LATE NIGHT HEROICS • by Wayne Scheer

My wife sleeps peacefully beside me.  I lie awake, while a recurring nightmare involving a schoolyard bully dissolves like a movie fadeout. I’m far too old to suffer anxiety over being bullied as a boy, but long suppressed memories find comfort in the darkness of night.

Perspiration soaks the back of my neck. I flip the pillow searching for a cool, dry spot. Stripping off my pajamas offers no relief.

I tiptoe to the bathroom and stare into the mirror, squinting at white stubble growing like weeds through dry, cracked terrain. Water splashed on my face fails to wash away the nightmare or the memories of childhood cowardice.

I hear a creaking sound coming from the front of the house. Unsure if it’s a footstep, I stand as still as possible and listen. Is this what woke me? I remain at the doorway of the bathroom, naked, my heart pounding.

Is someone lurking in the darkness, standing as still as I? Will he retreat out the front door or will he attack? Does he have a weapon?

Do I call out, “Who’s there?” and add, “I have a gun.” No. I’m quite certain my voice would fail me, cracking like the cry of a schoolboy pleading for help. Do I slip back into the bedroom and call 9-1-1? I think of the embarrassment if the sound is just my imagination. And I’d frighten Mary. She already worries about me waking in the night to memories of schoolboy trauma.

My mind drifts back to a real event of more than fifty years ago. The Otis twins bloody my best friend, Paul Newsome. Paul cries for me to help him. I turn and run, too afraid to even call a teacher. I can still hear the Otis boys’ taunting laugh and feel the pang of Paul’s refusal to talk to me ever again.

Another rustling sound from the front of the house. My knees buckle.

I can’t stand it any longer; I have to do something. I grab the plunger and hold it, arm-bent, as if it were a rifle. Perhaps in the shadows it might deceive the intruder.

About to prove my manhood I think twice about doing so sans uniform. I grab a bath towel and wrap it around my waist, feeling like an ancient warrior about to be challenged in battle.

What I really want to do is flee to the bedroom, crawl under the covers, and pretend none of this is happening. I did that as a child and it cost me my best friend as well as my self-respect.

A tapping sound interrupts my fantasy. My hands shaking, I head towards the noise, clinging to the plunger like a soldier to his weapon.

“Who’s there?” I shout, surprised by the clarity of my voice.

Silence.

“Who’s there, damn it?”

Silence.

I make my way to the front of the house and, with a jolt of courage that would have frightened the Otis twins, turn on the living room light. I see the front door still latched, windows locked shut, everything in place. After checking the other rooms, I breathe normally for the first time since I awoke.

I shut a window in the study, slightly open. The blinds stop rustling. My towel falls to the floor.

“Honey,” I hear Mary call, “is everything all right?”

I turn to see her staring at me. Her eyes tell me she suspects early senility.

“I just heard a noise,” I tell her. But it’s nothing. The window was open is all.”

“My hero,” she says, laughing.

I’m reminded that I’m a sixty-year-old naked man holding a plunger.

“Let’s get some sleep,” I say, wrapping one arm around her shoulders while twirling the plunger with my free hand and placing it in an imaginary holster. “My work here is done.”

I leave the towel on the floor, my manhood secure.


Wayne Scheer has been locked in a room with his computer and turtle since his retirement. (Wayne’s, not the turtle’s.) To keep from going back to work, he’s published hundreds of short stories, essays and poems, including Revealing Moments, a collection of twenty-four flash stories, available at http://www.pearnoir.com/thumbscrews.htm. He’s been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. Wayne can be contacted at wvscheer@aol.com.


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 average 5 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Wendy T

    I liked the idea but it felt overwritten for me. I got the childhood bullying the first time, so I think the ‘I did that as a child and it cost me my best friend as well as my self-respect.’ is repetitive, and if the windows were all shut in one sentence, then how is it the study window was open? And did anyone climb in? Your protagonist would surely have considered this? I thought the nightmare woke him – then later was told it may have been a sound … but the sound doesn’t get mentioned until he’s up and in the bathroom, after lying awake for a while?
    Sorry, but it’s all a bit too confused for me to enjoy it much, though it was a good idea, and I did love the plunger/rifle image!

  • Rimshot

    The last line’s a keeper, and worth four stars all by itself.

  • G. K. Adams

    I thought the insomnia induced by childhood anxieties was portrayed realistically. I was drawn into the scene. I noticed the bit about whether the sound had woke him, but I’ve had that experience – wondering, after I’m awake, whether “something” is actually the thing that woke me. In my case the “something” is usually cat related. Well done, and an enjoyable read.

  • A trauma that follows you throughout your life is a nightmare in itself.

    I thought this was realistically portrayed. Great stuff!

  • I’m kind of with Wendy (#1) on this, the premise does seem to be a bit overdone. That aside, I was in the story all the way, wondering if there was or wasn’t a real intruder. The MC overcomes his fear and resolves the conflict nicely, good job there.

    One observation, and it is strictly personal, the use of the name Paul Newsome pulled me right out of the story for a minute. Mentally, I saw Paul Newman and there’s no way he’d get taken advantage of by the Otis twins (which also for some reason brought to mind the Olson twins). Anyway, I’d change the names…but that’s just me.

    Fun story. Three stars…

  • Rose Gardener

    Excellent. Not overdone for me at all- perfect mix of past and present. ‘sans uniform’ had me giggling and the last line elicited an ‘aw’. Well done Wayne.

  • VMcKay

    As someone who has a lot of nightmares, I found this story to be very familiar. I’ve lived it often enough, minus the plunger. Four stars.

  • JenM

    Heh, that was cute. Thanks for the noon-hour chair.

  • Wayne does it again! Humor. Reality. A plunger as a rifle — no, a “blunderbuss.”

  • a good well-chararacterised straight dramatic suspenseful story. I like the end bit,twirling and placing in an imaginary holster.

  • Engagingly written and very cute!

  • ajcap

    Too flipping funny. I could picture this very well and though I do think it needs a little rearranging, I still enjoyed it very much.

  • Neat amusingly told tale. Light heartedly expressed and expressively rendered. Sweet and light as meringue.

  • Gretchen

    I was touched by this. It’s sweet, funny, and sad all at once. Good job. 🙂

  • Aw, I feel sorry for this fading action hero.

    A nice light tale with a poignant undercurrent. Entertaining.