A Day Off Is Just What I Needed

A Day Off Is Just What I Needed

Wow!! I feel so good today, like I’ve had a spiritual shower and been toweled off with imagination and pushed out into my creative space to spill my thoughts onto a freshly created word file. Would you look at that beautiful white space just waiting for me. Comfy chair, monitor tweaked just the way I like it, desk space uncluttered and nothing to distract me. The phone is ringing.

Hello Rachel, no, you are not bothering me, I lied. Would I mind doing a short survey? Yeah, I would. Let me let you go, my train of thought is leaving and I want to go where it was headed, really. I know you will keep calling, I just don’t care right now. I’ll unplug the phone, yeah, that should take care of that.

The first sentence is always the worst, sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t just type a bunch of random letters for a line or two, throw on a period and then come back and fix it later, just to get going. Which would probably work but as soon as I got up to answer the phone my elusive, secretive, almost never seen in the light of day kitty has taken up residence in my chair. Prrrrrrrrr, says kitty. Shoo, says I, picking up his fluffiness and depositing him on the floor. I believe the name of the look I got was ‘reproach.’

Settling back in and getting ‘writer mode’ enabled once more I let the creative juices that had been simmering come to a boil and spill out onto the page. Spill onto the page. I said… Crap. Where was this going? It was so ‘there’ earlier. Where was I? Got up, grabbed a shave, then a shower, got dressed, was thinking about, what? A mental image of Curly Howard saying, “I tried to think, but nothing happened!” I sort of stare into space hoping that the thought would circle around and I would catch it on the next lap and the cat settles down onto the middle of the keyboard. I stroke the little darling a couple of times and then I see that he has been making the letter ’s’ the whole time, three pages of the letter ‘s’. Well at least he is getting something on the page. He does this when he is hungry, I will feed him and maybe he will go to sleep somewhere and let me alone for a bit.

The cat actively paces all about the counter and underfoot as I fill a dish with his favorite canned food, place it on the floor and watch him attack it. My exit is silent and unnoticed by the cat, he, after all, has priorities.

Got to get centered, go to the bathroom, grab toothbrush, toothpaste, ritual two minute tooth scrubbys. Mouthwash, swirl, swirl, spit. Water back. Spit. Towel. Check the shave. Shave is good. Grab a random cologne from the basket, spritz! Now, back to work. Sit down, delete three pages of ‘s’ and start fresh. Fresh. Damn, that cologne smells good. Really good. When I was single, if I smelled like this, I would sleep with me. What? Shut up!!! Focus. Damn, that was a good movie. Love me some Will Smith. Great, now that song is in my head. I hate listening to music when I write, or try to. Only one thing worse.

Bark, bark, bark, bark.

What do you want?

Bark, bark, bark!

Food?

Bark, bark.

Water?

Bark, bark, bark.

Outside?

Bark, wiggle, wiggle, bark, wiggle, wiggle…

Let’s go! Easy enough to figure that out. Great day outside. Fresh air, sunshine. Blank page. No. Don’t go there. Don’t even think it. Not the words. Writer’s block. There. Now you’ve gone and done it. Might as well go to the hardware store and get the new lock for the back door and while you are out you were going to design a shaving grotto for the hallway bathroom and the wife needed some stuff from Wally World. Because you thought it out loud.

Block, block, bo bock,

Banana fanna fo fock,

Fee fi mo mock,

Writer’s Block!!!

That’s it. Concentrate. Stare at the page until the thoughts come. Then type like crazy until they are all on the page. Concentrate. Concentrate. Sleeeeeep…

O. M. G. It is 2:30 in the afternoon. My neck hurts. I am soooooo hungry. I think my butt has grown into this chair cushion. I give up. Somebody feed me.

