It was a dark and stormy morning. [Really, I'm not making that up.] As I was lying down with my baby at nap time, a huge crunch disturbed our peace. The unmistakable crumpling crunchy thud of fiberglass and metal hitting something very solid. I bolted out of bed and ran to the window. Not a thing. Moments later J came running in, "Where's the phone? A van just crashed. In front of the neighbor's house, into their tree."
How fast can a woman dial 911? Pretty darn fast. I reported the accident and ran out to see if anyone needed help. The van had hit the tree alright. Hard. But the airbag had not deployed and there was no one to be seen anywhere.
Curious and concerned, I approached the front door. Much screaming and swearing greeted me. A fight was clearly in progress. I tentatively knocked. As fools rush in where angels fear to tread, I knocked harder.
The door opened and Little T and Baby A peeked out. "Hi Jami. Where's V?" L.T. said as if there wasn't a car wrapped around their tree and lunatic raving in the living room.
"Hi dude. Is your mom here?"
M rounded the corner, calm, resolute. "Hi, Jami."
"Um, are you OK?"
"Um, I called 911. The police are coming. Do you want me to call back?"
"Would you...uh...do you think maybe the kids would like a play date?"
Long pause. "Yeah. Thanks. That's a good idea."
"Hey guys! Wanna come over and play with N and C?"
So over they came. N pulled out her babysitting bag. She was totally prepared for just such a moment. Games, coloring, fun galore. As the festivities were getting under way, a different neighbor came to my door and motioned me outside.
"Jami, the police are here."
"Yeah, I know. I've got the kids."
"They have guns."
"What?" I stepped out further. The police were blocking the roads. Easily a dozen of them were setting up behind the shrubbery in the park, behind the bounce house and tree at the church across the street, on the roof of the house behind the screamer. Shields, bullhorns, and sure enough...guns.
"Oh crap. I've got to tell her." [Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.] I began walking to the screaming house.
"WALK AWAY FROM THE HOUSE. GO BACK INTO YOUR HOUSES," bullhorned the spastic police officer.
I pondered obeying him as I continued toward the door. This was getting out of control. If I could just tell M what was going on, she could come have a chat and diffuse the situation a bit. What are they going to do: shoot me?
"LADY IN THE PURPLE DRESS! WALK AWAY FROM THE HOUSE. GET OVER HERE NOW!" Geez, he was irritating. I stopped walking.
"LADY IN THE PURPLE DRESS! STOP! GET OVER HERE NOW." Hm. Idiot. He just might shoot me. I walked over to a calmer more intelligent looking officer. The bullhorn man's head blew off. Something about come here? Jail? Whatever. I was on a mission.
I attempted to gain permission to go over and talk to my friend. How many different ways can an officer say, "HELL NO!"?
"LADY IN THE PURPLE DRESS! GO INSIDE YOUR HOUSE." That blasted man was at it again. "LADY IN THE PURPLE DRESS!"
I explained to the officer I was standing next to that I wasn't going to go inside, that they were blowing this event way out of proportion. And someone was going to get hurt. [Fools rush in.] The officer informed me that the man had a bow and arrow. I refrained from laughing at him. He told me to go stand back and spoke to Officer Bullhorn who then quieted down.
I stood back and went over to the female police officer. She found a new way to say, "HELL NO!"
They put somebody new on the bullhorn. "RESIDENTS OF 555 ALPHABET STREET: PLEASE COME OUTSIDE." I suspected at the time that the residents of 555 ABC St couldn't hear him, didn't even know they were there. [This was later confirmed.] So we all went through an hour of "Please come out. No one has committed a crime. We just want to talk to you."
Eventually M came outside. I'm guessing to come see how the kids were doing. She looked around calmly, said something quietly to the closest officers and went back inside. She came out again about a half hour later. Whew. I felt better.
After she finished talking to the police, I called her over. She confirmed that her husband had lost his mind, that she'd been trying to get him help, and that no one would help. I spoke to her about her school children. I suggested that I pick them up when I got mine and go directly to McDonalds Playplace. Do not pass home, do not mention the situation. Administer french fries. The plan was approved and I went back home.
As I was crossing the street, "LADY IN THE PURPLE DRESS! GO INSIDE YOUR HOME." Yeah, yeah. I waved and pointed at my house. I'm a goin'.
I checked in on J and N. They were doing a great babysitting job. The little monkeys had no idea of the chaos reigning in the street. We can't hear street noises in our house. Thank God! When Little T asked what his mom and dad were doing, I told him they were working on getting the car fixed.
I changed clothes. They seemed to have something against my dress. And headed out again. I stayed in my driveway this time.
Another hour. M's father (the screamer's FIL) came out. Relief and tension warred it out within my psyche. Another half-hour of calm bullhorn coaxing. An occasional riffle twitched in the neighborhood shrubs. I began praying. (Not out loud. Do you think I'm insane?) Suddenly it occured to me that perhaps some of my friends were online and would be willing to pray. I went inside and posted a quick request on this blog and one on facebook. I went back out. Five minutes later the screamer "stood down." He came out, hands up, walking backwards. Hands on head. Hand cuffs on. The SWAT team came out of the bushes and off the roofs, and the dozen police cars began to trickle away.
All before school got out. I confirmed with M that McDonald's was still a good idea, so she could deal with the car, the commitment papers and all that. At that I packed Little T and Baby A into the car, picked up all four of the school kids and went to the golden arches. Yet another justifiable credit card expense. We fiddled around for two hours while I blythely lied through my teeth. [Was it on purpose? I don't know. I didn't see it. Is your dad in the hospital? No. No one was hurt. Were they fighting? Hm. Where's Baby A?]
And then we went home. M took her monkeys inside and explained the whole thing to them. Poor woman. Later that night, because her day had not been quite crappy enough, Little T broke his finger while bouncing in the bounce house at the church across the street. Good times.
Oh and M's birthday is tomorrow. Right. Happy birthday.