My House - At the end of a busy day, around 11:00pm on a Friday evening, this writer found the alone time he needed to finally get some work done. Thanks to a disagreement over a questionable financial decision involving the purchase of one Harley-Davidson motorcycle (which, it is worth mentioning, should only grow in value if well-maintained - a task I feel entirely capable of managing), my wife and children had just departed the house for a weekend with my mother-in-law.
The evening was such that I felt compelled to open a few windows. The air was crisp, and I hoped the slight chill would keep me sharp and creative at the writing desk. As an aside, I hoped it might also clear the stench of garlic and onions which had lately permeated the house (owing to my wife’s gross over-employment of those two disgusting ingredients in our kitchen over the past week).
Retiring then to my writing desk, I fired up my usual word-processing program. I gazed at the blank, white canvas displayed by the computer monitor before me and rubbed my chin. From somewhere outside, perhaps a half-block away, a cat suddenly let out a sharp wail.
Had it been a cry of pain, or a howl of fury? I wondered.
I listened for another minute, but with no further clue announced, I turned my attention back to the task at hand.
Hmm... Maybe I could write something about a cat.
What about a cat, though?
Cat, cat, cat, cat, cat...
Something about the ways in which cats aren't like dogs, maybe?
No, that was stupid. There wasn't anything interesting in that.
Forget cats. We needed something different.
I opened my web browser and began scanning the news.
War in the middle-east - nothing new there. Unemployment on the rise - boring.
I switched back to the word program and peered intensely at the white, glowing emptiness. A quick breeze from the open sliding-glass door behind me gently lifted the corner of a piece of printing paper to my left.
Aha! Something about the weather!
For five solid minutes I wracked my brains trying to conjure something interesting about the weather. Then it dawned on me that the weather is the one thing people turn to when they just have nothing to talk about.
Just then, from down the hall, I heard a distinctive "thump!"
I cocked my head for a listen, but, like the cat, whatever had caused this sound seemed to have finished its business. I tried to imagine what it could be. I did have a stack of three cardboard boxes by the front door, the topmost of which I knew to be empty. Could the sort of breeze I'd felt just minutes before have been strong enough to topple it? Very doubtful. The box was empty, but large and also closed. The wind would have no way to catch hold of the thing to such a forceful degree.
Speaking of the cat, maybe it had made its way into my house.
It seemed very possible at first. Upon further consideration, though, I realized it would have been next to impossible. All the windows were screened, and I was certain those screens were quite secure.
Finally, I resigned myself to go and have a look. There could be no other way to sate my curiosity. I arose from my writing desk and turned for the door.
"Don't move," came a voice from around the corner.
My heart leaped from my chest as a figure dressed in black from head to toe, complete with a black ski-mask, turned the corner and appeared before me in full view. In his right hand, pointing straight at me, was a gun - a very real gun. I safely assumed that the gun came equipped with very real bullets, and my instant instinct was to do exactly as instructed: I froze in place.
We stood there facing each other in silence for the longest ten seconds of my life, when he finally said, "All I want is whatever you have. Anything that's worth anything." To demonstrate his sincerity, he lifted the gun a little higher, aimed it a little straighter . "Is anyone else here?"
At that moment I wished very much that I could tell him that Batman was in the next room, or perhaps a SWAT team that had been lying in wait for him for days on end. But, alas, I knew that any sort of lie, preposterous or otherwise, would be a bad idea.
"No," I said. I could feel my voice quiver. "No one else."
He nodded. "Jewelry? Cash? What ya got?"
"Jewelry," I said immediately. I pictured my wife's jewelry box laying atop the dresser in our bedroom down the hall. It was a grand, ornate thing, inlaid with mother-of-pearl and gilded with gold plating. It was an object coveted by most of her friends, and filled nicely with many valuable pieces dating back to her great-grandmother's wedding day. "The box they're in is also worth something," I added. "And I have about two-hundred dollars cash on-hand."
He nodded again. "That's good." He seemed genuinely pleased as he lowered the gun. "Take me to the jewelry."
"Yes, okay." I returned dutifully. He moved away from the door and extended a guiding hand toward the hall.
I led him to my wife's jewelry box. He let out a satisfied whistle when he saw it, and I felt a tinge of relief. I then produced the two hundred dollars cash from my back pocket and set it on the dresser.
He took the money, pocketed it, and raised the gun again. "I've cut your land-line," he said, "but I'll need your cell."
"It's back in my den," I responded quickly. "On the desk where you found me."
"Good," he said, nodding again. "You've been real good. This place stinks like onions, though."
He directed me to walk ahead of him as we made our way back to my writing desk. The phone was resting next to the keyboard. This was almost over, and I had a good feeling that somehow this fellow, thief and goon though he clearly was, had no real malice in him.
