Times are hard, and getting harder. We got a bonus at work. I used it to stock up on meat and buy another gun. Why would I buy a gun? You might ask. It is not just to protect the meat, if that's what you're thinking.
This summer our small little town has had a lot of theft. Not your ordinary kind of theft that happens when no one is home. Our thefts have happened right in our houses in the dead of night while we sleep. Those of us who can sleep, that is. Our thief likes to pop out screens and rummage through our bathroom cabinets and even our bedside tables. It makes me shudder to even imagine it, but my neighborhood got hit at least 5 times.
Have you ever seen the movie Stealing Home? It starred Jodi Foster and Keven Cosner. In one of my favorite scenes, Kevin Cosner is an adult who has met up with his childhood friend in his hometown. They go out and get drunk and then decide to go to his friend's childhood home and rummage around for their old baseball uniforms. The friend's parents still live in the house he grew up in, but have for some crazy reason locked their doors. This leads them to climb up and fall through a window that just happens to be between the beds of the friend's now-elderly parents. The mother wakes up, sees Kevin Cosner, and instead of being alarmed that someone just broke into her house, let alone her bedroom, recognizes Kevin, pats him on the cheek and says "Oh, hello, dear. How is your mother?" He replies that his mother is fine and then she gives them a general direction to go find their old baseball uniforms and then goes back to sleep.
Until this year, this endearingly remarkable scene would have been pretty much exactly what you could expect to happen around here. Until this year.
That was then. This is now.
Without going into any more details I can say that the thief has been identified, caught twice, and let go. You can probably imagine how happy and safe that makes us all feel. Being from Missouri, and hence being armed, we don't let it get us down too much. Instead we pay a lot more attention and sleep a lot less.
I might be able to tell myself that this is just a passing phase except for the fact that I have two sons still at home whom I consider "kids", but whom are as big as grown men.
Last weekend I had agreed to let one of their friends spend the night. The boys had the not uncommon idea when walking home after dark to see is they could scare me. I had the dogs in and all the windows open when I heard a strange knocking. I was just looking to see what the dog's tails were knocking against when Jack growled. Immediately after that, I heard my youngest baby say from right outside the window, "Jack! You growled at me!!" and then realize that the knocking was not a dog's tail at all, but one of the boys walking on the porch up to the front door. It was a good feeling to know that Jack would at least growl in a circumstance like this, as up until this point I was figuring that the only warning I would have would be the dog's tails knocking against the walls as they went to greet the thief.
We all laughed and I did not make a big deal out of it because I did not want to scare the boys. Why put that worry into their sweet little heads if it wasn't, by whatever miracle, already there?
They spent the rest of the evening between our own house and that of a dear neighbor's, running back and forth and through a pond occasionally, playing hide and seek and running into electric fences and, most memorably, clothes-lining themselves. They got to stay out till midnight. It was a big night for 15 years olds, and a good one. I just drank enough coffee to keep myself up until midnight, got the house locked up after they got home, and went to bed.
About 10 minutes later my oldest baby knocked on my bedroom door and said he had forgotten his phone charger at the other house, could he go get it? Yes, he could, but come right home. 10 minutes after that he was home and I felt secure enough to go to sleep, for good this time.
About 1:45 am I was woken by the dogs barking. Outside. The dogs had been inside when I thought we had all gone to bed. I immediately got up, opened the door to the basement, and called down to the boys. My oldest baby gave a big sigh, as he always does when woken from a dead sleep, and blearily answered in the affirmative when I asked if everything was all right. He replied, and I quote "we are sleeping". I didn't investigate further because I didn't want to wake them all up. That was my first mistake.
Have I ever told you what a good kid my oldest baby is? I don't say it enough because it causes immense guilt about what light that puts my youngest baby in. Something about twins makes you drive yourself insane trying to keep everything "equal". You know it is insane but you still cannot stop. I've learned to live with it but it is also the curse of my life. And I do it to myself. Anyway......
