It’s 4:30 AM.
I’m sitting at my dining room table, working on a book. The house is dark except for the dining room light and a light over the kitchen sink.
It’s quiet. Just the light tapping of fingers on keys.
Then I hear it. From the bathroom behind me, in the rear of the house, the musical tone of the washing machine being turned on.
I freeze. The hair on the back of my neck stands up. I take a deep breath and realize that it must be one of the cats. As hard as it is to imagine how one of them could press a button on the face of of the washing machine, I’ve seen them do ridiculous things before. This is no different.
Then I look left. Tobi is asleep on the heater beside me. I look right. Pluto is asleep on the chair beside me.
It wasn’t the cats.
This is my next thought:
Someone is in the bathroom. I surprised a burglar. I came downstairs a little after 4:00 AM. He didn’t expect anyone to be awake at this hour, so he retreated into the bathroom when he heard me descend the stairs, and now he’s trapped in the bathroom, panicking. So what does he decide to do? Click the button on the washing machine to lure me into the bathroom, where he will hit me over the head with something so he can escape. Or maybe he leaned against the washing machine, accidentally turning it on, so now he’s waiting, gun in hand, to shoot me.
This is what I think, and it’s what I believe. An intruder is in my home, hiding in the bathroom.
I stand and turn. On the bookshelf behind me is a hatchet made for me by one of my students. A sharpened rock wedged between a short, thick stick. Homemade but dangerous looking enough that my principal asked me to take it home, which I did. It’s why it’s sitting on the shelf behind me.
I haven’t found a home for it yet.
I pick it up.
I walk slowly and quietly toward the bathroom. I imagine what I’ll do in my mind’s eye. I’m going to crouch, making my body mass smaller and altering its expected position. As I turn the corner into the bathroom, I’ll bring my right arm wide in an arc, swinging as I enter, thrusting up at the knees at the same time, searching for a target. I’ll follow through by launching my body into the room and at the target, hitting it as hard as I can, driving it into the back wall, where I will begin hammering away with fists.
I see it all clearly in my mind’s eye.
I reach the door. I take a deep breath. Crouch, arc, and swing, throwing my body into the room as I do, seeking a target.
No one is there. The washing machine’s control panel is alight. The control knob is set for normal wash, and the start button blinking, waiting to be depressed.
But no one is there. Somehow the control knob has been turned to normal wash, priming the machine to be run.
But no one is here. The bathroom is empty.
I lower my hatchet. The next words are spoken aloud:
“Okay, ghost. I don’t mind you playing with the washing machine, but the least you could do is run a load of laundry in the process. Get something done.”
I return to the dining room table. Sit down. The cats are awake now, staring at me from their original positions. Pluto turns and stares into the bathroom for a moment. I realize that every hair on my arm is standing on end.
I don’t believe in ghosts, but for a few seconds, I might.
Electrical glitch, I decide, though I don’t really believe it.
I’m not sure what to believe.
Then I realize:
Part of me legitimately thought that there was an intruder in our home, and my choice was to attack him with a hatchet.
A phone was sitting beside me. I could’ve called 911. I could’ve called Elysha, asleep in our bed upstairs, to warn her. I could’ve texted my friend Jeff, usually awake at this hour, and asked him to call the police.
I could’ve retreated upstairs, gathered the family in our bedroom, and locked the door.
I chose to attack.
Maybe not enough of me thought that an intruder was in the house. Maybe I only half believed that our home was being burgled, despite the hatchet and my plan and my execution of that plan.
But damn. Even if just 10% of me thought that an intruder was in our home, what was I thinking? With a wife and kids asleep upstairs, my choice was to attack?
Even if only 5% of my believed in the intruder, isn’t that enough to act more judiciously?
I’m not quite sure what my decision to attack says about me, but I don’t think it’s good.
Also, what the hell is going on with my washing machine?