A while back, I had some houseguests from my hometown. I realized how different my life was in the big city when I noticed that they were the only Republicans and NASCAR fans that I knew. I just don't hang out with people like that here, not because I avoid them, but because I haven't met any. I'm sure they are out there, but I guess we're not running in the same circles. The husband was a former Marine, and both he and his wife have gun permits. In fact, he had brought his gun with him, because that's just what he does. They probably think it's weird that Josh takes his guitar everywhere. I was vaguely uncomfortable with the idea of him having a live weapon in the house, though not for any good reason. I wasn't worried about him doing anything, and I have no problem with responsible people like him owning firearms. But I was very aware of it the whole time: there is a gun in the house.
Later, Josh mentioned something about getting a gun, like a shotgun. I didn't really understand why. Shotguns are useful for some households. If we lived in the country, I would think one was almost necessary, because there are critters out there. But we live in the city. What were we going to need to shoot? He sort of shrugged his shoulders at that, the unspoken answer hanging between us. He thought we might someday have cause to shoot, or at least threaten to shoot, a person.
I guess the point is that guns make me uncomfortable.
My grandfather collected guns. After he died, his arsenal sat in a closet gathering dust. Then we moved my grandmother out of the farmhouse forever, and we had to do something with all those guns. I don't know enough about the subject to be able to tell you anything about any of them, except that one was a World War II Japanese pistol. I thought it was neat, because it had Japanese characters on the handle. It was the kind of thing that I would see at an estate sale and admire, but never even consider buying. But my parents ended up with Granddad's guns, because they did most of the work moving my grandmother and cleaning out the house. They asked if anyone in the family wanted them. Everyone agreed that they were important family heirlooms that should be kept, but no one had any desire for them. My Uncle Jack might have expressed some desire for the Japanese pistol, or maybe we assumed that he would want it because he lives in Japan.
Last year, I was visiting my parents, and the topic of my grandfather's guns came up. They had been moved from a dusty closet in rural Kansas to a dank basement in rural North Carolina. Nothing was being done with them, and I worried that they would become just more junk that would eventually get thrown out when someday someone had to move my parents out. So I did the tacky thing and asked for my heirlooms now, please. Josh had previously admired the Japanese gun, so I asked if I could have it. If Uncle Jack ever asked for it, I would give it up willingly, since I figured he had more right to it than I did.
From the dusty closet in Kansas to the dank basement in rural North Carolina to the underwear drawer in suburban North Carolina. I told Josh he could have it when we got married. What man could resist a dowry like that?
In the wee hours of Sunday morning, while Josh was somewhere in Manhattan, I woke up to the sound of pots and pans clattering in the kitchen. I was suddenly very awake and very tense. The kitchen is right below my bedroom, and so any movement that I made could be heard by an intruder. I waited very quietly, listening for the slightest noise, my eyes focused on the hallway outside to catch any glimpse of a flashlight. It could be nothing. I had washed some pots the previous evening, and maybe they had just fallen from their precarious stack in the drying rack. I knew that most burglars would rather rob houses where no one is at home, and I also knew that there was really no reason for someone to be rummaging around in the kitchen. Perhaps it was a desperate eBay reseller, going after my sweet vintage colander.
With those sensible thoughts in mind, what I most wanted to do was to go back to sleep. I wanted to decide that it was just gravity acting on the drying pots and return to peaceful slumber. It was the ostrich defense. I was angry at Josh for leaving me, a nearly six-foot-tall woman, all by myself. How tall is an ostrich? But here I was, alone. This was my house. When it came down to it, I was responsible for it. Usually that meant paying the mortgage, but maybe that meant defending it, too.
After waiting for a few minutes, I decided that I needed to be a man about it and go check out the first floor. Either there was no one there or the intruder was still waiting to see if anyone had heard all the ruckus. I pictured him in the kitchen, crouching silently, freaking out about all the tiny noises that happen in the dead of night, cursing himself for being such a klutz. Really, burgling is not for the clumsy.
I assessed my weaponry options and found them limited. We had a golf club, but it was downstairs, as was the fire poker. There was a lamp next to me, but that seemed cumbersome and I suspect that lamps only work as weapons in the movies. Finally, I settled on my grandfather's antique gun. I had decided to bluff my way through this, and if that didn't work, well, at least it was heavy enough that I could do some damage in hand-to-handgun combat. My only hope was that the burglar was as stupid as he was clumsy, because the gun did not in any way look like a "real" gun. I put on a robe, determining that being a woman alone in the house with a non-working gun was as vulnerable as I wanted to be; I was not going to man up wearing only panties.
I crept downstairs in a terry cloth robe with daffodils on it, an heirloom gun in my right hand, my cell phone in my left. I was scared, and I knew that I looked ridiculous. I knew full well that if there was someone in the house, then this was a pretty pathetic defense. If I had to inherit an antique weapon, why couldn't it have come with a bayonet? I also really had no idea how to go about checking for bad guys. Aside from my phone and my useless, though very collectible gun, I was armed with years of watching cop dramas. So that's how I did it. I approached slowly, entering rooms and turning on lights suddenly, my silly gun pointed at whatever might be there. Sometimes, when in the course of defending one's home, a person looks ridiculous.
But it was okay, because there was no one there to see me and no one there to call my bluff. I found a saucepan on the floor next to the sink and no signs of entry. My confidence and sense of security restored, I went ahead and checked every hidey-hole in the house. I knew where they were, because I had already considered which one I might use if it came to that. I was still just a woman alone in a house. Now I had a good story to tell, and I bet my granddad would have thought it was pretty funny.
I went back to bed, tossing the gun on the other side of the bed rather than returning it to my underwear drawer. I understood better why people kept guns. Even if you never use it, it's best to be prepared so you don't have to walk around your house at four o'clock in the morning with an antique pistol.
Still, I think I'd rather just get a dog.