Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Midnight Visit from the Police, OR: Let's Scare Karen to Death, OR--Just a Thanksgiving Tale

If your husband happens to be out late one night on a job, and a police car pulls up in front of your house past midnight but you didn’t even call 911, what are you supposed to think?

If you’re like me, you’ll think the very worst and go into Maximum Panic Mode.

I went to bed around 11:30 pm the night before Thanksgiving, only to be jolted awake less than an hour later by our two barking beagles. My first thought was they were calling out to a neighbor taking their own dog for a midnight stroll, but when the barking persisted, I had to get up and investigate—especially since I was afraid they would wake up the Crown Prince (who was staying with us for the holiday) and Baby Bear.

I carefully lifted a slat in the blinds covering the living room window and peered out. Terror slashed through me as I saw a police car parked right in front of our house. The silhouette of a very tall officer stood at the foot of the driveway, feet apart, facing our house, looking very much as if he were trying to ascertain if anyone was home. There were no cars parked in our driveway, and all the lights were off.

I could only think of one reason for him to be out there. My critique partner, Jean, who writes romantic suspense, has described this very scenario in a few of her books, and it usually includes dialogue along the lines of, “We’re very sorry to inform you . . . we need you to come with us so you can identify—”


The cop remained standing at the end of the driveway, arms akimbo. Why didn’t he come up and ring the doorbell and put me out of my—or rather, plunge me into further misery? Perhaps I should go out there to meet him. “Excuse me, sir, would you mind telling me why you’re in front of my house? You’re making my dogs bark and you’re scaring the hell out of me.”

If only he didn’t look like Gort standing outside the flying saucer. I could almost hear the menacing theme music from the theremin.

But I wasn’t dressed to meet anyone save Mr. Lucky, so I ran back to the bedroom to throw some clothes on. Whimpering and trembling all over, my heart hammering, I returned to the living room window and . . . Gort and the police car were gone.

Now what? Was he on his way back to the station because he thought there was no one home except for the dogs? But he hadn’t rung the bell. At least I hadn’t heard the doorbell; maybe I was still asleep when he rang it and that’s what started the dogs barking.

I didn’t know what to do. Should I call up 911?

“What’s your emergency?” the dispatcher would ask.

“Well, I don’t know that it’s an emergency,” I would say in a tremulous voice broken with panicked sobs, “but my husband is out right now and I just saw a cop parked in front of my house like maybe he was here to—” Scratch that.

Instead I called Mr. Lucky’s cell phone. To my dismay, all I got was voice mail.

By now I was totally freaking. I tried his work place. Maybe he was still there, or maybe someone else there would tell me something . . . or would they?

One of his co-workers answered the phone, and to my everlasting relief, Mr. Lucky was there, safe and sound. His cell phone, he said, was out in the car. But he couldn’t explain anymore than I could why that cop might have been outside our house. The sprinklers hadn’t been running, so it couldn’t be because we were watering on the wrong night.

I was about to go back to bed when the dogs started barking again. I returned to the living room window and—GORT WAS BACK!

At least he remained inside his car, but now what? Was this part of a stakeout? Were we under surveillance? But for what?

I wondered what would happen if I just went out there to ask. Would I get shot? Thrown across the trunk of his squad car and handcuffed? Or be chided with a mere, “Ma’am, get back inside your dwelling, please, and stay there until further notice.”

At least if he came after me like Gort on Patricia Neal, there were no folding chairs in the driveway for me to stumble over and get tangled up in, and no conveniently placed partition for me to trap myself against, instead of just dodging around it and running like hell.

I didn’t want to go out the front door for fear the overexcited beagles would shoot past me and escape. So I turned on all the exterior lights and came out through the garage.

Fortunately, he turned out to be more like Klaatu than Gort.

He met me in the driveway, and politely explained. A neighbor called to complain of a barking dog. I’d heard this same dog several houses over as I fell asleep. But the neighbor seemed to think it was coming from my house. My dogs had been inside all evening, and only started barking when the cop showed up. After determining there was no barking dog outside my house, he’d moved on to see if he could find it elsewhere in the neighborhood, but by that time the owner had apparently wised up and brought his yappy little mutt inside.

The cop then returned to my address to make his report that the complaint was unfounded and our house appeared secure. He remarked that my dogs were actually doing their job very well, and apologized for scaring the bejabbers out of me. He was very nice and professional, and I’m just relieved that my initial fears were as unfounded as the neighbor’s complaint.

