[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published Sept. 2, 2020] ©2020
Last week I wrote about my son Rory’s penchant for re-enacting scenes from horror movies with the objective of scaring the bejesus out of his (adoptive) mother and younger brother. The most successful – from his point of view – was the incident I wrote about last week where he taped some of the sound track of roaring chain saws and screaming people from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre off the TV onto an audio tape, then plugged it into the timer in his 7-year-old brother’s room and set it to play at 4 a.m. As a divorced mom living alone with two children, I already felt physically vulnerable, so the idea of there being a chain-saw wielding psycho in my house took years off my life expectancy.
One evening some two years later, almost-12-year-old Rory had gone to bed, while 9-year-old Henry and I worked at the dining room table. All of a sudden we heard the ominous sound of heavy feet methodically clomping up our front steps and stopping outside the door.
“Who is it?” I called trying to sound calm. No answer. The (locked) door knob was being turned. “I’m calling the police so leave now!” I announced. Instead, a flashlight beam appeared between the closed shutter slats. Henry and I, terrified, jumped back so we couldn’t be seen. Now the person was trying to push up the dining room window. I prayed I had locked it.
Hoping to suggest that there was an (armed) male person in the house, I said to Henry, loudly, “Go tell Dad to get the gun!”
Henry, confused: “We have a gun?” (We didn’t have a Dad either but that was beside the point.)
At first it appeared that the intruder was leaving but instead he clomped down the steps and went to the window on the other side, beaming the flashlight through the shutters there, and trying that window as well. This was serious.
“Quick,” I whispered to Henry, “wake up Rory, go out the back, and run next door!” Henry was gone in a flash.
But he was back in a flash too. “Mom,” he cried in horror, “they already got Rory! He’s gone!”
I ran down the hall and sure enough, Rory’s bed was empty and one of his windows was wide open.
And then a lightbulb went off in my bed. I stormed to the front door and threw it open, only to find Rory in clunky hiking boots now making eerie scritching noises on the window pane with his camping flashlight.
“Aw,” he said, disappointed, “how’d you figure out it was me?”
He’d seen some version of this in a horror movie on TV at his Dad’s and thought it would be really cool to try it. On Mom.
Just when you think he’d finally outgrown all this, two years later, 14-year-old Rory had gone off to Boy Scouts on a winter Monday night. It wasn’t my turn to drive the car pool so Henry and I were sitting on the floor eating take-out in front of the TV. All of a sudden I thought I detected movement in the dark patio outside. But the patio was quite secure. Must have been a reflection off the TV set. Then, however, I distinctly heard someone trying to open up Rory’s bedroom window. Eleven-year-old Henry heard it too. We both looked at each other with alarm. Rory was not due back until 9 and it was only 7:30. There was clearly someone out there.
Before we could even move, the silhouette of a figure appeared at the back door. It was a glass-paned door but had a screen door on the other side so it was impossible to identify anyone in the dark. The person just stood there, not moving, staring in at us. It was utterly heart stopping.
“Mom!” cried Henry, in terror. My heart was pounding as well.
But then there was something about that silhouette that seemed familiar. To Henry’s horror, I stood up, walked over to the door and flipped on the patio light. And there, of course, was Rory, disappointed once again that he hadn’t been able to carry out his full plan of terror.
It turned out that when they had gotten to the church, they learned that that the Troop meeting had been cancelled. So the dad who had driven just dropped everyone back home. This was long before cell phones.
In Rory’s world, this was a wonderful and totally unexpected opportunity to terrorize Mom at a time when she would be least expecting it. It had required scaling the patio fence in the dark but all good plans require sacrifice. Since we hadn’t reacted to shadowy movement on the patio, he was forced to improvise by rattling his window to alert us (all good horror movies require this feature) that Evil Was Lurking.