Originally posted Sunday, August 20, 2006
When I woke up this morning it was almost 11 a.m. Ordinarily, that would qualify me as lazy. I haven’t slept past 10:00 in a long time. Yesterday morning I slept past 9 & couldn’t figure out what in the world was wrong with me. My body gets on a 7:45 rise & shine pattern & usually by 8 a.m. I’m starting my day.
Today though it was 10:45.
But last night was no ordinary night.
Dave’s friend, a local veterinarian, has a homecoming every year at the clinic. A local band plays bluegrass music, there’s good food, cornhole (a game–I was stunned the first time Dave told me he’d spent the evening cornholing.), and lots of visiting. Dave’s buddies Chris & Aundrea came over around 7:30 yesterday to pick him up. I’d planned a quiet evening in, white-washing 30 terra cotta pots & piddling in general. I piddled (which means I did whatever hit me at any given moment–ooh, let’s watch a movie, ooh–let’s read some of this book, ooh–let’s plant ivy in little baby shoes) until 12 & then decided I was going on to bed. I locked the doors, but left the deadbolt unlocked because Dave would be coming in later. I turned the lamp on the porch off, and instead, turned the overhead porch light on. Around 1:30 a.m. I woke up, went to the bathroom, checked the door to make sure I hadn’t locked the deadbolt.
At 2:30, I was in the middle of a horrible dream, there were charred bodies, I was swimming through a pond, and someone was chasing me. In my dream I learned that one of my brother’s friends had been burned alive inside his cabin. I was crying in my dream. Sometimes, when I cry in my dreams, I end up bawling in my sleep. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been awakened by “Are you okay? Beck, are you okay?” So at 2:30 when Dave was standing above me asking, “Are you alright? Beck, are you alright?”, I didn’t think much of it. I assumed I’d been crying or making noises in my sleep. Then he said “There’s a man on our porch.”
There’s a what on our what? “There’s a man on lying on our porch.” He grabs the phone & dials 911. I go to the door, peek through the blinds. In front of the door a man is sprawled out. It doesn’t look like he’s breathing. I wonder for a moment if he’s dead. I watch his stomach. It moves a little. It looks like his head is turning. He’s, maybe, is that a snore? I think he’s sleeping.
I decide he’s drunk. I want to open the door up, go outside, and kick him (just a nudge) & holler ‘get out of here, you get off this porch’. It’s everything I can do not to go out there & just look at him, amazed. But I’m still in my nightgown, Dave’s talking to a 911 operator & in the road are two trucks parked with caution lights flashing. Two guys are walking to the porch. I assume they’ve found their buddy. I tell Dave, “It’s okay, his buddies are coming after him.” I assumed they’d start picking him up & load him into one of their trucks. They didn’t. But they knelt down to make sure he was breathing.
I decided to change my clothes. Cops were coming. There were two strange men standing in our yard & another one snoozing on the porch. When I came back into the living room, Chris & Aundrea were coming into the house. They explained the men in the yard, while Aundrea & I peeked through the blinds, staring down at the sight before us.
Just before they pulled into the driveway, Dave, Chris & Aundrea, noticed that the guys in the trucks had stopped to throw something in our yard. When they got out, they noticed a saddlebag & bridle. Then Chris noticed the man on the porch & alerted Dave. “Dave, there’s a man on your porch. And I think he’s dead.” Two scenarios ran through Dave’s head. 1. The man had been injured by his own means. (He was drunk. Or had fallen off his horse. Or had been hit by a car.) 2. I’d heard him at the door, decided he was trying to break in & shot him.
The men approached, they were vets. They’d just come from the homecoming at the vet clinic. They’d seen the saddlebags in the road, saw the man on the porch & decided that his wife must’ve locked him out of the house. They looked for a saddle. There was no saddle.
I didn’t like the feeling of being kept under lock & key in the house & peeking through the blinds I just kept getting tickled. It was funny, because he was so apparently drunk. Funny, because I kept thinking about the headache he’d have the next morning. Funny, because when you wake up with two women peeking at you through blinds & four men standing over you staring in amazement, that’s got to be a trippy experience. At the same time, I realized that there were so many ways that this could’ve turned out to be a horrible experience. And that frightened me.
