So the dog — Maggie, the Sheltie — began to bark in the wee hours of the morning. Not overly concerned for my welfare, I shouted, “Maggie! Shut up and go to bed!”
That usually works. Shelties are dedicated to protecting their herd (me and the cats in this case) and will woof a warning if a branch scrapes across the window.
This time it didn’t. I yelled at her again as she stood in the hallway outside the bedroom door. When she took off down the stairs, I decided maybe there really was something wrong.
I got up, grabbed my puffy chenille bathrobe and yanked it on. With great stealth, I made my way to the landing at the turn of the stairs. From that vantage spot I can see my driveway and the section where it meets the street as well as look out the window of my front door, which was locked.
My visual inspection showed absolutely nothing. I yelled at Maggie one more time to come to bed and went back to the bedroom.
Instead of being the good, obedient dog she usually is, she ran through the house to the kitchen and barked there. That put the young yellow labrador in her crate in the mood to bark too. As their barks accelerated in fierceness and frequency, I decided I’d better go downstairs.
There has never been a time that I didn’t feel safe in my house. Street lights shine on my property, the parking lot across the street is a popular place for local police to spend time in the nighttime hours (yep, watch your speed by my house) and barking dogs tend to be a good deterrent anyway.
If this was a comic strip or sitcom, I’d have equipped myself with a baseball bat. Haven’t owned one of those for years, though.
The closest thing I have to a weapon on my second floor is a really old computer monitor that weighs a ton. Toss that at an intruder and he’d be pinned to the floor the second it hit.
It was only as I stepped off the landing onto the stairs going into the living room that I thought beyond the human prowler cause. Maybe a bat had gotten into the house, the cats were after it and that’s why the dogs were in a tizzy.
My folks used to get bats in their house all the time and survived but I still don’t like the things. I was mentally inventorying the items piled up on the steps and by the coat rack to decide if I had any bat fighting devices.
Ah, yes the umbrella. I don’t use it because those spiny things that hold it open are broken but I haven’t tossed it out yet. Yes, indeed, the umbrella would be excellent.
I grabbed it by its curved handle as I stepped off the last stair and took my first cautious step toward the dogs. Maggie, still barking, was stone still by the lab’s cage in the dining room. The black cat was on the table staring into space.
The bat, I was certain, was in there somewhere. Hanging from a curtain maybe. Clinging to the back of a chair. Poised on the ceiling fan blade to attack.
I clutched that umbrella in both hands, took a deep breath and headed for the dining room.
A few paces more and I saw a large, fuzzy black thing on the floor. Panic bubbled inside me as that old fight-versus-flight instinct roared to life. Should I fight the beast or run back to bed and pull the covers over my head?
Fight won. I rushed toward the thing, umbrella over my head, flipping on the overhead light as I went.
And managed to stop myself just before I gave a pair of fat black slipper socks one whale of a thrashing.
CATHIE SHAFFER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org