Let me tell you, nothing confirms your worst fears about your immaturity and mental instability like surrendering your house to a creature based solely on a screeching noise.
It was a serene Sunday morning as my brothers and I were gathered on our couch in our pajamas. We were like a Saturday Evening Post cover if Norman Rockwell had included Chris Berman’s head glowing on a 60-inch screen TV and everyone wore bar mitzvah sweatpants.
I must admit that I was feeling a particularly strong surge of sisterly authority. Left in charge, I made fresh French Toast and omelettes, I sort of loaded the dishwasher and then I began on the one task my mother actually asked of me: getting my brother to do his homework. I felt like Ali, ready to step into the ring, which is the kind of delusional self-confidence needed when interacting with my brothers.
I got up and launched into a Brady Bunch speech about the importance of doing homework. The blank stares in response led the speech to go increasingly in the way of The Sopranos. After spewing premium cable-level profanity and banging my shoe against our coffee table I went to my last option. In a move that some might call daring, others suicidal: I turned off the television. At that first moment of silence I heard it. The squeaky screech, then a squaw. Never has a more terrifying sound been heard in the Shire, except the chandelier-breaking shriek I then unleashed. In my state of blind terror, I screamed, my brothers claim, “Did you see that?!!!!!” rather than “Did you hear that?!!!!!!!” I stress this because no, I never actually saw this creature, but that’s a good thing because considering how I reacted to the sound of it, the sight would have sent me into an irreversible catatonic state.
Apparently my stress-induced loss of cognitive capabilities was highly contagious. As I screamed and ran up the stairs as fast as I could, my brother Matt sprinted up shortly behind me deciding to take a laptop on 1% battery, but neglecting the charger right next to him. Ethan one-upped him by deciding to eschew his two older siblings and run out the door barefoot. BTW, it was less than 20 degrees outside. I did not notice any of this, though, until I slammed the door of my parents’ bedroom and realized I was missing: a cell phone, a phonebook, a working laptop, and a little brother.
I was up a you-know-what creek without a paddle…and as my fellow Troop 1972 Girl Scouts can attest, I can’t hold my own in a canoe even with the best oar. In a time like this, I decided to call the one number engrained in me since I was in nursery school, 9-1-1. At the same time, I chose to actively ignore Ethan’s cries to open the door, which had locked behind him. Yes, I know this is the point of the story when I am officially disqualified from the Sister of the Year award, but you know what? In these stressful times, it is every man for himself. Blood may be thicker than water, but it’s no match for irrational fear.
Besides, in my defense, I banged on our window to try to get Ethan’s attention and let him know that I was too afraid to open the door and to give up hope … for a sister with a backbone, for a house that doesn’t resemble the Bronx Zoo, etc. Before you get your panties in a bunch, my brother Matt completely manned up and got Ethan while I was on the phone with the 9-1-1 operator. That conversation was a real gem as I spiraled from fake calm into pull-out-all-the-stops desperate pleas, which, the assuring 9-1-1 operator ignored.
Nothing kills your faith in civic government like speaking to a 9-1-1 operator. It’s not fair to blame them – don’t shoot the messenger. But damn it all to hell, speaking to this fool made me wonder where my/my parents’ tax dollars were going. Here’s the rundown:
INCOMPETENT, HEART-OF-STONE OPERATOR: Hello, this is 9-1-1.
ME: (frantic but pretending to be calm): Hello, Sir, I have a slight problem. I heard an animal in my fireplace and I am very nervous and taking care of my two brothers.
INCOMPETENT, HEART-OF-STONE OPERATOR: Well, I’m sorry, Miss, but there’s nothing we can do.
ME (phase one of losing my shit): Wait, what? I could really use Animal Control or someone to come help us out.
INCOMPETENT, HEART-OF-STONE OPERATOR: I’m sorry, but we only send Animal Control when it involves a dog.
ME (a glass case of emotions): Who said it wasn’t a dog? Please, sir, I am very, VERY scared and need help.
INCOMPETENT, HEART-OF-STONE OPERATOR: I can give you the name of an animal trapper. He probably won’t pick up, but leave a message, and he usually calls back pretty quickly.
ME (pulling my best Fatal Attraction Glenn Close “I will not be ignored”): Sir, our parents are gone, and we are three children, left alone and terrified! Please, I don’t know what to do!
INCOMPETENT, HEART-OF-STONE OPERATOR: The trapper’s number is 428-3178.
Click. Not even a “goodbye”.
You can read more from Emily Shire on her blog.
Feature image via.