I didn’t hear the commotion at all. I don’t know if he knocked or just made it to the door & passed out or if he tried to get in. If the porch light hadn’t been on, Dave would’ve stepped on him, then proceeded to shit in his pants. If Lisa & Cody had stayed Saturday night instead of Friday night, they’d have been in the living room & would’ve had the daylights scared out of them. If those guys hadn’t had their hazard lights on, Chris & Aundrea would’ve dropped Dave off, waved bye & gone on home.
Luckily things worked out as they did.
While waiting for the deputy sheriff to arrive, we heard noises coming from the porch, low moans & an attempt at the formation of words. I made my way back to the front door, the best seat in the house. The Man was yawning, moaning, his hands had left their position behind his head & had moved to his belly, where he was scratching. His neck made weird movements. For a moment I thought he was vomiting in his sleep. I kept a close watch on him. I didn’t want him to die on our front porch while no one was looking. Having just read To Kill a Mockingbird, for just a moment I likened myself to Scout Finch, staring at Boo Radley for the first time. I was consumed by a large helping of curiosity, a little dose of fear, a dose a sympathy, a huge helping of amusement. At the same time I realized how odd this situation was. How this doesn’t happen every day. How it might not happen again in my lifetime. How the scene from that window was such a peculiar & unique view. I grabbed my camera & snap, snap, snapped.
Finally, the deputy sheriff arrived. He came to the porch, bent down & said something to the man. Aundrea & I, heads perched in the window like kids, couldn’t hear anything. We cracked the door. We heard the deputy.
–”Do you know where you are?”
– (a muffled reply)
–”Do you know where you are?”
–”You’re over in Grassy Creek now, son.”
–(looks around, eyes foggy.) “…….my horse.”
–”You’re sleeping on these people’s porch. You don’t even know who they are.”
The sheriff helps The Man up. He staggers, reaches for the screen door. I shut the front door, half expecting arms to start swinging & a rumble to ensue. I lock it.
We go outside. The sheriff’s putting The Man in the back seat of his car. He hasn’t cuffed him. The sheriff talks to The Man. He lives 15 miles away. He’s ridden the horse every mile. His wife threw him out of the house 2 days ago. I assume he’s been drunk since. His saddle? He sold it. His horse? We’ve spotted it in the field beside us, almost in our landlord’s yard.
Paramedics arrive. They check him out. He doesn’t complain about any soreness, but I’m not quite sure he can feel anything either. There are no marks on him. No blood, no bruises, no cuts, or contusions. They all decide along with the deputy sheriff that they can’t just leave the horse out, wandering that close to the road, otherwise they might have to come back a few hours later to work an accident scene. They get flashlights & head out after the horse. Dave’s points his headlights across the field. Eventually we see the paramedic coming back across the field, horse in tow. He leads it back up to our yard.
(For the protection of all involved parties, identities have been left anonymous & faces have been hidden in all photos.)
Dave tells them there’s a barn just down the road with stalls in it. Our landlord owns it. The paramedic leads the horse to the road. He’s going to walk it to the barn. The ambulance follows, headlights illuminating the way. The deputy sheriff falls in line behind. As we stand in the driveway watching the taillights slowly, slowly drift down the road, I comment that it looks like a little county parade. I half expect to see shriners in miniature cars & trucks whiz by us doing figure 8’s, tassels blowing in the wind.
We hear the ambulance backing up. We assume the horse is safely put up for the night. The ambulance roars by us sounding the siren once as a ‘See you later.’ The deputy sheriff drives by & shouts ‘Thank you.’ out the window. The four of us, Chris, Aundrea, Dave & I are still standing in the driveway. It’s 15 till 4.
I half expect to look over & still see someone lying on the porch, quietly snoring, perhaps scratching his belly.
There is no one.
Chris & Aundrea leave for home.
We go to bed. It’s 4:30 before I can make myself fall back asleep.