I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
I wish I could have captured it in a snapshot — the worn brown boots disappearing over the sill of the second story window. It would have made a great picture. I would have captioned in “My Hero” because that’s what he was at that moment.
We only recently started locking our house. That’s an admission I can make now that we actually do lock our house. Between in living in a small rural town and having the attitude that anyone who needs my stuff enough to steal can have it, we rarely locked our house in the past.
The main reason we started was because of a mentally ill man in our town.
“I know where you live,” he told me, shaking his finger at me one day.
He used to say harmless things, and I would smile and nod at him as I passed. Anger and fear gripped him more and more in recent months. He was sure we were being invaded by hostile forces. He was sure they were disguised as harmless people in our town. Then, when he was sure I was one of these evil beings, and he displayed his knife to a friend that he would use against the evil, Bobby and I made the decision to lock our doors. I didn’t want to become fodder for a future episode of “Criminal Minds.”
So we lock our doors at night. And I’m still not fully keyed into that habit. I don’t always grab the key chain with the house key on it. I don’t always remember to unlock in the morning.
This morning, Bobby and the girls were gone early. I drove Finley to school in my pajamas as I often do. On the way home, I got that knot in my stomach that I had forgotten two things: the right key chain and to unlock the front door (or any door for that matter).
The house was locked up tighter than a drum. Both doors and every reachable window were immovable. But I knew how to break in.
I knew which window was open: the second story window leading into Fin’s room. I looked for a ladder, and went back time and again to look longingly at the window. The only ladder I could find was a 6 foot step ladder. It would not do the trick.
Neighbors on all sides were not home. I had watched one neighbor drive away before I knew what a true dilemma I was in.
Everything in me said to sit down and cry, but I knew that would accomplish nothing. I prayed. I paced. I looked at the window. I looked in my neighbor’s sheds for larger ladders. I prayed and I paced some more.
The dog was inside the house, following me from window to window. I knew she needed to go out. I knew I couldn’t help her.
“Could you just unlock the door for me?” I asked her, as nicely as I could. I would have given her a whole box of treats if she did. She didn’t.
Forty-five minutes passed, and I was still outside in my pajamas.
Suddenly one of my neighbors, Mark, pulled up in his work vehicle and ran in his house. I went to the door and rang the bell.
His co-worker, waiting in the car, called out to me, “He may not be able to hear you, but he’s in there.”
“I locked myself out of my house,” I told him. “I just want to know if he has a ladder I can borrow.”
“I’ll tell him when he comes out,” the man in the car replied.
I thanked him, and went to wait on my front porch. It was starting to rain. My feet were cold. I still felt like crying, but refused to give in.
Mark came over as soon as he heard. “You tried all the first floor windows?” he asked.
I assured him that I had, and pointed out the window I thought would be open.
“No problem,” he said, and went to get his ladder.
Moments later, he was vanishing, head-first, into the mess of Finley’s room.
Never was there a more welcome sight.
Heroic, in fact.