It was one of those noises that I, oops, (that should read—she) SHE could not ignore. One of those noises that comes in the middle of the night and that can smack a person awake with the reliability of a mortar round—a pounding, thumping, ominous noise—indicating either roof collapse or raccoon attack.
I, oh crap, (I mean Linda) LINDA came awake with the vigor of an android becoming self-aware, eyes snapping open like a Chatty Kathy doll. The glowing dial of the clock read two a.m.
To the thump-thump of a midnight heart attack, Linda scrambled into her fluffy yellow bathrobe, pulling the mismatched purple polka dot belt tight. She worried about the effects of the frigid—even deadly—December weather and pulled on a nappy overcoat over the top of the whole bedtime fashion mess.
It was the blue coat she wore to muck out the barn. There was hay in the pockets and sticking out of the collar. Hay scratched her neck and jabbed her in the jowls. Images of a scarecrow may have come to mind. Hmmmm, let me think! Yes, yes, they did.
Pushing open the door with its interior door handle— that should have been an exterior door handle except Home Depot had been out of exterior door handles so MY, no HER husband had settled for an inside door knob on the outside—Linda remembered to be annoyed. Pacing the back porch and peering into the darkness of the icy backyard she found no source for the strange night noise—all was quiet, icy death. Satisfied and shivering, she tried to pull open the interior-on-the-outside-doorknob and found it locked tight—tightly—locked, as in you ain’t getting back in here without a crowbar—locked.
Her dogs stared at her through the glass of the door. She cursed them for not having opposable thumbs while cold seeped up from the cement into her bones through her socks. Horror dawned. Her breath frosted. (I’m breathing faster just thinking about it.)
Panic and cold threatened to shatter Linda’s middle-aged bones. Mindlessly, she began to run. Racing from locked window to locked window around the perimeter of the house, she began to think about her upcoming college statistics class and statistics in general, and how she might become a statistic—a lonely frozen statistic curled up under the hedge next to the driveway under a sheet of rare Florida ice. She would be a pointless statistic behind a nameless headline under a bush. She considered sobbing.
Her stocking feet began to contract and curl from the cold. Her breath came in short hyperventilating gasps. Her lips chapped.
On her third circuit around the house and without slowing down, she scrambled and hopped into a pair of rubber gardening boots she found under a Juniper bush. The boots, a brown leopard print rubber, were on the wrong feet. She continued her race around the house looking for any opening, loose latch, or magic portal back into the house too frightened to stop and put her boots on the “right feet.” The boots slowed me way, way down I can tell you, (and they slowed Linda way down too!!)
She couldn’t help wondering what they—the keepers of the statistics—would think when they found her in the morning.
Would they realize that she had been afraid and alone?
Would they realize that panic and not stupidity had forced her to run around with her boots on the wrong feet?
Would they wonder about her likes and dislikes, her dreams and hopes, her arthritis that made the cold feel like ice daggers?
Would they find (her/my) body before the spring thaw?
When Linda began to loose the feeling in her fingers and earlobes she began to laugh. It was as if she was high above the scene looking down at the strange sight of herself running wildly in a circle, under a crystalline sky, hair spiked to the four corners of the county, fluffy bathrobe flapping, boots curving off in the wrong direction. Her laughter did not sound sane—even to herself.
The sudden realization that the truck was unlocked, with the garage door opener on the dash, and the side door open, made Linda reject her backup plan of crawling into a Rubbermaid storage container stuffed with hay and spending the remaining part of the night in the barn under a horse.
And so I was saved . . . and Linda was too.
Linda (Who Me?) Zern