Authors: Marion Studer
Setting the trap
The following day after work at the local lumber mill, I start staking out my plan for the porch. Measuring the exact length of the boards, I start cutting them and nailing them together.
The early evening sun once again burns without pity down on me and I take my damp shirt off to wipe the sweat off of my face and neck then toss it to the ground.
I work for the next three hours without so much as a short break to take a few quick draws from my beer.
Rufus positioned in the shadow of the trees, his eyes are closed, ears reflectively twitching to the sounds of his surroundings.
After pounding in the last nail for today I stretch my aching body, put aside the tools and whistle for Rufus to follow and walk down to the lake.
I pull out of the heavy work boots and get rid of my jeans and briefs and wade slowly into the cool water.
With strong strikes I swim out into the darkening lake, the fading light of the day leaving me relaxed on my backside, staring up to the sparkling sky. My thoughts on how to proceed building the porch, I slowly turn my body towards the shore and let myself float. There is a sharp pain in my shoulder and neck where all my muscles are clenched and bunched up tightly and I try to relax them by laying still in the water until it gets to cool for me. For a moment it’s difficult to force myself to move but suddenly I bolt.
There on the little portico of the neighbouring house I see a movement. I’m pretty sure something moved across the shadows, but I can’t be certain.
Swiftly I push through the water, my eyes still fixed on the dark spot. Rufus obvious to my tense behaviour, races to the water’s edge then sprints to the little house, to once again being eaten by the shadows.
What the heck?
I slip into my jeans and hurry up to the point I have seen Rufus getting swallowed by the dark and stop. I can hear the dog panting and sniffing and suddenly he jumps towards me, his tail happily wagging.
Maybe I was imagining earlier seeing something and while shaking my head and a last gaze at the dark porch we stroll back to my house.
Before I walk inside I start the BBQ to let it heat up, then go and fix my dinner. After taking out my plate, I put the meat onto the grill and sit on a lawn chair, and while watching Rufus running over to the other house again, I’m reminded to go and get the mice traps I bought today.
I place them outside on the grass, cut pieces of cheese for bait, and intend to set them later when I’m finished eating.
My dog takes the place beside me, his nose high in the air, sniffing the appealing aroma descending from the BBQ.
After I finish my meal and Rufus ravishing the rest of his share, I bring my plate inside and take another beer to the backyard.
I watch the reflections of the moonlight on the quiet water of the lake, when I remember the traps and take them over to the little porch. With my flashlight I look for any signs of mice droppings, but not finding anything I carefully set all three traps on different spots on the floor blanks.
My light sweeps over the porch once more when I notice there is something askew about it, but I can’t put my finger on it. Shrugging my shoulders, I turn back to my house and whistle for my dog.
Only later when I’m laying in bed it hits me. The stoop was clean of any leafs or dirt and the single chair was on a different spot as I remember it do be. Could it be there was someone interested in the house and they cleaned it to show it to a potential buyer? But it isn’t even on the market as far as I’m aware. I take a mental note to keep my ears open for any talk about it at work.
I slowly slide into sleep, when I hear a noise from the outside drifting through my open window into my subconscious. I sit up listening, swing my legs over the edge of my bed and slowly rise, straining to hear anything more. There… something was in the shadow at the other house, I can hear light footsteps, a clicking noise, and then a low quiet muffled sound, like a pained sniffle.
On my left Rufus alert low growl cuts through the air and I whisper to him, “Shhh buddy, I think we got something in the trap, but I think it’s neither a mouse nor a rat.”
In the darkness I reach for my cloths and pull on my jeans and slink down the stairs, very quietly unlock the backdoor and almost simultaneous the dog and I bolt outside and run over to the dark porch. There I stop for just a little moment to adjust my eyes to the darkness, when I see the outline of a person in front of the door surprised straightening up from a hunched over position.
I have no time to think and my rage of surprising a burglar lets me take the two steps in one swift jump. I throw myself into the person, letting him fall hard into the wooden door and I hear his breath rushing out. Good, I got him by surprise! I sling both arms around his body and swing him around to the edge of the porch, when he starts trying to shake himself out of my grip. I strengthen my hold even more and we both stumble down the two steps, falling to the ground.
In the back of my brain I register Rufus not making any noise, and I snap my head to the side for just a second to see Rufus bolted to the ground, standing there like a statue.
What the f… !
But before I can build any explanation, the man tries again to wiggle out of my grip. I hear him huffing and his foot hurtfully punches into my thigh.
I let out a loud curse, reach for the pain, when he jumps up and stumbles a few meters, trying to get a foothold. I jump up as well, charge after him and throw my body again into his, letting me fall on top of him.
Two things register in my brain at this very moment; first, his body is way smaller than mine and second, there is something awful wrong with the anatomy of it.
And where the fuck is my dog when I need him? I glance quickly over my shoulder, just to see him still standing there and watching.
What the f…!
Annoyed I turn my attentions back to the person underneath me.
With a loud curse I swing his body with one strong pull around and by the light of the moon I stare into a pair of big fearful eyes.
We both just stare at each other; the only noise that of our heavy breathing.
Dumbfounded I look into crystal clear blue eyes and open mouth, a silent cry caught in her throat, shocked in horror.
It’s a she
. Fuck it‘s a SHE!
Slowly my mind makes the connection to the earlier funny reaction of feeling the body as much more rounded and soft than bulky and muscular.
Hearing the now short rugged breath of her, I’m reminded that I’m still on top of her and I’m probably slowly suffocate her with my weight. I pull to the side but keep my hands on her wrists and angry demand,” Who are you and what are you doing here?”
She takes a big gulp of air now that the weight of me is gone and her mouth closes.
