Suburban Mysteries 3: Lights Out!

“Dang it, Kendall” Chad said, more to himself than to his wife, Kendall, who was nowhere within earshot.  Chad had spent the past two minutes trying to figure out why the bedside lamp wasn’t turning on, only to discover that it had been unplugged.  

Draping himself across the bed, he tried in vain to squeeze his arm behind the headboard to reach the outlet.  He knew this was Kendall’s fault, because she was the only person in their household with arms wiry enough to fit behind the headboard.  

Sure enough, as soon as the metal prongs touched the socket, a light sprang forth from the firmament.  It divided the light from the darkness, and Chad saw that it was good.  

“Kendall” he said seriously, as she entered the bedroom with her hair in a headband and with some kind of cream smeared on her face.  “Please stop unplugging the lamp.  You’ve done it every day this week, and I just don’t understand why.”

“I’m not unplugging the lamp” she said, crawling into bed beside him.  “Why would I do that?”

“I don’t know, but my arms don’t fit behind the headboard and I always see you reaching back there for your glasses, or your chap stick, or whatever you’ve dropped back there because you refuse to use your nightstand drawer.”

Kendall made a dismissive noise that also seemed to indicate that Chad was crazy, and flipped over onto her side.  In the process, a tube of chap stick rolled to the floor behind the headboard.  “I’m not getting that” she said, and fell asleep approximately ten seconds later. Chad turned off the light and joined her in sleep.


Chad and Kendall had been married for twelve years, and yet they still hadn’t mastered the art of waking up at the same time.  Kendall awoke the following morning, stretched, and coyly reached behind the headboard to grab her chap stick, keeping an eye on Chad to make sure he didn’t awaken and accuse her of being a light-unplugger, which didn’t make any sense.  She noted with satisfaction that the lamp cord remained firmly buried in the socket while she hauled up a hair tie along with her chapstick.

Kendall slowly pulled herself out of the bed and walked into the kitchen. There stood the most beautiful sight: the Keurig machine. She busied herself making sure their Keurig was filled with water, so that she could immediately fill her veins with caffeine.  She popped the coffee pod into the top and pressed the button, waiting for her coffee.  Nothing happened.  A look behind the machine quickly revealed the source of the problem:  the Keurig had been unplugged.  That was just low!  Who retaliates for an unplugged bedside lamp by unplugging the sweet source of life giving caffeine?  A jerk, that’s who.  Or possibly whom.  Kendall plugged in the coffee pot and angrily brewed herself a cup, making sure to dump the water out afterwards.  Chad could fill the machine himself.

She sat down at the table to enjoy her cup.

Half an hour later Chad rolled out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen.  He attempted to kiss Kendall on the cheek, but she “hmmmphed” him away. He swiped a mug from the dish strainer and walked to the Keurig. He pressed the button, but nothing happened.  He pressed the button again, then realized that there was no water in the machine.  “What gives?”  he asked sadly, holding his empty cup like a person begging at the airport.  

“I saw what you did.  Sneaking out of bed to unplug this thing, knowing full well it would annoy me.  I told you last night I didn’t unplug your lamp.”

“I didn’t unplug the Keurig.”

“Well I didn’t unplug the lamp!”  

“Fine.  But something’s unplugging it, and it’s getting really annoying.  I think I sprained my wrist last night trying to get it plugged back in.”

“I don’t know what to tell you” Kendall said.  “Maybe those painters who’ve been coming over have been unplugging our things?”

Chad and Kendall were in the middle of having the inside of their house professionally painted.  They could probably have done it themselves, but those tasteful shades of camel, desert sand, butterscotch, taupe leather, and wheat just looked better when applied with a professional paint sprayer and one of those tiny detail brushes.  Chad had been the one to make the deciding argument.  “If we paint it ourselves, it’s just beige” he’d said the week before, causing Kendall to look up sharply from their paint samples and nod as though he was making a brilliant point.  And so they’d hired the painters.   The noisy, inconsistent, unreliable painters.  

Chad absently stroked their cat Reginald while he examined the wall for traces of detailing.  “Maybe.  Maybe they’re preemptively unplugging appliances so nothing gets painted over.  Doesn’t look like they’ve even approached this wall yet.”

The reason for Chad’s confusion was that this particular wall was already a tasteful shade of desert sand.  It was hard to determine if a new color had been put on or not.  However, Chad was certain that when the new paint job was done, it would make a difference in quality, if not actual color.  

“Well I’ll speak with them when I see them next” Kendall said.  “It’s fine to move things around to work, but they need to respect our property and our boundaries by replacing things when they’re finished.”


Kendall’s conversation with the painters went well.  While they didn’t remember unplugging any appliances specifically, they assured her that they would take care to do a final walk through of the house before leaving and make sure everything was in its place.  

So nobody could blame Kendall when she screamed “OH COME ON!”  after attempting and failing to turn the bedside lamp on later that night.  A quick swipe behind the headboard turned up another loose lamp cord.  She took a deep breath and blew off a puff of cat hair, which had twined itself between the bare metal prongs.   

“I thought you had a talk with those painters” Chad said.  “Maybe they didn’t respect you because they felt like you weren’t leaning in.”

“Do NOT quote current books to me right now, Chaderick.”

“I’ll talk to them in the morning.  Don’t worry.  Sometimes these things sound better coming from another man.”  

Kendall rolled her eyes and wedged her arm behind the bed again to plug the lamp back in.  After plugging it in she fished around behind the bed, scooping up a paperclip and a blue ring that looked like it had once lived on the mouth of a milk bottle.  Weird.


