I don’t know what it means, this scrap of paper I’d found taped to the door when I came home from school this afternoon. No one else was home. The thin strip looks like it had been pulled out of the trash as an after-thought. It’s got some tell-tale crumpling that had to have happened before the three cryptic images had been drawn on it.
It had been folded in half. On the outside is two partial words ‘Ingr-‘ and ‘Spa-‘. My dad’s handwriting, but it could be code, or another language. What if it’s a code, like he’s a sleeper spy, and he threw it out, and someone else found it, and they knew what it meant, and they drew a response? ’cause on the inside, what was covered by it being folded, are three simple drawings: a house, a person on a bike, and an eye.
I’ve spent the last hour trying to decipher it, trying to figure out if it was meant for my parents, my sister, or me. And whether it’s friendly, or a threat. What do these images mean?
On TV, crap like this is never what it seems. If everyone could understand it, we’d have no secrets, and secrets are important. Spies would be out of jobs without secrets. So, is the house a house, or a home? Dwelling? Abode? Mi casa su casa? Is the guy on a bike a biker, a cyclist? Marathon, or triathlon or whatever person? Born to ride? Eye. I. Aye (pirate code speech). Maybe ‘Eye of the needle/storm/beholder’? I sew want to ride to Mexico?
If my parents hadn’t grounded me- it was totally Jacob’s fault, by the way- I’d be able to Google all possible possibilities, including the partial words. And if my parents trusted me to not try to use the internet while I’m grounded (which, ok, honestly, they can’t. I’ll get on.) Anyway, since they don’t trust me, they got this stupid device that locks me out or tracks me when I’m on. Completely unfair. But if they hadn’t not trusted me and didn’t have that stupid device (which I’m going to find one day), then I’d have been able to Google before anyone got home and I’d solve this potential catastrophe long ago before they get home.
Maybe I should call the police. What if it’s: ‘A biker is watching your house’. Like, scary, big, tattooed dude from that show I’m not supposed to watch, who’s pissed off by something we didn’t know we’re not supposed to do. But then, why wouldn’t they have drawn a scary dude on a Harley? Maybe they’re crappy artists.
Maybe it’s a tornado warning and someone thinks we’re going to Wicked Witch ourselves through ‘The Eye of the Storm’ and send ourselves to Oz…….and the only reason I know about that bit is because mom got all sentimental and forced us through a weekend of her childhood movies (don’t tell her they were actually ok).
What if the sender is mom!
No, she likes to write things out on stickies and tape it to my door. And she writes in cursive even though I’ve told her that they don’t teach us that in school anymore so I can’t read it. Everything’s digital now-a-days.
Maybe it’s from mom! Maybe she finally accepted the handwriting communication barrier.
Nah. She doesn’t draw.
Maybe someone’s riding their bike here later? ‘I’m biking to your house’, and they forgot to add an image for their identity, or time. Or they assumed whoever it was intended for would just somehow know. Maybe it’s for my sister. Her girly friends do stupid stuff like this.
Maybe it’s opposite: ‘I want you to bike over to my house’.
Who leaves messages like this, anyway! It’s why we have phones- to text each other!
The back door opens and I jump. It’s my dad. I slap my hand over the scrap of paper.
He’s wiping his hands on his garage towel, and taking careful note of me. I hate it when he does this. He’s got like Superman senses. Or Spidey. Both, maybe. I smile, but I know I look guilty. I feel guilty, though I didn’t do anything this time. I could be saving their lives, for all he knows.
“What have you been doing? Didn’t you get my note? I’ve been waiting in the garage for an hour, and you’re just sitting here.”
“What?” I say. “What note?”
“You didn’t see it? I left a piece of paper on the door.”
“Wait, this paper?” I unslap my hands and pull the paper up so that it rests between our eyesight. If we were Superman and son, we could totally fry this thing. It would be so epic. Maybe I’m supposed to say raw now. It would be so raw.
My dad brightens, smiling. “You did get it! Why didn’t you come to the garage?”
I turn my wrist so that I can stare at the images again. “Why would I go to the garage? Where does it say garage?”
“I thought it’d be obvious: I’ll fix your bike when you get home.”
“That’s not what it says!” I yell. “It’s not even in that order.”
“Fine. ‘When you get home, bring your bike to me so I can look at it’.”
“That is absolutely not what this says! Why couldn’t you just write it on a sticky like mom?”
“’cause I thought you’d figure it out. Maybe your brain truly is rotting under the weight of technology.”
“It is not. It is far more advanced than kids from your generation when you were all my age. We no longer speak in hieroglyphs or tedious writing.”
“Haha, smartypants. You’re grounded. I can’t text you. I thought this was funny. No humor in you. Do you want your bike fixed or not?”
“No one says smartypants’ anymore either, dad.” I say, getting up from the chair and rolling my eyes. I cannot let give him any hint of humor. Or disappointment. I so thought he was a sleeper spy. Damn.
“Sorry. Should I draw you an emoji? Give me my note back.”
I back out of his reach. “No! It’s my note, isn’t it? Are we fixing my bike or what?”
Dad grabs a handful of my hair and gives my head a small shake. “Yea, come on. I’ll decide whether this means no more messages, or much more messages.”
I groan, but grin when I’m sure he doesn’t notice. “So what’s Ingr Spa?”
I hold up the note so he can see.
“Oh, well, I’d have to leave you another note to explain that.”