By Bruce Anderson
“Honey, wake up.”
Kim, my wife, was shaking me out of a dead sleep. I was in the middle of a naked dream. You know, the one where you’re back in high school, naked in the hallway, and can’t remember your locker combination?
“Whut, whut?” I opened my eyes into deep darkness.
“Someone’s in the front yard. Headlights are shining on the riding ring.”
“Stop shaking me.” I grabbed her hand and stilled it. “What time is it?”
Still dark as midnight out there. I shifted in the bed to see out the side window—the jumps were indeed illuminated.
She spoke again. “Do you think it’s those guys who were shooting out of the car window the other night?”
One night last week, a car came up the road and fired four gunshots out the window, driving past the farm. None of our horses were hurt, and the cops said it was probably just some dopey kids acting up. Now I was beginning to wonder.
“I don’t know. If they were coming after us for some reason, they probably wouldn’t have their headlights on. Maybe it’s just some drunk wanting to ride a horse.”
“Maybe it’s a carload of drunks with guns wanting to ride a horse.” She ratcheted it up.
I had another thought. We’re unabashed Democrats living in a rural area, surrounded by people with very different political views. Almost everyone around here has guns. Some have lots of ‘em. Guns, alcohol, and politics make a pretty toxic brew.
“You wait here. I’m going to check it out.” I slid out from under the covers, put on my slippers and white terry cloth bathrobe, then grabbed my shotgun from beside the dresser. It’s a blacked out 12-gauge pump with a short barrel, pistol grip, and folding stock. I keep five rounds of buckshot in the magazine but stuck a handful of extras in my bathrobe pocket, just in case. I snatched a baseball cap off the hook on the door as I went out.
Hustling down the dark hallway on the balls of my feet, I wished we still had a dog. We used to have three big dogs, but they all died off, and we hadn’t got a new one yet. Everyone around here knew about us and our dogs; they also knew we didn’t have any anymore.
I snuck into the foyer, staying low. We don’t leave any lights on when we go to bed, except the fluorescent tube over the kitchen sink, but it wasn’t totally dark in the foyer, anyway. Ambient glow from the car headlights filtered through the big window beside the front door.
A sedan was stopped at the end of the front walk, right beside the pole light, which was not turned on. I wanted a better look and figured I could temporarily blind him with the pole light, so I flipped the switch.
Only I hit the wrong switch, and 5,000 lumens of LEDs lit up the foyer like a used car lot. There I stood—bathrobe and slippers, baseball cap and tactical shotgun—dazzling in the window like a down-range target in a shooting gallery.
I still have cat-like reflexes and slapped that switch off as fast as I could, then hit the right one for the pole lamp while dropping to one knee. Judging by the alarm on the face of the bearded man behind the wheel, I was not fast enough, and my mistake gave me away.
He threw the car into reverse; I turned and bolted through the kitchen and out the back door. It was dark as a cave. I crept across the patio in a semi-crouch, pumping a round into the chamber. If he was coming my way, I would be ready for him. If he was heading for the barns, I wanted to see exactly where he went, so I could trap him.
I didn’t see any lights at all so guessed he was running dark. Watch for brake lights, I told myself. Nothing. I slipped around the side of the house and saw brake lights, alright. He was braking at the end of the lane before turning onto the main road.
I stood for a moment or three in the chilly darkness, watching him disappear and waiting for the adrenaline rush to play out. I felt a little foolish for that bone-headed move with the light switch but reminded myself that the objective is to motivate the intruder to leave, not blow holes in him. Viewed in that vein, we had a total success.
I went back inside, turned off the front light, and went up to the bedroom feeling very much the alpha male. Kim was sitting up in bed with the TV on, looking at her phone.
“I don’t know who it was,” I said, “but I ran him off.”
“I know who it was,” she replied, grinning like a jackalope. “I just got a text from Amazon—they delivered Mom’s cereal at five this morning.”