Gone, Long Gone

Gone, Long Gone

My friend Pete wasn’t home this Saturday morning. I had pulled into his driveway just as the sun had come fully up into the sky, about 8 a.m. this time of the year and was dismayed to realize that his truck was absent from it’s usual spot, snug up against the ages old wooden shed parallel with the back of the house. There was no use looking to the shed, the truck would not be there. Although it was big enough it was as old as the house, built in the ‘10’s and ‘20’s of the last century by Standard Oil of America to house the oil workers employed on company leases situated on the southern bank of the Red river, a place loosely referred to as Boomtown, more particularly Burkburnett, Texas. The shed was defying the pull of gravity by virtue of countless coats of latex paint and Pete knew it, never would he risk the finish on his precious truck by parking it inside.

He was off today, he worked strictly Monday to Friday but I knew without doubt where my friend was, washing his truck at the carwash several blocks down the street, he did love that truck and he was predictable to a fault. I backed out of the driveway and reversed carefully along the extra high curb peculiar to this particular neighborhood until I was even with Pete’s front door. As I pulled the keys out of the ignition, intent on waiting instead of leaving and coming back later, a sign in the next yard caught my eye. For Sale-Open House the sign read.

Ordinarily the sign would not have rated a second look but 10 years ago Pete had, unbeknownst to him, purchased the house next door to the house my grandparents had bought in 1936 for $3500 from the widow of my grandfathers boss. My grandfather had passed away in the house in July of 1976 and my grandmother stayed in it until cancer and heart disease forced her into hospice care in 2001. I personally hadn’t been inside since I helped my mother sell the place and the Open House invitation pulled me by a thousand invisible strings inexorably to the front porch.

A tin box held to the bottom of the mailbox with double-sided tape yielded a key that opened the deadbolt that could have been installed in the front door yesrterday, it’s brilliant finish bore no resemblance to the dark brown brass knob of the large rectangular mortise lock. The door shuddered slightly as the deadbolt slid back, years of shrinking and swelling with the seasons and humidity changed the geometry of the door and it’s relationship to the jamb so that the latch of the mortise barely lined up with the original striker plate. A light push and the door swung inward until the sweep reached the untramped shag carpet stopping it just short of the quarter round trim of the front wall. The pier and beam floor gave a bit under my feet as I stepped off of the concrete porch into the house. As my eyes adjusted to the dim, reflected light of the front room I began a quick left to right inventory, nothing at all was familiar, all of the old landmarks were long gone, no recliner, no armrest-high ashtray, reading lamp gone, huge console television and floor length window treatments all gone, the 10 foot high ceiling the sole reminder of where I was. I was a bit saddened when I came to the entrance of the dining room and saw that someone had used nails to fasten a strip of thin wood over the room divider hidden into the wall that could be pulled out to separate the living room from the rest of the house so that tired guests could turn in before the rest of the household has gone to bed.

Disrepair was a word that came to mind but was almost immediately replaced by ‘misrepaired’ a more correct description of the half-hearted plywood nailed over the dining room window covering the opening that years ago housed a 2-ton Fedders swamp cooler in an age that had not yet been introduced to refrigerated air. The heavy squirrel cage fan of the unit would roar to life around noon on a summer day and blow a steady stream of air cooled by the evaporation of water continuously streaming down a set of exselsior pads on the outside. On the opposite wall someone had capped off the gas line that had fed a large Dearborn heater, now long gone, that functioned as the other half of grandpa’s central heat and air system.

The air was all wrong, it was if the house, once full of life had lost it’s character. The dining room smell had once been a delicate balance of food from the kitchen and whichever device was moderating the temperature, Dearborn heater in the winter with it’s ever present hint of methyl mercaptan from the natural gas it consumed, the moist mildewy note that gave the swamp cooler it’s name or morning breezes coming through the open side door mixed gently with the perfumed scents of the flowers grandma had planted along the driveway next to the house.

Nothing stayed the same, it was gone, the house was dead to me. The memories still lingered inside me but this place was forever changed. No reason to look further, there was no one here to maintain the character of the place, no one to understand or appreciate how a child’s memories are formed. I no longer cared if the clawfooted tub was still in the bathroom, if somehow in the intervening years my grandmothers Lazarus plant still sat in a glass saucer, unnoticed and unmolested on the screen porch, waiting for me to pour water on it and sit, transfixed, as it opened up once more. I could hear Pete’s truck pull in next door, it was time to go.

