She heard a noise, and he went to seePublished 9:35am Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Column: Tales From Exit 22
John Cass hated his nickname — Jack.
Things weren’t perfect, but his life contained a fair amount of pretty good. He’d wanted to be an architect. In grade school, he’d made square spitballs. He ended up taking over his father-in-law’s heating and air conditioning business. He’d learned that it wasn’t the global warming, it was the humidity.
He hated his nickname.
He noticed that Judy, his wife of long-standing, called him “Jack” with a fiendish relish that increased with each passing year. They had been married for many years. She said he was a good husband — one who provided shade in the summer and heat in the winter. John was happy, but mostly he was tired.
Some people have trouble sleeping. John is a skilled sleeper. When he feels the tug of Morpheus, sleep comes easy to him.
He was sound asleep. He was dreaming. It was a great dream in which John was eating bacon as he fished with the Swedish Bikini Team while watching the Twins beat the Yankees on a large-screen TV the size of a UPS van. Hey, it was a dream.
Suddenly, a whispered voice entered his dream. It was as loud as a whisper could be without becoming something else.
“Jack, Jack. Are you awake?”
“No,” is never an appropriate answer to that question.
He grunted as he attempted to wave the fading bikini team back into his dream.
“I hear something in the garage.”
Judy was always hearing things in the garage. It’s one of those things that cause men to lose their hearing.
As a veteran in the husband arena, John did what an old married man does. He shifted his position on the bed, mumbled “Don’t worry,” and attempted to resume his sleep. It was a safe, happy place.
“Jack!” she yelled in a whisper. She was adorable.
Marriage is a democracy. One woman, one vote.
He rose gingerly from the bed. He was clad in boxers with images of fish on them. He eschewed nightwear as loud pajamas kept him awake. He got out of bed because he’d learned the secret — happy wife, happy life. That’s why he put his dirty clothes in the hamper. No man has ever been shot by his wife while he was putting his dirty clothes in a hamper. Judy had housetrained him. As a bachelor, he thought there was no need for furniture if you had coasters.
He took a couple of steps and his faculties began to return. He growled something that prompted his wife to remind him that there was a lady present.
John not only cowboyed up, he John Wayned up. He stumbled through the clutter (both stacked and free range) of a house well lived in. He recalled the time he’d stepped on the cat’s tail in the darkness. The cat screamed and John nearly had a heart attack before the cat that Judy had named Alice Meowmers turned John’s bare shin into a scratching post. He’d battled mysterious sounds in the garage before. Each time, he’d found nothing. As he shuffled toward the door, mumbling about the loss of a good dream, he heard a crash—a small sound magnified by the night. It surprised him and, though he would never admit it, frightened him a bit. He had no idea what he might encounter in the garage, so he thought it might be good to have a weapon. He couldn’t find the butter knife (his weapon of choice), so he grabbed a string trimmer. He’d used it earlier in the day to dispatch some weeds that had drawn Judy’s ire. It wasn’t a licensed weapon, but John was prepared to defend the homeland.
He stepped cautiously into the garage. He heard the sound again. He fired up the string trimmer and turned on the light.
He saw the skunk. The skunk saw John. John’s father had told him to keep skunks, bankers and lawyers at a distance. It was too late to make use of that advice.
John prayed and the skunk sprayed.
The trimmer stopped running and it became as quiet as a held breath.
The skunk ambled out the door that had been left open. John gasped and it was not in disbelief.
John could have stayed in the garage. He could have showered. He could have poured a five-gallon bucket of cologne over his head.
He could have, but he did none of those things.
John walked into the bedroom and in all his odoriferous glory, said loudly, “You were right, Judy. There was something in the garage.”
Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.