Sunday, October 16, 2011

Things that go insane in the night

“Shut up!” I yelled, flinging a pillow into the darkness.  The pillow hit the wall without finding its mark.
“I’m not sure that’s the most constructive way to handle it,” my wife Kara mumbled.

“Woof!” our dog Memphis said for the twentieth time, refusing to be cowed by my downy projectiles.  She kept barking and running around our bedroom, making it nearly impossible to lock on to her.  Being high-strung might be a nice trait for some things, like phone poles, but it’s not the best quality for a dog in the middle of the night.

“It’s five-thirty in the morning and you’re going to wake the baby.  Let us sleep, animal, please!” I pleaded.

“You’re being louder than the dog,” Kara said as I retrieved my pillow from the floor.  “And while you’re up, could you grab me some string cheese from the fridge?  I’m hungry.”

I grumbled down the stairs with Memphis close behind.  Rain streaked down the windows and pounded the roof in the darkness.  If not for the piercing sound that shattered the relative silence, I never would have noticed the bearded face pressed against the glass beside our front door, peering in at me.

“DING DONG!” the doorbell called out, and I jumped out of my masculine pajama pants.  Memphis went berserk, skidding across the floor, her Scooby-Doo legs churning before her feet had traction, her barks echoing off the walls and gaining strength from each other.

If someone had transcribed her barks and typed them into Google Translate, selecting to translate from Dog to English, the resulting text would have read: “I was right!  I was right!  I was right! I was right!”

I ran to the front door and opened it.  Kara’s sister Jill, her husband Kris and their dog Luna were huddled under our small overhang.  We’d said our goodbyes the night before, since they were leaving our house at an insanely early hour to join some of their friends for a day of rock climbing, after the showers passed.  We’d heard them clunking around while they were leaving in the wee hours, but the house had been quiet for quite a while.

“We locked our car keys on your kitchen counter,” Kris said.

“How long have you guys been out here?” I asked.

“I don’t know.  Fifteen minutes or so.  You weren’t answering your cell phones,” he said. 

“You could have rung the doorbell earlier,” I said.

“We didn’t want to wake anyone up at first, but I’ve rung it about fifteen times,” he replied.  I didn’t realize that we couldn’t hear the doorbell from our bedroom, since nobody’s ever tried it while we were sleeping.  Or maybe they have, and we’ve missed out on countless late-night opportunities to order magazine subscriptions or change our religion.

Memphis, meanwhile, was slapping her tail against the front door, taking a victory lap for actually being right for once.  For the past four years, if Kara or I set a book down on a table, or hit our elbows against the wall, or tapped our fingers on a countertop, Memphis would fly into a barking frenzy, convinced that someone was at the front door. 

But when an actual person showed up, I’d listen to the rumble of their engine in the driveway, their car doors slam, and their footsteps coming up the walkway while Memphis would sit there silently, wondering if there was anything important she’d forgotten to lick.

This time, though, Memphis was right, and if not for her willingness to drive us all insane, and Kara’s willingness to make me get stuff out of the fridge for her in the middle of the night, Jill and Kris might still be huddled by our front door, waiting for someone selling magazine subscriptions to come rescue them.

You can launch projectiles at Mike Todd at

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