety filled the house. Cartons of various sizes and small boxes were everywhere. The closing was at 3 that very afternoon. I couldn’t believe they were so disorganized. I instantly got a knot in my stomach. It was like the feeling of being unprepared for a test in school.

 “We were up until 4 in the morning last night, “ Gayle proudly announced. “And I have no idea where my cell phone is”.” I guess lack of sleep can do that to you I responded. How could she be so blasé about all of this? It was a side of her I’d never seen. And not a very good side at that. “And,” she went on,  “When the men were here yesterday to pack up the furniture, I didn’t like the looks of them, so I put my purse with all my keys and traveling cash in the top drawer of the dresser. Now there is a wall of cartons and I can’t get to the dresser. But, that’s ok, we have the code for the UHaul key and we just have to run over and get another one made.”

I couldn’t help but glance at the clock. 10 a.m.  Five and a half hours until their closing. “So, can you start on the kitchen?” Gayle asked. My heart sank. I remembered the last time I had moved. After I had counted 20 cartons worth of kitchen items I started throwing pots and pans away that were too heavy. “Sure.”

Meanwhile, Hal was down in the basement, accomplishing nothing. He had boxes and boxes of aviation magazines dating back to the ‘80s and he was trying to sort through them with the supposed intent of throwing them away. Why hadn’t he done this months ago? I couldn’t silence my critical mind. Then he disappeared for half an hour and reappeared with food from Burger King. The two of them sat down to eat while I was packing up drawers of silverware. I counted three different drawers full. How many forks and spoons do two people need? I was muttering to myself. Then a disheveled man wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt (on such a hot day….) let himself in via the front door. Their realtor. He was to leave and come back three more times during the time I was there.
“I don’t think you two are going to make the move-out deadline by midnight tonight,” he fretted. I was silently agreeing with him.
“Oh, no, we will,” Gayle countered brightly.

It was so hot in their house, I couldn’t stand it. They had the back door open, for some unknown reason, and the 90 degree heat was seeping in. My mind was wandering. It was at that moment that Gayle decided she needed to run the dish washer since she had neglected to do it beforehand. So, that meant we had to pull out hot dishes and pack them up. Delightful. “Where’s your other cat?” I asked. “Oh, she took off and we haven’t seen her. Here, read this note we wrote regarding her special diet. We have her carrier ready to take her to the shelter since we’re not taking her with us. Hope the neighbors don’t think we just abandoned her on purpose.”

“Oh . . . ” It was now 2:00.

The realtor returned. “The buyers are quite anxious. They have all their possessions in a moving truck parked outside their hotel room. They intend to take possession as agreed at midnight. If you run any later there will be a stiff fine. Well, Gayle should know that, I was thinking. She used to be a realtor.

Attempting to stifle my judgmental train of thought, I glanced up at the clock again. “2:30,” I announced. I took it upon myself to keep them on track. Then, half an hour later --  “3:00,” I said loudly. “I really need to get going, we’re having people over for dinner.” That was true, I swear.

As I was eagerly aiming for the door to make my escape and return to some semblance of organized reality, Hal sidled up to me and said in a hoarse whisper, “Could you just go over to the post office and get me a change of address form?”
“You can do that online,” I shot back.
“Oh, but our computer is packed.” I scurried out the door and didn’t look back.

Four days passed. Feeling concerned and yes, curious, I called them. “How was the drive?” I asked, picturing the worst. “Oh,” Gayle answered, “we’re not there yet. We’re only half-way.” Driving a 26’ UHaul, towing a car the 912 miles from Denver to Phoenix had sounded horrifically grueling to me. I would need approximately 15.5 bathroom stops to travel that distance. Gayle continued, “We got sick from eating all that truck stop food and plus we had pulled those all-nighters last week.”
“Uh huh,” I sympathized. Then had to ask the burning question, “Did you make it out of the house by midnight Friday?”
“No,” she said. “We ended up being 3 days late and got charged $1,000.”
I winced, hung up the phone and proceeded to work on packing up my house with a vengeance. With no bathroom breaks.

© Diane Malk 2013
dianemalk (at)

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