“What was that noise?”
Muriel whispered these words glancing around for her husband’s response. But Jock was not there, and she recalled he’d made a trip to the supermarket for her. She was so used to having him around to talk with in their retirement that even when he was off golfing or pottering around the yard, she still had little one-way conversations with him despite the fact she knew he was absent. The fact there was no response didn’t trouble her as he was a quiet man and content to let her talk even when he was with her. The mind does play tricks on one when they’ve been in retirement for some time, and she felt foolish every time she had those conversations with herself.
Women are wired to hear any noise that does not match normal sounds of a home and it is that way because women have children and need to be alert to their safety. Even silence needs to be investigated when children are in the house. So, Muriel did what any woman would have done hearing a noise that did not match stored sounds of normality in her sub-conscious. She moved stealthily from the kitchen to investigate.
The noise seemed to have come from the basement area and her mind conjured up all kind of scenarios. Had something gone wrong with the dryer whirring merrily as it tossed clothes from one corner of the cylinder to another? That sound was as it should have been. Something was tapping downstairs and she paused on the stairs to listen again. Perhaps she’d not removed everything from one of Jock’s pockets and it was being thrown around as the cylinder rotated. That had happened before. But as she moved slowly downstairs, she realized the noise was not coming from the clothes dryer.
She paused on the bottom step. She’d been cautious coming down the carpeted stairs as one needed to be alert to any possibilities. Then her eyes moved to the door and window beside it where a dark shadow blocked out much of the window sunlight. The tapping was coming from the window. The door was securely locked and only used when Jock went out to the tool shed to work on lawns and gardens. But the window seemed to have something being done to it and shadow blocking out the sun was unusual. There were no trees there. The tapping resumed and a corner of the windowpane shattered. Tapping stopped waiting for a responding noise from within and when none came as Muriel stood transfixed the pane exploded with a determined blow. Someone was breaking in.
Muriel darted back up the stairs. She picked up the phone to dial emergency and to her horror found the line was dead. She went looking for the cell phone and remembered Jock had it. Muriel never left home now unless she was with Jock, so they’d determined it was a waste of money to have a cell phone for both. So, she’d have to deal with this by herself. Perhaps she could run to the neighbors to get help from them but as she peeped out the front door, she saw a car parked out front of their property and a man standing at the end of the driveway looking up and down the street in a suspicious manner. Maybe he was the lookout while someone else broke into the home. What were they looking for?
Time to take stock of her options. Maybe she was old now, but they’d operated a gym together up to retirement and still did their daily workouts. She was in good physical shape and suddenly she had a burst of anger at this intrusion on their privacy. Who were these people trying to take advantage of old people? Let him come up stairs and deal with her.
She moved confidently to the spare room and retrieved Jock’s old hocky stick. She’d been tempted to take it to the charity shop many times, but it had sentimental value to her husband who’d been on winning teams with it, so she’d tolerated it up to this point and was glad now she had.
She waited around the corner and strained to hear noises from below. She’d have to be super alert as the stairs up were carpeted and whoever it was would have that advantage should they decide to come to the upper level. There were muffled noises from the basement. Not much they could take from there and they probably felt safe with the dryer making a noise to hopefully mask any noise they’d be making there. So, if they were bent on robbery they’d have to come upstairs eventually, but how many of them were they? She knew one man was guarding the driveway but how many were in the basement? Her ears strained for sounds of whispering but there were only sounds of movement. She relaxed. Taking on one would be better odds.
After several minutes Muriel viewed a head appear slowly looking straight ahead. She was around the corner out of sight and hoped he’d not glance to the left. He slowly moved his body forward and began to turn in her direction. The hockey stick moved like lighting and caught him across the chest. The man exhaled sharply and swore, and the stick struck its mark again. Muriel heard a crashing sound as the man fell downstairs with more colourful language offered as he reached bottom. He came stumbling back up the stairs brandishing a broom he’d found in haste gasping for air but bent on revenge. He paused in shock as he saw an old woman standing at the top of the stairs with her hockey stick at the ready then anger took over again. She’d hurt him badly and he’d hurt her in return before limping out to join his friend and a trip to the nearest hospital. He lunged forward clutching his broom and Muriel pushed him down the stairs again.
Muriel woke with a start. The room was in darkness and covers on the bed were in disarray. She groped toward the bedside table and pressed the button to activate her bedside lamp. She needed to be comforted after such a horrible dream experience so reached across for her husband. His place was empty. She shook her head trying to gather her wits after waking up so suddenly in fear. She yelled for her husband Jock.
A face appeared above the mattress then a body as Jock picked himself up off the floor. His pajamas were twisted around his body in unusual shapes, and he looked angry.
Muriel was now wide awake, but the humor of his appearance made her chuckle.
“What on earth are you doing on the floor Jock and this bed is in a real mess.”
Jock was clearly not amused, and he climbed into bed turning his back on her retrieving enough of the covers to care for the chill of the night.
Muriel stopped laughing sensing his anger. She tried conversation again. “Why were you on the floor Jock?”
He turned to face her, and she felt the coldness of his stare. “You ought to know why I was on the floor Muriel, you put me there. Now if you don’t mind and have finished your desire to wrestle can I go to sleep.”
Muriel trod warily around Jock for the next week until his anger subsided but gradually, he came around to the humor of the situation and it became the chief topic of mirth among relatives and friends whenever they’d meet up for years afterward.
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