The Doorbell After Dark

The doorbell rang after 10:30 last night. Anita woke me up to ask if I’d heard it. The radio was playing in our bedroom, and I insisted that it was just a sound effect from some commercial.

It rang again, more insistently this time. There was no doubt that somebody was at our front door.

“I locked the gate, I swear I did,” Anita said as we put on some clothes to meet our unexpected visitor. We talked quickly, in low voices, as we walked the length of our flat: Who would ring at this hour? Somebody we know? A neighbour? A Guard?

I made a brief case for not answering, on the grounds that it would bring nothing but trouble. I don’t remember how I lost that argument in just a few seconds.

The full-height window from our living room to our basement entrance gave us a good view of the doorbell-ringer, especially since the motion-sensitive floodlight made it brighter than noon in September.

“Be careful. He’s smoking,” Anita warned. As I walked into our little foyer, I had time to dismiss the thought — what’s so scary about smoking? — and then reconsider. To be a stranger to this place, and to decide to have a cigarette on our doorstep — that did seem somewhat menacing.

There’s no chain on our front door, so I turned on the interior lights and simply swung it wide enough to see the young man in full. He seemed surprised, which was odd, considering he was the one ringing the doorbell.

I stood at my full height and breadth, but with sleepy eyes, and I said, “Can I help you?” without smiling.

For a moment, he was dumbstruck and I got a chance to look at him. He was almost a foot shorter than me, with short brown hair that had seen a hard day’s work. He was wearing runners, worn jeans and a zip-up hoodie: brown with some orange piping. He didn’t look drunk, which was what I was expecting.

He could have been any one of the hundreds of construction workers that I saw everyday around town, except that he hunched a little after I opened the door, like he expected a punch to the kidneys.

His eyes popped a little bit at my question, and he leaned in to say, “Emmm, is this the place for the girls?” He wasn’t slurring his words, but all I could tell from his hushed voice was that he was Irish.

I thought for a heartbeat, deciding whether to direct him to the streetlights across the way. Anita popped her head around my shoulder. I guess the view from the window wasn’t good enough.

Before I could answer, he backed up a step, put one foot on the stairs without taking his eyes off me, and said, “I tink I’ve got the wrong gaff.”

He sounded embarrassed but conspiratorial. His big round eyes pleaded, “Dis is someting that could ‘appen to anyone, roight?” I felt for him, although I’ve never found myself in those particular shoes.

He bounded up a few stairs, looking for an escape. His eyes went to the locked gate and he paused half-way up to street level.

“I bopped over the gate. Could you…could you let me out?”

I stood quietly, watching him. I wanted to help him out of this situation. After all, only a cold-hearted bastard leaves a turtle lying upside-down. I wanted to get him out of my house, too… but following him up those stairs just seemed like a bad idea.

He made the next move: “I should just bop back over, yeah?”

“Yeah,” I said, in a weary voice without malice. That seemed like a sensible resolution.

I closed the door. I wasn’t eager to see him bopping anywhere. Anita and I went back to bed. After a few minutes of rehashing the excitement, we drifted back to sleep.

5 Comments to “The Doorbell After Dark”

  1. Will said...
    19 September 2008

    Let the speculation, the jokes and the double entendres begin!

  2. Dave said...
    19 September 2008

    Is this another form of Bakker Bugle Metafiction? I think Eventus sent this guy to rattle you.

  3. Anita said...
    19 September 2008

    Oh no – this is the real deal. No fiction here. I should have taken some photos to post on Flickr!

  4. Will said...
    19 September 2008

    Don’t forget: today is Talk Like a Pirate Day!

  5. Keely said...
    16 October 2008

    This is definitely an award winning bugle entry!! Very memorable story! I love it.