It’s Just a Family Tradition

In the early sixties my grandparents Virgil and Irene were in their early sixties but that is germane only as it pertains to their positions in the following tale. Virgil was a telephone man, that is to say that he left the house at the same time everyday, switched his Chevrolet for a phone company truck at the central phone company office downtown and went to his jobsite where he worked until he got off for lunch, switched vehicles again and drove home. This had been the established pattern of his Monday through Friday existence since he began working for the phone company in 1926. Irene had had a heart attack just before her 60th birthday and was forced to quit her part time position at the neighborhood grocers where she cut meat three days a week, she was thereafter a housewife, cooking, cleaning, fussing after Virgil, two dogs and two parakeets. At approximately 11 a.m. of a weekday this part of our tale begins.

As mentioned above, Virgil and Irene had two dogs, one named Butch who was an English bulldog in the neighborhood of one hundred pounds and his dearest buddy and pal Tiny, a well named rescue that weighed little more than your average alley cat. These were outside dogs, they had their houses and their dishes and all the things that dogs need in their backyard kingdom, they stayed in the backyard. And that’s were they were as the story begins.

Late morning found Irene unfolding the ironing board in the kitchen at the back of the house and ironing Virgil’s shirts for work the next week. She always ironed in the kitchen because the heat of the day came on early in North Texas and with the side door of the house open a breeze blew through the front of the kitchen and out the other side through the screen porch facing the back yard making a normally hot, sweaty chore bearable. At this time it is important to know that Butch, the enormous bulldog was also aware of the heat and he lay on the back porch step next to the screen door letting the cool concrete keep him comfortable. He could sleep for hours there, and usually did.

The only hard and fast rule my grandparents had about their house when we were young was that if you opened the screen door onto the back yard you had to immediately latch the door behind you so that the dogs didn’t get out. This particular day someone forgot. And this happened.

Butch the bulldog had two thoughts that ruled his waking life, food and out. He would routinely smack his considerable backside against the screen door to see if it bounced open against the spring, meaning someone forgot to latch it from the inside. Seeing that little bit of daylight put him straight into ‘go’ mode, he began tossing his head against the door and as soon as he got his nose into the gap the game was on. One hundred pounds of bulldog came screaming through the back porch, little Tiny in hot pursuit, indoor/outdoor carpet providing friction enough for maximum acceleration right up to the kitchen door and the kitchen floor, the linoleum floor, and no friction whatsoever. The ninety degree turn necessary to navigate the other kitchen door never happened, Butch was sideways on the linoleum, sliding on a collision course towards Irene and the ironing board. I can only imagine a scene of cartoon proportions with my grandmother and the ironing board left in a heap on the floor and Butch barreling through the house’s side door, it’s stout spring closing it again before Tiny could make his escape as well.

Soon enough Virgil pulled into the carport and was surprised to see Tiny laying on the mat at the side door. He picked the dog up, carried him straight into the house, through the bathroom and the back bedroom and out the screen door, latching it after. He walked through the screen porch into the kitchen to see Irene still in the floor amongst the ironing, “What happened here?” he asked.

“The dog got out,” she said. And like that he was behind the wheel of the Chevrolet and gone.

Butch had taken off in a more or less straight line as fast as his short little legs would carry him and Virgil found him thus, his speed reduced to a crawl about a mile from the house. He pulled ahead of the dog, parked, opened the back door and when he had caught up, wrestled the exhausted animal into the car and drove him back to the house. Only after securing all avenues of further escape did he return to the kitchen to see after Irene, thankfully she had only broken a hip.

Fast forward about thirty years and we find Virgil and Irene’s daughter, my mother, dogsitting for my bestest buddy and pal, Brain, a loveable Chesapeake with a bad case of hip dysplasia.