The next morning Chad lingered over his coffee, keeping one eye on the paper and the other on the painters, who were working on the guest room.  The guest room had several appliances plugged into the walls, including a lamp like the one in the bedroom, and a clock radio.  Chad had rushed Kendall out of the house because he didn’t want her to see that his method of talking to the painters like one of the guys was to spy on them and see if they unplugged anything.  

“Careful with the Khaki Camel, Sam” the lead painter bellowed.  There was the sound of something hitting the side of a metal can, and then a stream of mild cursing.  

“Sorry Dave.  I confused the Khaki Camel with the Peanut Butter Cookie” someone, presumably Sam, said.  

Chad stood up and stretched out over the table, craning his neck to see into the guest room.  

“Careful, cat!”  Chad could barely make out one of the painters swatting gently at Reginald with a paint stirrer.  He sat down again quickly as the taller of the two came into the kitchen.  

“Can I ask you to put your cat in a room with a closed door for the time being?  He’s underfoot and I don’t want cat paw prints on your flooring.”

“Sure” Chad said, scooping Reginald up into his arms.  He noticed that Reginald had a small red mark on his face, near his lip.  “I wonder what he got into?  He has a scratch or something on his face.”

“I’m not sure” the tall painter said.  “But he certainly likes to lay on your beds when you’re not around.  We always find him sleeping on the people beds, ignoring that nice cat bed you have for him.  Maybe he’s getting into other stuff he’s not supposed to.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised” Chad said, tossing Reginald into the sun room, which had a loveseat and a spare food dish.  “He gets into everything.”  On his way out of the sun room he peeked into the guest room.  “It’s going to look great when you finish” he said admiringly, noting that the lamp was plugged in and turned on.


“We did this wall first and plugged the lamp right back in, just like your wife requested” the shorter painter said proudly.  “We try to deliver that personal touch.”

“Well.  Great job then” Chad said.  “I’ll go do my work in the kitchen and get out of your hair.”

Chad immediately picked up his iphone and sent a text message to Kendall.  “It’s not the painters.  Lamp is plugged in and turned on.”  Kendall messaged back “we’ll see.  Oh, we’ll see.”

Chad had often thought to himself that Kendall needed to learn to be more trusting, but twelve years of marriage had taught him that the last thing he needed to do was to bring this to Kendall’s attention.


“I’m home, ladies”  Kendall sang out, slinging her brightly colored, quilted Vera Bradley purse onto the coffee table.  

Chad moved the reports he was reading from his lap so he could stand up and give her a welcoming kiss.  “I know you’re not inclined to trust the painters” he began.

“Those dilettantes don’t know Sarah Sand from Salted Caramel!”  She said, shaking tastefully ombre highlighted hair in disgust.  “How could I trust them with our Pottery Barn appliances?”

Chad set to work preparing cups of coffee for the both of them to drink before planning dinner.  Kendall let herself into the sun room and adjusted the blinds.

“They’re really doing a nice job in the bedrooms” Chad called from the kitchen, adding stevia and heavy cream to their mugs.  “They look like bedrooms from the model home show!”

“Well I hope they don’t look too flashy” Kendall said, “Like that tart’s house next door.”  She closed the blinds on the North side of the room, hiding her view of the house next door that she deemed “too flashy” by virtue of its plum colored shutters.

Chad carried both mugs into the room, carefully setting them down on an end table and reaching for the lamp to set a little mood lighting.  The lamp clicked, but did not light.

Kendall gave Chad the kind of look reserved for neighbors with tacky houses and aggressive girl scouts selling cookies door to door.  “Really, Chad?  Guess it’s a good thing you stayed home to keep an eye on things. “

“The painters didn’t do this” Chad said, crossing his arms.  “They’re true professionals.”

“You had one job, Chad.  OK, I guess two jobs since you were technically supposed to be working from home.  How did that go, by the way?  Did you really work from home or should I check out your fantasy football page and see what really happened.”

Chad balked.  He actually had been messing around on his fantasy football page for an hour or so that day, but Kendall didn’t need to be proven right any more than she already felt she was.  Usually in this type of situation, it was best to distract Kendal’s attention.

He picked up the remote to their stereo system and clicked it on.  “I did do one thing right today.  I downloaded some Michael Buble.”

“Ooh!”  Kendall forgot to be angry with Chad and picked up her coffee mug.  

Michael Buble’s rich voice filled the sunroom, His voice rose in a cover of “Fever.”

“He’s like a modern day Cole Porter!”  Kendall gushed.

Just as the drummer emphasized the phrase “fever!” with a brisk hit to his high-hat, the sound stopped.  Kendall and Chad looked at each other.  

“What the hell?”  Kendall asked.

“You know you can’t blame this one on me” Chad said, holding his hands up to deflect her quick temper.

“I’m so sick of these electrical problems!”  Kendall said, slamming her mug down on the table for emphasis.  A sharp wail rose in the glass-enclosed room, a pitch that Michael Buble had never once reached.

Kendall and Chad both whirled around as Reginald shot from behind the stereo, the long cord tangled in his angrily whipping tail.

“REGINALD!  NO!”  they both shouted.  It was too late.  The stereo pulled backwards out of the shelf, landing on the cream colored indoor/outdoor carpet.  Reginald tore around the room, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.  Books toppled.  The lamp tipped, its cord winding up around Reginald’s fuzzy feet.  Chad managed to lunge across the room and kick open the door, where Reginald shot out into the hallway.  They both winced as they heard things bumping and falling in the rooms on either side of the hall.

“Well.  I think maybe we figured out what was happening to all of the other cords” Kendall said, as they heard the whine of the refrigerator motor winding down.  

“Wrong, I believe that I solved this one” Chad said.  “How did he even fit behind the fridge?”

“I guess he really hates Michael Buble” Kendall said, as the sounds of destruction quieted.  




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