Back in the late ‘80s, I was living in a small house in Southern California. My cousin, The Colonel, believed that a single woman living alone should have a weapon in the house for self-defense. It hadn’t been long since the Night Stalker had been captured. The Colonel loaned me a .9 mm handgun, took me to the firing range for lessons and also out to the desert to get comfortable with and to fire other of his weapons. I wasn’t planning to be an Annie Oakley, but I was no longer afraid of guns.
So there I was feeling pretty confident with my .9 mm – loaded with a full clip and one in the chamber -- tucked under the mattress within easy reach. I had almost forgotten it was there until one night when I was awakened by a loud noise toward the front of the house.
I lay there, listening, and wondering if I had been dreaming. And then I heard the noise again. My heart was pounding. “Awwww, sh**,” I said to myself. And then, calming, I convinced myself that I knew what I had to do, and hiding under the covers wouldn’t get it done.
First, I retrieved the gun and then quietly sat, then stood up. I moved silently to my bedroom door and strained to hear any kind of movement. I stepped into the short hall. On my left would be the door to the spare bedroom. Straight ahead was the den and ahead of it, the living room.
In my little nightgown and with a big gun, I pressed my back to the wall and began inching my way toward the den. Contrary to most tv and movies, I had been taught that you don’t enter a room with your arms extended in front of you. If a bad guy is just around that corner, he’ll simply knock the gun from your hands. Doing my Police Woman thing, my left hand cradled my right hand which held the gun. My elbows were bent. The gun was pointed at the ceiling. And I was barely breathing.
As that short hall reached the den, the room opened wide to the right. The wall on the left side of the hall continued for a bit then ended at a bar – the eating and drinking kind. Behind the bar were walking space, a small sink and cabinets. I knew it was a bad idea to step into the open area of the room. I could keep my back to the wall longer if I stayed to the left. But then I’d be at the bar and someone could easily be crouching behind it in the dark.
To the left at the end of the bar was the doorway to the kitchen. The kitchen had a door to a bathroom which connected to the spare bedroom. The back door was also off the kitchen as was a door to the dining room that adjoined the living room. Someone in the kitchen could come straight at me through the den, go into the dining room and wait for me to enter the living room OR go through that bathroom and spare bedroom that I’d just passed and come up behind me.
This was not a good situation. And to prove it, I heard the noise again. If I had been dreaming, that would have been the time to wake up.
Standing pat wasn’t the answer, so I pressed my back to the left wall and moved soundlessly into the den. Pause. Listen. Then, with my backside against the low bar, I scooched to the halfway point along its length. I stopped again and held my breath to listen. I was sure that if someone was close, I’d hear his breathing.
BAM! At that moment the noise sounded loudly right behind me. I instinctively whirled toward the noise and just as quickly realized what it was. I let out my breath in a whoosh, stomped over to the closest light switch and flipped it on. I put the gun down on the bar and, leaning down to open the lower cabinet, said, “Get out of there you dumb cat!”
Apparently when I had retrieved something from that cabinet earlier in the evening my curious kitty had slipped in to explore. After some time she must have become bored and curled up for a nap. When she was once again awake and ready to be released, she tried to push open the door – but she wasn’t strong enough to muscle it open all the way. So it was banging shut. And terrifying me.
I refrained from strangling the cat. Put the gun back under the mattress and tried to sleep. If this was a dress rehearsal, I hadn’t done too badly.