We live in a sickeningly standard suburban subdivision somewhere in Southern California.
Though I am very comfortable here, our older children like to pass judgment on our lifestyle, with quips such as, “So this is what the middle class does on weekend mornings? Sit around and drink coffee on a terrace with other middle class coffee drinkers?”
Mind you, this criticism spews forth between sips of their own double latte peppermint soy lemon twist, purchased courtesy of Yours Truly. Somehow the irony escapes them, or it is just conveniently ignored — whichever takes less effort.
“Yes. Yes, it is, and if it’s the one thing in my life in which I splurge, you’re just going to have to deal with it, because I enjoy sitting in the sun, with the dog, and talking about pretty much nothing at all while I drink my drink.”
After that exchange, everyone usually quiets down and silently munches on the remnants of a blueberry scone.
But if the days are filled with the commonplace pursuits of trying to maintain a 42-year-old wood frame house with cracked stucco, the nights around here can be downright scary. I’m not talking about the poltergeist frights we experience in our home with almost alarming frequency, I’m referring to the utterances from those of us in the Here and Now who live here.
Let’s start with Dandy Dog. As I have mentioned previously (somewhere) in this blog, it was several months after adopting him that we even discovered he could bark. It was a revelation when we realized we had a real dog on our hands and not just some kind of mute Ninja Warrior ready to tear any delivery person limb from limb who dared approach our front door.
Well, he is that, of course, but he can bark with the best of them. In fact, he has developed a broad range of vocalizations to suit many of the occasions that are important in the life of a dog. Though I won’t try to recreate the variety here (i.e., bark; ruff; baaaark; baaaruk, ruff/ruff, etc.), he’s got phrases for: 1) Mom, take me on a walk; 2) Mom, take me in the car; 3) Mom, throw a ball for me; 4) Mom, I’m ready to go on that walk now; 5) Mom, I’m ready to go in the car now; 6) Mom, you’d better be taking me in that car, etc.
There are no vocalizations associated with anyone else in the family, of course.
But there’s one not listed that we didn’t even know about until early one morning several years ago.
It was around 2:00 a.m. when I was awakened by what I thought was the howling of the Great Pumpkin. It was an unearthly, hollow wail that scared the living
sh daylights out of me.
“Good, God, what is that?” I sleepily asked my similarly frightened Spouse.
“It’s the Dog. It must be the Dog!” she cried, and it was the Dog.
He wasn’t so much having a dream, as he was sleepily howling in unison with an emergency vehicle siren off in the distance somewhere. We didn’t actually figure it out at the time that night, but during several subsequent howling episodes we were able to link the two: Siren = Howl. Everything stops until the episode is complete when the siren fades away.
It still freaks me out when it happens at night, but at least now I know some Dark Cloud is not descending to ferry me to Hades. That, I’m sure, will come later in life.
And when Daughter was just a Little Thing and prone to cutting her own hair, she came running into our bedroom one evening crying bitterly, and clearly frightened out of her gourd.
“What’s the matter, Sweetie?” I asked.
“There’s a terrible sound coming from the room next to me. I think it’s a monster.”
“What? Let me go check.” And I walked three paces down the hall, only to be met by the buzzsaw snoring emanating from the vicinity of the room where my Mother, who was visiting, was sleeping. “That sounds like a Sherman tank in there,” I thought, “And I don’t even know what a Sherman tank sounds like.”
I returned back to our bedroom with, “Sweetie, that’s just Grandma. It’s nothing to be frightened of.” But clearly she was having none of it, and we had an extra visitor in bed that night. Daugher eventually calmed down and feel asleep, but we turned the bedside fan on “high” to drown out the lumber mill across the way.
However, all of these incidents pale in comparison to the otherworldly, phantasmagoric bellows that are emitted by my own Person during my nightmares. I couldn’t tell you what I dream about, but it must be bad, if I am to believe the descriptions from fellow family members about the noises I make.
These nightmares are absolutely legendary in our household, and are often a continuing source of jokes and levity.
Apparently everyone loves a good scare, except for my wife. It seems that during one of my nighttime bouts, rather than “gently rouse me from my slumber,” she chose to cover my mouth with her hand in a desperate attempt to shut me up. No doubt whatever nightmare I was having at the time only became worse since it was infused with a sense of being suffocated.
Of course, I eventually woke up, disoriented and out of breath. I knew enough to realize her hand had been on my face.
“What were you doing?” I wondered.
“Just trying to keep you quiet, dear. I was gently covering your mouth.”
Hunh? What was that again?
We relived this entire episode tonight, as Daughter mentioned that she herself heard the Zombie Screams from the Underworld last evening, as I was having another bad episode.
“Dad, it was loud and really weird, and scary.”
“Did you or your Mother try to suffocate me to stop it?” I asked.
My Spouse answered, “I didn’t try to suffocate you that time. I gently placed my hand over your mouth.”
As I explained to my Lovely Better Half, no one “gently places a hand over someone’s mouth,” just as no one ever ”gently kicks someone in the groin” or ”gently punches someone in the face.”
But they all had a good laugh about it anyway.
Just wait. A night will come, I don’t know when, during which the moon, stars, and emergency vehicles of the night will all align, and Dandy Dog and I will howl in a somnambulant chorus, scaring the bejesus out of everyone and proving, once again, that what goes around comes around.
I just hope I don’t wake up from dreaming I ate a marshmallow to find my pillow gone in the morning.