Night Rider Essay, Research Paper
I stood in the woods behind my house looking for something that I knew I would never find. So many questions remained unanswered to me. But I’m starting at the probable end of the story. I should begin at the beginning.
It was a normal autumn evening at the Smith house. All of my family was sitting around the TV watching Home Along for the thirth time. My wife was in her normal position on the couch wearing her sweatshirt. She always wears sweat shirts to big for her too. She says its cause if makes her feel skinny. I have given trying to understand this.
My daughter was half watching the TV and painting her nails. I was in my favorite recliner thinking of whether or not to turn off the stupid movie. I had the movie memorized five showings ago but still sat there hoping I might see something cool. Who would have thought that a weird sound from a simple machine would change all of our lives.
Life in Smallstown, Maine, was said to be everyone’s dream. Living just a few miles away from one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. I love living out in the country. I never had to worry about my daughter walking herself to the bus stop. I even got into the habit of forgetting to lock my car and house.
A favorite time of year was upon my life. The time just after all the summer people went home and gave the beach back to me. It was the end of the excitement of summer and began the preparation for the holidays and the cold of winter. It is a very quiet time of year especially on the beaches.
After years of working in three different summer businesses my wife decided to be the rural housewife. She would meet her girl friends at least once a week. They would go to either Bob’s Cafe or to John s Restaurant to talk about subjects girl friends talk about. They loved to laugh at the natives, eventhough she was evolving into one of them. Not a true native of course. A true native is defined as a person who was born and died in this town. You could never be considered a native, by a native, unless you were born here.
My wife would also meet in one of her friends basement to build up a sweat doing aerobics. This form of exercise is great for your heart and muscle tone. But it is destructive to your shins, legs, and neck. She always said that she would be the cripple with the best body in the chiropractic ward at York Hospital.
My daughter knows York Beach as her only home. We moved into our house when she was only two months old. Of course this meant that she was not a native of York Beach. She is a remarkably bright kid with a sense of right that will be her distinction for life.
The best way to describe myself is that I am an unemployed school teacher working my way through a Master’s Program at The University of New Hampshire. The reason for my present unemployment is that I am more concerned with the education of my students then I am with the politics of present day school administrations. At least that is what I say. They say I am a trouble maker. Now believe me when I say that I take no offense by this description. I ‘ve just got to learn to get better at it.
My wife’s and my free time created the capacity to bring my family closer together. In fact, we did everything together from going to museums to hitting every fast food restaurant in the New England area. We even went shopping together. From food to clothes and toys to appliances. Which brings me to the time we went to Sears looking for a new telephone and maybe even an answering machine.
The telephone was the toughest item to pick out because ever since the telephone company broke up into different companies, the number of different types of telephones increased many fold. After convincing my daughter that we couldn’t possibly use a phone shaped like Garfield the Cat, we bought a conventional brown wall telephone that jingled a tune instead of just ringing. Even though, like Pavlov’s dog, I know I will miss the sound of a conventional telephone, a family man must remember the art of compromise.
The answering machine was a lot easier to pick out because the selection was more limited. Both my wife and daughter thought the whole idea was boring. I tried to explain that the machine was necessary because I was always waiting for telephone calls concerning possible employment. I told them that the machine also gives you the choice of not answering and allows one to hear who is calling. I knew privately that the machine was a necessary tool for me because this was a great way of stalling my many creditors.
A specific machine caught my fancy because it was on sale and was the simplest to use. After I decided to purchase it the clerk told me that their stock was depleted and the only machine of this type was the one I was looking at. They had plenty of more expensive ones in the back storage room. But I was set on buying this specific one. After convincing my wife that a box was not a necessary part of how the machine operated, the clerk bagged it and immediately sought out another customer.
Arriving home is always a five minute experience in chaos. My daughter can fling, pick up, and re-fling in a matter of microseconds before her mother can scream her way back into normality. I, on the other hand, was completely enthralled in the technology of my new toys. I was immediately engrossed in the installation of the telephone. Because that entailed the plugging in of a wire, the installation made me feel brilliant. The answering machine was not much more complicated but it did require the task of creating an outgoing message.
Sit-coms should be so amusing. It took at least twenty plus attempts to complete a close to coherent tape. The only way to succeed in this quest was to force everyone out of the room. I also had to think back to my most depressed memories so my message didn’t sound like I was a crazed mad man. I finally succeeded thus making the machine ready to take it’s appointed place next to the adding machine and my computer.
The next evening was like most other evenings with the exception of the awkward messages left on my newest of toys. Our friends left their thought to be amusing messages and the frustrated bill collectors left their pleas for a possible call back. Answering machines gave birth to a favorite excuse for delaying payment of bills second only to the check is in the mail.
We were all watching the lost kid confuse the stupid bad men when the answering machine started to click. Not your normal soft snaps but full fledged loud cracks. The sound was like branches breaking during a sub-zero winter storm. It surprised us all. Looking over to my wife I could see that I told you so expression on her face. My daughter just wanted it to stop so that she could continue to memorize her favorite movie.
