Monday was a weird day. Such a weird day. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to throw you off, just a little something that isn’t right, something a little off register. So it really started on Sunday, when we got back from church. When the kids were little, we installed a log rail fence all around the front of the yard. When we got dogs, we had to cover the inside of the log fence with wire, to keep the dogs in. Because of Tuck, who could easily leap three times his height (I shoulda trained him for agility), we added all kinds of interesting bits to the top of the fence; the final result – a charming junk yard air.
When we put in the log gate, Guy cleverly used a piece of bike stuff, a sort of solid loop made of sturdy wire. When we drop it over the gate’s post, the gate closes snuggly. When we both leave, we add this extra chain that goes around the fence post next to the gate – just in case some salesman comes down the street. I always feel a little silly, a little paranoid, fastening the snap on that chain. But Tuck – if he could get out of the fence, he’d be gone, and that would break my heart.
So when we went to church we chained the gate. There wasn’t a lock on it (there is now), we just clip the chain, clip on the inside of the gate. It’s hard for me to do; I’m not quite tall enough to reach over. So G did it – in a hurry, as we always are when we’ve got to be someplace on time. Church was great, and I was feeling pretty good as we came home – until we pulled into the driveway and saw that the gate was open.
My heart just stuttered. When I got out of the car, I saw that the gate was still chained. G had linked it loosely. Someone had pulled up the loop that holds the gate closed and then pulled the gate as wide as they could before the chain stopped it. Then they’d left it that way. We had no way of knowing how long it had been open – open enough for two small dogs to get through without much trouble at all. And why? Who?
I saw Toby as I got out of the car, but he was barking that high little alert bark he uses when Tuck gets out. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but people who have animals will know the complete terror that hit me in that second – my private business and space violated, and my dog gone. But as I called him, Tuck came running around from the back yard. So it was all right. But I didn’t feel all right for hours. And I still don’t, wondering who had been there on my driveway, messing with my gate.
I got up Monday, ready to get back to my projects—last week was all about the new baby and her family. And taxes. I had to remember to get to the accountant. But I couldn’t really get started. So I decided to take care of the tax stuff. I spent a pleasant few minutes shooting the breeze with the lovely and amazing Kim, wrote out the check for the gov. Got back in the car to run one more errand and turned on the radio.
They were talking about ambulences. About a big tent, and the ambulences backing in, driving out so that others could back in. It took like two minutes before I could ascertain that this was not local – and then another few before I realized it was the Boston Marathon. It was surreal. And it wasn’t real to me till I got home, after watching hours of news.
Meanwhile, I get this Facbook notice that somebody I hardly ever hear from had shared a photograph – which turned out to be a composit of two pictures of a fourteen year old girl and a notice that she was missing. This is a child going to the school where Chelsea teaches. She’d left home to walk to school at eight that morning. The school called her home at 3:30 to tell her parents she hadn’t been at school at all that day. Hundreds of people, including Rachel and her husband, streamed into the streets of that neighborhood, looking for this girl – some all night.
How many open gates do you need in one 24 hour period?
And then later that afternoon, we went with Chaz to look at houses. She’s a poor teacher, looking for a decent neighborhood. But the house in the first neighborhood was WEIRD, all chopped up and dark inside. And the renters living in it had the flu and hadn’t gotten the message we were coming, and it was awkward. And there were viruses. And the next house was in a neighborhood with yards full of rusting junk and – it was kinda scary, actually. So that wasn’t quieting at all.
So we went home, huddled around the news, like it was a fire on a freezing day. It was a mistake – we heard suppositions and misinformation. The second the anchor person comes on, you leave the room to do what you need to do, because you know you’re not going to hear anything from the Anchor except talking-head stuff. And finally, you have to turn it off and live your life. Which I was doing till late. Not much accomplished that day, and brain busy, I stayed up after G went to bed, stupidly trying to concentrate on my work.
Then I heard the sound of a motor. In the air. Not that unusual since we live a couple of miles from the city airport and a helecopter training facility. But they aren’t really allowed to fly in our airspace, so you usually don’t hear these things come close. Some time last year we heard a helecopter overhead – that came closer and closer – and hovered. The whole house was full of the vibration of it. I was – of all places – in the shower – and heard this thing like it was in my backyard. So I stretched up to peer out the narrow window – and saw a helecopter – not in my backyard, but right across the river, maybe 125 feet away. Yeah, that’s not weird, being in the shower and looking straight at the pilot of a black helecopter.
And it was the same that evening – me, tucked into my corner of the couch, and this sound getting closer and closer and then right overhead, where it stayed. I was too tired to move, and too confused. And I found that I was reminding myself I didn’t live in Vietnam, that the sound over my roof didn’t have to be threatening, but I felt fear inside, all up and down myself. Holding still, feeling this fear rise. It went away, then came back, then went away.
I was still sitting there, I think probably in some little state of shock – just from the whole day’s weidness, when I heard Guy shout upstairs. Sometimes when he dreams, he makes these half muffled shouts. And I thought that’s what it was. Usually just one or two sounds he makes in these dreams before he wakes himself up. But I heard it again. And then again – louder, and I started up, suddenly wondering if he was having a heart attack or something. Then this giant yell, and I ran up the stairs and shouted his name.
This sheepish, drowsy voice answered me. He was fine. He’d been dreaming of a lion. Scaring it away – from Marvin, actually, who had been asleep on a yard swing—who remained blessedly, it seems, unaware of lion, Guy and the helecopter over head.
If you could be certain that there are walls around days, defining them as discrete – you could pick up a day, put it in a drawer, and be done with it. That is not, of course, what life is like on this planet. I think I am still shaken by all of this. Not terrorized, just awakened, as anyone who has had their “normal” world disrupted, to the fact that you cannot expect the lovely things to be safe from intrusion. Certainly the people of Boston have not put anything in a drawer yet. And “disrupted” is, for them, a wild understatement.
That said, I did sleep that night. And I woke up the next day and got back to business. Until I had that dream Wednesday night – but there you are.
The helicopter? Searching for the little girl, up and down the river. The horrible thought of finding her in the river . . .. That’s why it was at nearly ground level. If I had had anything left, I’d have gone to the window, or outside, to try to see what was going on. But it was all too surreal.
The little girl was found the next morning a couple of cities to the north. Nobody has told us why she was there or how she ended up there. But she was fine—after a night of her parents’ anguish. If this was somebody running away from home – I’d like to shake her selfish little self till her teeth rattle.