How can I sleep when I'm still trembling and my heart is still racing? Perhaps the sound of my keyboard responding to my fingers click click clicking on the keys will drown out the sounds of this old house settling and the furnace creaking and popping and my confused thoughts.
I'm reminded of something that happened about twenty years ago. Michael and I had been married less than two years at the time. His parents moved to Canada and left us to rent their five bedroom home in Payson so we could show it to potential buyers. Once we were alone in the home, we moved into the master bedroom and made ourselves comfortable. Jerry had a substantial collection of guns which he kept in the master bedroom closet. Some of them were antiques from the civil war and others were small, contemporary handguns or rifles. Due to Canadian law, he was forced to leave them behind. I was not comfortable with them in the house because I didn't grow up with guns and had what I considered a healthy fear of them. I insisted emphatically that Michael move them to one of the closets in a downstairs bedroom, out of sight and mind. He thought I was being silly, but he honored my wishes. He did, however, leave one very small handgun and a box of bullets on the shelf in the closet. He wanted me to have it for safety measures, and showed me how to hold it, point, and shoot. I was home alone most nights while he worked the graveshift.
We'd been living in the home for several months when this incident occured on a hot, humid summer night. Michael was at work and I was in bed reading. I always had trouble sleeping when he was gone at night, and this night was no exception. It must have been 1:00, 2:00, maybe even 3:00 a.m. when I heard a "clunk-clunk...clunk" just outside of the bedroom door. It's funny how the harder you try to listen, the harder your heart pounds in your ears making it nearly impossible to hear anything else. I sat upright in bed, frozen and straining to hear what lurked outside my locked door. I tried not to breathe, because breathing also obscured my hearing. A minute passed, or perhaps it was two; still it seemed like ten or fifteen minutes passed. Then it happened again, "clunk-clunk." There was no mistaking, whatever or whomever was in my house was right outside my bedroom door, just a few yards from where I sat paralized with fear in my bed. And another "clunk-clunk-clunk" followed directly afterward. I picked up the bedside phone and I called and woke my mom in Highland. Whisperng into the reciever I told her what was going on. She had my then step father use their second line, dedicated to the computer, to call 911. The dispatcher told us that I would have to hang up on my mom, my lifeline, to make the call to 911 myself. Mom made me promise I would call her as soon as possible to let her know I was okay.
I couldn't dial 911 fast enough after I hung up on Mom. The woman's voice was smooth and calm but commanding. As she asked me to describe the situation, the clunking in the hallway continued intermittently. I was sure someone was out there. I told her that there was a stockpile of collector guns and ammo in the basement and speculate that it was quite possible the intruder could have armed himself. She asked if there were any weapons in my room, and I told her about the small handgun and bullets on the shelf. She told me that it was absolutely imperative that I leave them where they are. While I waited for the officers to arrive, she asked me several times if they were still on the shelf and reminded me not to touch them. Finally, she said that the officers had arrived and that it was necessary for me to open the front door for them. I explained to her that the intruder was just outside my bedroom door, trapping me where I was. I couldn't possibly unlock my bedroom door and pass through the house where he lurked between me and my rescuers. She told me that was the only way they could help me, and she was extremely firm on that point. This was the era of corded phones, and I was forced to leave the reciever laying on the bed while I walked right into danger.
I tiptoed to the door, placed one hand on the knob, and held my breath. Could I really do it? I had no choice! I looked back at the phone lying on the bed where the dispatcher waited for me and I said a prayer for my safety. I unlocked the bedroom door, swung it open, and raced through the hallway and down the stairs to the split level entry in what seemed a single, swift motion. I fumbled with the locks and swung the front door open to reveal several officers. They rushed in with their handguns pointed upward, ready to aim should they meet with the intruder. It was like watching cops in a TV series or movie, keeping their backs to the wall and their guns pointed at the sky, moving stealthily in short, swift bursts, aiming their guns at potential boogeymen before returning to their original poses. I was frozen in place until the search was over. It was then that Chief Box asked me to show him where I was and where I heard the noise. As I led him upstairs and through the hallway toward the master bedroom, I discovered the culprit, and my embarrassment couldn't have been more complete.
