I was having a discussion with a relative who was preparing for a vacation and I was asked to house sit.
The home was on a secluded lake in upstate NY, which is a perfect setting for a wonderful summer break, while remaining a relative doable commute to my work.
Still, I was reluctant.
A little background: I have a fairly vibrant imagination, and a tendency to scare rather easily. Some would call me skittish. Most would be shocked and in disbelief to hear it, but those who know me just smile and shake their head in memory of their own experiences with my inexplicable phobias of being in a house alone.
This particular conversation, I thought, was rather rational on my part. My concern was that the setting was exactly the setting from the movie Friday the 13th. Or so I imagined. As you may have guessed, I never saw that movie. I can’t, I can’t see scary movies. The setting was a remote lake where most of the homes were weekend residences, leaving it fairly unpopulated during the week, even in summer.
The lake offered a quiet approach, that the gravel driveway would not, for a potential attacker, to creep up on a quiet row boat, with the sounds of the wind covering the slight lapping of the water on the sides of the canoe as the oars softly dipped the water’s edge to inch the assailant closer to his prey.
The privacy that this home offered included thick lines of trees and bushes, especially on one side that was next to a dirt path leading from the road to a small private beach, which would not be in use at night.
The setting was perfect for an attacker, and even more perfect for a deranged or unstable person to escape to privacy to practice his craft quietly, away from active society, without a prying eye for miles.
Scoffed at I was, as most people would, but brushed off with a tinge of mockery by this particular relative who had spent years mastering the dismissive insult that was the norm. I wasn’t being asked to house sit, I was being told to, presented as a gift of an opportunity for a vacation, rather than a favor.
I kept a stone face understanding this, but then a funny thing happened.
As I sat there on the lounging deck, watching the day begin to close and the celebratory music wafted over the open lake from other weekend parties, and the bug torches went on, a rustling in the bushes started, and then quickly grew louder.
Out from the side of the dirt path came a shadowy figure, dressed in dark, long clothing, with what appeared to be a large metal backpack attached to him. I looked, and out of the corner of my eye snuck a peek around to see if others sitting with me noticed this strange happening. One was looking in the direction, but no one seemed alarmed or really to acknowledge, but at least I had confirmation I was not hallucinating.
The person, a male, hurried along with a limp to the edge of the water at the end of the property and knelt down, where he unhooked the equipment from his back, set up a tripod, and pulled what appeared to be a grenade launcher out of the bag. Pushing up his black baseball cap just a bit, he lit the fuse, and shot off a firework. He repeated this three times, before quickly packing up a darting off through the foliage on the other side of the property.
I sat there in calm silence, head slightly askew, barely moving my head as I checked repeatedly at those around me for any reaction at all. Nothing. They watched, but didn’t react to the scene as one would expect, especially given the current conversation.
As he ran off, in the distance, I heard sirens. I looked over at the aforementioned relative and calmly but loudly, said
“what … the FUCK …. was that?”
“Oh, nothing. That’s just [name withheld].”
The stare I gave back forced a continuation of the explanation.
“Fireworks are illegal here, so he just runs from yard to yard, and the police always try to catch him because he pissed them off.”
Again, the stare, continued.
“He has issues, was in Vietnam and suffers mental issues from that and the effects of agent orange. He’s not all ‘there’, if you know what I mean, but really, he’s mostly harmless.”
Mostly harmless. Awesome.