A voice woke me out of a deep sleep.
“Whassat?” it asked.
The voice sounded familiar. Whose is it?
Oh, it’s mine.
I sat up.
The woods outside my bedroom window breathes with the sound of the wind in the tree tops.
We sleep with the windows open, so I often hear strange sounds in the night; sounds that never bothered me when we lived in the city. There, my mind filtered out the things I didn’t need to know, like the brawls in the alley or the occasional gunshot, but here in the country, it’s different. I’ve not adjusted to the sounds of country nights.
Like that one.
Rural evenings are filled with nature’s racket. Mostly it is critters spamming for sex; like the love-starved chipmunk who clucks for hours at the same annoying tempo, but this is not him.
If it were, I would have stuck my head out the window and shouted, “Ladies, help the little feller out so we can all get some sleep!”
But like I say, it is not him. I’ve not heard this sound before.
What is it about it that bothers me so? I don’t know. It is not a cry for food, sex or territory. Just one annoying…
Now I am hopelessly awake.
“Whassat?” mumbles my wife.
“I dunno,” I tell her.
She returns to sleep.
I lay there anticipating the next chirp, but it doesn’t come…..
Then it does.
I go to the window to listen. Under the breath of the wind, I hear nature’s heartbeat, the rhythmic strumming of crickets; a sound I have always found soothing.
But whoa! Wait a minute. It’s not coming from the woods, it is coming from behind me – in the house. Suddenly, I know what it is. It is a smoke alarm complaining about a low battery.
I listen for the next chirp.
It seems to come from everywhere and nowhere. I have no idea which alarm is bad, so I go into the hall to stand under the alarm there.
Nope. Not that one. I move to the living room and wait.
It is not the living room alarm either. More like in the dining room. So I stand on my tiptoes and try to twist that dining room alarm out of its bracket.
It won’t budge.
By this time, I’ve lost my temper. I give the whole assembly a hard counter-clockwise twist, ripping the bracket from the ceiling.
This time the sound comes from the living room. I go back there to wait.
That one comes off the ceiling too, but a few moments later –
I can’t stand the chirping anymore. I rampage through the kitchen and into the laundry room, ripping down the detectors as I go and tossing them onto the pile on the living room table.
Thank God, the sound finally comes from the pile, but now what do I do? I have no batteries.
Believe me, I get it. I understand the necessity of smoke detectors. I also understand that procrastinators like me must be nagged into action but even procrastinators need sleep.
I resolve to replace the detectors in the morning but when I do that, I’m getting good ones with brackets that work, but what to do with the old ones?
I get an idea.
I step out on the porch and cradle an alarm in the curve of my hand. I take a few practice swings then fling it like a Frisbee far out into the woods. The little white disk arcs gracefully into trees.
It hits an oak tree. Now there is a satisfying sound. Then one after another its little brothers follow it into the woods.
Finally it is quiet…. too quiet.
My tantrum has upset the crickets. They have all fallen silent. So silent that way out there in the woods, I hear a faint…
Now, I’ll never get to sleep.