Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Intruder



The garage door has an unmistakable squeak. In fact when my wife has cajoled me to oil the hinges I tell her the noise makes a great burglar alarm, and though it’s true I have to admit the phrase was more a testament to my laziness than my cleverness; until this moment. Someone has entered my home and amazingly, I am now awake.

The clock says it’s 3AM, so I’m sure it’s not a meter reader or a neighbor looking to borrow a cup of sugar. Actually this isn’t funny, I should be concentrating, focusing my senses on sound while trying to remember in just which drawer I stowed my gun eight years ago after I last popped off a few rounds into a target for a moment’s testosterone high. I’ve daydreamed about my house being broken into while I was home, and of course as I was in control of the dream I saved the day; sometimes in ninja regalia, others without reference to clothing but to intellect as I overpower my challenger with threats and death defying logic, sometimes nearly naked with a Hulk cartoon body, dodging bullets and throttling the aggressor with one hand tied behind my back. And once or twice I stepped through a more true scenario in my mind, on the off chance I’d someday need to respond to an actual attack. But all the preparation, no matter how realistic or silly, can’t steel you for someone actually entering your home uninvited, obviously intent on doing harm.

It’s nearly happened before, in my last house in the city. That night, as I came in the back door “they” left by the front window. I didn’t realize it until I’d stripped off my winter gear in the kitchen, then stepped into the living room for a few hours of mindless television. It’s an amazing feeling to be so overwhelmed as to be confused to the point of paralyzation. On the floor were a few of my electronics boxes, vcr, clock radio and such… and a paper bag filled with mostly junk that probably appeared to be collectable, and therefore seemingly worth one rock of crack in trade. The window to my porch was open and on the porch itself was a shovel and a boatload of snow. Eight inches had fallen that evening, a few of which the perps had dragged inside. I must have stood there for ten minutes, heart pounding out of my chest, eyes darting from shadow to shadow. And then I began to search the rest of the house to find only one item was actually missing; my gun.

It was a pistol I’d bought for protection from bears, as I was an avid canoer and trekker when I was young, and often traveled through where bears chose to hunt for tasty flesh such as mine. It had been in a drawer for the few years since my last Grand Portage adventure. I figured since I owned it and was accustomed to it’s heft and power, I may as well keep it for self protection, whatever that meant. And then it was gone.

I made the standard police report, knowing it would come to nothing but as there was a gun missing with my name on it I really had no choice. The coppers showed up and got fingerprint dust all over my house, all the while telling me that their chance of finding so much as a clue was a billion to one. By the time they left I was exhausted, yet wired awake. What if the thieves came back for what they’d left? What if they were still in the neighborhood rousting other residents and stealing their semi precious knick knacks? And what if they are surprised by some old woman who comes down the stairs from her attic dormer bedroom, swinging her cane and shouting that she’ll see them all in hell… and they decide having a gun is more useful than they could ever have imagined. How do I explain to St. Peter at the pearly gates that I was sorry my gun had killed that poor old woman but really, it wasn’t my fault.

I slept, badly, for weeks. I bought another gun, this time simply to protect myself from criminals I knew to be armed and dangerous and carrying my address and an inventory of my possessions. This time I bought a shotgun, so if I used pellet loads, I’d have a hundred chances to hit them for every chance they had to hit me. But that never reassured me. I have a sleep disorder and normally I can doze through an atomic bomb blast. So in addition to my “buck stops here” purchase, I reconfigured my security measures, dead bolting more doors, nailing and screwing shut a few windows that might be accessible from the ground and permanently locking my porch door so even the mailman couldn’t step inside without a hammer and crowbar, and a probability of waking the neighbors.

It might have helped my mood had I not lived in a medium high crime area. Every drive to work I saw either a speeding police car or a racing ambulance, and my first thought would always be, “well I see my gun’s been found”.

And then I got a call from a law enforcement liaison; a complete surprise. In fact I was so stunned I asked him why the police would be dialing my number. They’d done a routine traffic stop on a car full of juvenile delinquents, had reason to search the vehicle and on the back seat floor was my pistol, still loaded with all six of the bullets I had so carefully chambered so many years ago. Needless to say I was relieved. Not only did I have my dangerous property back but the punks that had broken into my house now knew I was rearmed and more than a little cranky. There’s nothing like the knowledge of impending doom to prevent crime.

