It was Monday, July 18, 1988.
It had been scorchingly hot all summer. It was a muggy, awful night out.
We had a new roommate; Shane, a singer in a speed metal band. He was nineteen, about 5’6, wore his hair in a white trash afro (long, frizzy and all over the place) and looked every inch the metal dude. He was a nice guy, though, and paid his bills on time. This became important, later.
Shane and Wyatt both worked nights. Wyatt worked as a bouncer at “Hot Rod’s”, a dive bar on University Avenue, where he basically sold pot, pilfered free drinks, picked up an endless stream of girls or, sometimes, just had sex with them in a storage closet back by the bar’s kitchen, or, not infrequently, both. Indeed, he’d brag on occasion about “trifecta” days; bagging Teresa at home during the day, banging one of the bartenders in the storage locker during his shift, and picking up one skeeze or another to bring home at night. Sometimes, rarely, he’d even toss an old drunk or underage Hamline or Concordia dweeb out of the place.
Shane worked the night shift at a foundry out on the East Side. The hours meshed nicely with his band’s rehearsal schedule. On non-practice nights – like tonight – he took the bus around 9:30PM.
Me? I had the night off. I noodled around on guitar for a while, and then settled down with a book I’d gotten at the library over the weekend.
And I heard the front door open downstairs.
My ears perked up – but it wouldn’t have been the first time Shane missed his bus and needed to bug me for a ride to work; even more likely was Wyatt to have gotten off work early, and probably picked up some skeeze or another (or, if all else failed, called Teresa).
I heard footsteps – two sets – downstairs. Option B, I thought.
And then I heard a male voice. Not Shane’s nasal Wisconsin chatter. Not Wyatt’s affected Arklahoma drawl.
And then I heard another male voice. A different one.
These were not my roommates.
I sat, frozen in my chair, for a moment, as I heard the two sets of feet moving around downstairs, now pretty loudly. They were moving through the living room, and into the kitchen. I heard something clattering.
I had no phone – the only one was downstairs in the kitchen. All the exits to the house were downstairs. The dogs – worthless as they were under normal circumstances – were both out back. My only way out was through my second-story window.
I had one option.
Well, no. There was one other.
I got up as quietly as I could, and padded in my stocking feet over to my bed. I reached down into the gap between the wall and the mattress; I had a little box wedged in there, holding the mattress almost imperceptibly out from the wall. On it lay my pistol – an American Arms PK22. It had a magazine in it, with eight rounds (of .22 Long Rifle) loaded. (My rifles, in the closet, would have taken too long to load).
I turned, flipped the safety catch off, and started padding toward the top of the stairs. The old floor creaked loudly, and the footsteps downstairs stopped cold for a moment.
I crouched behind the thick wooden top pillar of the banister; I heard one of the voices below, sounding only slightly agitated. They started moving again – toward (I imagined, rightly or not, and I wasn’t about to ask) the stairs.
But it was all I had.
“You c*******ers come up the stairs, and I’ll f***ing blow your heads off”, I yelled – loudly, trying to will my voice not to crack.
I took the slide and racked a round as loudly and ostentatiously as I could…
…which chambered with a not-very-intimidating tinny “tic-tic-schluck” sound that had me wishing for the beefy “KA-SCHLACK” of a 12 gauge shotgun, or the sharp “ksssh-LOCK” of an M1 Garand.
“Sh*t”, I heard one of them mutter. From my vantage point, I saw a pair of tennis shoes racing out the door. They left the door open.
I crouched at the top of the steps for what seemed like a couple minutes, hyperventilating as my heart pounded, watching the screen door drift aimlessly in the dank humid breeze. Then, slowly, I crept down the stairs, pistol in front of me, pointing where I was looking, making sure they were all gone. I shut and locked the door, checked the kitchen and basement, and then stopped and took stock. They’d made off with Wyatt’s boom box and some cassettes, and not much more.
My ignorant nutslap roommates had left the door unlocked.
And today, I became a big believer in self-defense shooting.