Friday, August 18, 2006

midnight prowlers

It’s funny, but when you move to a new home, you don’t realize at first how different noises might be. The sounds you took for granted in one home can mean something entirely different in another home. Bangs and bumps in the middle of the night at my old apartment, usually meant that one of the residents had come home drunk and was trying to find the keys he’d dropped in the parking lot.

I’d often be blasted at 3am by a car stereo with “¡Oh tierra del sol, suspiro por verte! ahora que lejos yo vivo sin luz, sin amor …” (That's a whole other blog!) And sometimes I’d be woken by folks from a neighboring building fighting over who flirted with whom; or revving up their Colgate white low-riders and chasing each other around the block.

These were noises I was familiar with. Didn’t enjoy them. I’d curse the villian who woke me (again, thank you very much), pull the pillow over my ears and try to block the sound quickly before I became too agitated to sleep.

But now I have a new set of noises to get used to. Like the nightly creaking floorboards of an old house settling back into itself. The tinkling of my indoor wind chimes at odd hours, for no apparent reason. The clanking of passing trains. The sudden screeching of bald eagles. And stealthy footsteps outside my window, just 30-minutes past the witching hour …

There I was, last weekend, a vision of absolute loveliness, curled up in my favorite Gloria V’ PJ’s, watching The Shining. I have an overactive imagination at the best of times and have no business watching spooky films in the wee hours of any morning, let alone when I’m by myself. And in a new (old) house.

So after I’d jerked a glass of iced Perrier water over my legs—the result of a mild heart attack—I grabbed the TV remote, turned down the sound and held my breath. Nothing. See. Idiot. Shouldn’t watch films like this!

Blotting my wet legs with tissues, I settled back on the sofa and turned up the sound just as Jack Nicholson stuck his ugly face in a doorway and grinned that menacing grin and … damn it … the hair on my arms shot on end. More footsteps!

I jumped to my feet and grabbed the phone. Ran into the kitchen. Back into the lounge. Turned a circle … more footsteps … another circle. Heart pounding, back into the kitchen. Where’s the flashlight?

Holding my breath, I tiptoed to the side of the curtain and pulled it back about an inch so I could see out, without being seen. Nothing. Nothing. Just empty black stillness.

I snatched a breath and forced it out in a heavy sigh. Stupid, stupid woman.

I was about to step away from the window when a shadow leaned across the driveway. I dropped the curtain; heard more footsteps among the rose bushes. Two, three, four more. Coming closer?

Something knocked against the window; and again. Thumb paused over the number nine, ready to dial for help. Not breathing. Heart racing. I nudged the side of the curtain just a smidgeon. Three more footsteps. Oh!

My jaw dropped and a quick gasp of breath stuck in my throat.

Wow ... mommy deer stepped onto the driveway and into the moonlight. And her two beautiful kids followed. These were noises I could learn to enjoy.

16 comments:

deirdre said...

My heart was pounding for you. I've been there too many times. It takes so long to get to know new house-sounds. One of the worst scares I had was several years ago, far, far out in the country, and turned out to be a wild turkey pacing through the backyard. Sounds just like a person. I hope the move went well and you're settled in now.

Bibi said...

Hey Deidre, I'm telling you, with my imagination, it's a wonder I haven't scared myself to death yet!

Anonymous said...

Yo momma! How could you watch the Shining all alone? That's one film that scares the pants offa me. I can't watch it even in the day light with a house full of people.

Kiyotoe said...

I laugh only because you remind me of my girlfriend in my old house when she spends the night. All night long I hear "what was that?" or "did you hear that?"

And for some reason my response is never sufficient enough......."it's just the house settling".

keewee said...

I am doing a little chuckle, only because I have been through the same thing many years ago.It did not take long to know all the noises.

andrea said...

Vicki -- what makes me think that this is the 'family' house in Tacoma? Did I hear something about it from Valerie maybe?

Clearly you have some 'wild' neighbours! :)

Bibi said...

LOL. See, you've all been there! Oui, oui, it's all very funny now and I'm hoping to see my midnight prowlers again.

These are the kind of 'wild' neigbours I like ;-)

Becca said...

I was shaking in my boots just reading this! I'm glad I have two ferocious beasts to protect me tonight (LOL - I have two 12 pound shih tzu's!)

Love your writing! Relax and enjoy the presence of natural wildlife in your new home :)

John Ivey said...

Great story and well written. The suspense built as I became more and more worried for you only to get a chuckle and a tender moment at the end.

My scary moment was reading Alien. I had seen the movie many times, once sitting through three screenings of it in the balcony of the grand Uptown Theater on Connecticut Avenue. During audience changes, I hid out in the bathroom and smoked a well deserved cigarette. So when I ran across the novel in a bookstore one evening, I bought it and just had to read it right away.

Laying on the couch in my Arlington home, I found the book to be even more gripping than the movie and read into the wee hours. By then, the comfortable sounds of suburban traffic and the distant whines of jet engines from National Airport had given way to stillness. The silence of the night was not conducive to my remaining grounded in reality, and my imagination lured me into a world in which the alien monster might just be outside my front door. At one point, I was certain my demise was imminent, and yet I turned pages still.

I was never so relieved to finish a book, and when I did I scurried up the stairs to my bedroom and finally found some safety under the covers of my bed.

It is true. The imagination can run wild.

Bibi said...

Thanks John ... glad you survived Alien! The movie freaked me out when I first saw it.

Becca ... love the pix of your dogs!

HomemakerAng said...

thanks so much for dropping by my blog! Your job sounds very interesting! I am a "writer" also, but have never been published YET! Look forward to reading your blog. stop in again!

Homemakerang

Yasmine Galenorn said...

Heya ~V~....well, I see I'm not the only one watching jump-and-scream movies lately. But you got the better end of the deal with the deer. What a magical moment to see them outside, and what a relief!

And did you check to see if they've been eating your roses?

~Yazza~ (the decaffeinated)

Ali la Loca said...

Ooh, what welcome intruders!

From the description of your previous apartment I'd swear you live in New Mexico and not Washington as it says on your profile. Hahaha - the lowrider bit brought me right back home.

Thanks for the visit to my blog.

Jemima said...

I watched The Shining while in bed and was forever afraid of that place by association. We had to move to get away! I'm so glad this story ended well, and will remember that the next time I'm hearing things because I've scared myself with films. Usually the noises are squirrels, but that's scary when you're half asleep.

My first visit today, I read several of your posts, and really enjoyed your writing. I shall return :-)

Bibi said...

Ali, yes, the area I lived in was rich in multicultural integration.

JVS, bless you! First time I watched The Shining was years ago in the UK, in old Victorian house. And somewhat like Kiyotoe's girlfriend, I'd wake my honey up in the middle of the night to walk me down that long, long corridor to the bathroom ;-)

Bibi said...

Yazza, yes, a few roses disappeard, but that's ok ;-)