For all the years since I’ve kept the two firearms hidden away, though accessible, just in case a jihadist was passing through the neighborhood selling propaganda on a sword and I’d need to wave him away from my door. The world has become an increasingly ugly place, and while I can’t possibly prepare for every eventuality, I can at least protect my home and family to the best of my ability.

And now it seems I’ll need to do just that.

A whisper indicates there are two of them, which puts a wrinkle in the plan. If it were one I might think to try the hero thing and use my near 300 pounds to knock the beast to the ground while screaming to my wife to jump over my body and get the phone, call 911, then high tail it for a neighbor’s house; as we live far enough from civilization, it will be at least 20 minutes before any rescue shows up. But I’m no fighter, I never cared, never learned. I was convinced at an early age that with my size and speed I could kill someone with an errant punch, and whether that was true or not I made it my reasoning for a life of no physical violence. So with two men in my house, size and ability unknown, I am on wholly different ground.

The gun is where I thought it would be, and as I slip it into my hand and curl my finger around it’s blued trigger I feel both relief and nausea. It’s beginning to creep through the mist of my sleep deprivation that I may truly have to shoot someone; that I may have no choice but to kill or be killed. Sure I could yell some vague threat, but if they have weapons I’ve only told them where I am and how to get to me. I could say I have a gun, and they could either run like bunnies, or laugh and burst into the room to try and teach me a lesson about men in fear being liars. And if I open my mouth at all, my wife will surely wake up, and then I’ll need to deal with her as well; something I don’t have a contingency plan for at the moment.

At least one of them is coming down the hall. My having wood floors came in handy for something, though when I was paying to have them installed I wasn’t thinking “great, now I’ll be able to hear burglars tiptoeing toward my bedroom door.” But here it is, a steady scuff and squeak as his sneakers can’t negotiate the three inch oak plank without some vocal protest.

Is it too late to say life sucks? Would it be silly to complain about my being cursed to a life of decision making, always choosing between bad and worse? I don’t want to hurt anyone, I’ve never wanted that. But to roll over and give these strangers the opportunity to do whatever they desire… how do I know their intention isn’t to kill, or rape, or burn the house down? I have nothing to steal, not even a few dollars in cash; if they are here for enrichment they’ll be angry, and recognizable, unless those that could recognize them are disposed of.

I don’t know what to do, I don’t know if I have the guts to actually pull the trigger, but if push comes to shove I’d better, as the world is full of corpses that were handed slugs from their own weapons after having them taken away during a moment’s hesitation by people of ill intent and negative conscience.

The doorknob’s turning. I can’t actually see it, but as it’s brass and slightly tarnished it squeals a bit, just like the back door hinges.

“I’m awake and I have a .41 magnum” I hear myself say. I’ve no idea where it came from, I wasn’t thinking about speaking at all. The doorknob stopped turning for a moment; a good sign I guess. Now it’s squeaking again, but I can’t tell if it’s squeaking open or closed. Linda’s groaning, I must have waken her and now she’ll need to use the bathroom. Suddenly it’s like I am floating on the ceiling, bouncing around like a helium balloon, watching myself hold the pistol in front of me as the door slowly opens and the dim glow from the hallway night light leaps through the breach to land on the bed and my lifetime lover’s eyes. From my perch ten feet above the fray I see a shadow creep into the light and then, a huge explosion...

The sound is deafening, the scream, terrifying. The smell is acrid, bitter. There is noise coming from the living room, a few expletives shouted and then stomping steps, the clacking of a dead bolt lock, an opening and shutting of a steel entrance door. There is noise coming from my bed. A voice is asking if I’m ok, what happened, oh my God, and other only partially intelligible questions punctuated by choked screaming. But I can’t answer any of them; it seems I’ve been struck mute, or perhaps I’m now a paraplegic as none of my limbs will respond to my commands; not my stiffening legs, my trembling hands, not my weighted arms nor my bloodless face. I may have been shot, I may be dead. I just don’t know yet. I’ll tell you when I do.

It takes what might be a few days before the world begins to rotate once again. As the bedroom door swings completely open I can see a small pistol on the floor, then, only the wall beyond; once the color of lemon ice, now black with the fresh blood of a downed intruder. I’ve apparently pulled the trigger indeed, and my life and the life of the poor woman who had the bad luck to choose me as her lover and protector, have been altered forever.

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