He’s a darling little dog named Ollie. Adorable. I was referred by my hairdresser, Tuan. If you are referred by Tuan, you will get top priority from me. I do not mess with the man who does my hair. As I drove to the meet-n-greet, I thought no way…not doing this. It’s in Ben Lomond for god’s sake. Not only is it far away —half an hour on a good day, double that with traffic. Not doin’ it. Plus, all those hippies live there. Nope, not doing it. The place is loaded with tweakers.
I pulled into the driveway, drove through a hedge archway and was swept away by the magical setting before me. The emerald green lawn was perfectly manicured, the pots of colorful impatiens, bright red geraniums, and fluffy white Icelandic poppies seemed to be dancing in the sun. The scent of jasmine permeated the grounds and the majestic redwoods towered over all.
A delightful perky blonde lady greeted me at the door and welcomed me into her stunningly gorgeous home. It was elegant and beautifully appointed without being ostentatious. We laughed about the similarities of our hairstyles and simultaneously said, “Tuan.”
When she introduced me to her special little doggie it was with such love, pride, and adoration I knew I would take the job, Ben Lomond or not. I would have to commute to Capitola to give Frank his insulin shots, my Monday through Friday job, but I would make it work for the two weeks she would be traveling.
As she showed me through the house, she generously offered me to take full advantage of all this special property had to offer. The house sits high above a river with a natural waterfall flowing over a stone wall that creates a soothing atmosphere which can be enjoyed from the decks surrounding the house. She showed me the guest quarters with its own bathroom and close proximity to the deluxe laundry room.
We toured the well-equipped kitchen and the bar area with a separate wine fridge. She pointed out the liquor cabinet and said to feel free to help myself. I jokingly said, “Be careful, I might wipe you out.”
She opened a drawer and pointed out a pass to the nearby State Park, Henry Cowell Park, home of the giant redwoods.
I had decided to use the time at this private, secluded, peaceful place as a personal retreat. I planned to do lots of writing, take time for quiet reflection, drink lots of herb tea with little or no wine since I had no social engagements planned. I lasted for five days. When I realized it was Father’s Day and most of the world would be celebrating with loved ones. My family is so spread out and technically, I don’t have a father. There is my mother’s husband in Costa Rica whom I refer to as “Papa Nuevo (new dad),” which I have done for the last twenty-five years. He’s hardly my dad since he’s only four years older than me. But, still.
I texted my neighbor from Capitola, and knowing he loved to walk through Henry Cowell Park to enjoy the giant redwoods, invited him to visit for the day. I pictured us taking a stroll around the Redwood Loop Trail with the charming sounds of the Roaring Camp Train in the background. Afterward, perhaps we could sip a glass of wine at one of the local restaurants.
As we sat in the courtyard of Ristorante Casa Nostra, I noticed him anxiously glancing at his phone. “Waiting for a call?” I asked.
“Yeah, I heard from my daughter this morning but not my son. I really wish he would call.”
He said it with love and tenderness and I silently willed the phone to ring. It was after four in the afternoon and I was hoping his son hadn’t forgotten it was Father’s Day. I didn’t have the heart to dwell on the conversation and I didn’t want to run up our bill at the restaurant. Clearly, more wine was required!
“Hey, I have food at the house. I can whip up a little dinner for us. Whaddya say we get the bill and have a little Father’s Day dinner at the house?”
“Sure,” he smiled as he glanced at his phone.
As I gathered the dinner ingredients, I realized that while I’m mostly a white wine drinker, my dinner companion preferred red. “Be right back,” I chirped as I skittered off to the liquor cabinet. I grabbed a bottle of red and two lovely large-bowled red wine glasses. I handed over the bottle, glasses, and corkscrew as I started chopping garlic.
As he poured I admired the deep, rich color. The wine looked like ruby-red smooth velvet from across the kitchen island. As I reached out to accept the glass and to clink our “Cheers” something shiny on the side of the bottle caught my eye. I zeroed in on it and down the side of the bottle was written “Congrats!”
On the other side of the bottle in the same silver marker read, “Buxton.”
What have I done?! Not wanting to make my guest feel bad, I sloughed it off as no biggie. I said off-handedly, “Oh, I don’t think they’re big drinkers. They’ll never miss it,” as I inwardly groaned. I’m doomed.
“I’ll just toss the bottle and forget about it.”
