Humor: Forget the Dog Beware of Children
Every family has their bizarre stories. Some families have more than others. Some families simply have bizarre members. My family had a bit of both. Oh, we were innocent enough in our activities but you never knew what you might encounter at our house. As the story goes, it wasn't the dog in the driveway you had to worry about. (grin)
Ok, so here's the players in this scene....
Enter Cy, the eldest roughly eleven years old. The un-twins Kimmy and Jenny two years younger. And Darrin, seven, ran a marathon to keep up with all the hijinx of his older sisters.
Next the setting....
Dare I mention that in those years (and yes I'm sorta dating myself because it's not allowed anymore by the Round-Rubber Room Society) kids spent their summers home alone while trusting middle-class parents went to work to assure all the family bills were paid on time? This little ditty graces Dad's house...a nicely kept, home of wood, plaster and asphalt shingle. A home to be proud of; a product of hard work, serious diligence, and dreams. A home where the only thing sane is the dog.
Now the skinny....
What do you get when you mix four unusually imaginative kids, and a vehicle conundrum with one unsuspecting, chronically normal utility worker? Freaking the mundanes.
Bear the dog, was about the size of a border collie. Stockier, however, with thick tufts of woolly fur on his sides, legs, and a neck ruff, Bear had learned to take life in a stoic manner. He'd seen his share of the family fun and while he was deeply loyal and attentive to his humans, he sometimes hung close just so he could also enjoy the show.
People came and went at the big ranch house, draped in fading seventies orange paint across eight inch lap siding and a spash of darker brick facade beneath the picture window situated between the formal entry and the garage. He loved to lie in the sun on the warm concrete walk and listen to the sounds of his family inside. People would drive down the gravel road to the house and he'd jump up to greet them with either his announcing bark if he knew them or an alarm bark if he didn't and a correspondingly energetic bounce to and fro for emphasis. Then the people would step out, speak a kind word or two and he'd let them stroke his silky-soft head. It was a good life and he took his business and its perks seriously.
Some visitors were regular events. Like the utility man in his big commercial truck, painted with giant letters like those in the school books the kids sometimes sat on the house stoop to read in the afternoon sun. The utility man was one of his favorites. He was not only kind but equipped with every manner of doggy treat any sentinal pooch could possibly imagine. Bear was always excited to see the man's truck. The man was so regular you could set your calendar by him and on the day he was due, Bear would go to the mouth of the gravel road where it entered the front yard and wait expectantly.
One day, the man didn't show as he normally did. Bear waited patiently for an hour. Then losing interest he left his post to go burn off his disappointment digging for gophers in the pasture on the north end of the property. So consequently Bear was just a little confused about announcing and alarm warning a short hour later.
Now this is where the plot thickens.
Our four creative heathens were having a boring morning. It was the same corn flakes. The same summer cartoons....and reruns to boot. The playroom toys had not changed in four years and were experiencing a drought of engagement. July heat had set in a few weeks before and so the summer practice of keeping the heavy drapes, with their white reflective lining, closed was firmly in effect. This kept the big house cool but dark and mysterious. It fed imagination quickly as any youngster worth their salt could play it out.
Mid morning saw our young characters lined up on the long couch in the family room glaring at the eighteen inch television as Fred Flinstone roared Wilma! for the umpteenth time. Jenny was in a sour mood...an affliction the others were patently familiar with.
"Why are adults so mundane?" she yowled. "I want to know what is so interesting about Dad's work. It doesn't sound interesting."
Kimmi rolled her eyes at her sibling. She was trying to think of something interesting to do that she hadn't already done a dozen times in the last week. Spending summers at Dad's did at least afford more environment than at Mom's but she didn't feel like venturing outside into the growing heat and the sameness inside was, in her mind, oppressive. The sun would be high soon and it just didn't mix will with her freckles.
"Shhhh," replied Darrin who like any true tv addict didn't really care what he was watching as long as he could hear it.
Cy, elbowed Darrin and a shoving match rolled from one youngster to the next, down the couch until giggling erupted and the old couch started to creak from the rough-housing. Suddenly, Bear could be heard barking furiously outside in the front of the house. It was the alarm bark. Everyone froze a moment.
"Who do you suppose that is?"
"Dad didn't say anyone was coming today."
"Maybe Dad is home early!"
All four leaped up and tore into the formal living room to peer out the big picture window beyond the thick draped curtain. They stayed hidden out of view because Dad had said not to let strangers know you were home alone. A small white pickup bobbed and twisted slowly down the pot-hole ridden driveway.
Kimmi gasped. "Hey maybe it's that guy who broke into (the neighbor's) and stole all his tools outa the barn!"
A week ago, someone had indeed broken into the pole barn of the residence across the street and stripped it of all the power tools. Not only that but several other homes in the area had also been hit by the culprit. Cy remembered Dad talking to the county deputy when he stopped by to ask if anyone had seen anything.