“Well? I… I ask you again, what are you doing here?” I’m waiting for an answer, but she only looks at me with this big eyes. My anger growing, I just about want to shout my question at her again, when a wet long tongue swipes over her face and Rufus’ big head hovers over us.
That’s the moment when her whole expression changes and her face breaks into a huge smile.
I stare at this face and my heart takes a big tumble inside my chest. For a moment I take in this cute smile and I ask myself what would happen when I would do the licking on her face.
Good grief, buddy?!
Startled over my own thoughts, I shake my head, push to my feet, reach down for her hand and after a second of uncertainty she lays her hand into mine. I pull her up with me to let her stand in front of me.
She is about a head shorter than my 6‘2“, wearing jeans and a dark shirt. Her head falls forward, long hair that came loose from her clip gliding over her shoulders, leaving the face hidden in the dark. She never said a word and my anger rises again.
“Tell me what you did at the house,” I demand, but she stays quiet some more. My voice louder, I try again, but to no result.
I grab her arms and shake her slightly. Her fair hair falls over her shoulders and fully conceals her face from me and like a curtain sways at my strikes, but there’s still no sound escaping from her mouth.
“Who are you?” I'm close to shout again but catch myself and say it a little less harsh, letting my hands fall to my sides, recognizing that I wont get anywhere with my attitude.
I feel something cold and wet in my hand and when I pray my glance from her, I see my dog pushing his nose into my palm, as if he wants to calm me down. I sigh and in that moment the woman turns and bolts to the little cottage and in a hurry closes the door behind her. So it looks like she is not breaking in, but staying in the little house. I debate to charge after her, but dismiss the thought. If she put up residence here she probably will be around in the morning anyway.
“You’re a really great guard dog,” I mumble to Rufus and walk back into my house, all the way shaking my head.
Before I get into my bed, I stay for quite a while at my window, staring at the cottage, wondering who this mystery woman could be.
Today I have most of my cleaning done. I even dragged out all of the carpets and laying them on the railing of the porch I gave them a good smacking. After washing the floor and windows, I’m sweaty and tiered. My eyes sweep over the inviting water of the lake, but I can’t swim, so I turn around to take a shower instead. Tiered from all the work, I settle down on the couch and not long I’m in deep sleep.
The sound of pounding nails into boards wakes me up and I stretch my arms over my head, in no hurry to go and have a look.
I’m slowly getting used to the early evening romping, even welcome it, due to letting me know, someone else is busy with doing something proactive.
When I see my neighbour walking down to the lake, knowing he will get his daily swim and me some solitude, I take my sandwich outside and sit on my favourite place on the swing bench, hidden in the shadow, knowing he won’t be back for a little while. I enjoy sitting outside and take a big breath, filling my lungs with fresh air.
I can see the work on the house next door taking on shape and admire the skills of this man.
Suddenly the big grey dog is planted before me again and his eyes dart immediately to the last bite of my sandwich. I have to chuckle about his pleading glance and think to myself if he keeps on showing up every time I eat a sandwich, then I have to start making two of them.
And like the time before the last bite goes to the dog.
When I see his master all wet and wearing only his jeans walking up towards me, I quickly escape into my house. Behind the window I watch them both walk away and dreamily stare at the glistering back of the stranger.
Only when all falls quiet again I drift back outside. Cringing at the little squeak of the back door, I step to the side and painfully feel something snap onto my big toe. I hold my breath but the agony is so great, I almost cry out.
I tumble backwards, only to feel another snap at the back of my foot.
I reach down. It’s hard to see anything in the dark and feel my way to the obstacle.
Mice traps? Really?
But before I get to ponder any further I hear a noise close by and before I can react, I get crushed so hard into the door, that it takes my breath away.
Two strong arms pull me forward, only to let me fall down the steps and into the grass. Everything happens so fast I hardly can grab my mind around a coherent thought. A slight movement gives me the opportunity to wiggle out of the tight grip and I instinctively stumble away.
Desperate to get enough air back into my lungs I get crushed to the ground again, pushing all the oxygen out again and I feel like I’m going to faint. Then a strong arm pulls me around and all comes to a stop as I stare up into a face.
It’s my neighbour. I can’t make out all his features, most of his face is shaded in darkness, only his dark eyes glowing into mine only a breath away and a strange feeling sweeps into me.
As I slowly recover from the shock my lungs greedily suck in much needed air and my heavy breathing matches his for a moment.
Suddenly I’m aware of the heaviness of his big body pressed against my smaller one and it gets hard to breathe again and I try to get out from underneath the weight. I’m in shock. Like him noticing my distress, he finally moves slightly from my body, but starts to interrogate me about why I’m here.
I take a big gulp of air, but can’t answer him. The sensation of a panic attack lurks on its edge and I push myself to take steady even breaths. I count slowly in my mind to ten, breathing in and out slowly, while my eyes stay fixed on his deep dark ones. Even shouting at me won’t do a thing, and I only stare deeper into the guy‘s eyes desperately avoiding a glance at his bare, muscled chest so close to mine, feeling like a fool for even noticing the heat and masculine scent coming from him.
Then his big grey dog kisses my face and brings me out of my stupid glare. As I notice this guy’s amazement about the cordiality between the dog and I he finally let go of me, even helps me up to my feet.
Demanding another answer from me, he shakes me in a desperate attempt to get me to speak. But that won’t happen
As I get an opportunity to get away, I run.
Safe in my house I lean against the door and try to get my bearings under control. I’m shaking, my mind in turmoil. What is the matter with me? I came here to find peace and quiet, and find myself tossed to the ground, shaken and yelled at and oddly drawn to a stranger.
No, really, what’s the matter with me?