There’s something about a scream. It gets people moving out of the way, scurrying like cockroaches when a light is switched on. Mark had been in a deep, dream-like abyss called black-out. It wasn’t a complete black-out; he could hear the voices of his neighbours waging another argument on the proper use of the toilet seat. Up or down. The universal question. His dream found him looking for something, moving through an apartment. He thought it was his place, yet not – in the contradictory way of dreams. Then the blood-curdling scream that sent every hair on alert. His eyes snapped open. Shit! Who the hell was this? he thought.
Glynnis was a nice lady, living in a nice apartment, living a somewhat nice albeit boring life with her cat Peaches and her turtle Slow. It didn’t matter that the Redwood Arms apartment complex was now 60 years old. It didn’t matter that the neighbours around her had changed many times over, apartments and businesses changing hands monthly. This was her neighbourhood and no amount of gunshots or sirens were going to get her to move. This is where her Harold lived. On her mantlepiece and in her memories. Moving, Glynnis thought, would lessen Harold’s presence and that was something to which she would never agree.
It was just past 11 p.m. The nightly news had wound down, fading to black from her old walnut-encased television. Flat screens had no place in Glynnis’ life. As she changed into her flannel dressing gown and brushed her teeth and hair the regulated 100 times, Glynnis realized that something was not quite right. She wasn’t alone. No. It’s not Harold. Glynnis was quick to dismiss that notion. Harold would never intentionally scare her; he’d announce his presence with a slight smell of his Old Spice as he always did in the past.
She exited her bedroom that housed her 40-plus-year-old marriage bed, dust ruffle and all and her collection of Lipton Tea animals on display, flipping on lights as she went. First the hallway, then the bathroom before she reached the L-shaped living and dining room. The room was illuminated with one flip before Glynnis herself flipped out.
There, standing in her beige-on-beige living room was a very large man with many tattoos. Prison tattoos? He had been facing the fireplace before Glynnis had illuminated the room in 100-watt florescent light. She let out a piercing, calling-all-banshees scream that must have alerted the whole building. Who needs a fire alarm when Glynnis’ scream could be heard at the fire station three blocks away?
“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!” Glynnis did not normally swear, let alone call Jesus’ name unless only in prayer, but the shock of seeing her neighbour Mark in nothing but his skivvies had sent her over the edge.
“What in tarnation are you doing in my house? MY HOUSE?” Instinctively, Glynnis reached out a hand to the table closest to her, grabbing hold of the antique stained glass-shaded lamp, tugging the cord out of the socket as she aimed to throw the lamp, shade and all, at her intruder.
At 6 ft. 4, Mark was a domineering presence, and the tattoos didn’t help, splayed across his chest, stomach and arms – prime real estate for the 290-lb. man. But the confused yet dead look in his eyes belied his imposing façade.
The lamp, a worthy weapon for someone a little less full-figured, bounced off his 24-pack beer belly and landed with a thud at the base of the fireplace, the lampshade ricocheting off the red brick surround before splintering into tiny shards.
Neighbours craned their necks out of their apartment doors, curious about the melee but also a little nervous to put themselves in front of the firing range. No one moved an inch in the stand-off, least of all Mark who was just shaking himself awake to take in his surroundings.
“What the hell, lady? Who are you and what are you doing in MY apartment?” It took Mark mere seconds after he uttered the question to realize he was in the wrong. “This isn’t my place… what the hell am I doing here?”
“That’s what I asked you, young man… and for Christ’s sake, put on some pants! I can see everything that god gave you… and it wasn’t much,” Glynnis said with a scowl. “Now get out before I call the police.”
The neighbours, a little more brazen, began to crowd the doorway, witnessing the exchange between the scarcely clad man and the 5 ft. 2 senior who was now brandishing a fire place poker at the man’s nether regions. A few chuckles turned into full-on guffaws as they noticed that the tattooed ex-con standing in a few feet away from Glynnis, start to tremble in his tightie whities.
“Glynnis, there’s no need to call the police.” Herbert, her long-time next-door neighbour stepped forward. “This here is your neighbour from the end of the hall. How he ended up here I have no idea… did you lock up before you went to bed? Obviously not,” Herbert fingered the door knob and the security chain that swung from the door frame.
“I’m so sorry, ma’am.” Mark uttered the short and sweet apology, with tears in his eyes, his hands still trembling as he held onto the mantel. “I really don’t know what happened. The last thing I remember is getting under the covers.”
“Well, you’re not getting under my covers, if that’s what you were intending, asleep or not,” Glynnis shot back. “Can you kindly step away from Harord and leave me be with my nightmares?” Glynnis motioned towards the urn. “He still needs his beauty sleep.”
Still a bit woozy from his dream, Mark looked around, his eyes registering even more confusion as to where and who Harold was and why he wasn’t home protecting his wife from sleepwalking giants.
“This is Harold,” Glynnis said, pointing at the urn. “And if he was here right now, he’d kick your sorry derriere.”
Mark turned quickly and ran out of the apartment amidst the jeers and applause from the fifth-floor neighbours who were quite amused that a spry senior had scared the daylights out of the sleepwalking giant.