My mom is likewise retired or as I call it, house robe bound, she doesn’t shuck off the slippers unless there is a mighty good reason. This day finds Brain’s dysplasia acting up so Mom has to ‘help’ him in and out of the house by bending over and supporting his hind end. To get from the back door to the kitchen of my mother’s house there is a very small entry and two steps up into the kitchen. As mom has gotten the dog in the door and worked her way around behind him she supports his weight from the back and he walks up the two steps, mom following. As she steps up to the kitchen her trailing slipper gets caught in the trim of the second step and she falls into the kitchen floor on top of the dog. Not too much later my sister comes in the house from the front door and sees the tangle in the kitchen.

“What happened?”

“I tripped and fell on the dog.”

No sooner than the words came out of her mouth my sister was out the door, into the driveway and opening the rear door of her car. She matter of factly strode into the kitchen, knelt down beside our mother and ever so gently picked the dog up and carried him to the car.

Returning from the vet an hour later with a seemingly unaffected Brain she found mom still in the kitchen floor, unable to get up with a broken wrist. That’s just how we roll.

Plane Bad Luck

Plane Bad Luck

It was like a scene out of ‘Ground Hog Day’, I opened my eyes and there was my phone on the seat next to me and I would reach for it and then everything went gray and it would start all over again. Each time a little bit more was added to the set, this last time for some reason I caught myself staring at the brochure in the pocket of the seat in front of me, maybe because when I opened my eyes I had been slumped forward and it was the first thing that I focused on. Sometimes shorter, sometimes longer but this time the gray did not come or hadn’t come yet, I saw the seat, I saw my phone and then I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in my abs. The gray began to take me and then receded and the pain returned with a vengeance, I squeezed my eyes tightly shut and waited for some relief.

Still maintaining a shaky balance between pain and nothing I tried to gather my thoughts and ran over some of the details of the past day. I remembered eating doner kebabs at Pasha Turkish and washing them down with a couple of beers at the Boxing Cat before rolling my Smove back to the hotel to rest up for the flight back to Honolulu from Shanghai, twelve hours in the air and a twelve hour layover between. Flight, that was the last thing I remember, I put my thongs in my checked bag so I wouldn’t have to do the dance in security and boarded the plane barefooted. I must have nodded off right after boarding, I don’t recall us taking off, but we must have.

Rain wasn’t the respite I was looking for but the cooling flow of water on my head and shoulders did take my mind off of the pain in my belly. Opening my eyes again went badly. The rain was coming down from above, where the roof of the plane was supposed to be. The rain was also soaking my phone, still in the seat next to me but this time, instead of reaching for it I looked down to see what was wrong with me. We weren’t in the air any more, with the exception of the rain there was no sound, no engines, no people, nothing, we had crashed and in doing so I had been thrown side to side violently enough for the seat belt buckle to open a bit and close down on a bit of belly flab. A two inch white line revealed itself when I opened the buckle and quickly turned an angry, dark purple, at least it hadn’t broken the skin, I guess.

Inventory, inventory, inventory, that was my new agenda, an agenda for survival. Immediately it came to mind that barefoot was great for sleeping, not so much for walking away from a plane wreck, that would be a top priority. I couldn’t see out the window next to me but it appeared that the seat row in front of me was the only one left, just crushed metal in that direction. The seats to my right, across the aisle looked as if a giant hand had grabbed them at either end and pulled and twisted until only mangled metal and bits of cloth were left, an overcast sky replaced the windows of the plane on that side. I finally grabbed my phone off of the seat next to me and turned to look behind me, a near perfect circle of nothing where the tail of the plane had been. I was alone. I did take comfort in the fact that my seat was next to the emergency exit over the left wing, so there was that.

My little piece of heaven had no ceiling and no people, therefore no overhead compartments or anyone to help scrounge together some sort of survival gear, all I had on me was my phone. Aaaand, no service. The GPS worked but without internet the map function was useless, just numbers. I guessed I was on an island somewhere in the South China Sea between Vietnam and the Philippines, several hundred miles from my scheduled twelve hour layover in Hong Kong.

