My stairs are squeaky. When you walk up or down them, it sounds like an army of marching ducks.
I don’t notice the sound. The house I grew up in had squeaky stairs too. I suppose it kept me from sneaking out at night, though I never had anyhwere to go.
I awoke with a start in the middle of the night a few summers ago when I heard my stairs squawking. I wasn’t expecting any 2am visitors. (Unfortunately.) But I’ve shared my door key with a few friends, so maybe someone had a bad night or something? Maybe needed to talk? A place to stay? Wouldn’t they have called first? It was hard to be logical — my ears are awake but my brain wasn’t.
Earlier in the night I heard glass break. I thought I should get up; the cats probably knocked something over and I didn’t want them to cut themselves. But I fell back asleep. I didn’t make the connection between that sound and the sound of someone creaking up my stairs.
A guy appeared in my bedroom. Nope — nobody I knew. He was wearing a jean jacket over a grey hooded sweatshirt, relaxed as he browsed my dresser. He picked something up. Adrenaline sparked under my skin like a flashbulb. I tried to sit up and clear my head.
Mustering up my toughest voice I tried to bark, “What are you doing?” But it came out with a yodel, “Af-Quack?”
He grunted and hustled out, crunching down the noisy stairs. I flailed and kicked in my bed, trying to untangle my feet from the sheets. I took up the chase. Halfway down the barking stairs, a familiar flapping reminded me I was naked. I ran back up and grabbed the only clothing handy: light blue boxer shorts decorated with cowboy lassos that spell out the word Lucky.
By then the thief has bolted out the front door, across the yard and into the dark. As he escaped he threw away the long, narrow box he had copped from my dresser. It was the exact size of a necklace case but held a dollar’s worth of Nag Champa incense sticks.
The flight down the stairs was enough to jump-start my brain. As I stood in the open doorway looking into the dark, I quickly weighed the wisdom of valiant footchase against running in my underpants down the street in the middle of the night. I gathered up my incense and shuffled back inside.
I spent the rest of the evening waiting for the pumping adrenaline to fade. I fantasized about capturing the thief, about what I’d do if I caught him. But the imagery was hijacked by visions of me running in my underpants, making a diving catch and sliding across the concrete in my underpants, wrestling in my underpants, explaining the whole incident to the police while they made note of my lucky lasso cowboy underpants.
Somehow, Superman looks fearsome in a blue leotard and Speedos. Maybe it’s the way my underpants hang askew to accommodate my little pot belly, or the spankety-spank sound my tender bare feet make when I run. Regardless, the lurking underworld does not fear me.
I had a baseball bat near my bed for just such an occasion. I forgot about it in the tizzy. Later, while running the whole event over in my head, I picked up the bat and rehearsed what I might have done with it. Standing on the narrow stairway landing in my lucky underpants, I discovered there wasn’t room to swing the bat without taking out all the windows.
I dearly want a pistol but I know I’d use it for the slightest infraction. “Get off my lawn!” Blam! So I bought a sling-shot, a fancy one that locks on your wrist. But in the time it takes me to wrestle it on, fumble the BB into the pouch with my fat fingers, drop the BB, dig around for it under the bed until I give up and get another one, take aim and then — ow! — step on the original BB, I could have gone to the pawn shop and bought back my stuff. On the plus side, my ability to hit a target with a slingshot is about the same in pitch black as it is in broad daylight. Besides, when a giant ogre is lurking in your bedroom, the last thing you want to do is hit him with a pebble.
I settled on mace. I keep a handy little squirter by my bed. Unfortunately, I d0n’t feel I can practice with it. If you spray the tiny can to see how it works, there might not be any left when you need it. So my fantasy of jumping up on my bed in my Superman underpants, taking aim with my chemical weapon and shouting, “Take that, villain!” is tempered by a nagging image of nothing but flaccid pepper-jizz dripping down my elbow.
I have an alarm system. So far, the score for setting it off is: me, 328; burglars, 0.
I often hear phantom noises when I’m in the shower: voices, doorbells, phone rings. I don’t know why. Last week I heard a big thump. My cats devote their day to jacking around with everything, so thumps are explainable. But this was a thump. I paused to listen. Nothing, really. A few creaks in a creaky old house. I took comfort in the quiet because Phooey, the toothless old Shih Tzu, was undisturbed. Phooey barks when the neighbors open their garage door. He barks when icicles fall from the roof, and when the mail arrives. He was not barking now.
I reached for a towel and stepped gingerly out of the shower, still alert while quietly patting dry my shivering pink skin. Phooey exploded into wild barks, the boo-woo-woo-woo he must have learned from watching the Three Stooges.
I never hear strange noises when I’m carrying a 10-inch chef knife and wearing a leather jacket and steel-toe boots. My heart sank as I dropped my towel and reached for my little sailboat underpants.