Things that Go Bump in the Night

The smoke from half a dozen fires has cast a shadow over my entire world, filtering the harshness of the morning light, but somehow this allows me to see without shading my eyes, the brilliance of the blood orange sun.

It almost brings me to tears.

Waking early this morning, being left behind to deal with the details of the lake house, I linger on the deck, allowing my pleasure to dip into the rippling surface of the lake. I let my imagination swim in the open water, long strokes, cooling my thoughts, stretching the tight and rigid muscles of the mind.

Yes, I made coffee, in fifteen minutes I’ll feel a false sense of euphoria, which I boldly accept.

I’m always going, doing, moving if not physically, mentally towards some ambition, or goal if you will, as if head butting my endeavors into a poorly guarded net translates to a win. I go blindly at times into my day, only to catch up with my fears, bewildered by the unexpected assault.

Feed the dog, make the bed, rotate the laundry, find the words, dig a little deeper, disrupt the murky dregs, push past that trove of brillant trinkets, to the sediment of insecurity, fear, unresolved conflict. That’s where you find yourself, preserved like the lady down the street who sculpted her aging face, but just beneath the surface the scars remain.

Happiness has always come naturally to me but today I feel as if I’m been thrown in the ring, and life is gayly beating the shit out of me. Thinking back on the events of yesterday, the first day of classes, the parent conferences, the technical failures, the frustrations of screen sharing, the google drive that went down, the air pods that refuse to connect, the mildly humored students who only see a version of me in a small square box, as I attempt to educate my students from a distance. It’s exhausting, followed by a frantic reframing of lesson plans, an indigestible meal, the long silent night, the fear that I might never get it right.

There are two kinds of fears, ones that make sense, and ones that don’t, I’ve learned the irrational ones are the most popular.

I feel the passage of time so profoundly in my sixth decade, as if an hourglass where the sands of time never return, we simply turn them over, and over again, the past sifting into the future, the future seasoned by the past. I think I need a reboot.

I want to slow down. Take a deep breath. I know the idea of living intentionally is a little bourgeoisie these days but it might also have something to do with my age. Why do I fear disrupting the status quo? The idea of realigning my life to fit my current needs is terrifying.

Fear tends to avoid resolution, it mutates, but I say muzzle that idiot, because control is simply an illusion that makes one feel safe. It’s not attainable. Look at our world, shit happens, a simple mask might give me a sense of control, but it is simply a swath of material, a thing I strap onto my fear.

“My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me,” says Jane Austen, as if a cornered racoon, who bites, snarls, and threatens the one who tried to chase it away.

This reminds me of recent events, was it only a week ago, or a few days? Who remembers?

I heard the dog go slamming through the dog door by our room, it was around two in the morning, he was growling something fierce. You could hear the sound of his paws scratching against the brick as he flew across the yard, towards some dangerous, but invisible prey.

It’s pitch dark, so I assume he smells when a predator enters the yard, the way we smell fear when it presents itself. The growling gets really loud as I sit up in bed trying to make sense of the situation. What horrible thing is lurking in the dark?

I say out loud, “What the hell is going on?” Nothing like stating the obvious.

That’s when Shaggy begins to yelp, emphatically, his fear igniting my own. Something has a hold of him and it’s not letting go.

I spring from my bed yelling, “Shaggy is hurt, oh my God Larry, something is out there, and it’s biting Shaggy,” okay, truth be told, I was screaming like a crazy woman.

Larry is beside me as we struggle with the lock on the back door, standing in the portal, Larry yells in a commanding voice, “Shaggy come, Shaggy, come,” as if he could intimidate the eerie darkness.

It’s as if a mountain lion has wandered into our yard, I’m like, “Larry get out there and save our dog,” but he remains within the safety of the doorframe. We tend stay within the frames we ourselves build, fearing the unknown, the savagery of prey and predator.

I hear Shaggy trying to move towards us, towing whatever has a hold of him, whimpering loudly, mixed in with my screams, it’s a mazing I didn’t wake up the entire neighborhood.

Unfortunately the grandchildren’s bedroom is right next to ours.

Audrey comes out of the room, holding a worn stuffed animal, rubbing her eyes, “what’s wrong Grammie?”

I turn away from the horror that is playing out before me, and say, “Oh, it’s okay Audrey, go back to bed honey.” I try and turn her towards her room and see that Cora is starting to sit up in bed, looking confused, and adorable.

Nic is rounding the corner of the hall, his COVID hair standing on end, and he immediately moves to settle the girls.

Just then Shaggy comes limping into the house, shaking, and panting.

Again, I find myself screaming, “shut the dog door,” whatever the hell is out there I don’t want coming in. That is my motus opprandi when confronting the unknown.

The dog goes straight to the childrens room and checks each of their beds, he’s so distraught, I think he might faint.

