I don’t remember what he said awoke him. A sense of foreboding? That prickly sensation of someone being there? Stealthy footfalls on the carpet? I can’t recall.
My father awoke and listened. The quiet suburb seems morgue-like in its stillness at night. This is a relatively new neighborhood, and not all the houses are occupied. The loping hills which roll around the town, ripples of the Diablo range, still encroach on the streets and the fresh, black asphalt. There is little disturbance during the day, and in the dark of night, the quiet is complete.
He heard it again. Padded steps, whispering across the carpet.
He stole to the bedroom door and chanced a quick glance through the doorway. He could reach the door from his bed unseen from the short hallway beyond, but then would be in view of the intruder if he peeked around the corner of the hall to the living room.
Silhouetted against the wall of the living room was a man. Long coat, hat seated low on his head, the figure fills most of the door frame.
My father stretched his hand out to the hallway light. In a burst of movement he’d turn on the light, surprise the intruder, and strike full-force while he was dazed in the sudden blast of light.
He positioned himself, steeled his nerve, tensed to spring … and tripped the switch.
His coiled muscles froze halfway through their spring.
The hallway was empty.
In the time it took for the light to come on, the shadow standing between hallway and adjoining living room had vanished.
Without a trace.
He stole into the living room to be sure. Empty. A glance to the front door showed the lock still secured. He crossed the living room and entered the kitchen. Empty. Another three steps over the cold linoleum floor to the family room at the back of the house. Nothing. A verification with the lights on – nothing. He strode to the sliding glass door and check its lock, and it, too, was secure.
He wandered back to the hallway, and checked on me. Asleep, peaceful in my room, unaware. He checked the third, empty bedroom as well, and the closet. Just to be sure. To make absolutely certain. But the lauan doors hid no trenchcoated stowaways, and the house held no secrets from him.
He laid back in his bed and stared at the ceiling for long hours, as daylight crept closer, listening. But the house held its silence.
This story is related to me by my father, and he has never varied the recount in any detail I can recall. He insists he saw a man standing between the hall and the living room in this, his first tiny house in a quiet suburb in Northern California. I can’t verify any of the events.
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