The summer before my freshman year of high school my parents took off for a 10 day fishing trip to Canada with my brother. They packed up the Econoline van with a cooler of food and beer, fishing poles, and blankets prepared to spend the next week in the wilderness chasing Northern Bass. They asked my sister and I if we wanted to go, but we both passed on the opportunity preferring to spend the waning days of the summer at home. In my case playing softball. In my sister’s case drinking beer.
My sister was 17 and segueing into her final year of high school. My parents, the ever faithful and loving duo, left us in the charge of ourselves. This wasn’t so strange or unusual. My parents got married late and had us late. By the time I came around my father was 45 and my mum was 38. They were biting at the bit to get us all graduated and to retire in style someplace warm and sunny. So, on our own we were. Besides, we lived in the middle of sleepy, rural Nebraska in a big house on top of a bigger hill surrounded by pastures, cornfields and cows. Nothing ever happened. We didn’t even lock our doors.
On the second or third night of our solo experience, my friend and neighbor picked me up and dropped me off after my softball game. As we rounded the corner and started making the ascent to my house, the large picture windows in our living room suddenly blinked out, going dark. I assumed my sister was leaving to go out with friends. Alternatively, I assumed that the light fixture, prone to electrical shorts and erratic bursts of behavior, was on the fritz again. When we pulled into the driveway I noted that my sister was already gone. We hadn’t passed her car, nor did we see it driving off in the other direction. I then assumed that the light fixture was definitely on the fritz. It always seemed a bit ghost-like freaking my out on occasion, but I girded my loins assuring my neighbors that I would be just fine, thanks.
I quickly prepared a snack and grabbed the cordless phone to talk to my BFF. I explained to her that I was home alone and the light fixture was up to its strange shenanigans and I was a tad freaked out. We laughed it off and began to gossip about junior high material. Suddenly, I heard someone on another extension pick up. We both paused in our conversation and quickly checked in with each other. Did you hear it? I did, we both confirmed. I quickly ran down the hall to my parents bedroom to check their extension. It rested solidly in the cradle. That left the only phone left in the house, the phone in the den in the basement. I was not going down there. I then jetted into the only room in the house that did not have windows, effectively sequestering myself in a bathroom with the cordless phone and a steak knife.
“Whoever you are, get the fuck off the phone and get the fuck outta my house” I yelled into the receiver.
Click. The extension was down.
My BFF and I confirmed that what had happened actually happened and then we proceded to rationalize it away. I assured her that I did not need for her to come over with her dad and his guns. I assured her it was probably a fluke and that we didn’t need to call 911. I assured her that it was all okay. And then the fucker picked the phone up again.
“Get the fuck off the phone and get the fuck out of the house!” Click and the phone was set down again.
Still on the phone with my BFF, we had another conversation about dads, guns, and 911, and I refused them all. My rational brain would not accept the reality of the situation. The intruder picked up the phone one more time, and I repeated myself once again. My BFF and I created a game plan that consisted of waiting in the locked bathroom until my sister came home and then searching the house together, putting it into lockdown mode.
So, wait I did. She eventually rolled in about 12:30 am. I explained to her what happened, and she rolled her eyes. We then proceeded to search the house with knives in our hands, both of us together weighing all of 220 pounds. We didn’t find anyone or anything, but we did lock the doors and windows in the basement, as well as the front door of the house. We then slept in the same bed with knives under our pillows as an insurance policy.
That next morning I went outside to check our brand-new batch of baby kitties. Five of them in total. Cute, little, mewling things. What I found was four cute, little, mewling things and the body of the fifth with the head cleanly severed, as if with a knife. Now, I lived in the country where most people had pets, but they never came inside. Ever. Cats were kept to keep mice at bay, and we had had several instances through the years where a tomcat would kill a kitten. I tried to play this instance off as a tomcat killing, but, in reality, a cat doesn’t not have the ability to cleanly sever a head from a body.
This freaked us the fuck out.
So, we did what any sane teenage girls would do. We filled up our social calendar with sleep overs, beer parties, and other shenanigans. We weren’t alone in that house for the remainder of my parents’ fishing trip. Some of our guy friends, knowing what was afoot played simple practical tricks on us, but they were boys’ games and didn’t convince or scare us.
Each morning we would check on the baby kitties and another one would be dead with the head cleanly severed. Every night we would have people over. It was during this time that I drank my first beer, my first fuzzy navel, flirted with “older men”, had my first hangover, concocted a ridiculous story about a smashed sliding glass door, and fully entered my high school years. It was terrifyingly awesome.
When my parents returned, we blew the experience off. We didn’t even flinch when my mom asked if anything peculiar had happened because our neighbors had seen a strange man walking alone through their bean fields. She meant to remind us that we should lock the doors, but she forgot. Thank God nothing happened, she said.