After dinner, I said goodbye to my neighbor whose phone never did ring (I hope his son called later), put the empty bottle in the recycle bin outside, binge-watched a few episodes of The Crown and went to bed with Ollie, the adorable Bichon Frise who witnessed the whole thing but would never tell on me.
At dawn, I bolted upright! I can’t do it! I have to confess and replace the bottle!
I raced to my laptop and looked up the wine. Sixty-two dollars. Well, it’s a lot more than the Three-buck Chuck Chardonnay I would have opened if not for my neighbor’s preference for red. But, hey. I’m the one who did it, not him. I’ll just get a replacement at BevMo. I called the Capitola store.
“What? You say you don’t have a 2015 bottle of Davis Estates Zephyr Private Reserve? Oh, well, I’ll just call the winery. Thanks.”
“Hello, Davis Estates? I’m looking for a bottle of red wine made by your winery called Zepher 2015, Private Reserve. Is there a store in Santa Cruz where I can buy a bottle?”
“Oh, no, dear. That wine has been sold out since November. I’m afraid there’s no more to be had. Once we sell out, it’s done. We may have some more in six months. Would you like to reserve a case?”
“Oh, uh, no. You see, I accidentally drank a bottle and I need to replace it.”
“You accidentally drank a bottle? How does one accidentally drink a bottle of wine?”
Gasp. ” Well, I just grabbed it from the cupboard and didn’t realize it was a special bottle until it was already opened.”
“Oh. Are you a member?”
“A member? A member of what?”
“The wine club. Are you a member?”
“No, I’m not a member. I’m the petsitter! I’m watching the house and the dog and I opened the bottle of wine not realizing it was special.”
There was silence on the other end of the line. And then there was a belly laugh. “Ahhh, I see. I hope you enjoyed it. I might be able to find you a single bottle in that case. Would you like to stop by to pick it up or will I have to ship it?”
Whew. Sigh. “Stop by? You’re in Napa. No, I live in Capitola. How much will it cost if you ship it?”
“Oh, good, I thought it was going to be more. Online it said sixty-two.”
“Hahahaha. It’s twenty dollars for the shipping. The wine is a hundred and five.”
“Uh, uh, uh…a hundred and five?”
“Yes, and you’re lucky to get it. You drank a rare bottle of wine.”
I sucked air in through my teeth and blew out through puffed cheeks. “Okay, ship it.”
“It will go overnight and someone over twenty-one must be there to sign for it.”
“Yes, yes, I promise not to move until the wine arrives. I’ve been through this before,” I said, remembering the congratulatory bottle of champagne we sent to Lynn and Lucas for their retirement from Abbott Labs. After two delivery attempts to their home in Columbus, Ohio while they were traveling. UPS threatened to return it to the California winery from whence it came. It took their friend and petsitter extraordinaire, Gail, to reason with the UPS supervisor. “Look, you’re shipping crates of pot all over the world and you’re worried about a bottle of champagne? Just hold it until they return from Puerto Rico! Please?!” They did it.
In this case, I was on a time constraint. I needed to get the replacement bottle on the shelf before the people come home from vacation. I don’t want to be anywhere near the place when the discovery is made. Doomed, I tell you, doomed.
It could have been worse, like the time a coyote ate my friend’s cat under the care of a new petsitter. Or the time my friend got locked out and broke a window hoping to replace it before the people came home. She didn’t realize it was a custom window that had to be special-ordered. Busted.
I nervously paced the floor waiting for the wine to be delivered on the promised day. I went online and input the tracking number. No such number. I called the company, GSO, which the shipper said was four bucks cheaper than UPS and more reliable. Really? Never heard of them but who was I to argue with the wine expert? I called GSO when the office opened at ten in the morning. They said it would be delivered before five. Period. I brought Ollie with me to my apartment to wait. I swore him to secrecy.
I watched out the window for the truck. Just before noon, I saw it pull up in front of my building. I raced down the stairs to intercept the driver lest he get lost in my building looking for my apartment. The truck was empty. I heard the elevator leave the lobby. I raced up the stairs and burst through the door red-faced and breathless as the delivery driver was ringing my bell holding a box built for a single bottle of wine.
“Yes! Hello!! I’m so happy to see you,” I gushed.
His face lit up and he pointed, “Sign here.”
Not the normal reaction he gets from a simple delivery, I’m sure. But then, is there anything normal about this? I could promise I will never again open a bottle of wine on a petsit, but hey…we know that’s probably not gonna happen. So, hide your special stash from the petsitter if it happens to be CJ, Petsitter with Pearls. She has excellent taste.