When we reached my writing desk he set the jewelry box down, took the phone and slid it into the breast pocket of his black denim jacket.
"I'll be a nice guy and leave it down the street somewhere," he said with a friendly tone. "You'll get it back at some point, I bet."
"Thank you," I returned as steadily as I could. It only seemed polite.
Next, he reached around to his rear and produced a pair of handcuffs from his back pocket. "I'll need to cuff ya. Just so I know I have some get-away time before you start hollering at the neighbors, get it?"
"Take a seat and put your hands around the back of the chair."
Obediently, I moved my hands into position. I could hear the cuffs jangle behind me.
"So what were you doing when I found you?" the man asked as he placed a cuff over my left wrist.
"Sorry. What?" At first the question, so oddly innocuous, confused me. "Oh!" I said with something between a chuckle and a cry as the other cuff fell upon my other wrist and snapped into place, "Writing," I madly explained. "Well, trying, anyway."
"You a writer?" he asked. "Like a real writer?"
"Well, I try to be," I said. "Tonight it wasn't going so well."
"Yeah, I see that." He must have noticed the empty white page emitting from the computer monitor on the desk in front of me. "Looks like writer's block."
I tried to laugh, but it came out like a nervous vocal spasm. "I guess you could say that."
There was a strange moment of silence then, as if the man were contemplating some unfinished business.
"There really is nothing else in the house," I explained with a titter. "I mean, unless you have some way of taking out the furniture. You're welcome to it, of course."
"No," the man said. "That's not it."
Suddenly I heard a new jangling sound from behind me. After a moment's thought, I realized they were keys. This was quickly confirmed by the man grabbing hold of my wrists and fumbling with the cuff on my right wrist until it came undone. My arms fell involuntarily to my sides, and I froze again.
"I don't understand," I said. "You have everything. I swear, I'm not--"
"Write," the man said.
At first, I thought he said, "right," as in "Yeah, right - I know you're holding back on me." But his tone didn't say that at all. A feeling of vertigo swept over me as my mind tried to wrap itself around what he was saying.
"What?" was all I could think to say. "I don't–-"
"Write!" he said again. This time it was insistent, and I suddenly understood what he meant.
"You mean... on the computer? Right now?"
"Sure, why not?" the man said. He was to my rear and there was no way I could see him, but I suddenly realized he was smiling.
"B-B-Because..." I stammered. "Because I don't - "
"Because you don't what?" Now his smile was no longer guesswork; he was actually laughing. "You don't know what to write about?"
I tried to think of how to answer. It was all so out-of-place, like an elephant in a tree-house.
"I-I-I..." I stammered again.
"Don't you get it, man?" he said, still laughing. "I'm gonna cure your writer's block!"
"Wha-wha-what do you mean," I spit out, "How... what..." I could feel my armpits fill up with sweat. At the same time the back of my neck felt cold as ice.
"Write!" he said giddily, like some schizophrenic voice from the back of my head. "Put your fingers on the keyboard and start typing!"
With a jolt my arms lifted themselves, my hands outstretched. Instantly, and seemingly without any real prompting on my part, my fingers came to rest on the keys as natural as a spring day, each one in it's place: "asdf" on the left, "jkl;" on the right.
"Good," came the voice behind me with praise. I was suddenly struck with the vision of being a child in a classroom:
A finger-painting lie sloppy and half-finished before me. My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Jansen, leans in to my left ear and whispers with her sweet, teacher's breath, "Very nice!" My cheeks burn red and I swell with pride.
"Yes," I said to my captor with sudden, steely intent. I furrowed my brows and honed in on the screen in front of me with determination. "Yes, okay."
"Yeah, that's real good," he replied in a low, smiling tone. "Now write something."
My fingers began to twitch on the keyboard. Which one first? I couldn't pick. Would it be "A?" Maybe I should start with "F." Wait! "Q!" Who starts anything with "Q?" Now there's a nice twist!
I began to chuckle crazily under my breath. My mind was working, but my fingers were not. I could feel some sort of insane creativity building up inside me, but a fear for my life crushed it like a clenched fist from which nothing could escape.
"Here," the man said. He leaned in close and whispered in my ear: "let me help."
Suddenly I felt a cold circle of steel press against my right temple. It was like an electric shock that scrambled my brain. Gun, I thought. Then: Fun. Sun. Shun the run. We have none. My breath hitched. Write something, my mind screamed. Write something! Just type! Type anything! Press the keys! Push the buttons!
I was frozen.
Then I heard the sound of the hammer on the gun being pulled back: Click.
"Write," the man whispered with hard finality.
And with that, the words began pouring out, and I was cured:
"At the end of a busy day – about 11:00 PM on a Friday evening – this writer found the alone time he needed to finally get some work done. Owing to a disagreement over a questionable financial decision involving the purchase of one Harley-Davidson motorcycle...”