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Hey, Darryl, welcome to the neighborhood! It’s great to have you. Rest assured, everyone here is awesome. And I don’t know whether your timing was on purpose, but it’s also a good time to have moved here. The leaves are turning color, and the wind is scattering them ‘round, so it’s beautiful here these days.

That there’s Jason and Susan, a young couple, both of them engineers, with their first child on the way, and straight across is Diego and Janice, two extremely kind veterans whose kids and grandkids visit once a month. And to your right is Monica and Joseph, who have three teenagers. These last are great folks—but I’d recommend you don’t take any valuable personal belongings to their place.

Now, their parties are actually pretty fun: Monica makes the best hamburgers and Joseph the best guacamole. They have the most interesting conversations, and invite the most interesting characters. They’re a riot and just know how to entertain.

That said, I should tell you that neighbors have noticed that their things go missing after going over.

For example, Jason couldn’t find his sunglasses anywhere after this year’s Easter get-together, and Sonya, the widow who lives behind me, woke up without her earrings the morning after last year’s Thanksgiving potluck. No one has evidence that Monica or Joseph—or any of their children, or any combination of them—is responsible, but the coincidences are too uncanny to ignore, at least for some of us. I have my own theory, though, and it’s related to what I lost about two months ago.

One evening, as I was watering the lawn, Monica came up to me offering to have Sammy and me over, because she and Joe couldn’t possibly finish a new bottle of wine on a weeknight. I nodded, and fifteen minutes later I arrived with Sammy.

It was an awesome dinner and, long story short—because they’re such a riot, like I said—one bottle of wine turned into six. We ended back home around one in the morning. Fast forward to the next morning: As I’m at my desk working, I realize I’m not wearing my watch. Once done with the tasks of the day, I search up and down the house. No luck.

Of course, I return to Joe and Monica’s to check.

Monica was vacuuming up the confetti when she received me.

It hadn’t been any special occasion. It’s just that, at some point during the night, we were playing doubles chess, and anytime any pair declared checkmate, we shot a mini-cannon of confetti. Monica has a drawer full of leftover party stuff. Like I said, they’re a riot.

As tactfully as possible, I ask her whether she’s seen my watch.

“Not at all,” she says, and even helps me look ‘round her place for it. We come up empty-handed after 20 minutes. After searching some more at home, I essentially give up. Then a few weeks go by, and I find myself munching on a sandwich in my car.

I’d just wrapped up a meeting and thought to eat a little before the drive. I was in a part of town that’s about 45 minutes away from here. Coincidentally, I’m also parked across from a pawnshop. I’m casually looking around when I notice that out of this pawnshop walks Joseph. I think nothing of it. Without noticing me, he drives away. Then I suddenly remember my lost watch. After some hesitation, I waltz over to the shop to see whether by chance it’s there.

And, Darryl, what do you think happens? I look at the glass counters, and there’s my watch! My eyes widen. No matter how much I press the cashier, he won’t tell me anything about how it got there because of their confidentiality agreement with patrons.

“At least let me see the watch,” I say. It’s undoubtedly mine. I’ve just put in the report to the police, but in hindsight I should have reported it missing much sooner. Now, I don’t know whether Joe is behind my watch being there, but he very well could be. They are a riot, these folks, but keep this in mind, Darryl.

Keven Balderas

Keven obsesses, nearly to the point of madness, over a new interest every two years. So far, his interests have included Latin, drawing, skateboarding and photography.

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