When things that go bump in the night, I rarely take notice. It’s the little sounds that get me.
A clunk rising from the basement will barely disturb my sleep because I know it is the water pump. But the faintest crunch of gravel at the end of the driveway – who knows what that is? We live on a remote road and things like that jolt me upright in bed.
Sometimes it is not even a sound – just a beam of headlights sweeping across the swamp behind our house will rouse me from the deepest slumber – and when I awake with my heart pounding, I wake my wife.
“Did you lock the doors?” I whisper.
She is a night-owl and locking up is her job.
“I think so,” she murmurs.
It is what happened last night and it got my radar pinging at full volume.
As we lay in bed, something brushed through the leaves on the front steps. It was either the stray cat who has taken up residence under our porch or a serial killer. It sounded too big for the cat. She is a skinny little thing who we put out food for – perhaps a raccoon or a possum was cashing in on our generosity.
That is what my rational side told me – but no one was listening to it. My irrational side had the floor and was browsing through its inventory of slasher films.
“Are you sure you locked the door?” I asked again.
“Don’t be paranoid,” she said, dozing off.
She says I am paranoid but I say she is not paranoid enough. She grew up in the country during an innocent age when people didn’t latch their doors. My experience was different. I lived where people bolted thick steel grids to their ground level windows.
Now we live in the country and she trusts her surroundings.
I know what goes on out there. I know what lurks in the ditches. I recognize the scream of owls. I comprehend the madness of coyotes. I hear the cries of terror and despair piercing the night. I heed the silence of the lambs.
I have witnessed the aftermath of the night. In the daylight, it is easy to be indifferent to the carnage. It is like watching a livestock trailer speeding toward the killing floor and not thinking about what that implies – until dark comes.
Whatever it is thumps against the door.
My wife sits up. “I can’t remember locking…” Her voice trails off.
But then I realize what it is. The screen door has come unlatched and is slowly flapping in the breeze. The sighing of its pneumatic piston tells me that.
I am not worried now.
“Why don’t you go check the door?” I say.
“Me?” she says. Her voice drops below a whisper.
“Don’t be paranoid,” I tell her.
She shakes her head no – then gets defensive.
“You’re the man,” she says, “that’s your department.”