Not having any concept of what might be wrong, I got up and checked the wires leading into and out of the machine. Waiting a moment in the knowledge that I really didn’t do anything, the clicking sound stopped. “No problem”, I bragged in my pride that I might just have succeeded in what I was trying to do. My wife just sat and refused to give me credit because she knew that time would prove her correct – again. And she was right. A half an hour later the machine decided to fall back into it’s crackling mode and almost succeed to drive us out of the room.
My wife then told me to disconnect the thing. I told her that I would check the wires again and I was sure the problem could be corrected. She didn’t know that I wanted to keep the machine in service because one of my larger creditors was sure to call. By some twist of luck I was right in that the machine stayed quiet through the rest of the evening. My hapless creditor also called.
After the movie ended I tucked my daughter into her bed and checked the house to make sure everything was off and locked. My wife had just completed taking her contacts out, or in her terminology, she took her eyes out, when both of us thought we heard some strange sound coming from the TV room. It wasn’t the cracking sound of earlier but rather a low almost inaudible hum. Because the sound lasted only a few seconds we decided to ignore it and finally get some sleep. I clearly remember how I prayed that the sound wasn’t our refrigerator’s last dying gasp.
Later that evening we were all awakened by a loud almost screaming sound coming from the other room. My daughter immediately ran into our bedroom crying in fear of something she didn’t understand. My wife and I stared at each other in disbelief when we came to the realization that the noise must be coming from the now becoming annoying answering machine.
I jumped out of bed and immediately knew that the sound must be coming from the TV room. Because I wasn’t sure that is was emanating from the now dreaded machine I decided to investigate the noise carrying some sort of weapon. Not having, or wanting to have, a gun or any other kind of firearm, I grabbed the only evil looking item available. My wife’s hair dryer. Passing the kitchen I noticed that is was exactly 1:00 am. I prayed that their was no one there because I must have looked as though I was carrying a 357 magnum. If an intruder was there and saw me they would shoot first and ask questions later. If the now imagined terrorist ever missed, I could only return his fire by drying his hair.
Seeing that their was no one in the house I knew that the noise must be coming from the machine. I had few choices. I could throw the machine out of the house and admit to my wife that she was right or I could try and fix the thing again still demonstrating that she was right. I decided to do the most obvious. I unplugged the now hated machine and went back to my bedroom with the promise that first thing the next morning I would either permanently fix or return it.
We allowed our daughter to sleep with us that night because it was obvious that she was still afraid. I actually let her stay with us for two reasons. The first being that she was shaken up because of the shocking way she was awakened. Secondly, and more importantly I didn’t want my wife to be able to lecture me on how I never listen and how she is always correct. We all fell asleep quickly because we felt secure in the knowledge that the dreaded machine, lacking its energy, could not bother us again.
Later on in the evening, or I should say early in the morning, the machine screamed a sound that I could never hope to describe and I pray that someday I will forget. It was a continuous whine that did not lose any strength or consistency. All three of us awoke together and for a few seconds were afraid to make any moves or sounds. My daughter was the first to break the silence by crying and grasping for her mother. My wife, knowing that any sound she made would only further terrorize her daughter, used her eyes to display her own terror to me.
After a few seconds which felt like hours, I leaped out of bed and approached the now infamous TV room. I knew I was sweating because my tea shirt was attached to my back. Again I looked at the clock and saw that it was exactly 3:00am. The sound that was coming from the machine never lost any of its magnitude as I ventured to approach it. The sound didn’t frighten me as much as the idea that I had no idea of what to do.
When I reached for the machine all I could do was stare at it in disbelief. How could it be making any noise since it was unplugged? Then to my total amazement the whining sound stopped and changed to a clear low human-like sound which I thought said to stay home. At first I thought I must be imagining what I had just heard. I looked around and saw that both my wife and daughter were peeking into the room behind me. I was about to tell them what I thought the machine had said when for the second time the disconnected black box spoke out and said, “stay home”.
I then worked on instinct. I ran into the kitchen, opened the back door and threw the machine deep into the woods behind the house. I threw it so hard and far that none of us heard it land. None of us cared because all we wanted to do was close the door, lock it, and hide back in our bedroom.
The next morning didn’t have to arrive because it was already here. My wife made us some coffee with my daughter acting out the part of her mother’s shadow because she was shaking from the night before. On normal mornings she would have been getting ready for school but because of what happened, we decided it would be best to keep her home.
Later on in the morning my wife’s sister called. Immediately I knew that something was wrong because of the blank look on my wife’s face. Her sister called to give her the news that their grand-father had gone into a coma at about 1:00 am. He passed away at approximately 3:00 am that same morning. My wife’s mother found him on their couch holding onto the telephone. Even though my wife’s grand father was ill for a long time it was hard for her to accept his inevitable death.
I thought to myself, why was he holding onto the phone? None of us put the two happenings of the night before together until the second phone call of the morning. The York Police Department was calling all the parents who had children riding bus number seven to the York Middle School. It seems that the bus driver had a massive heart attack, ran off the road, and flipped the school bus over into a deep ditch. Many children were either killed or injured. They called because they had to find out exactly who was on the bus that morning.
Even though years have passed since that day, I always walk through the woods behind my house looking for that answering machine. And to this day, I still can’t find it.