My garage door has been trying to tell me something for a long time. Since I do not speak Garage Door, lately it has taken to other forms of communication: pantomime, performance art, pidgin English, you name it. Since none of that worked either, this weekend it called on the devil, who came down from Georgia to help an old boy out.
There I was, minding my own business—reading, grading, and cleaning; hugging, petting, and squeezing—when suddenly through no action or input on my part, my garage door opened. I could hear it rumbling like the vintage 1984 machine it is, unoiled, clogged with dirt; I would recognize the sound my garage door makes a mile away: my neglected baby. My ears and tail perked up immediately at the noise: danger Will Robinson.
Then, the garage door went down.
Well if the devil is in the house with me, he’s either gonna walk in with groceries, like I do, or with far worse intentions. I stay where I am, sitting on the couch, motionless. I tap-tap out a message to anyone who might be on Facebook, silently voicing my concerns.
Garage Door goes up again, but only part way, then he stops. Either the intruder has escaped or he’s inviting the flying monkeys in. No way, I think. Over my dead exoskeleton.
I continue to sit quietly on my supportive couch, kind of past the murder-by-intruder scenario since no one has come in yet and I’m still alive. This is not what I want on Friday the 13th. I only know it’s Friday the 13th because I have two friends whose birthdays were on September 11th, plus today is not a payday. Several Facebook friends are quick to point out that it’s Friday the 13th. Thanks.
As the garage door continues to go up and down, up and down, my Facebook friends throw out all manner of suggestions and explanations: “Your neighbors are running their dishwasher on the same frequency…your house is spooked, get out, sorry…check to see if the safety lights match up…call the company…get a ladder and reset it…maybe it’s an omen or just a ding-ding-ding.”
I sit rigid on the couch, all three cats looking at me. Do something, Mom. Something is better than nothing. I creaky-creak off the couch, my wings and earflaps unfolding. A vision of my mother in similar circumstances flashes in my brain, a pre-memory: At the age of thirty, long before me, my mom found herself alone in a two-story house with four sleeping children. My dad was gone, fighting fires as usual. My brother Craig was the only child sleeping downstairs when my mother, sleeping upstairs with the rest of the girls, thought she heard an intruder.
She crept down the second-floor hallway, keeping low to the floor, finally rounding a corner to peer through the banisters into whatever light was available downstairs. By the light of the streetlight, she could see that nobody was around. Curled up at the top of the stairs in her nighty, my mother decided to call out for her son. The name that boomed inside her somehow came from her throat sounding more like a cupboard door might without oil: creeeeeeeeg.
She quietly howled his name again; maybe the mice only heard the second creeeeeeeeg. The impact of this second outburst was much the same as the first: nothing. My mom had already been frightened once, and she had frightened herself twice more. She crept back to her bedroom, thinking that everything must be fine, and in the morning, everything was.
And now it is my turn, the mighty garage door huntress. I have three children in here and our peace will not be disturbed any longer, I don’t care if you’re Jack the Ripper. Any game you might have been playing up to this point is not going to be a game any longer. I’m coming outside because it’s my house and my garage and I’m not afraid of you.
I cast my line a little closer to my sinking confidence. We can do this.
I crack open the door that leads from my house into my garage, and peek out. All the lights are on and my car is there. The garage door stands at half-mast, like somebody might be planning to sneak in later. This is either the work of a criminal, or another glitch in my system.
I reveal myself a little more, standing there in the garage light. My life is too short to be afraid like this.