Mike's parents had left many of their posessions behind, not just the guns. On the wall in the hallway Jerry left hanging a set of several plaks. Each one was stained a deep walnut with a glossy finish and had a plexiglass frame affixed with a color photograph. There was one for each of his drum majors during his career with Payson High School Marching Band. Apparently the adhesive on the plexiglass frames had succumbed to the humidity, and each in brief succession let go of the glossy finish and fell to the ground, bouncing against the wall once or twice on it's way to the floor. The hallway was littered with these plexiglass frames and the faces of distinguished drum majors. I stopped and turned to face Chief Box and told him I knew what had caused the noises. I picked up one of the frames and showed him, then dropped it again. His face never changed and he never laughed. But he did tell me I'd be safer with the guns in my bedroom closet, rather than in a separate room. The officers left and I locked the door behind them. I locked myself back in my bedroom, leaving the drum majors scattered on the hallway floor where they fell, then called my mom. You can bet I took Chief Box's advise and had Michael move the guns back to my bedroom the very next night.
Back to the present, the kids would usually be home asleep in their beds at this ungodly hour on a Monday morning. But this weekend they stayed in Sandy one extra night because tomorrow they'll miss school to attend Uncle Junior's funeral in Santaquin with their daddy. I was enjoying a sound sleep when I awoke with a start and sat bolt upright to the sound of a double bang. It didn't sound exactly like a gun, but perhaps more like the sound of either the front or back door being kicked in. I held my breath and strained to hear over the sound of my breathlessness and my heart pounding in my ears. It seemed as if a great deal of time passed, as I sat frozen in bed looking through the open bedroom door toward the dimly lit hallway. I reached for my cel phone which was plugged into the charger and laying on my bed next to me. I flipped it open and dialed 911, then held my finger over the green button, ready to place the call if necessary.
My mind raced and I asked myself if this were only a dream. But it wasn't. The bang was so loud it woke me in time to hear the second bang quite clearly. I heard the squeak of the wooden floor somewhere upstairs and decided not to wait until the intruder descended upon me to place the call. The dispatcher answered by asking me the location of my call and the number I was calling from. Then she asked me to describe the problem. I told her that it sounded as if someone may have busted either the front or back door open, or perhaps the furnace downstairs may have exploded. She told me the officers were on their way and would begin by checking the perimeter of the house. She also wanted to know if there were any obstacles in the yard they should be careful for. I described the three foot drop with a stone wall in the back yard just a couple yards beyond the back wall of the house. She then told me I would need to answer the back door. I tip toed to the bedroom door, looked down the hallway toward the darkened living room and the glow in the kitchen coming from the light over the stove. I then raced through the hallway and kitchen to the back door, fumbled with the lock and swung the door open quickly.
There were two officers with flashlights on the porch. I told them to come in. They asked me to describe the situation, then asked where I was when I heard the sound. I pointed in the general direction of my bedroom and told them I had been in bed. They asked me to return to my room, escorted me there, then ordered me to stay while they searched the house. After they closed my bedroom door, I could hear them moving through the house as their boots clunked against the wood and the floors creaked. I could hear their voices, but I couldn't make out what they were saying. Finally they returned to my room and told me they found nothing. They asked me again to explain what happened, and as I was explaining, one of the officers walked out of the room again. When he returned, he said that there was a bottle of Ax body wash lying in the tub, beginning to leak. He suggested it may have fallen off the window sill where the bottles of shampoo and face cleanser and shaving cream were lined up. I could have died of relief and embarrassment all at once. I explained to him that it has been fixed to the wall with a suction cup accessory that came free with the purchase of the product. It had been attached to the shower wall all weekend while the kids were gone, so I was certain he was correct and that was the source of my mysterious bump in the night. I appologized profusely, but they assured me that my peace of mind was important and that I shouldn't hesitate to call again If I ever felt afraid.
I feel better having got that off my chest. My heart has slowed down to a fairly normal pace, and my breathing has evened out again. My adrenalyn rush has finally left me weak and exhuasted, and I think I can sleep now. Looks like I can get three and a half hours more sleep before I have to wake and get ready for the funeral. It's gonna be a long day.
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