The man took the cake and inspected it gravely as befitted a gift fit for a king. “That’s because I wasn’t here. In fact I just got home.” He looked over Caleb’s shoulder at me. “Had to drive through a downpour on the last mile or so of a rather successful business trip. Haven’t even had time to change.” His gaze moved from Caleb to me. “If I’d have been home of course I would have answered.”
I’d heard his car during the storm. He was telling the truth. So far.
Caleb’s eyes narrowed and the man backed a bit and indicated that we should follow him inside. “Come in and help me eat this magnificent cake and I’ll explain.”
“There’s an explanation?” Caleb clearly didn’t believe there was.
“Yes there is and it’s quite simple, really.” He opened the door wider and waited for Caleb to enter, which he did. I wasn’t about to let my son be in that house without me so I slipped past the elderly man who didn’t look like an axe murderer.
The white cat and a large, multi-colored dog came into view. The cat wove around Caleb’s legs while the dog almost knocked me over in its eagerness to introduce itself. The man, meanwhile, approached a seriously large and complex panel on the wall near the door and flipped a few switches and turned a couple of dials. The music stopped. The feeling of being watched disappeared.
“What’s that?” My son was fascinated. I made ready to run when the panel reached out and grabbed me.
“This is a smart house. I travel a lot on business and when I’m gone the house takes care of my cat and dog and watches for intruders.” He showed Caleb the control panel. “This controls everything and is why my pets are safe and fed and watered when I’m gone.”
“Cool” was Caleb’s comment.
My mouth hung open. “Does it watch people outside?”
“Yes it does.” He chuckled. “If you were here before, as your son says you were, then your visit was recorded and possibly you felt like you were being watched. Because you were.” He fiddled with something and a screen popped up along one wall. “Want to see?”
Caleb was fascinated, I was mortified, and the elderly man was intrigued by our previous visits as he asked, “You bought the house down the road?”
I nodded, unable to speak and he cocked his head towards my son. “And do you like animals, young man?” Caleb nodded. “Then perhaps you and I can work something out. Some kind of arrangement by which you can come and play with my pets when I’m gone.” The cat and dog were all over Caleb in search of affection. “They’d like that and so would I. A smart home is mechanical. A boy, however, is a thousand times better than the smartest house in the world.”
He shooed us towards a table and found a knife and some plates and soon we were enjoying our second chocolate cake since moving into our new home as we listened to our neighbor, Mr. Connor, explain the ins and outs of smart homes and show us our previous visits on that screen that had popped out of the kind of cabinet that all smart houses probably have.
He checked the clock on the wall. “By the way, I’m expecting company any minute. This chocolate cake will be just the thing for my company and I hope you’ll stay long enough to meet my son.”
Mr. Connor waved an arm to take in the entirety of the house. “He designed and installed all this. He’s very smart.”
At that moment there was a knock on the door that was pushed open without the knocker waiting for someone to answer. A man large enough to take my breath away walked in.
A man who was not only large, he was smart.
Who could make a house do whatever he wanted.
And who might not approve of his father’s neighbors.