©2018 Mindwielders

The Burglar and the Bear

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My wife woke me in the dead of night with those words every man fears. “Matt, I think I hear a burglar downstairs.”

I opened my dry mouth just enough to whisper, “Stop thinking about it, then.”

Jenny slapped my arm. “Wake up! You’ve got to go check it out or I’ll never get back to sleep. What if it really is a burglar?”

“Maybe he’ll do us a favor and steal the broken television,” I mumbled.

She changed her approach with a whimper. “Matt, I’m scared.”

I crawled out of bed and groaned. The floor creaked under my weight, and from the kitchen I heard a frantic crash of pots. I filled my lungs with a whoosh.

“Don’t you dare scream!” Jenny hissed.

“Maybe you should check it out,” I squeaked. “You’re smaller. You won’t make the floor creak as much.”

“Matt!”

“I’m joking.” I reached into the closet and grabbed my cast iron skillet. “You will serve cheesecake at my funeral, right?”

“Oh please don’t do that…”

“Sorry. I’ll be sure to stay alive for my funeral. Wouldn’t want to miss the cheesecake.”

I tiptoed to the door, edged out onto the landing, and squinted down the dark stairway. So far the floor hadn’t creaked again, but I knew there were at least three treacherous stairs. And I couldn’t remember if I’d left any of my ‘junk’ on the stairs recently.

God…if you could magically make me weigh about a hundred pounds less while I go down these stairs…that would be awesome. In fact, don’t even bother giving the weight back afterward…

I took a deep breath and held it, and descended the stairs.

A black figure met me there, a silhouette against the pale moonlight from the living room picture window.

“Don’t move,” he grunted. “I’ve got a knife.”

“Just a knife? I’ve got a cast iron skillet.”

“No need for anyone to get hurt—just show me where your money is.”

“Dude, if I knew where my money was, I’d be using it.”

“Don’t play games with me.”

I trembled and tightened my grip on the skillet. “No, seriously…you’re welcome to look around. If you can find any money, I’ll split it with you.”

He gave an exasperated groan. I pondered flipping the light switch that was behind me, hopefully blinding him enough that I could land a solid blow to his head. Then I realized I’d be blinded too if I did that.

Why do I never have sunglasses when I need them?

“You must have something valuable,” the burglar said. “Anything…jewelry, silver, electronics…”

“Eh, that’s debatable. Depends on your definition of valuable.”

“Something I could sell for enough money to pay my kid’s medical expenses!”

“Please, keep your voice down. My wife is already worried enough without hearing someone shouting about medical expenses.” I cleared my throat. “And I’m really sorry…I wish I could help but I don’t have anything. My wife and I are just out of college and pretty much broke. She’s the only valuable thing I have. Aside from this little cabin, and I don’t think it’ll fit in your car. Not to mention the roof leaks in about half a dozen places. You’re welcome to take the broken television, though; if you can fix it you might get a few hundred bucks for it.”

“Man, why do I always try to burglarize the people who got nothin’?” he muttered. “Rotten luck.”

A flash of light outside the front door illuminated his masked face, and he cursed.

“I suppose your wife called the police,” he growled.

“I didn’t tell her to! Honest!”

He turned and headed for the back of the house.

“Er, you don’t want to go out that way!” I said.

The burglar ignored me and I heard the spring-loaded back door slam shut. An instant later, a howl rent the still night air, curling the hair on the back of my neck. I stepped into the kitchen just as the burglar came rushing back inside, missing one entire pant leg. Blood dripped from four gashes in his thigh. I flicked on the dim bulb over the sink and noticed he seemed to have lost his knife.

“What…” he gasped. “What was that?”

“I tried to warn you. Sit down, you look like you’re about to pass out.”

He sank into a chair and slumped over the table.

“That was just ol’ Brutus…he’s a black bear who comes here every night to snack on our garbage. Not a bad sort, if you leave him alone. I tried telling him ‘you are what you eat’, but he won’t listen, just goes on munching. He cleans up after himself, though, and it saves me money at the dump, so I don’t mind. He’s really just a fat and lazy thing with an aversion to being tripped over.”

At this the burglar began sobbing, and then a heavy knock rattled the thin front door.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I’ll be right back.”

I opened the door and a tall policeman stepped inside, glaring at me.

“You got a problem, Lauser?” he grunted.

“Er…no, Tory, everything is under control.”

“Did you play another prank on Jenny?”

“No, no…” I gave a nervous laugh. “She’s just overreacting to the…uh…the sounds of the house settling.”

Tory yawned. “Tell Jenny I really do care about you guys but I’m changing my home number and I’m not giving you the new one.”

“Hehe…goodnight.”

He walked down the steps and back to his car, muttering something about ‘three a.m.’ and ‘hangovers’.

I shut the door and returned to the kitchen. The burglar stared at me.

“Why’d you do that?” he asked.

“Thought you’re down enough on your luck already,” I said. “Sick kid, breaking into poor people’s houses on accident, getting scraped up by a bear. You want a bandage for that?”

Without waiting for an answer I took a towel from a drawer and handed it to him. He tied it around his leg and stood up.

“I don’t know what to say.”

I grinned. “How about...thanks? I've been inspired to give up burgling?”

He said nothing, only stood there a moment longer, gave me a curt nod, and limped out of the house.

“Bye!” I called after him, waving as he disappeared down the road.

I locked the front door, said goodnight to Brutus and locked the back door, and then headed upstairs.

I’d just tiptoed into the bedroom and noticed that Jenny wasn’t in sight when the door swung into my face, almost knocking me backward.

“It’s me, it’s me!” I cried as Jenny charged me with a tennis racquet raised above her head.

She dropped it and fell into my arms. “Oh dear, I thought he got you. I thought he was coming for me.”

I carried her back to bed and we lay down. “Nah, it was fine. He was just a little lost. I gave him directions.”

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