The Welcome Binder at Chez Rachel by Joanna Theiss

Welcome to Chez Rachel, your home away from home! 

I’m so glad you’ve chosen my rental property! (Thank you!) This welcome binder contains some handy tips to make your visit as fruitful as possible. 

Chez Rachel is conveniently located just a block south of Central Ave., which is our town’s main drag. The quickest access to Central is from the back door and through the alley between the Cove and University Liquors. Side note: the Cove was “my bar” before I moved closer to the college because I used to love to hear live music there (Thursdays through Saturdays). The Cove is a major hangout for musicians in town. Strike up a conversation and get to know some new people! 

You’re more than welcome to use the grill on the sideyard patio, though of course be careful with the gas. Haha I don’t mean to sound like your mom, but it is highly flammable and the houses are close together. If you like to cook, there are some handwritten recipes in a box on the counter. You can make very memorable meals from those recipes, especially if you like Italian food. You’ll find cookware in the drawer to the left of the stove. I’d appreciate it if you would care for the cast iron as you would your own.

Smoking used to be allowed in Chez Rachel until I realized how the smell of smoke can permeate the upholstery, comforters, bed sheets, towels, etc. and act as a permanent reminder, months, years, two years, even, after the smoker has left. And while a man leaning against my headboard with a cigarette between his lips and smiling through the smoke was very alluring, I know you’ll be more considerate of my linens, not to mention your lifespan, lung capacity, and that first-thing-in-the-morning cough that you can’t seem to shake, than he was. 

While you should have fun – you’re on vacation, probably, or seeing your eldest niece graduate from college, or you’re thinking of quitting your job and taking one here and want to get a feel for the place – remember that Chez Rachel is located in a residential neighborhood. The neighbors, many of whom are happily committed couples or families with young kids, don’t appreciate loud music after midnight.

On the topic of noise, please note that a person lying sleepless in the queen-sized bed in the largest bedroom can hear every sound people make on the screened-in porch. She can hear how casually a man plucks the strings of his ukulele, his charm that carries even though he’s buzzing from whiskey shots and isn’t ready to come to bed with his girlfriend who is not “unfun” but merely has a really good job in Library Services that she would like to keep by getting to work on time which means she needs her sleep on weeknights, and yes, Thursday is a weeknight. Even with a pillow over her head, she can hear his guest’s murmured sympathy for the oppressive situation he’s in, the strumming artist shushed into silence in a restored three-bedroom bungalow like a weakened peacock chained to a rusty ring at some old-timey zoo, so please note that sound, all sound, travels back into my/your/our bedroom. 

Trash and recycling are picked up on Wednesday mornings, usually before 8 AM. Roll the trashcan and recycling bin to the curb on Tuesday night to ensure pick-up, unless you’re awake early to iron your shirt for your interview and to cleanly shave the stubble that enchants during shadowy evenings at the Cove but doesn’t translate to corporate conference rooms, though if it’s a weekend and you’re in the side yard grilling a steak for yourself and a portabella mushroom for me and we’re sipping white wine and pretending to talk about our friends who recently got engaged but are actually talking about ourselves and when we might take that step, then a little bit of stubble is appreciated. 

Some of the drawers in the bedroom are marked “Private.” You can look through them.

When you go, please don’t worry about cleaning up. Your used towels, your slept-on sheets that smell like cologne and fine leather goods, let me handle them. Leave out the things of mine your uncalloused fingers have touched. I will pick them up, and I will wash them all and I will restore everything to where I had arranged it earlier with a resentment that will dissolve like the last notes of “Over the Rainbow” finger-picked on a ukulele for the enjoyment of a girl who’s barely older than Judy Garland was in the movie as soon as you come home from work and tell me about your day in the “trenches” by which you mean an airy office decorated with your diplomas and a tasteful but adorable photo of the two of us after we hiked to the Waimea Canyon lookout and that old couple asked us how we met.  

I’d also appreciate a five-star review. Thx!

Joanna Theiss is a lawyer-turned-writer living in Washington, DC. Her short stories and flash fiction have appeared in journals such as Aquifer: The Florida Review Online and Barren Magazine. One of her pieces was selected as a winner of Best Microfiction 2022. Links to her writing are available at www.joannatheiss.com