"Mmmmmmaybe," Cy said watching the white truck. There were no markings whatsoever on it. The truck was about as non-descript as you could imagine one to be in those days when vehicles were transitioning from steel and craftsmanship to fiberglass and plastic excuses for a rig. The truck didn't stop and park where guests normally planted themselves, half on the concrete pad in front of the garage. Instead it continued to the far side of the house where it disappeared from view.
"Oh no! It must be that guy! What are we gonna do?" Darrin ever the worrier looked at Cy.
Jenny whispered furiously, "Quick, we'll fix that burglar, go grab anything that makes noise and we'll scare him so bad he'll leave and never think to come back!" She always had the best ideas.
Everyone scattered and raced to find something. Kimmi grabbed two giant stainless steel pan lids from the kitchen cupboard, gave a huge roar and proceeded to bang them together with a slight pause for the sound to reverb through the big house. Darrin ran up and down from one room to another, at a loss for any tool, choosing instead to make every animal sound he could think of at decibles decernable a half mile away at Old Man Cotka's. Jenni grabbed a couple of the giant building blocks out of the playroom and slammed them together with a resounding crack while shrieking like a banshee. Cy dove for the certain places in the house like the one in front of the hutch housing the guest dishes and leaped as high as possible to come down on the tender spot in the floor with her full weight causing a sonic boom that shook the entire structure as though a load of tnt had been lit off.
Doors slammed, things crashed and elephants seemingly tore through the innocuous seeming middle class house set slightly back off the main highway. A wildcat shriek pierced the air while something large on all fours scrabbled and galloped loudly from the garage door to the kitchen, then through the dining room and down the long hall to the bedrooms and back again, followed by the oddest sounding cymbals you could possibly imagine.
They stomped and they pounded....a window in the rear of the house, five feet above the foundation opened and something out of sight on the inside growled in erie tone below the sill. The house shook again as another explosive impact sounded. Mixed in were sounds of an object that one might swear resembled the size of a bowling ball bouncing back and forth between wooden cupboard doors. Then suddenly silence. Everyone froze for a moment. Jenny tip-toed from window to window ruffling the curtains, growling and snarling as she went, so that each swayed in drunken fashion.
No sound came from outside.
Cy lay on the floor next to the family room sliding glass door and peered through the crack between the curtain and the floor through the glass at their own pole barn. Nothing moved.
"Quick," she said to Jenny, "go check the garage window and see if you can see anything."
Jenny who was the best at moving quietly, slipped out of the room carefully avoiding the places in the floor where the joists would always give your passage away. A few moments later she returned.
"The guy is still here. He's sitting in his truck."
Everyone wondered what to do next. It had seemed like they'd done a fairly decent job of sounding like a mob of crazed monsters, fierce and intimidating. Surely that would be sufficient to scare away any would-be burglar.
Maybe we should do that again, they murmured to each other. A semi-hysterical giggle from Darrin. His sisters ideas always seemed to make him nervous...but he always played along. You could depend on him.
The sound of a engine starting caught their attention. An then the sound of wheels squeeling through gravel and the pings of small pieces hitting the house as the vehicle with its driver tore backwards into the yard, whipped a U-ee and sped back down the drive the way it came....jouncing wildly now over those pot-holes without care to the suspension parts of the vehicle.
The children watched it go then broke out in cheers and whoops of triumph.
"We got 'im!"
"He'll never come back here; he wouldn't dare!"
The kids patted each other on the back with resounding compliments of good job! Someone ruffled Darrins shock of sandy blond hair until he yelled 'Hey! Quit that!' and then they tumbled back into the family room to collapse exhausted in front of the little television where they'd started. Not too bad, said they. A good day when you fulfill your family responsibilities by scaring a burglar and then get to go back to doing nothing in a cool house. No dog could produce such effect. They had freaked the mundane.
You have to understand that in their world, someone so dull and unimaginative as to have to steal for a living is a mundane. And of course, a mundane is fair game. And fair game is a sport under the topic heading of fun in which superhuman effort and creativity is the just due. All in a day's work for a bunch of kids on guard; heroes of the day.
Bear, the dog, meanwhile had witnessed an adult human he was reasonably familar with behave quite strangely. It was obvious to him that the activities within his human's abode shocked and distressed him. The man never took an interest about anything regarding the house except the gadget on the garage wall with its clear plastic lid and the high pitched electrical whine it always made. The man tried to see through the window by the gadget. He even spat on his shirt and scrubbed at the glass. Then he snuck around the side cautiously like dog hunting a skunk but spending more attention on trying to see inside than on Bear who trailed along trying to figure out what the man's problem was. As far as Bear was concerned all the smells of the day corresponded with normalcy and his humans were safely inside and didn't require his direct attendance. The man made a complete circuit of the big house then climbed in his truck. A moment later he cranked up the engine and white-faced tore out of the yard and down the driveway, whipping at high speed out onto the main road and racing away with the engine rpms roaring in protest up through the gears.
