My friend Rita eased her van up my driveway close to midnight. We had been on the road since early that morning, having spent a wonderful weekend with another friend in north Florida. As I gathered my gear and said a sleepy goodbye, my thoughts shot ahead to the hot, comforting shower I would take before easing into my soft, smooth, comfy bed. Rita waited, headlights on, until I fitted the key into the front door, then waived goodbye and drove away.
I turn the key. The lock gives, but the door won't open. What? The deadbolt is engaged! I try again, pressing on the door while I turn the key. It's no use. This deadbolt won't open with a key. My son did this; what was he thinking? Has he forgotten I'll be back tonight? I ring the bell. No answer. I ring again - he's a heavy sleeper. I'll have to check his bedroom around back. I stumble over bushes in the dark to peek into his window. The bed is empty.
Now what? I don't want to break a window, but if that is what I have to do to get on the other side of that door, I'm willing. My mind fixes on the hot shower, the bed. Think, I say to myself. Think! Suppose I were a burglar. What would I do to get in? Simple: I'd look for a window; one that could be pried open or broken.
So I go around to the side of the garage, and there it is: the large awning window - open! Not much, but even a crack is promising. All I have to do is get up there, reach in, find the crank, wind it out, and wedge myself through. Problem solved.
Well, not quite.
First, as I said, I have to get up there. It's a little high. Ah! A lawn chair. Heavy, but sturdy. I drag it screeching over the concrete and lift it over shrubs onto the lumpy earth under the window. I step on the seat. It's not quite high enough. I step onto the arms, wobbling precariously as I shift my weight from side to side, and grab the sill.
I reach through the slightly opened window, bend the screen from its frame, and heave it into the darkness of the garage. With success in sight, I fumble around both sides, find the crank, and open the window as wide as it will go. It will be a tight squeeze, but I think I can make it.
It is a particularly dark night. As I reach tentatively inside, my hand touches, hesitantly, a pile of dusty chairs, upended on top of a chest of drawers.
Serendipity! I can climb through the window onto the chest. I push the chairs off into the darkness and probe, squeamishly, the top. Under at least a quarter inch of dust I feel lumps of - what? - ropes, tools, unidentified junk. Off it all goes, landing with a crash.
The garage is pitch black. I hoist myself, scrape my body halfway through the window, clutch the top of the chest, and grit my teeth as I feel the crunch of accumulated dirt, imagining dead or even live bugs lurking there.
Halfway doesn't do it, though; so, wriggling like a trapped snake, I lift first one leg, then the other, through the window's opening. With a grunt and a final heave, I am in, perched like a frog and ready to jump. I consider my descent, take a leap of faith into the darkness, and land with a thud on the concrete, breathless, bruised, but intact.
I step over the pile of junk I threw down, and walk triumphantly through the kitchen door. I feel as though I've fought Goliath and won.
Inside at last, showered and curled up in bed, a worrisome mosquito of a thought buzzes around and won't leave me alone. The other back door, the one that opens from the garage to the back yard - the one I seldom use. I wonder...
I have to know. I drag myself out of bed and back into the garage. There, in the full glare of the ceiling light, I see the door. It's unlocked and slightly ajar.
They say that when one door closes, another opens. Maybe that applies here.