Turning the phone off to conserve the battery(why?) I crawled carefully over the twisted shreds of metal until I was standing on solid, if a little damp, ground. Other debris from the plane was likely strewn about and useful bits might be had before sunset if I was diligent in my search. There was no smoke marking any other sections of the aircraft, I thought that odd but widened my search. We had landed or at least come to rest in a smallish valley, undergrowth comparable to corn stalks or sugar cane, no real trees until you neared a sort of rise on three sides then a belt of canopied forest gave way to steeper rocky grades.

I wandered in a expanding oval of sorts until the overcast broke momentarily and the opening in the sky showed the faint hint of orange signaling the approach of sunset. Surprisingly my bare feet had been spared any rough treatment in my wanderings but fatigue and the onset of dehydration had me more than a little unsteady now. I turned my head at a far off noise just in time to see a glint of metal, just at the top of the foliage, a tiger had lost it’s footing on the smooth metal of the tail and hit the horizontal stabilizer loudly before sliding off onto the ground. A tiger.

These Are a Few Of  My Fave Things

These Are a Few Of My Fave Things

‘Le Buerre, Le Creme, L’Oeuf’, (pronounced loo-bear, lay-krem, loof) was my current fave resty and I had just finished a divine flamiche, a pie made of brioche dough filled with leeks, bacon, cream and Gruyere, a recipe Chef Demerick had collected from a pair of Picard gourmands during a backpacking trip across the continent several years back. I had just spied the dessert tray and a delightful looking croissant business that simply oozed what I assumed was a blackberry compotey goodness and was beginning to rise and start a silent arm-waving, gesturing to my waiter, bidding war as the woman two tables over had obviously seen it as well, when my phone rang. My waistline would live to fight my wardrobe another day, this call was important, a fave foodie friend who was also a detective was deep in the middle of something, something like murder.

On the outside it looked like a house fire. Flammable bedding caught fire from an as yet unidentified cause, the fire then spreading to window treatments likewise inflammable, etc., etc. All very run of the mill, very explainable, until we look under the hood. You’ll have to excuse that last bit, you see I am a major mystery buff, from reading pulp police procedurals to tightly woven detective fiction to the flood of TV detectives of whom Columbo was my all time fave. You see, Peter Falk proved to us rabid fans week in and week out that all one needed to solve the most complicated crimes was an old Peuguot, a dirty raincoat and half a cigar. And one more question. Worked every time.

The story so far was that Mrs. Rose, wife of Dr. Rose, wasn’t feeling well, had been asleep in the master bedroom upstairs when the fire started, was overcome by smoke inhalation and succumbed before first responders arrived and put out the blaze. A tragedy, pure and simple, how could it be anything else? Indeed.

According to my fave friend and detective buddy, the doctor was in his office when they called him to tell him about the fire. No red flags there. I even recognized the address, I had been in that neighborhood before, pretty swanky too if I remember, the kind of place that doesn’t have lawnmowers in the garage, they show up with large trailers full of grass grooming goodies and several helpers once a week, so the place looks nice for parties. I asked my friend if the doctor and his wife had any children at home and he said that they lived alone, except for a cat. Sounds legit. I told him to meet for some coffee at a local caffeinery that we liked and we could talk some more, he agreed.

One does not simply dive headfirst into convo when at a coffeeshop. One must respect the brew, to become one with the vibe of the place, the ‘roma. We were halfway through our first DV before we dared to speak(OK, you waited, good for you, Double Venti, there, feel better?)

‘Something is not right here. It gives me a funny feeling, you know?’ he started.

I did know, cut and dried was the fave expression. I didn’t like it either. ‘So who reported the fire?”

‘Gardeners across the street were finishing up when they were loading up the trailer, called it in. What are your thoughts?’

‘Nothing yet, first responders have anything to add?’

‘Nothing to hang my hat on, they pulled up, door was locked, cat was out front, you know the rest.’

Hmmm, I hmmmed. ‘Got any pictures?’, I asked. He did. He was enjoying this, I could tell.

