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Instructions for a teenage housesit (from notebook found on 38th and 9th, NYC)

by Pasha Malla, 6th May 2006

Canadian writer, Pasha Malla, indulges himself in this spoof on the fine art of leaving written instructions for your house sitter. It seems that the young Miss Higginsbottom-Baxter is in for a rough ride while the erstwhile home owner and patriarch absents himself on a tour of British Rhodesia. While it is nice to know exactly what a home owner expects of you, who could follow all of these rules?!

January 2006

Miss Lisa Higginsbottom-Baxter:

Thank-you once again for offering to housesit for me while I make my tour of British Rhodesia. I have always considered you the most adequate of the Baxter girls – certainly more so than that Mongoloid sister of yours, Karen, or some such thing. That one I wouldn’t trust to watch the doghouse. Your mother has always spoken highly of you to me, when I have allowed it, and there is no doubt, barring the existence of your eldest brother (who really is a strapping lad, bless him) you would be her favourite.

I have taken the liberty of preparing some instructions for you, which I advise you to read and consider thoroughly at this time. While I hesitate to institute regulations for the custody of my home, I do think a frivolous teenaged girl such as yourself might not otherwise appreciate the level of care required. Indeed, one element ignored would most probably result in a total collapse of the entire system. With this in mind I encourage you to take the following very, very seriously, and not with that typical, immature, adolescent whimsy to which you are no doubt fully inclined.

Firstly, the dog must be fed thrice daily at six-hour intervals, commencing promptly at six hundred hours. His name is Hilary, and he enjoys to be referred to as such. If Hilary is having difficulty swallowing his food, you may want to help with the mastication process; while still in reasonable health for his eighteen years, his single tooth at times proves deficient. An addendum to this: if Hilary should pass on in my absence, may God have mercy on your soul, for my vengeance shall be swift, and it shall be ruthless, and you, young Lisa, shall be its recipient.

The plants are to be watered on Friday afternoons. Each has its own decanter, which you will find appropriately labeled with the corresponding scientific name in the kitchen armoire. The Sedum Rosea also require a pinch of coffee (Jamaican Blue Mountain, dark roast, fine grind) with their water. All of my plants enjoy Mozart in the evenings, save the Senecio Pauciflorus, which appears more partial to Brahms. Alas, there is no accounting for taste.

The television is not to be operated, under any circumstances. Nor should you adjust the heat, turn on any lights, open the curtains or use any hot water. Telephone calls are strictly forbidden. The kitchen is off-limits. You may, on occasion, receive guests at the side entrance, but at no point are they to be permitted entry into the house. While I am aware that three months might seem a long time to be sequestered, alone, indoors, I suggest that you think of yourself as being in political exile – the drama of this fantasy will no doubt prove delightful.

My mail should be assorted according to immediacy. Personal letters from family, ‘friends’, etc. can be discarded, while I expect you to have the good sense to take care of any bills from your own pocket (I will do my best to reimburse you upon my return). The daily newspaper should be scoured for articles of interest, which you will then remove with a scissors, laminate, and store for my future analysis.

As per your remuneration, I have, in lieu of payment, left my study unlocked, where you are free to peruse my library at your leisure. I am certain you will find greater joy in such glorious tomes as Darwin’s Origin of Species and the works of John Ruskin than you ever would with some pithy monetary reward. I trust you will appreciate my generosity accordingly.

Now, if you have any questions, I may be reached by carrier pigeon only, care of the British High Commission in Harare. Please address any correspondence to an alias of your creation, as my presence in Rhodesia must remain covert.

Best of luck, and remember to think of the video cameras throughout the house as my own eyes, scrupulously watching your every move.

In trust,
Dr. R. Edmund Higginsbottom, Esq. (your father)

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About the author: Pasha Malla

Pasha Malla's writing has appeared, in print or online, in Grain, Hobart, Maisonneuve, McSweeney's, Night Train and Prism International, among others. He has been nominated for the Journey and Pushcart Prizes, and deemed 'Notable' in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005. Pasha apologizes in advance for his behavior. Pasha Malla recently moved to Toronto from Montreal. He lives across from a jail, down the street from a library, and around the corner from the famed DeGrassi Street of 1980's television infamy. He has yet to bump into Snake, Joey, or Wheels, but maintains hope for the future.