Surely it must be time to get up, I thought. Unwilling to open my eyes to the bright morning light just yet, I nudged one of several dogs off my legs and tried to stretch. Not the smartest move - once they realized I was awake, the barking and licking started. I opened my eyes to find Duncan, paws on my chest, holding a rolled up paper in his mouth. I assumed it was for me.
Yep. It was a note from Jeff: Dogs walked and fed. Kids clean, dressed, stopping at Uncle Jimmy's for breakfast on the way to school. Thought you'd like to sleep in.
What a guy. I looked at the clock - it was nearly nine. I couldn't remember the last time I'd slept that late. Well, since having children anyway. I shooed the dogs off the bed and headed toward the kitchen, musing that coffee might be just the thing to start my day. That's when the knocking began. Loud knocking. Knocking that was way too urgent for this early in the morning.
All four dogs accompanied me as I stumbled into the kitchen. At the back door, I peered out the window to find three tiny black women standing on the back porch. "Yes?" I said, opening the door with some hesitation.
"I'm 'Lil Niecy," the tallest of the three said. Gesturing to her companions, she continued, "And this here's Ti-Niecy and this one Chi-Niecy. Mister Rob sunt us down to help you."
"To help me?"
"With your housework and such," the one called Ti-Niecy replied. "He said you got two kids, a big ole husband and your husband's daddy to look after." She stepped back slightly, as Duncan edged toward her silently. "And all them dogs."
"Well, I wasn't expecting..." I began.
Chi-Niecy interrupted me. "We does for Mister Jimmy and Mister Rob three times a week. At they house and in the shop. They sure does have lots of furniture to shine up."
"Mister Rob was going to call you," said 'Lil Niecy.
Just then the phone rang. I motioned for them to come in and grabbed the telephone. It was Aunt Rob. "They're here," I answered when he told me why he was calling. I listened while he extolled their many virtues and when I started to protest, Aunt Rob sweetened the deal by offering to provide their services on a weekly basis. He promised that I would have no complaints and rang off. I looked at the Weird Sisters - an amusing image considering Duncan's less than friendly reaction to them - and said, "As long as you're here, I guess I might as well give you the tour."
"Oh, we been here before," said Ti-Niecy. "We cleaned the place for Mister Jimmy just before you all moved in."
"Well, you don't have to clean my office," I said, standing in the doorway. "I prefer not to have anything on my desk moved. I can take care of this room myself."
Chi-Niecy stuck her head in the door and looked around as if she doubted my housekeeping skills. "What in the world is all them chalkboards for?" she asked. "Is you some kind of teacher?"
"No," I replied. "I use them for my work." I didn't want to mention that I never take the chance of an over-eager housekeeper erasing my calculations and other random scribblings. Or the fact that some of the files that came across my desk were of the top-secret variety. "My kids aren't even allowed to come in here."
"Now don't you worry," said 'Lil Niecy. "We won't bother a thing in there. We should get started, if you don't mind. Mister Rob says you like to use you own cleaning supplies. He says they is pet friendly. You want to show me where everything is?"
I led them into the laundry room and pointed out the cupboard with the cleaning supplies. "As you can tell, I haven't done much cleaning in the past couple of weeks. We're still settling in."
"That's why we is here to help you," 'Lil Niecy said. "Our mama used to work for Mister Jimmy and Mister Rob until she got so's she couldn't get around too good. You might remember her; her name DeNiecy."
Actually, I did remember. That sweet little lady made the lightest buttermilk biscuits I've ever eaten in my life. I inquired after her present health.
"Oh, she still cooking and baking, but she don't do the cleaning no more." I followed 'Lil Niecy into the kitchen while the other two headed upstairs laden with the vacuum cleaner, a mop and a bucket.
Curiosity had finally gotten the better of me; I had to ask. "I guess you're her namesake," I ventured.
"We all is, " she replied. "Her given name is Deniece. My grandmama named me Deniece, too, but Mama always called me 'Lil Niecy. Then when Ti-Niecy come along, she was so small they name her Deniece on account of she look just like me, but we call her Tiny. When she got older, she didn't like that, so we change it to Ti-Niecy. And I'm sure you can tell why we call Chi-Niecy what we do."
"Is her name Deniece, too?" I asked.
"Lord, no! It be Stella. But she got them Chinese eyes, so we been called her Chi-Niecy all her life. I expect she used to it by now," she said matter of factly and started unloading the dishwasher. "Now I can't be standing here jawing all day. You need to go ahead on and get dressed and you might ought to do something about that hair. And that office of yours sure look like you got some work to do."
I knew why Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Rob liked the Weird Sisters so much; they enjoyed being looked after. I also knew why they sent them to me: my uncles thought I needed a keeper, too.
Maybe just for a couple of weeks. Or a month. Until we get settled in.