It was a beautiful day, a fine Tuesday by anyone’s standards. The sun sparkled, the green grass grew. There might have been a few cartoon birds chirping a Disney song as they darted and fluttered and got us dressed. The boy and I would make the most of this picture perfect time, I decided. Keys and apple juice, three Tonka trucks and a plastic golf club the boy won’t leave home without in hand, we skip gayly through the garage as we anticipate what merriment is in store for us. Feeding ducks at the pond? Swirling down slides at the playground? Simply taking big gulps of this blessed air and seeing who can hold that freshness in the longest? What joys would we encounter?
The garage door is stuck shut.
The toddler excitedly chants for ducks.
My mind races. We are trapped. Caged. Imprisoned.
The boy claps his hands and squeals “Hooray!!!”, a not-so-subtle and wholly staged expression of happiness he learned from some show on Nick Jr.
He can be so dramatic. I want to tell him that he is a little over the top, but I’m too busy mourning how all the good is gone from this world. I wipe sweat from my brow, give the door one desperate yank to confirm the degree of which we are screwed. I panic.
The buttons and switches and blinking lights (green to freedom) are cold and dead. Yanking frantically at a small red cord and bobble, I pull perhaps to0 passionately. The string to the emergency latch falls into my hands. Opportunity crumbles with it, and I am weeping, weeping over the sliced cord. I run wild circles around my newfound cell. I pray we have what it takes to survive. Realizing I don’t actually know what it takes to survive, I scan the cement bunker for ideas.
I dig a blue-and-yellow volleyball from the corner, dip my fingers in the oil leaking from my car and smear a smiley face across it’s noggin. I have to name it Made In China because we are cheap and wouldn’t cough up the extra cents for brand name. I take a moment to regret not buying a Wilson. I hold the thing, stare at its melting grin, and realize that Tom Hanks was just acting like he knew how to survive. Bump, set and spike the ball across the room, hoping that if nothing else it will be strong enough to bust through a wall.
Taking a cue from The Hunger Games I spend a few minutes convincing the kid to call me Katniss. He only chuckles, hits me in the head, and says “Hats is! Hats is! He he he!”. Perhaps he’s right. The name doesn’t so much matter. I, Katniss Hats Is, begin surveying our terrain for essentials. Spare crackers and fruit gummies are scraped from the floorboards of my car and rationed. At a rate of one-half monkey-shaped, lime-flavored treat per three hours, I estimate we can last a good 3 hours and 5 minutes. I flick a switch on a battery-operated candle for faux flame fire. But it is just a dim orange light bulb covered in artificial wax. Will we freeze before Made In China and I can find another way out? I connect my excessive sweating to a body’s way of yelling for help. I continue to ponder the gruesome details of a death by freezing in the 80 degree garage.
I offer my portion of lukewarm apple juice to my fellow captive. He is smaller and weaker and more 2-and-a-half than I am, and I need him to be strong. I can’t make it on my own. Well hydrated, I hoist him onto my shoulders, instructing him to find areas of light, filtering in some far off freedom. Just about the time I am barking up at the boy to mentally calculate coordinates by which we can be spotted and rescued via helicopter or boat, he pees on my neck. I realize he might just be onto something! Bear Grylls did this once on TV, wrapped his piss pants on his head and face to protect from scalding sun in the desert. Or was it polar bears in the Arctic? Jungle lizards? Maybe it’s just a weird British tradition, but I contemplate wetting my drawers just for solidarity.
Hope has faded with the last surge of my strength. A last-ditch effort to employ my natural talents as a means to escape have failed. I put a hand to my sore mouth and stare down the ragged teeth marks barely denting the perimeter of our cage. Contrary to popular belief, competitive cake eating cannot translate into a successful career in steel door chewing. I sink to my knees, broken and slowly resigned to the idea of taking my last breath among racks of power tools and bicycles. The boy kicks Made In China into an empty trashcan and cheers victoriously before jumping into my lap. Obviously delirium has set in. His poor mind has been driven to madness instead of driven to the park. Guilty that I cannot help him now, I stroke his hair and wait for the inevitable.
But then! A knight in front-pleated khakis and a plaid button down and those cute leather boots I bought him last Christmas! My husband appears in the doorway. He looks strong and gallant and slightly peeved. I wonder which of my texts spurred his arrival. Was it the “HALPPPPPPPP MEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!” or the “911. Emergency. 911. Death. 911. SOS DEATH EMERGENCY!!!!”? He simply shakes his head and goes back inside.
Back inside? Inside? Inside the house? Inside the house? The house that has lots of doors to the outside? Outside!!!
Narrowly escaping death, we spend the rest of the day rejoicing in the sun and air. Like any released prisoner knows, a simple toothbrush can be fashioned to form a lethal weapon. Oh, and it’s the simple things in life that count.
Having had days to reflect the terrifying experience, the long-lasting lessons of such horror are just beginning to sink in. I learned a lot about the fragility of life and teeth. I learned a lot about love and faith. Mostly I learned this:
When one door
blows an electrical circuit and closes, all the other doors in your house another door opens.
Is Wigging Out your go-to emotion?
Do you ever panic before thinking?