It was very suspicious that the dogs were out. The one saving grace of my youngest baby is that he is stupid enough to always, always get caught. I let the dogs in and went out to the front porch, where everything was quiet and peaceful. I did not have long to wait until I saw two shadows walking down the street from the direction of the other house that the boys had spent the night playing at. The two shadows are talking at normal volume, completely oblivious that there are most certainly several pairs of eyes and not a few gun barrels following their progress. So oblivious are they that when they start to cut through to my own back yard my voice startles them.
My voice startled them because they had gotten caught sneaking back home, which was the biggest threat their little minds could imagine.
In their youth, and therefore incredible stupidity, they had taken the opportunity to go with my oldest baby to get the forgotten charger, and then stayed for awhile, getting my oldest baby to believe that they would not be long, and thinking I was asleep and would never know the difference. Last year I probably wouldn't have.
But that was then.
Then, they could have wandered the neighborhood they have grown up in at any hour of the night with the only consequence being that they would have "gotten caught" and been grounded. That is exactly the kind of childhood I wanted for them, and a big reason why I live where I do.
But this is now.
We had a small confrontation on the front porch in the dead of night where their biggest concern was simply getting caught and being grounded. That was the worst thing they could imagine. That changed pretty quick once we got inside the house and I said "Do you have any idea how lucky you are that I didn't pull a gun on you?"
Dead silence, big eyes. Blink, blink, blink.
"Do you have any idea how lucky you are that someone else didn't??"
Faces going dead white due to the blood draining away into the bottoms of their feet. Know the feeling? I daresay you do. It was the feeling you got the first time you realized how much bigger the stakes were and how you had been sheltered from them because you were a child, and now you were not.
I have talked before about how the boys are old enough to start being grown up, but now it is vital that they get it through their heads and that it stays there.
So, between the hours of 2 and 3am last weekend, they received a long lecture from an exhausted, weeping, somewhat hysterical woman about how "we" (we being the adults in the neighborhood, the town, and America in general) were "hyper-alert" (scared, a little bit crazy, and with itchy trigger fingers, especially in the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT) and how they needed to "think" (assume the worst and take the necessary precautions) before they acted on some hare-brained teenage scheme (which constitutes most of what passes for their lives at this point). I am sorry that they don't get to act on their crazy, hare-brained schemes. What is being a teenager without crazy, hare-brained schemes???? But it is just too dangerous, and could have consequences that are irreversible, not to mention deadly. Let's face it: the chances of them being shot dead are not great. However, the chances of them being shot are very good. Very good indeed.
I think I got through to them, but then I always think that. It's a fine line, parenting teenagers, between trying to protect them and trying to scare the holy living sh*t out of them. For their own good, of course, not to mention yours. They professed how sorry they were, admitted how stupid it was, assured me that it would not happen again, and we all went to bed. For real this time.
I grew up in a town small enough that we did not have police. Nor did we need them. We had parents. There was nothing we did that they did not find out, and yes, everyone had a gun. Perhaps because of this, few ever needed to be drawn.
Maybe you believe that the police can protect you. If so, I can only say God bless your little heart. I don't want to burst your bubble, but I also don't want to have to defend you, too, when your dreams don't work out the way you thought. I have enough on my plate as it is and it's nothing I can't handle, usually. But every once in a while.......well, there is just a peace that comes with knowing that you can defend yourself if you have to.
And if you happen to be in Brookfield Missouri and get a hare-brained idea? You should think twice. We have police, but we do not necessarily feel the need to call and bother them for every little thing. When things go bad, they seem to go bad real fast. Have you noticed?
I wish I could say this was a phase. God willing it is. Just remember: better safe than sorry and act accordingly. I could have made this a funny post but the fact is that this isn't funny, and I don't see any end in sight. I hope that we will laugh about it for years to come. Good years, where people are not getting robbed or worse. I guess all we can do is hope and be ready to defend ourselves if necessary.
Until then, do not be surprised in insomno-maniacs are seen in your own town.