We were young and newly married. Everything was flippant and fun. Life was swathed in bright colors and tied with a red bow.
We lived in a tiny house, cozy and quaint. Four rooms were downstairs and one room upstairs. It wasn’t far from the back of the house to the front. The house was entered through the side by way of a tiny enclosed nook or from the back where a nice porch shaded by a lush maple tree provided leisurely sitting in summer. A porch swing swung on chains at one end of the porch.
The bedroom had two windows. One granted a nice view of the back porch and the stately tree. The porch swing hung right outside the window. The bed was against the wall opposite the window. Propped up by pillows one could look out at the porch and the grand maple tree. During the night the porch was very, very dark. The maple tree brushed the house as if attempting an entrance.
One night my wife and I were slumbering away the cares of life only a few feet from that big window when I awoke to a noise I could not identify. I strained to hear what had awakened me with no success. For a long time I listened, but all I heard were little things that creep in the night and the tree caressing the house. Finally I fell asleep.
Several nights later I awoke from a deep sleep with a start. Something was not right. I could feel it. It felt like one feels when someone is watching you. My tense body willed to hear something. Something had definitely interrupted my slumber, but I heard nothing except my own breathing and the tree lightly brushing the house. Then, just as I was falling back to sleep I heard it again. Someone was at the window!
My hair stood on end as I listened to the sound of scratching. Someone was trying to open the window. A moment later everything grew silent again, except for the wind whispering secrets to the maple tree. A few minutes later I heard the sound again.
Quietly, I whispered to my wife that someone was at the window. She was startled, but I laid a hand on her arm urging her to be quiet. Suddenly someone pushed against the window!
I eased out of bed fumbling for a flashlight. In the bravest voice I could muster, I quietly said to my wife, “I am not putting up with this. I am going to see who it is.”
My wife followed. If someone was going to get me, he had to get her as well. I think it had something to do with, “For better, for worse in sickness and in health . . .”
Tiptoeing to the living room, I slowly unlocked the door and quietly pushed it open. Cautiously stepping outside, I shone the flashlight from one end of the porch to the other. The light revealed only the swing hanging on its chains. Nothing else was on that porch. Whoever it was had fled.
We slowly turned and went back inside, leaving the porch swing in the dark and the tree sighing in the breeze.
About a week later my parents visited. We had a great time catching up on family things, but then they went home leaving us alone in our little house with a big back porch, and a big window, and a porch swing hanging on its chains.
After my parents left I went to the bedroom. My wife was in the kitchen. As I passed the window I heard a faint shuffling noise. I froze. The dark porch monster was back, and he was trying to get in! I instinctively went out to the kitchen and told my wife that I had heard the noise again. Grabbing a flashlight, we went to the back door (it was that for better, for worse thing again).
I wrenched the door open and stepped out onto the dark mysterious porch. The hair on my arms and the back of my neck stood straight out as needles on a pin cushion. I swept the porch from one side to the other with my flashlight.
Then I saw him! The intruder was sitting on the swing! He glared at me with cold, intent eyes. I froze. Time stood still as we stared at each other for a few hair-raising seconds.
Neither of us spoke. My mind raced as I stared into those emotionless eyes.
Suddenly the intruder took off over the railing! He flew off the porch like a, well, like the screech owl he was!
My wife and I laughed nervously and returned to the house. At last our minds were at rest knowing what had been disquieting our peace.
As if saluting our right to know what had been playing with our minds, the porch swing swung ever so lightly in the inky darkness. The wind whispered to the tree, and the tree gently caressed the house. The screech owl scratched his beak.