Looking through the collection of photos on his phone the scene was pretty straight forward. The smoke blackened master bedroom windows were directly above the front door which was flanked on both sides by immaculately trimmed japanese holly. Inside, the scene in the bedroom was less distinct. What had been very thick, plush carpetting was burned down to the flooring in places, various bric-a-brac and assorted accoutrements were strewn about, ostensibly while removing the remains of Mrs. Dr. Rose, thank you whoever thought to leave that one out of the pile. One interesting thing about the master bedroom, it had it’s own fireplace. Working too, from the tongs and such littering the floor.

‘Can you get me an inventory of everything that was found in the floor?’ I asked.

‘Sure. You think there is something to that feeling I am having?’

Thinking back to the interruption earlier that day, ‘Yes, I do. And it will cost you dessert.’

After he stood up and took a step towards the exit I enquired, ‘Ask the good doctor if his wife was on any kind of medication, will you?’

After running a few errands I drove down to the station to meet up with my fave detective and see if I could get a ride to check out the scene with him. Upon walking up to the front of the house I noticed that the blackening of the window directly over the door was darker than the other side, that had not shown up in the photos, curiouser and curiouser. While my friend busied himself opening the front door and removing some of the police tape around it I noticed something else. I was kneeling down next to one of the holly bushes when he admonished me,’Whatever you are are about to touch, don’t! What are you about to touch, anyway?’

‘Looks like a cat toy. With some sort of thread or string tangled up in it, stuck in the holly bush here.’

‘Let me see that.’ He jostled me out of the way and began snapping pictures with his phone.

We went upstairs and looked at the mess that was once the master bedroom, comparing phone photos of the scene with the actual locations. At one point I asked,’Did you get that inventory?’

Yep. Nothing much there, fireplace tongs, brush, poker, oh and the deceased’s cell phone. Almost missed it too, it was melted into the carpet next to the bed.’

‘Let me guess. Between the bed and the fireplace?’

‘Yes.’ He looked at me kind of stragely, ‘Give!!’ he demanded.

‘Gonna cost you,’ I reminded him. Reluctantly, he shook his head.

OK. Here is what happened, but you will never be able to prove it. The cat did it. Earlier in the day, the good doctor came home to look in on the ailing wife, and make sure she had enough of something to keep her still when the fire started. Removing the back of the phone’s plastic case, he placed it on the floor next to some handy, flammable bedding. Next he arranged the fireplace poker so that it would fall onto the unprotected back of the phone, he tied a thread to the top of it and ran it out of the slightly open window and next to the holly bush by the front door. Then he tied a cat toy, the one I saw earlier, to the end of the string and put the cat outside to complete his cunning plan.’

‘You’ve lost me,’ he admitted.

‘By the numbers, then: 1. Wife is asleep in bed. 2. Cat plays with cat toy, pulling on string. 3. String pulls fireplace poker down onto cell phone. 4. Pointy part of fireplace poker pierces lithium battery in cell phone. 5. This is where it gets all Mr. Wizard-ey, when lithium battery guts are exposed to air they burst into flames..’ He stopped me there.

As he rushed out of the house, I reminded him, ‘Lou Bears, tonight, blackberry thingy, 8 o’clock!’

‘Where did that even come from?’ he wondered aloud.

‘Rube Goldberg’, I answered.

‘What?’

‘Doctors don’t always start out to be doctors. I’ll bet the esteemed Dr. Rose began college as an engineering student.’ I injected. You might just ask him that as you are walking out the door.’

‘You think?’

‘Yep,’ I said. ‘Works every time.’

Little Bird Fly

On a field in Warner Robins, Georgia this Sunday past a group of thirteen 12-year-old girls from Charlotte, North Carolina made a date with destiny. The newly crowned state champion, Rowan County All-Stars were 2 and 0 in the Little League Softball Southeast Regional tournament, set to play the returning championship team from Tennessee, also undefeated in the tournament so far.

