The Octopus in the Night

It’s possible that one night I called the police on a toy.  In my defense though, nighttime makes everything more alarming.  As evidence, consider the description of monsters as things that “go bump in the night.”  I doubt that the bumping is the problem, or we would all be scared of my daughter, who sometimes runs into walls for the fun of it.  Similarly, monsters wouldn’t be scary if they went bump in the day.  They would just be construction workers with bad public relations.  Night is the problem.

Thus, when a series of loud noises awoke me from a sound sleep in the deepest part of the night, I came to consciousness prepared for the worst.  What I actually heard might be described as the emphatic banging of someone at our front door; what I thought I heard was the beginning of an assault by gangsters, hoodlums, aliens, and dinosaurs.

Naturally, the best course of action seemed to be to lie very still, because criminals and monsters can only see you if you run.  If I lived alone, that’s probably what I would have done.  Certainly I would have waited for any further noises before deciding which window to dive through while screaming like a frightened little girl.  However, as I live with an actual little girl, and a woman of the sort which little girls become, I had to be a man instead.

Without any hesitation I can say that I’d rather face danger myself than subject them to it, and I would certainly rather be the one potentially robbed, stabbed, kidnapped, or eaten, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy getting up in the night to investigate weird noises.  Also, that doesn’t mean I have to look brave while doing it.  I figure, as long as I act confident while my wife can see me, I can be a skittish goofball the rest of the time.  If I ever stumble across a burglar one day, I’m pretty sure all he or she is going to care about is that I’m the size of grizzly bear.  Nobody cares if grizzly bears act macho.

So, in the middle of the night, with my heart racing and my ears straining, I reached for the only weapon that we keep in the house, or at least the only weapon that doesn’t come in a set with a spoon: a three foot length of oak that we’ve always merely called “the stick.”  I think it used to be a banister, or possibly part of a fancy bed.  I found it beside the road one day and, as I have the sensibilities of a gluttonous raccoon, kept it.  At the time I merely thought it was a pretty stick, but I’m going to pretend that I kept it for incidents such as the one I’m describing.

Perhaps I should put a sign out front, after the fashion of many security companies.  It could read, “Beware: these premises are guarded by a buffoon with salvaged pieces of furniture!”  No one would dare rob us.  Also, probably no one would want to rob us.

Either way, with the stick in hand, I turned to try to wake my wife.  We have an arrangement for such crises:  I search the house while she listens for screams, gurgles, or any other sign that she might need to evacuate with our daughter.  Of course, waking her is mysteriously challenging.

Sometimes she sleeps lightly, and even though she looks relaxed, her vast array of deadly martial arts skills stand poised in her subconscious so that she can wake up violently.  She’s the only person I know who can pounce out of sleep and from a supine position.  I’m serious.  One time when our daughter was still an infant, the two of them fell asleep next to each other in our bed.  Our daughter was in my space, so I tried to move her carefully and quietly.  My wife sprang at me like the mechanism of a mousetrap; I almost lost an arm. This is why I flinch a bit whenever I try to wake her: I don’t want to die.

Other times she sleeps so deeply that I could probably roll her out of bed entirely without disturbing her.  She would just flop onto the floor with a thud, mumble something about cleaning supplies and reality television, and never remember any of it.  Clearly, since she hadn’t woken up for whatever noise had startled me, this was the sort of sleeping she was doing on the night of this story.

Therefore to wake her I had to call her a dozen or so times, each time louder than the previous one.  I often find it best, when investigating nighttime dangers, to make a lot of noise so that any potential attackers have a chance to plan an effective ambush.  I wouldn’t want them to feel rushed, because I don’t want to die while worrying that I might have been inconvenient for someone.  I suppose in part I also hope they hear my voice and run away.  It’s deep, especially when I’m tired, so perhaps it’s menacing in a grizzly-bear-appropriate manner.

Now that I think about it though, there’s really nothing intimidating about a man saying “Honey” repeatedly, no matter how deep his voice.  I probably just sounded like a grizzly bear dreaming about being Winnie the Pooh.

Regardless, my wife eventually woke up, I explained the situation to her, and the search of our house began.  This part of the story is entirely boring, because I found exactly nothing.  I didn’t even have to worry about having missed a hiding spot either, because our house is small, devoid of any nooks, and piled to the roof with noise-making baby toys.  No one could hide in it if they tried.

That left outside the house as the source of the trouble.

My wife and I also have an arrangement for dealing with outside dangers: we stay inside and hope for the best.  Unfortunately, we were both tired and frazzled, so hope didn’t come easily.  Our subsequent behavior is probably pretty telling.

My wife’s primary fear was kidnappers.  She moved into our daughter’s room and crouched over her crib like a mother grizzly-bear protecting her cub.  She had an aura of savage intensity about her that managed to make the miniature flashlight she had grabbed seem like a vicious deadly weapon.  Anyone who came near her baby was going to get bludgeoned, blinded, and then bludgeoned more.  Even if I hadn’t known that she was trained to kill people with speed and ease, I would have been impressed.  Since I did know that though, I felt comfortable about our baby’s safety.

Meanwhile, my primary fear was dinosaurs.  I didn’t want to peek out through the curtains because I was terrified that I might see a dinosaur looking back at me.  I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to recover from that.  Instead I stood in the middle of the living room, as far from all of the curtains as possible, and clutched the stick with both hands to keep it from trembling.

My daughter slept through the whole thing.  Sure she’d always been a terrible sleeper, and would go back to being one all too soon, but for once she wasn’t.  In spite of the banging that woke me, in spite of the yelling that woke my wife, in spite of the thumping and grunting that marked my search of the house, in spite of every light in the house being turned on, she slept peacefully.  What can I say?  She mastered irony early.

Eventually my wife suggested that we call the police.  I was embarrassed by the idea of having to admit my fear of dinosaurs, but I also didn’t want to go outside and possibly discover one.  Her plan seemed like a reasonable alternative.

In part 2, a pair of patient police officers marvel at the mess in our house, an octopus becomes involved in this story, and our daughter keeps sleeping.


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