I say, “Shaggy, the kids are fine, come here,” as I coerce him into sitting on the floor in my bedroom, petting him gently in an attempt to calm, but his heavy panting persists.

Nic and Julie are doing the same with the kids, and that’s when I see the blood seeping onto the carpet. His left paw is injured.

I’m yelling again, “he’s bleeding, he’s bleeding, did you hear me, he’s bleeding,” I do have a special knack for stating the obvious, it was as if I could feel the blood oozing from my own wounds.

Yann Martel says, I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always … so you must fight hard to confront it, to detangle it from the truth, or you leave yourself open to further attacks, because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you, an unscrupulous illusion.

Everyone is telling me to keep it down but I’m so alarmed by this entire episode I want to call 911. Yes, this is an actual emergency, my dog has been attacked, and is bleeding out on the carpet!

We have lived in this same house for more than 30 years and nothing has ever attacked one of our pets in our own yard. I’m now tortured by the knowledge that something vicious is lurking in our sanctuary.

Shaggy won’t let me near the injured paw. He has it tucked beneath him but his breathing is starting to slow. I grab a black towel out of the hall closet and lay it on the floor by Larry’s side of the bed. Shaggy stays close to Larry when he’s scared, he goes right to the towel, and lays down, tucked beneath the edge of the bedspread.

Grabbing the carpet spray out of the laundry room I try and clean the blood off the carpet before it sets, removing the evidence of unexpected wounds, we do this without knowing. The house is settling down as I peer into the dark yard wondering what the hell is out there?

Thankfully the kids went right back to sleep, while I laid in bed wide awake, adrenaline pumping through my veins for hours. I would not make a good fireperson.

Nic stayed up, peering out the sliding door to his room, trying to identify what type of rodent was threatening my dog, my illusion of safety. Every time he heard a noise he’d throw on the flood lights in the back yard, trying to illuminate the threat, but as we know that is not possible, it’s the chimera that bites, breaks the skin, leaves us defeated and bloodied, a predator of our own making.

We were not meant to live in the shadows, we came to give light, incandescent, fervid, edifying light, illuminating the darkness for each other.

I’m Living in the Gap, feeling my age, drop by for a visit? How are you managing in these tumultuous times?

Anecdotes:

  • “The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants.” Johnny Depp
  • “Dogs feel very strongly that they should always go with you in the car, in case the need should arise for them to bark violently at nothing right in your ear.” Dave Barry
  • “For what are shadows but servants of the light.” allison marie conway

26 Comments

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    1. Thanks for asking, Shaggy is fine. We took him to the vet for a rabi booster shot, and some antibiotics just to be sure. I was surprised that the animal he scared decided to attack instead of run? With everything else that’s going on it makes me wonder what’s up with the animals? Thanks for checking in, all my best, C

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Very enjoyable post. At the beginning I was thinking that you write very poetically and dramatically. The post evolved into a report on the excitement in the night – I recognized the drama again, identical in every respect to my wife when she hears an animal in our yard or an unexplained noise in the basement. She is always ready to take the risk of sending ME out to investigate!- It sounds like your best friend will be okay, Shaggy is like Larry and I perhaps, we all suffer with the John Wayne syndrome. It’s good we have our female counterparts to balance our bullet proof mindset. – hugs, David

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    1. Hi David, so glad you enjoyed the post! I lean towards a more poetic type of writing but it doesn’t always resonate with my readers. Story and connection are how I would describe my platform but sometimes I go rogue! I love that you noticed how willing I was to send my husband out into the dark to rectify the situation. I also love your reference to the “John Wayne syndrome,” Shaggy definitely suffers from running after danger and not knowing what to do when he arrives. Yes, it’s interesting how partners naturally balance each other out in many spaces, and we do it unknowingly, warmly, C

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  2. This is the first time I have seen a picture of your dog; he is adorable. he reminded me of a short poem by Ogden Nash:
    The truth I do not stretch or shove
    When I state that dog is full of love.
    I’ve also found, by actual tests,
    A wet dog is the lovingest.
    I have no idea of what Shaggy tangled with but I I hope he got his licks in.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Gary, Shaggy is such a sweet dog, I don’t think he even considered biting back! He’s doing great but I’m still worried about what actually attacked him? He hasn’t gone charging out into the night since then, thank God. Love the poem by Nash! Love, Cheryl

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    1. Hi Mary Ellen, we were so relieved when he limped into the house, I thought he might be dragged away in the middle of the night by some pompous raccoon on steroids. Interesting that you pulled fortitude and humanity from this post, I suppose when I think about it, that is what I was trying to communicate in my round about way. How do you do that Mary Ellen? Push aside the garnish and get right to the carrot. Your insights are marvelous! C

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  3. I really enjoy your writing! This was an excellent post. We have had our fair share of things that go bump in the night. I was babysitting my daughter’s pug when he got skunked in our back yard. More often than not it’s a homeless man climbing over our wall and landing with a thump. He thinks he owns our house.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by Living in the Gap and joining me in the comments! We’ve never been skunked as of yet and I’m grateful! I think your homeless man is a little to comfortable in your space! Love your blog! All my best, C

      Liked by 1 person

  4. How scary Cheryl! Our pets are so much a part of our family we hate when they get hurt. I’m glad Shaggy is OK. I put a camera in my backyard and around the house. I love seeing what is out there at night. So far a raccoon family, cats a dogs.

