CAT FLAPS AND PROWLERS
by Sylvia Ann
If she’d lived on the coast, Helen Keller would know it was springtime. She couldn’t see the tender, golden-green haze of the woods, half hidden in wraiths of ocean fog floating upriver, she couldn’t see white clouds of blossom where there were bare branches two weeks ago. She wouldn’t hear the frog songs at night. But she’d smell the plum trees in bloom, the vernal breeze, and sugary sap flowing up tree trunks into twigs and leaflets as gold in their infancy as autumn foliage.
It’s not only ‘the cruelest month’ Eliot, April is the most beautiful. It’s also the bringer of fear when your heart slams your ribs. For spring is the foretaste of what’s to come when nights turn balmy, rain tapers off, and prowlers prowl.
Peace of mind pales where there’s no illusion.
It pales if those who long for reunion with loved ones and life everlasting feel unsettled to read – if they read – that miraculous births and resurrections are one of mankind’s most universal and heartrending myths. The world-renowned writer, Alice Koller, animal lover and Radcliffe scholar who lived in her car when she was broke, missed her dead father, and grieved that she’d never see him again.
Peace of mind pales when you consider that people formed communities thousands of years ago for various reasons, one of them being greater protection from predators. Why then would some homeowners feel more secure to live in a yurt a hundred miles from nowhere?
It pales when you see that ‘the evil flourish like the green bay.’ To phrase it more bluntly, ‘You can’t win with these a**h***s, so don’t even try.’ Tom Wolfe
It pales when your dreams of a garden shrivel into a nightmare. ‘Cultivate your garden.’ Voltaire Of course. Why not? For all the rain, you can grow grapes and figs, apples, pears, plums and peaches in this climate. Rutabagas, potatoes and turnips thrive in tide flats. Gargantuan cabbages, transcendental spinach and lettuce, enormous juice carrots, crisp cucumbers, colossal, candy-sweet winter squash, beets and tomatoes, Brussels sprouts the size of apricots, French filet beans as long as your forearm flourish like weeds. Until early November you can be plucking fresh ears of corn. If you want to avoid the grocery stores and eat healthful, organic, garden-fresh food, you wouldn’t believe what our river silt will grow. And every square foot will ripen to harvest if you can bear the stress and boredom of sitting in a darkened window into the morning, starved for sleep, guarding your orchard and vegetables that vandals will tear out and strew in the road, if you turn your back.
It pales when people tell you that hundreds of feet of fencing and padlocked gate won’t keep them out, and time demonstrates the truth of their irony.
It pales when the PD warns of the risks of having a guard dog unless you quadruple your insurance. It pales when they tell you how prowlers and burglars can shoot a dog or throw poisoned meat over the fence, how you may need to keep the dog in when you’re away, and inspect your yard day and night for chunks of meat, including the ground under the shrubs, before you let him out. Without this precaution, you can end up scarred for life if your dog is poisoned by predators happy to teach you who reigns supreme in your neighborhood.
Peace of mind pales when electrical contractors tell you that state-of-the-art motion sensors, buzzers and flashing lights to the tune of $2,000 won’t keep them out if they want to get in.
It pales when ‘home security’ systems fail to deter a burglar able to work at top speed, unalarmed by whoopings and clangings. A thief with gumption is able to grab armloads of loot in 120 seconds or so – mere minutes before the squad car arrives – and aerosol spray, for the fun of it all, your furniture and rugs.
It pales when old windows are fragile as eggshells. A certain cat mother broke into a building at 2:00 a.m. to rescue her elderly kitty-man trapped inside and meowing for help. There’s nothing to it, except the chagrin of willingly owning up to the deed later that morning, and paying $200.00 in damages. Other than that, all that’s required is a ski-cap pulled down over the nose, a small step-ladder, a sock-swaddled hammer, a furtive dash in the dark down the road, a skulking through bushes near the house, a muffled crunch as hammer taps glass, ungainly gymnastics – feet in the air and hands on the ground as she lowers herself through the hole – and slivers of glass in the belly-button.
Peace of mind pales when barred windows – unless they’re tempered and smash-resistant – can still be shattered, and flaming kerosene rags balled up and tossed inside. If such exist, dense metal grids might be installed to shield the windows. The downside is that they’d darken the rooms.
It pales when killing a prowler who’s gotten into the house can mean the homeowner loses two-thirds and more of his equity. The law requires that a brief description of violent death must be included in the disclosure if he wants to sell. Many potential buyers are squeamish, and also understandably fearful that such a house has a history of vandalism and break-ins. A few years ago, in Washington, a woman eclipsed Humbert Humbert in blasting her husband into slow mincemeat because she caught him doing what only comes natural to men, however enraging it is to wives. Their abattoir-mansion sold for pennies on the dollar.
It pales when officers of the law, assuming they understand the legalities, warn a homeowner, who’d rather aim only at arms and legs, that he can be sued for personal injury, and even sued for pointing an unloaded gun at a varmint running around outside in the yard, causing him (are some of them ‘her?’) to ‘fear for his life -’ never mind the homeowner’s fear for his own life.
It pales when cats sound asleep on the piano spring awake all at once, their eyes wide with fear and ears pricked up as they stare at the darkened window.
It pales when there’s ‘no room in the inn’ (translation: the slammer). When store proprietors tell you of thieves, five blocks from your house, who shoplift merchandise every day, are caught in the act, whisked away by the cops, and turned loose four days later to continue their shenanigans.
Peace of mind flutters its eyelids a tad when Hollywood films portray hunkering, vinyl-clad Wonder-Women clenching their fists and swishing their legs from the hips through the air in deadly arcs as they flatten the hulks left and right. GO, GIRL! RIGHT ON!
But it pales again when the homeowner reads in the news of a female karate instructor who, casually popped in the jaw by a thug who meant no real harm, drops like a fly and lies in a coma for the remainder. Men have muscle to spare. Women do not. Not even the ones who pump iron all day, live on steroids, smooth baby oil on their arms and legs and contract their slender, feminine biceps for a pulp-magazine photo-shoot.
The upside to this? With their greater resilience, women outlive the men by years. Which comes in handy when women homeowners sit up half the night to keep an eye on their legal holdings, to which the law of the land is supposed to grant them the right to enjoy ‘quiet title.’
It pales when women spend money remodeling houses they’d earnestly hoped to live in, yet feeling they’re pushed into having to move because the area is semi-rural and isolated.
Peace of mind pales when, having succumbed to sleeping – for once – for seven hours straight, the homeowner wakes to find her kitty-flap smashed into splinters and halfway inside the laundry room, to find slashed screens, a pulverized fence and a ripped garden hose that cost $40.00 because it was made of non-carcinogenic rubber.
When every option appears to be thwarted – headed off at the pass – where does it come from, the soothing suggestion that safety is well within reach of ‘always vigilant’ homeowners aware of the so-called ‘critical factor,’ clear-headed folks endowed with the smarts to ‘present simple barriers?’ And where, by the way, is the ‘simplicity’ in this ordeal? Where does it come from, the happy illusion – for anyone knows that illusions are better than no illusions – that safety is real if one does what needs doing?
Sleep puts an end to vigilance. A sleeping homeowner is helpless and defenseless as a babe in arms. When even the tombs of the Pharaohs were cracked asunder and looted – tombs built with such awesome precision not even a knife blade can be inserted between their stones – how can a humble stick-built dwelling, assembled in two or three weeks, instill the faith that everything’s under control?