“We were robbed,” I wail into the yellow telephone receiver.
“Did they?” Mom gasps …”Take the TV?”
I say I don’t know and she tells me she’ll call the sheriff and will be home right away.
I tiptoe through the house; terrified the men will return for their knife. I scurry to my parent’s closet and burrow into the dark. I knock over a pair of rhinestone-encrusted stiletto heels that have never seen the light of day. The heavy shoes make a deafening crash when they hit the floor. I push myself farther into the corner, making a curtain of Mom’s old sorority party dresses.
I hold my breath and wait. I don’t hear any footsteps in the house.
Angry barks from the two stray dogs
that were dumped off that we adopted filter through to my hiding place. I slip out of the closet and dart to a corner of the living room to peer through the window. I see a sheriff’s car in the driveway.
I run to the front door. My shaking hand grabs the cool metal knob of the big oak door and I yank. It won’t budge. I slide the thick bolt out of its lock and run out to the porch.
The deputy shouts from his car, “Do the dogs bite?”
I’m teenager enough to say, “Obviously not, right?”
A Barney Fife-looking guy exits the patrol car and approaches the front door cautiously. “Are you sure…” his voice cracks and he tries again. “Are you sure they’re all gone?”
“I…I think so. I d-d-don’t know.”
“Oh my god,” he says. “They trashed the place.”
I look around the room and wonder what he’s talking about.
And then I see the room through his eyes. Our massive dining room table is piled high with clothes. So many that they’ve spilled over onto the floor in a yard-wide radius. When Mom does laundry we are supposed to pick out our clothes and put them away, but it rarely happens, so we just live off the clothes in the pile.
With his gun drawn, the deputy jumps around corners while I cower in the corner.
Mom, Dad and the sheriff all arrive simultaneously.
The sheriff’s cheap aftershave enters the room before him and my stomach rolls. I run to the bathroom and vomit.
When I return, the sheriff hikes his pants up over a massive beer belly and commands, “Ya know how to shoot a gun right?”
“I’ve never even touched one,” I say.
He looks with disproval at Dad. “Ya need to teach this little girl how to shoot.” He fixes his flinty eyes on me. “Then, next time someone knocks on your door and ya don’t’ know who they are, ya shoot ’em. If they fall outside the house, ya drag ’em in.”
“B…B…But…” I whisper. “I couldn’t ever shoot anyone.”
He sighs. “The least ya coulda done is shout out your brother’s names. That woulda scared ’em for sure.”
“But what if it didn’t?” I ask. “Then wouldn’t they know for sure I was home alone?”
He dismisses me with a wave of his hand and turns to Dad to continue his lecture on teaching everyone in the house how to shoot.
Mom is over in the corner giving the deputy a list of missing items. “Two portable televisions, the stereo, a shotgun, a trombone…”
My older brother comes home from school and tries to interest the deputy in taking plaster casts of the tire tracks in the driveway, like he’s seen happen on Colombo. The deputy gets excited until the sheriff says that doesn’t happen in real life.
I wander into the kitchen and take the opportunity to steal from Dad’s secret stash of food. I pour myself a Coca-Cola from the two-liter bottle and nibble around the edge of a buttery Ritz cracker.
Eventually the house settles in for the night. I’m walking back upstairs to go to bed when I hear one of my brothers say, “I’ll bet they’ll come back for that knife.”