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  5. I relate to feeling as if I’ve been thrown into the ring while life gayly beats the shit out of me. In my mind, I’m beating the shit out of life, but that is the illusion of control.

    Sounds like Shaggy didn’t take any shit from his predator. He’s a beautiful dood. So good to know he’s okay.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Crystal, this week is going much better than last, but that too is another illusion I’ve chosen to focus on. Ha, maybe I have more control over my perceptions than I thought?

      Shaggy’s an awkward hero, he was all intent on protecting us until he caught up with the rodent. Then it was all yelps and whispering. I’m much the same! C

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello Cheryl,
    Enjoyed reading this entry, though I feel for Shaggy (named because of Scooby Doo or is it his robust mane?) Glad that he is doing well and am really glad he didn’t get skunked. I am super curious what the animal was. Maybe some night time game cameras are in order, especially since this creature violated your sanctuary?
    I keep following the news, and I wonder if it can get any worse for California. First the plague, then the toilet paper crisis, then the blackouts and then the fires. Stay safe. I was a little distraught to read that masks don’t help for breathing outside because they don’t filter small particles. (Though they help for viral pandemics?)
    I am amazed that you can continue to find interesting things to write about. My life seams to be in limbo. Stuck in status quo land. Except when I decide to mix things up, take a day off, and then totally f*ck it up by getting the shingles vaccine. Hit me like a brick. When I wonder if it was worth it, I just think of all the people I have seen with painful, excruciating blisters on their face, seat or where-ever (maybe I should not be such a whimp.) Anyway, I survived and it is back to the hum drum Dullsville existence.
    I totally agree that fear is life’s only true opponent. It seems like such a wasted emotion. Fear does know how to find your weak spot. Guess I will have to find some courage somewhere (fear of optic nerve post herpetic neuralgia with blindness will provide it) and get that shingles booster in 2 months.
    Anyway, love your writing. Say high to the gang.
    Whenever I hear about shadows in the night, I think of this song. Judge Rheinhold and Bill Paxton (RIP) back in the day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mike! I always enjoy your musings as you know, but especially now when I’m feeling so isolated, smoked out, and spread too thin. Let’s start with Shaggy, he’s named for his appearance, not the cartoon, and is doing great, although I have not seen him leave the house late at night since the unwarranted attack. Smart dog. I’ve heard that the shingles vaccine is extremely painful and you have to get two! Ugg. I still have to get mine, now I’m even more hesitant, I’m all about pain avoidance. Speaking of avoiding pain, panic, and the unknown, my zoom classes have turned out to be quite challenging. Thirty-plus girls in each class mean I’m toggling screens just to see them all, there are so many technological challenges with teaching remote, and can I just say I’m not a fan. I often think about your practice, what it would be like to wear a mask all day, trying to treat patients with the worst issues, holding off those who can wait. I can’t imagine how difficult that might be. I think we all need a little vacation! Don’t you? When can you and Gail hop on a plane and spend some time at the lake? The Fall is beautiful and the wineries are open for the most part. Check your calendar for dates. Love the song, miss you guys, don’t forget that second shot! Cheryl

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  7. What a busy (and at times terrifying) life you lead. As I have been reading your blog, I’ve built a picture up of you in my head (as one does) (if they are a little eccentric) and I had ruled out that you were in your 60s as you are still teaching. So sorry for what you’ve gone through to start this semester. And I’m so glad that your dog is okay. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Cynthia, my life not so terrifying, as it is busy! Especially now as I’ve started my classes up again and remote teaching is challenging at best. I still have my daughter’s family living with us which adds another layer of chaos. I am old but I’m still working because I love my students and wasn’t ready to give that up, but zoom teaching is really pushing me over the edge. Shaggy is doing great, he rebounded much quicker than I did. I’m halfway through your interview, hoping to have it ready by next week. Thanks for all the work you did to get those answers back to me. C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was very fun, Cheryl. I love talking about the writing process! I don’t think 60s are too old to work, depends on so many factors. I could not do the remote teaching. I think I right about sixty when I retired. Maybe 59. The minute I could collect a pension 😁. Glad your dog is ok and you are too. I can’t believe you keep up a blog with all your other responsibilities!

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