So I'm pushing Cheerios around on a cookie sheet, trying to get them all equally coated in melted butter and pressed garlic, working around the fact that I've made twice as many as will fit, and that my fantastically expensive wool oven mitt has a dime-sized hole in it, so I am blistering my index finger.
This is when the phone rings. I run over to the table to see who it is, scattering cereal in my wake. It's my sister, Kristi, and she's usually got something juicy for me, so I drop the hot tray and hit the flash button.
"Hello, Lady!" I watch as Little Portly executes some cat choreography across the tile floor, batting buttery Cheerios into the depths under the fridge. Her fuzzy front legs disappear as she tries to dig them out.
"Angela. I've lost my keys and I'm freaking out. Can you work with that?"
"Oh, I can work with anything. Where are you? Locked out of your apartment?"
"No. I let myself in earlier this evening and when I tried to leave to go to work I couldn't find them anywhere. Jackson already left for work so I can't leave the house. I can't lock the door! I've been looking for two hours!"
Kristi and her boyfriend live right downtown in a semi-underground condo the size of my front hall closet. There weren't too many places for keys to get lost in under 700 square feet.
"Did you check your pockets? That's where mine always turn up. Remember watching mom run around the house looking for her glasses when they were on top of her head the whole time? Those were good times." I chuckle and sigh, thinking about mom, hind end in the air, digging in the couch cushions and coming up with stale popcorn, dog hairballs, and crusty bits of things pulled from our noses.
"Angela. I'm being totally serious here. I'm really losing my marbles. Because if they aren't here in the house, that means I left them dangling in the door and someone took them. And if someone took them, that means they could steal my car or come back here later tonight and loot the place while I huddle in the shower with only a rolled up yoga matt to use as a weapon."
"Wow, okay. Do you want me to come over and help you look?" I ask jokingly.
"I really just need some help here."
"Okay, I'll tell you what. I'm about five minutes from finishing up a batch of hot, buttered Cheerios. I'll bring you a bag and be over in like, twenty minutes."
So now I'm back to juggling the cereal into a Ziplock while the cat claws at my legs, trying to orchestrate a Cheerio catastrophe that would end in her being showered with hot crunchy oats, hundreds of little edible pieces for her to chase under the furniture.
I pick her up and toss her in the bedroom with Chris, who is watching "Children of Paradise," a long and depressing French movie.
"I'm, uh, going to help Kristi look for her keys. She can't leave the house until she finds them."
"Wait, so she's not locked out? She's locked in?"
"Pretty much. I'll call you when we see some resolution."
"Have a good time."
I leave the house armed with garlicy snacks and race downtown, making the trip in a record 18 minutes.
Kristi opens the door before I have a chance to knock and gives me a look that could melt glass.
"Two hours of my life! I'll never get them back!"
"It's okay, they have to be here somewhere. Your house isn't that big. I'll start from the beginning, but how about you take a break and just tell me where you've looked and what your strategy is." I drop my stuff and throw her the bag of Cheerios, which she breaks open and starts pouring in her mouth.
I pick up her bike bag by the door and start taking stuff out of it.
"I've emptied that bag twice. And all the other bags by the door. I've looked in all the shoes, behind the furniture, and in that bag of empty beer bottles. I looked in the refrigerator crisper drawers, because, you know, I was in there making myself a sandwich. I checked in the dishwasher. We don't even use the dishwasher. I looked in the toilet. The bathroom drawers. The kitchen cupboards. Under the couch. In the plants. The catbox. Under the stairs. I dug through the garbage. The GARBAGE!"
"Did you call Jackson and tell him to check his bag, just in case they got swept in there as he was leaving?" I ask while dismantling a pyramid of shoes.
"Yes. He told me he looked and that he didn't have them."
"Hmm. I guess that means that, unless your cat ate them or they warped to another dimension, that perhaps they were left dangling in the door."
"But I never do that. I always toss them on the fireplace."
We spent the next hour going over the same ground she had covered twice herself. We even rechecked the toilet.
"I have to pee."
"Yeah, but what if my keys are just out of sight in the pipe and you flush it and then they disappear forever?"
I held it.
We had just finished taking all the recycling out of the paper bags and sorting it into piles; 'not keys' 'and keys,' with 'not keys' winning 53 pieces to 0, when I decided to run out to my car and get my flashlight.
When I came back in, Kristi was on the phone with Jackson, pleading with him to check his bag again. I rechecked under the stairs and the major appliances, finding lots of cat hair I hadn't previously seen, but no keys.
Then Jackson called back.
"Hello...yeah...you WHAT?...YOU DID?...They were in YOUR BAG THE WHOLE TIME? Do you have ANY IDEA what I've been doing for the last THREE HOURS?...Angie had to come over and help me look! I though I was losing my mind and you'd have to commit me! Or at the very least you'd have to have everything re-keyed. I can't talk to you right now."
I looked at her. She threw her hands up in the air.
"What happened? Didn't he look before?"
"All indications are that he didn't. But he said they were really busy at the ICU tonight. Two people died in the same room at the same time. But still. What about my keys? He could have just looked."
We finished the garlic Cheerios and called it a night. And Kristi slept well, knowing that her Toyota would not be stolen in the night with her own key.