Solid, back and forth play from both teams found the score tied, North Carolina at bat in the bottom of the sixth and possibly last, inning with two outs and a runner in scoring position. At bat was my grand-daughter, number 16. Lovingly referred to as ‘the softball warrior,’ she ate, slept and bled softball, playing basketball, volleyball or anything else at a high level to kill the time in between softball seasons.

Living as we did a laundry list of interstate highways apart I seemed to retain the images of our last meeting several years back even in the onslaught of hundreds of social media posts and regular barrages of school portraits and sporting events. She ever remained the small, slender waif with round, rosy cheeks and long, beautiful, brown hair, the apple of her papa’s eye. Watching her team progress through this tournament showed something new, something unexpected.

This wasn’t a child with a bat, a ball and a cherubic smile, but a practiced team player, snagging string-straight liners and making 6-3 putouts with ease. She took practice cuts with the bat as she settled into the batters’ box, ignoring everything around her except the pitcher, 43 feet away. If I was guessing, she never heard the contact but felt it as the ball sailed over the first baseman’s head, landing in fair territory several steps in front of the right fielder. The runner on third had scored well ahead of the fielder’s throw to home and she looked at the crowd gathering around the plate as they and the rest of her team began running towards her, not yet realizing that her hit had won the game.

I stared blankly at my TV as an epiphany began to wash over me. At that moment she would never again be thought of as a child. She had led her team that day, led by example, with singular purpose and fervent resolve. I would forevermore be the student, she was now the teacher. She had flown high up into the clouds and would never be satisfied with the ground again. I chuckle to myself when I think of her older brother’s one word summary of his little sister’s performance, ‘Clutch.’

Just Not Right

Just Not Right

I am used to getting up early but this was way too early and I was way too alert, something was telling me that things were just not right. Edging off of the bed and listening for any sounds that didn’t fit, the feeling was not going away and the voice in the back of my head was screaming, ‘Get smart, fast and don’t be a victim!’ Behind the partially open bedroom door was a bat, used to break up cat fights back when we had a cat, that would have to do.

As if any more adrenaline was needed, there was the sound of a footstep in the living room. One step through the bedroom door put me, unseen, in the back hall, a corner hiding me from whoever was in the living room but also cutting me off from my only means of escape, the front and back doors to the house. My advantage was that as the intruder came towards the bedroom door he would be silhouetted by the dim blue glow of the wifi router on the curio cabinet, at once highlighting his presence and killing off most of his night vision.

I waited in the darkness listening to his footsteps coming towards me and tried to concentrate on my breathing, I would have to be absolutely silent until the very last second. I saw a faint blue glow that put him astride of the router’s light and when his face began to pass in front of me I swung the bat with everything I had, hitting him on the bridge of the nose and then I slammed him into the wall next to the door frame and we both went down to the floor. I hit him with the bat again but the first shot had been plenty. While I was getting myself together I noticed that the dude had a gun. I wanted to go for the lights but I wanted to know if the guy had any friends first.

The scuffle hadn’t produced any kind of an audience so I guessed it was safe enough to make a little noise and found a roll of strapping tape in a drawer and proceeded to tie the guy up as well as I could until the tape ran out, that would hold for a while until I could get something more permanent worked out.

I went through the house and checked as many doors and windows as possible, everything was locked except the front door, nobody lurking about that I could see. There was a car that didn’t belong, a couple of houses down, next to the street light. I grabbed my laser pointer from the bedroom and an orange from the kitchen counter and me and the bat went for a stroll out the back door.

There were three houses between mine and the corner of the street where the street light was, the first two would give me all of the cover I needed to take care of the light so that I could get closer to that car. There was a trick that we used on the fourth of july to make the fireworks show more enjoyable from our front porch, aiming a laser pointer at the light sensor on top of the street light tricked it into thinking that it was daylight and shutting off, making the pretty lights easier to see, the orange makes the pointer easy to aim and holds it still as long as you want.

The driver was alone, engrossed in his phone as I walked up on his side of the car, the street light no longer able to alert him of my presence. The bat made easy work of him as well, I pushed him over, drove the car around the block and parked in the easement behind the house. Then it was time to call ‘the Yard Dog.’