Plus, this gave me something to be grateful for on Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Baby Bear Wrecks a Laptop

That’s the bad news. The good news: It wasn’t mine.

Mr. Lucky likes to put his laptop on a folding tray in front of the sofa in the family room. This allows him to simultaneously watch TV and play Lord Master of the Universal Planetary Federation of Civilizations, Empires, and Neighborhood Associations, or whatever that game is that allows him to annihilate the inhabitants of entire galaxies for the resources to build his own shopping mall and theme park.

Except when he’s asleep or at work, he leaves the laptop yawning like a crocodile at all times.

I’ve warned him not to do it, especially if Baby Bear is on the prowl. Anytime Mr. Lucky turns his back on the open laptop, even for a few moments, Baby Bear swoops down and slaps it shut.

That’s all. He closes it and moves on to the next shiny object. That may not seem like a big deal, but on rare occasions, he’s been known to wreak havoc by the simple act of hitting a few random keys, and once he even toppled the tray table and open laptop to the floor, fortunately without consequences.

But it was only a matter of time before certain odds and laws dictated those consequences.

The other night, we sat down to dinner. While Baby Bear is more than willing to pull up a chair and join us, we have a hard time getting him to remain at the table until meal’s end. He always finds a reason to get up more than once during dinner to do something else, even if it’s to close a gaping laptop, which is exactly what he did in this case.

One of the things I like about my own laptop is that I don’t need a mouse. I just use the fingerpad. I find it liberating, especially as the mouse is one less thing for Baby Bear to steal and bury at the bottom of his toybox like a dog with a bone. I know because I’ve had to go on in-house archeological expeditions for his own mouse.

But Mr. Lucky, tool of the mouse industry, insists on having one. And on this day, he left it sitting on the keyboard.

Baby Bear did not remove the mouse; most likely he did not even notice it. All he saw was a wide open laptop, and that would not do. He slammed down the lid. Mr. Lucky yelled. Baby Bear returned to the table to resume dining. Mr. Lucky ran to the laptop, and opened it to discover one corner of the screen was smashed.

He didn’t think the kid would do it. He thought the laptop would be safe, since he could see it from where he sat at the table. He was positive Baby Bear wouldn’t touch it as long as he was watching.

Men. You just can’t warn them and tell them you’re right. They always have to find out for themselves—and it’s always the hard, expensive way that usually leads to a repair shop, the insurance company, an emergency room, or any combination of the three. It’s that Y chromosome.

But until he can get the screen fixed, he’s compelled to do what I had to do when my screen burned out earlier this year: He’s back to the desktop in his office.

Only now he can’t watch TV at the same time—unless he can figure out a way to make the whole setup fit on that folding tray table, or move the TV into his office.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Sluts

A scene in the movie Apollo 13 portrays an astronaut’s wife arguing with her teenage daughter over her Halloween costume. The girl wanted to go trick-or-treating dressed as a hippie, over her mother’s dead body. Even considering the time period of 1969, and from a standpoint of modesty, I for one could find nothing objectionable about the costume, despite the loudmouthed kid sister’s exaggerated observation that, “She’s not even wearing a bra, you can see EVERYTHING!”

I wish that mother could’ve seen what knocked on my door this last Saturday night: Two girls who couldn’t have been more than twelve years old, thirteen tops, identically dressed as sexy barmaids. They wore white, low cut blouses with puffy sleeves off the shoulder, tightly laced bodices, and ruffled mini-skirts that stuck out like open umbrellas. The only things missing were fistfuls of foaming beer steins and some accordion-playing Chippendales in lederhosen.

I waited for them to chorus, “We’re from the escort service,” at which point I would’ve told them they had the wrong house, or demanded an explanation from my twenty-one year old son who stood next to me enjoying the sights. Instead, they chimed, “Trick or treat!”

But even that could’ve been taken the wrong way with the wrong person.

I don’t have the sort of confrontational personality that might have spurred me to ask, “Do your mothers know you’re dressed like that, or did you start out wearing these under the Mrs. Danvers and second Mrs. De Winter costumes that you doffed and ditched as soon as you got to the next block?”

I looked up the barmaid costumes online. I found many remarkably similar to what these girls wore, all very expensive, and sold alongside a wide variety of other adult costumes that—call me an old-fashioned stick in the you-know-where—do not belong on the bodies of young teenage girls. Especially after dark. Let alone on the street.

I’d rather see my daughter go out as a hippie. But only on Halloween.