As I began to drift to sleep shortly after midnight, I was startled back into full consciousness by a booming thud.
My eyes popped open, and I remained still as my vision acclimated to the dark bedroom. Being prone to the occasional hypnagogic paracusia, I was unconcerned until I heard another booming thud.
I carefully slid out of bed so as to prevent the bed frame from creaking. Stealthily and cautiously, I stepped into the hallway. Standing behind the threshold of the dining room, I peered inside to find the room undisturbed when suddenly, a third booming thud caused my heart to jump.
It came from the dark living room.
It indeed sounded like someone was trying to push the front door open with force. My heart beat fast. My face felt cold.
Fearing for my safety, I told myself, ‘Go to the bedroom and press your alarm system’s panic button. The police will come and hopefully scare off whoever is trying to break in.’
Just as I turned to dash the short distance to the panic button, my conscience spoke up. ‘Maybe you should check it out first.‘
‘Why would I want to “check out” a crackhead breaking into my home,’ I asked my conscience with a lavish application of condescension.
‘Because you never know. Just take a quick peek.’
‘But it’s dark in there! What are you trying to do? Get me killed?’
‘Don’t be such a pussy. The dining room lamp is on. You’ll be able to see enough.‘
‘Damn it,’ I told my conscience. ‘What have I told you about calling me a pussy?’
‘Sorry,’ it whined. ‘But you are. You’re a big ol’ slimy, organic dick mitten. What if nothing’s there? Even the cops are going to call you a pussy if they show up for nothing.’
‘God damn it,’ I groaned. But my conscience was right. I couldn’t just press the panic button like a game show buzzer.
I warily ambled toward the living room, keeping close to the dining room wall. Peering into the dimly lit living room, I surveyed the shadows for disturbance. At first sight, everything appeared in customary disarray. Envelopes scattered in small piles on the coffee table. Sofa pillows slung at odd angles. Cat toys randomly dispersed on the hardwood floor. But deeper into the darkness, near the front door on the other side of the living room, something seemed out of place.
I took another cautious step closer for better inspection, keeping my weight on my front foot so as to be ready to bolt at even a tenuous sign of danger. Suddenly, a familiar face appeared from behind the sisal ottoman with a startled expression. It was the deaf cat, Zoe. Just beyond her, a pile of books rested on the hardwood floor. Heavy books. Books she had just pulled off the bookshelf.
I rolled my eyes. When she recognized me, she greeted me with a gargling meow and pranced towards me with a hunched back, her tail pointing straight in the air. As she rubbed against my leg, her tail curled around my calf.
I sighed. Feeling the anger drain away.
As I carried her to bed with me, purring as she rested in the crook of my arm like royalty, I felt ignorant for forgetting a similar episode from a few weeks prior when she knocked over the recycle bin at 2 am. I had been ready to call in the national guard until I turned on the kitchen light to reveal her licking disposed cat food cans like a ravenous hobo. I didn’t stay mad at her for long after that incident, either. How could I? After catching her in the midst of mischief, she always seems so happy to see me.
However, I fear that these nocturnal incidents may eventually desensitize me to the signs of an actual break-in. So if I die the victim of a home invasion, I request someone line up all five cats and explain how my violent death was completely their fault. I prefer this task be designated to a person with an unbridled temper as screaming and furniture flipping must be involved when communicating outrage to apathetic heathens.
Once we were both cuddled in bed, it only required six or seven long and gentle strokes down Zoe’s back before she was asleep. And since the house fell still again, I allowed myself to drift into sleep as well. But just as my mind began to shut down for the night, my conscience took the opportunity to have the last word by whispering: