Daily Prompt: Fight or Flight

Write about your strongest memory of heart-pounding, belly-twisting nervousness: what caused the adrenaline? Was it justified? How did you respond?
Daily Prompt: Fight or Flight

I’m 51 years old, but I remember it vividly, as if it was only yesterday. I was 14 years old, and I thought I was only going to babysit for the two children I normally watched, while their father went out on a date. However, there was a change of plans, and I was asked to watch the girlfriend’s three children as well as my two regular children.

I didn’t mind. I loved children, and I was very good with them. In fact, I dreamed of one day having a whole house full of children, and besides, this would mean extra money for me. It was a win, win situation for me as far as I could see.

It was summertime, and there was still daylight when Mr. M and his girlfriend left their children with me. I played games with the children and fixed dinner for them. Ha! I even remember what I fixed them for dinner – a couple of Chef Boyardee Pizza kits.

In those days, young children like these (they were all under 5 years old), had to be in bed by 7:00pm. However, because I was the “cool” babysitter, I usually let the children stay up until 8 or 8:30. The kids loved me for this, and when the time came for them to go to bed, they didn’t put up a fight.

The Carol Burnett Show
The Carol Burnett Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember it was really hot and muggy that night, and that I had all of the windows open, including the sliding glass doors. After the children went to bed, I turned the television on. It was a Saturday night, and I remember watching television until The Carol Burnett Show was over, and then turning the volume down so I could read.

I used to love watching the Carol Burnett Show, but after that, the news came on, which wasn’t so interesting to this 14-year-old girl. That wasn’t a problem though, because I was an avid reader from a young age, and I had brought a really engrossing book with me that night. It was Mary Higgins Clark‘s “Where Are the Children?” 

I got up periodically to check on the children, who were all sleeping soundly and peacefully, and then I would return to my book, but I was beginning to nod off. I remember checking the clock at around 1:45am, and being irritated because Mr. M wasn’t home yet, and I had to get up for church the next morning. I also remember that I was ticked off, because Mr. M didn’t pay extra when he was out past midnight, like the parents of other children did. “That’s just wrong,” I remember thinking as I got up to check on the children and see what time it was.

Where Are the Children? book cover
Where Are the Children? book cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Finally, sometime after 2:00 am, I heard Mr. M’s car pull up in the driveway. “It’s about time,” I huffed to myself, unlocking the door as I heard their car doors slam shut. After unlocking the door, I pulled it open wide, and I heard a man, not Mr. M, shouting, “Alright, M, get your @#&&*@) a$$ on the ground!” I looked, and saw a gun flash in the moonlight, as I quickly shut and locked the door.

My heart was pounding loudly and rapidly, as I stood, with my back against the door, my breath coming out in short little gasps. “Oh God,” I prayed silently, “What do I do?” Then I took a deep breath and ran from the den, to the enclosed breezeway, which connected the den, a later addition, to the rest of the house. Inside the breezeway was a telephone – directly across from 2 windows, which overlooked the driveway, where some madman was swinging a gun around and cussing.

I couldn’t risk the madman seeing me try to call for help, so crouching beneath the windows, I crawled to the kitchen, then stood and ran to Mr. M’s bedroom, where there was another phone. I didn’t dare turn any lights on for fear of the madman seeing me and killing me! I grabbed the telephone into my shaking hands and tried to rapidly dial (yes, this was in the days when there were still rotary dial phones) my parents’ house, which was just across the street.

Head on view of a Rotary Phone
Head on view of a Rotary Phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was no longer a mature 14-year-old girl. At that moment, I was reduced from my almost adult status (at least in my own mind), to a little girl who desperately wanted her mommy and daddy to come and save her. In my sheer panic, I misdialed my parents’ number, and I remember thinking to myself, “Oh my gosh! He’s cut the telephone wires! We’re trapped!” I told you, I was well read, and I had a vivid imagination. And let’s face it, the current novel that I had just been reading only fed into those fears.

I sat on the floor beside Mr. M’s bed for what seemed like hours, debating in my mind what I should do. I knew I just couldn’t stay there, waiting for the madman to enter the house and kill me and the children, but the question was, “Oh God, what should I do now?”

In reality, only a few seconds passed before I decided what to do. I had to run across the street to my parents’ house and safety, but now my dilemma was, “Do I wake all 5 of the kids up and try to take them over too? And what if one of them gets shot when we go? Or what if they make too much noise when I wake them up, and the madman breaks in and captures us all?”

I needed to go alone. The children’s best chance for survival and my best chance for survival was to let the children continue to sleep, while I ran to my house for help. I quickly unlocked the living room door and yanked it open, only to have it stop abruptly and loudly (to me at least) because in my haste to open the door, I had forgotten to remove the chain latch. I quickly shut the door again, my heart nearly pounding out of my chest, as I continued to hyperventilate and waited, listening for the madman to shoot his gun or break into the house, but I heard nothing, so I unlatched the chain latch and carefully opened the front door.

I could hear the madman on the other side of the house cursing and swearing as he threatened Mr. M and his girlfriend. I remember shooting up a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord for my back brace. You see, I have scoliosis, and I had to wear a plastic jacket 23 hours a day, to keep my spinal curvature from getting any worse. In my naiveté, I thought, “At least if he shoots me, this will be like wearing a bullet-proof vest.” Then, taking a deep breath, I opened the screen door and darted down the front step, across the road and up the sidewalk to my house and safety, as my sandaled feet clacked loudly on the pavement.

I’ve never run so hard and so fast in my life, and I didn’t slow down any as I ran through the living room, and into the kitchen, where my sandals slid across the floor, and I fell into the green utility table that held the toaster, blender and other small appliances, knocking everything into the floor with me. Not sure what was going on, my dad leaped up with his shoe in hand swinging it back to hit whoever was after me. Mom was the only one behind me, and almost got hit with the shoe as she followed me to see what was going on.

I clambered to my feet, hysterically babbling that there was a man with a gun across the street at Mr. M’s house, and that was all Dad needed to hear. Out the door he stormed, bellowing across the street to the madman, who had heard my wild dash across the street, and was already fleeing the scene, gun still in hand. “Come back here you stupid, *&%*&(*&^!” my dad yelled, as the man continued to run off, pleading with Dad to leave him alone. “You scared my daughter,” Dad continued to yell at him, while Mom telephoned the police.

Remember, this was long before 911, so contacting the police was much more difficult and time consuming then. That’s why I had tried to call my home at first, because I didn’t know the phone number to the police department. I remember being wide awake and trembling, as Mom held me, while Dad stood outside guarding his family, until the police showed up.

There would be no sleep for me that night. I was terrified, until there was a knock at the front door, about an hour later. A policeman came in and talked to Mom and Dad, telling them that the madman was actually the husband of Mr. M’s girlfriend. Apparently, she had been cheating on him with Mr. M.

They had found his footprints in back of the house, by the sliding glass doors, which I had opened to allow some air in the house. Apparently, he had been there for quite some time, and had probably seen me sitting in the den, watching television and reading. They figured that he must have come after dark, after the children were already in bed, asleep, and that he probably didn’t even realize that his own children were there too. The policeman informed Mom and Dad that I had no reason to be afraid of this man anymore though, because he had gone down the road, to a water pumping station, where his car was parked, crawled under his car and shot himself. He said that the man had planned to kill Mr. M, his wife and himself, and that he probably would have succeeded if I had not run across the street when I did.

I was sad and scared and relieved at  the same time. I haven’t thought about this for a long time… I am so thankful that God, in His mercy and love, kept me and the children from harm. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life; You stretch out Your hand against the anger of my foes, with Your right hand You save me. (Psalm 138:7)

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