It was the scariest night I spent at Aunt Grace’s.
Aunt Grace lived in the same big farmhouse her whole life. However, the family business replaced the farm that should have been next door. My great-grandparents built the house in the early 1900’s. At one time, the unincorporated town that she lived in was bustling and alive with businesses, families, and even a train that ran through the town.
The town grew old right around the time Aunt Grace did. A lot of the major businesses pulled out of town leaving behind vacant buildings. Big old houses, the old grocery store, the dance hall in the bar, and even the old bank that Grace worked at were turned into cheap apartments. Weeds grew along the creek that trickled through town instead of flowers and freshly mowed grass like before. The family business shut down and the windows were boarded.
Aunt Grace’s house was always cold and drafty in the winter. Her house was even cool in the summer. She didn’t have A/C. She didn’t really need it. I remember it being a hot summer night that eventful evening. We slept with all the windows open. The kids and I stayed with Grace during the week without Paul because he had to work the next day. Even though my dad didn’t seem to mind staying up all night with Grace during the week, he sometimes needed a break.
That night after I put the kids and Grace to bed, I settled myself in on the couch outside of Grace’s bedroom. I awoke to shouting in the middle of the night. I looked out the window to see four men violently fighting outside under the street light. Punches were thrown. Men were dancing around in a bloody ballet. Does someone have a knife? What am I going to do? Will I witness a murder tonight? I have to call the police. But how am I going to dial Grace’s old rotary phone in the dark?
I am very afraid. If they hurt each other, what could they do to us? What if Grace wakes up screaming like she usually does? What if the children wake up crying? I feel vulnerable. I can’t protect anyone. I can’t get to the phone. I’m afraid to draw attention to the house. Don’t turn on the lights. All the windows are open with only a screen keeping them out. I am afraid they will see me watching in horror. I am afraid they will hear my ragged breaths.
I watched for those minutes that seemed like hours. The men stagger away into the darkness no longer under the street light. Do they linger in the backyard? Do they mean any harm? The adrenaline pumps through my veins preventing sleep. I can’t believe what I just saw.
Aunt Grace slept most of the night.