You're going along minding your own business, and the next thing you know there's a pickup truck parked in your living room, your house is a wreck, and your life has taken a totally unexpected turn. That's exactly what happened to Denver artist Marilyn Wells. Three days after she and her daughter walked into the bank to make the last of twenty-five years of mortgage payments, she was startled awake at 3:00 in the morning by what she thought were earthquake tremors.
"Then I heard this huge cracking sound," she said. "I waited, listened a minute, got up and stepped out into the hallway."
What she saw made her hair stand up on end. There in the middle of her living room sat a huge Ford F-10 pickup truck, a young man behind the wheel revving the motor trying to get it into reverse, two young women in the seat beside him, crying hysterically. "Where's my cell phone?" one of them wailed. "I can't find my cell phone!"
"I didn't know what was going on," Wells said. "I tried calling 911 on my land line, but the line was dead. So I slipped out the back door and ran over to my neighbor Buster's house." He'd heard the crash and had already summoned the police.
Wells watched the three kids abandon the vehicle and run off down the street. Then she saw the driver stop, turn, and walk slowly back. "He was obviously shaken," Wells said, "an 18 or 19 year old kid."
"Sorry about your house," he said as they stood side by side surveying the damage. Within minutes, the cops and fire department were on the scene, along with a reporter from Channel 7. The Fire Chief stepped in to retrieve her purse, lap top, and cell phone, and Wells called her daughter. By 4:00 AM, a crew of workmen had arrived and were boarding the place up.
"I was oddly composed that night," Wells remembered. "My daughter came and got me and the next morning I woke up and went back over to the house. It was a shambles. The whole front was in rubble and there were dishes everywhere."
The rest of the story reads like a good-news/bad news joke. First, the bad news: asbestos was discovered and the abatement team did almost as much damage as the truck, tearing out ceilings and kitchen cabinets, and wrecking china and tchotchkes in the process.
The good news? The house got a much needed work over. "While I wouldn't wish this on anyone, it all turned out OK," Wells said. "We had to do $100,000 worth of repairs. Everything had to be brought up to code. We negotiated with the insurance company and redid the bathroom, flooring, kitchen, and bedroom. They even put me up in an apartment while the repairs were in process."
As for the kid, he pretty much got off scot free, although he did have to spend one uncomfortable night in jail before being remanded to the custody of his father. Wells never saw him again.
Nearly two years since the accident, Wells said she still feels tension and anxiety whenever she talks about it. She credits her Christian contemplative practice for helping her get through the ordeal. "I'm finally feeling that my house and myself are all put together again. I have a lot more empathy for people who lose their homes now to flood and fire. I came away from this with a huge appreciation for the beauty of life."
For more Info:
Marilyn Wells www.marilynwells.com
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