A True Story
© Copyright 2001 by Kae Bender
"I have to ask these questions," the cop apologized, unfolding a four-part form.
Nervously sipping a glass of wine, I sank back down, gazing at the stark reflection of the brightly lighted room in the dark patio door as I tapped distractedly at my keyboard, "Of course."
Recounting the queries later, I told my friend it quickly got down to details I hadn't had the presence of mind or inclination to recall. "Did he have tatoos?
"Not that I noticed.
"Body piercings anywhere?
"I didn't really check him out that closely.
"Was he wearing any rings?
"I definitely wasn't looking at his hands."
As we giggled, I went on, "Then he asked, 'Was he carrying anything?' I sort of looked at him and asked, 'Other than the body part?'" To her appreciative grimace, I went on, "and when he gave me that oh-spare-me look, I told him, 'Not that I recall.'"
It had already seemed surreal by the time the cop asked if I had any protection around the house. "He said, 'I mean, you got any weapons you could use?'
"And I said, 'Not really.'
"A baseball bat?
"Of course not.
"Well, surely you have a butcher knife?
"So I told him, 'Well, yes, of course I have knives in the kitchen.'
"He barely glanced that way and said, 'You really need to think about how you'd protect yourself if you're here alone... and close those blinds.'"
"Well, he's right," my friend insisted.
Automatically protesting, "But nobody's ever out that way!" I reflexively looked to the uncovered expanse of night beyond and, with an uncomfortable shiver, nearly conceded.
"You're here alone. What if he'd broken the door?"
"How could he?" I gasped, snickering at the thought of one hand protecting himself while trying to swing his other fist through my window. "He'd have cut himself."
"But if you'd made him angry..."
"I concentrated on not looking! It kept me from reacting the way I almost did." I demonstrated the sputtering laugh and deprecating point of my finger. "He wasn't too successful at what he was trying to do out there."
"Oh, yeah, that would have been real helpful," she agreed.
"What was I supposed to do? When I first saw him sitting there, it was too preposterous to believe. The motion detector light came on. I looked, there was nothing. You know I always hope it might be Sid..."
My cat had been missing two years already.
"I'd have settled for a raccoon or maybe the 'possum," I sighed, thinking of the wistful times cute little night critters ventured up from the dark, empty floodplain behind my deck.
"What did you think when you saw it was something a little larger sitting there?"
"What could I think?" I gestured vaguely with my hand, "Nothing, then there he was!" As my fingers flicked open in the magical gesture of revelation, I saw her flinch involuntarily, just as I had. "It was like a fast cut in a suspense film -- I thought, 'this can't be real.'"
He'd been reddish-blondish, tallish, pale, a pallid phantom spotlighted on my deck bench, sitting in the winter chill, fondling his lap with the smile of a hoarder caressing his secret cache.
My impish attitude returned, "But then I realized it had to be real, 'cause I'd never fantasize that image on my deck."
"Why didn't you call 9-1-1 then?"
I'd been laboring at the computer, not on my life's ambition for the great American novel but on my holiday letter, too late, really -- less than a week before Christmas and in that darkening hour when holiday specials were coming on TV. Persevering, nonetheless, I'd gotten to the point where I thought I might have something viable -- at least something that wouldn't embarrass me and might intrigue a friend or two. My new printer, though, wasn't cooperating. It refused totally to talk to my favorite software, and it didn't like to layout pages, only sometimes printing the page setup I somehow tricked it into accepting. I was struggling to produce the image on paper and had stood to insert another sheet when I encountered the specter.
With a shrug to my friend, I defended, "My mind had a hard time imagining a threat. It just dismissed the ghost back to his nether haunts." I'd simply sat back down and pressed the print key.
"I locked my eyes on the spewing output but couldn't help noticing peripherally he was still there -- in the flesh, so to speak."
A chill of revulsion streaked down my back. "I managed to keep up my charade as if the monitor blocked my view. I guess that disappointed him. That's when he came over to the door." At that point, the threat seemed more real.
"I couldn't keep pretending to ignore him when he clearly wanted me to see him. I mean, he stood there directly under the spotlight, manipulating his, so-to-speak, manhood. I decided the phone was my only option."
"I can't believe the 9-1-1 operator told you it wasn't an emergency."
"Me neither. I argued a long while but finally had to admit he'd disappeared, and she goes, 'You see? No emergency.'"
"The cop said she was wrong?"
I nodded, "He said it's a good thing I decided to file the report anyway. He said guys like that can start small but go on to bigger things."
I looked at her and scowled, "It could have been much worse."
She nodded through her tears, "If it'd gotten bigger, things certainly would have been much worse!"
As her meaning dawned,
I groaned, "You don't suppose this is the universe's pun-
ishment for being a cynic, do you?"
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