Billy never was allowed to drive his truck on the kitchen table. For some reason today, his parents didn’t seem to mind. They were sitting on the other side of the round table, talking about something.
Billy didn’t much care what they were talking about – he was just happy to get the opportunity to drive his Big Truck on the table.
“Vvvroooom, vrrroooomm, VVVRRRRRROOOOOOMMMMMMM!!!”
Amy watched her son playing with the toy on the small kitchen table. All around Billy were mixed reminders of the family’s modest financial stature: faded wood paneling on the walls of their nearly 50-year-old house clashing with brand new ceramic tile on the floor; here and there a water stain or a crack in the walls or ceiling, contradicted by a gleaming new granite countertop. And, of course, on that counter-top, two maxed-out credit card bills.
Also all around Billy, however, were the unmistakable tell-tales of a loving family: photos on the refrigerator door; crayon “art” hanging from the walls; colorful plastic cups in the cupboard on which Amy had carefully painted Billy’s name and little woodland creatures; and a well-used cookie jar.
Tom watched his son playing and wondered if he had any idea or memory of what had happened.
“Vvvrrrrrrrrooooooooooommmmmmmmm!!!” Billy shouted in his high-pitched voice.
“He seems OK,” Tom ventured.
“But how could he be OK?”
Tom found the simple counter-argument difficult to refute.
“I have no idea.”
“Maybe we need to bring him to the hospital,” offered Amy.
“Yeah, that’s probably the right thing to do,” Tom replied, just as the doorbell rang.
Tom took another look at Billy before walking through the living room to the front door. Without a thought or pause, Tom opened the door wide. Before he realized what was happening, something big flashed forward and a large, heavy object hit him in the chest and sent him soaring. Tom crashed backward into a cabinet along one wall of the room. Heirlooms and wedding gifts smashed into one another, shattering to slivers.
“I MUST SEE THE CHILD!” Tom heard a man yell.
Rolling over onto his side and jumping to his feet, Tom saw the man, about six feet tall, with wild hair and wilder eyes, scrambling to a standing position in the middle of the living room.
The demented look in the intruder’s eyes triggered primitive alarms in Tom’s gut, and he lunged for the man. Grabbing the trespasser by the midsection, Tom anchored his feet into the carpet and pulled the attacker toward the front door. The wirey, surprisingly strong man flailed and thrashed to shake loose, still shouting.
“I must see the child! I must see the child!!”
“Tom!” screamed Amy from the kitchen door.
“Amy, get out!” Tom yelled, struggling to gain footing and arrest the man’s sudden progress toward the kitchen. “Go out the back!”
“Tom!” Amy yelled again, not sure what to do to help her husband.
“The child! Is he here?” cried the man, head swiveling between Tom and Amy. “I must see him!!”
“I’m calling the police!” Amy screamed at the man, holding the receiver of the old-fashioned wall phone in one hand. Frantic, she tried to punch the numbers 911, but in her panic, mis-dialed.
In the background, Tom heard Billy wailing, frightened by the noise and his mother’s reaction.
Meanwhile, Amy’s threat to call the police seemed to add fuel to the man’s fire, and with a burst of strength he powered himself to within just a few feet of Amy. Tom’s grip betrayed him, and he slid down the man’s torso, struggling to hold on.
The man’s legs pumped like locomotive pistons, and Tom took several hard kicks to the head and jaw as he finally lost his grip and fell to the floor.
The wild man was almost upon Amy before she could react. Just as the man reached for Amy’s face, Tom scrambled and caught one of the man’s legs, and the intruder fell forward. Simultaneously, Amy stepped back and brought the phone receiver down hard on the intruder’s forehead, gouging a fleshy trench down to the bridge of his nose. Blood spurted from the wound as the intruder continued falling toward the floor. Flailing, the man snagged the cord to the old-style phone receiver and pulled hard, ripping it from the wall phone.
This was enough for Amy. She gave the fallen intruder a vicious kick in the face, then her head disappeared around the door frame.
Tom heard, with relief, chaos from the kitchen as Amy grabbed Billy and crashed through the dining room toward the back door.
The wild man had recovered from the blow from the phone and Amy’s kick, and began scrambling on hands and knees toward the kitchen, trying to catch up with Amy and Billy.
Tom had been a district champion on his high school wrestling team, and now he let his instincts take over. He drove forward, landing on the back of the attacker, and the force of the lunge smashed the man forward into the floor. Still driving with his legs, Tom rammed his hands into the base of the intruder’s skull, and then straightened his arms. As he pushed hard with his legs, Tom rocked upward, his full weight pressing down on the man’s head. With a neat pivot move, Tom vaulted on straightened arms off the back of the man’s head and neck, landing in a crouching position in front of him.
With Tom positioned just inside the kitchen door, between the man and the rear rooms of the house where Amy and Billy had disappeared, the attacker finally focused fully on the family’s father. The look in the man’s eyes left no doubt that one of the two combatants would wind up dead or close to it before this fight was over. Although he didn’t stop to reflect on it, Tom experienced a surge of adrenaline, and a corresponding hardening of his determination that the wild man before him would not reach his family.
The man rushed toward the kitchen doorway. Almost instantly, Tom dropped his shoulder, planted his rubber-soled shoes against the new ceramic tile and thrust upward, lifting the man off his feet, and redirecting his forward momentum into sideward momentum.
Momentarily, Tom had the attacker high in the air, nearly balanced on his shoulders. Then the two men crashed down on top of the Smith’s small, round kitchen table. Both men and the table collapsed to the floor. Tom scrambled to a ready crouch, even as the intruder, sitting on the destroyed tabletop, looked around, shocked at his sudden repositioning. Then he reached behind his back, rooting around the crushed table underneath him, and pulled out Billy’s treasured dump truck, now twisted into uselessness. The man examined the toy for a moment, then paused, and looked up at Tom with a homicidal smile before standing up and charging upright back into the battle.
Just before impact, Tom grabbed the top front of the man’s shirt with his left hand and twisted down and away from the man, dodging the main thrust of the blow like a bullfighter and yanking the man’s head and upper body down toward the floor. The combination of the attacker’s forward drive and Tom’s downward yank resulted in a skull-splitting impact between the man’s forehead and the front edge of Tom’s granite kitchen counter. The attacker’s body folded up against the cabinet underneath with his momentum, and then slowly he slid down to the floor, his forehead leaving a dripping stream of dark blood from the countertop, down the cabinets and to the tile.
The unconscious man spread out and across the kitchen floor like cooling lava. Tom was stunned by the terrific damage the man’s skull had sustained. A blood-red cross – the result of the bludgeoning from Amy and the impact with the countertop – welled up from the flushed and split skin in the center of his forehead. His eyes, although open, did not appear to be registering at all. Tom could see the man breathing, and he hoped, almost out loud, that the man was not dead or dying.
But there was no time for regrets – Tom heard a brief honk from the family van out front, and he dashed for the front door, slamming it behind him. On the way through his yard toward the waiting van, Tom ran past two more strangers sitting in the grass, wearing odd robes. Tom did not stop to wonder or ask their business. In a few strides he was in the van, and Amy was peeling out down Crystaldale Drive.
Tom turned to look back at his house amidst the others in the aging neighborhood – the home in which he had been raised and the home in which he had planned to raise his family. As the house grew smaller, three more strange cars pulled up out front, and more people he did not know got out of the cars and invaded his front yard.
Tom’s hands began to shake in post-fight trauma, but he did not notice. Overwhelming his mind was a profound sadness as he watched his family home disappear behind him.
© Chuck Hansen - 2018