Everything returned to quiet. The ever present summer crickets restarted their song and Bear deciding that must be all for the day took up his customary spot on the concrete house-walk in the sun for a nice nap.
And then...five o'clock rolled around.
Like clock-work. Dad pulled in, parking his big red 3/4 ton Ford in the same spot next to the pole barn as he had for years. The sun had traversed from overhead to the west side of the house so the curtains were pulled back to allow daylight to the interior where our heroes still gawked at the television, thinking nothing of the day's adventure. Dad could be seen climbing out of the truck cab carrying his lunch box and the mail just as he always did. Routine was a defining character for Dad.
The back screen door opened and then slammed as the tensioned hinge did its duty. Dad emerged from the utility room, stepped up into the kitchen and set his possesions on the counter. No one noticed anything amiss. Until of course, Dad came around the couch, strode to the television and curtly flipped the off switch. Slowly he turned and stared at the foursome lined up on the couch. It was the most indescribable look on his face that immediately caught everyone's full attention...that and his silence.
Two maybe three minutes passed. Darrin squirmed. He couldn't remember doing anything that warranted being in trouble. Indeed none of them could. The last several days had been horrendously uneventful...sort of unusual even for this bunch who were known for racing through trees, rerouting creeks, and stocking cow troughs with fish (stories for another some other time).
"Ok, so who wants to explain to me just what went on here today?" The tone implied Dad was ready to impart a little old-fashioned justice to the N-th degree. No one moved. No one even opened their mouth. If air could be sliced up like a pie, it would have been possible to do it right then.
Cy decided Dad must be mistaken. No one had been bad that day. Nor anytime in recent memory...which seems long for a kid but excruciatingly short for a parent.
"Um, nothing much Dad. Everyone's been good."
Which was true by this family's standards.
"That's not what the PGE guy trying to read the meter said to me." Dad looked each of the kid's in the eye, one by one.
"He ran from here in terror saying it sounded like wild animals were tearing the insides of the house apart trying to get out....his exact words," Dad enunciated the last part slowly.
Three girls shrunk back into the couch while Darrin, being a little naive still for his age looked back at Dad bewildered but attempted to come to the rescue, "But Dad we scared away a Burglar today! You know, the one that wants everyones hammers and drills."
Dad looked from Darrin over to the girls.
"It's true Dad. We DID scare away a burglar today. We seen him drive in and we seen him leave really fast." offered Jenny in another attempt to stave off what was certain butt pain to come.
Kimmi agreed and Cy just nodded, not certain if daring to say anything would be considered an admission of guilt or if it would improve the situation. Sometimes prudence was the better part of valor and Jenny had erupted into a frantic effort at explaining what had happened and how they'd handled it. Dad stared at them in quasi-disbelief mixed with the reminants of what could only have been some sort of public embarassment which had accompanied him home from town.
As it turned out according to Dad, the utility man who normally came to read the meter on that day of the month had run into a problem. His regular work truck was out of commission and there had been no replacement available. Consequently he had left PGE to attend to his regular meter route some two hours later than usual, using his personal vehicle. That of course explained why there were no identifying markings and the truck had been so small.
He'd arrived to read the meter with a bit more than the usual fanfare from Bear who had not recognized the vehicle. Upon exiting his rig to check the dials on the house electricity meter, it was inescapable to notice that the structure was shaking and all manner of wild animal sounds he couldn't identify were eminating from within. Great crashes and what he could swear sounded like explosions were occuring somewhere inside. He wasn't sure what to do. Call 911? Or maybe the county animal control? It seemed to be happening everywhere in the house.
He'd left his truck and walked around the exterior trying to find a window through which he could see inside but all the curtains covered the interior glass and prevented his discernment. And worse the curtains were shaking and vibrating, growling and hissing. There was something or rather somethings which had to have been huge on the other side and it or they were also making shrieking sounds he'd never heard before, not even in horror movies. For all he knew, maybe the house itself was possessed. Amityville Horror was playing in the theaters and he'd seen it recently. Imagination mixed with the strangeness of the unknown, especially when it sounds like it's trying to GET OUT preyed upon the man. So he fled.
When he returned to the office with his bizarre tale and in an overly excited state, his well-meaning manager jumped into prudent action. The culmination was that a number of people were organized to figure out just how to locate Dad. Dad was discovered diligently attending to his responsibilities at his place of employment, subsequently he was pulled aside to be told that his home was apparently under some form of attack from within and that perhaps he needed to break away from work to attend to whatever was amiss at the house.
To this day no one really knows the full details of how that explanation was specifically made or recieved, since the highly disturbed on both ends of the tale have long since ceased to engage in reminiscing on the matter...but we can guess. History records strange tales on occasions being subject to the dynamics of imagination and synergy.
The kids, well, they remember freaking the mundanes was highly entertaining then and highly memorable to this day. Particularly acute is the humorous empathy involved, especially when it is accompanied by a memory of a house shaking CRASH.
== some names have been excluded from this story in order save public face ==