The family returned home and to their surprise, the trees on the front lawn were cut down and woodchips and shavings were scattered over the muddy, torn-up lawn. Their minds raced. What could their house sitter have done in such a short time? They had only been gone for three hours after all.

They knocked on the door. No one answered. Going into the house, they discovered someone had put the thermostat to the maximum level of temperature. The heat was furious. To their shock, they found all their pets seeking refuge in a corner. Of the seven different species of pets the Jones family had — a dog, a cat, a turtle, a guinea pig, a rabbit, a parakeet and a mouse — all but the dog were dead (Max was a particularly strong and personable dog). Max, the retriever, had to witness the death of his fellow Jones family pets. The brutality of the pet sitter was evident as they discovered that the parakeet’s cage had been broken, the guinea pig’s nestle had been upheaved and was on the floor and the cat had fed on some toxic mix of cleaning supplies for its eyes were glazed over, white as the tiled floors of the home.

As the Jones family entered the kitchen, they discovered the air was filled with smoke, the pans had been greased up and water covered the floors, swamping through into the rest of the house through the doorway. The water ran from the faucets and was causing a slow but clearly visible rise in the puddle’s depth. Mr. and Mrs. Jones were at a loss of words. Mr. Jones remembered his precious koi pond in the backyard, a natural wonder of his little plot of land, and he rushed through the back door to see what had happened to it. The water was gone. The pond was empty except for a group of bright crimson koi gasping for air at the bottom. In the place of the Jones’ rose bush, there stood a huge sign advertising for Applebee’s Tuesday Half-Off Lunch Combo Deals. This is a deal where apparently, on Tuesdays, you can buy two meals and get them both for the cost of one. Mr. Jones did not care for the cost-saving benefits of this deal.

As Mr. Jones moved his eyes across the backyard, he saw a pile of dirt in the back corner and the family’s shovel and gardening equipment strewn about. Mr. Jones decided to confront the source of continuous splashing, buckets nearby and found the hole-digger. As he stepped to the pile of dirt’s edge and peered into the hole, he saw Dave the House Sitter sitting in a huge puddle of mud. Dave gave a reasonable explanation for the missing pond — you see, he had needed it to fill up his hole in the backyard, where he suspected there was gold. Yes, Dave sat in the mud, using the family’s fine China to pan the water of the koi pond and the mud of the Jones’ backyard for gold.

In a fit of rage, Mr. Jones said, “What have you done?”

Dave looked up at Mr. Jones. “I know this looks bad, but really Mr. Jones, please just hear me out. There is a very good explanation for all of this.”

Mr. Jones let out a very frightening sort of sound, halfway between a lion’s roar and an owl’s screech.

Rachel Acree is a junior in the School of Nursing and Health Studies and James Gadea is a junior in the School of Foreign Service.

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