When we arrived, the cabin was in good shape.
Except the phone didn’t work. (And our cell phone got intermittent service.)
There were substantial holes in three screens.
Two windowpanes were cracked.
And the roof leaked.
Furthermore, the day after we arrived, we were told we had at least three very large, dead trees on our property, two of which could easily land on top of us, should we be inhabiting the cabin when they fell.
(I won’t even mention the hot water which, in the course of a single shower, would cycle alternately through hot, then cold, then hot again two or three times, requiring the shower taker to continually jump in and jump out of it until they were clean.)
What then do I mean by the cabin’s being in “good shape”?
It was still there.
And it was livable. Due to a woman named Jody, who’d cleaned the place up before we arrived. Unfortunately, Jody had overlooked the screened-in porch. I was dutifully assigned to “porch duty”, armed with a “Swiffer”, which is some kind of pad treated with wet stuff that you fasten to the end of a broom handle, and then, you “Swiffer” it around, until the pad gets dirty, at which point, you detach that pad and replace it with another pad.
Insulated from the elements by only screens, the porch was incredibly filthy. I ran through eight “Swiffer” pads cleaning the floor. Why so many? You “Swiffer” away from you, you “Swiffer” back. New pad.
None of this mattered. The cabin’s setting was easily worth the price of the effort. Quiet. Peacefully still, our property enveloped by ancient, fifty-foot trees (many of them not dead), between which were scattered patches of clear, blue sky. During our first lunch on our now “Swiffered” porch, we were visited by a deer and a bright red cardinal, hopping (the cardinal) and ambling (the deer) across our front yard. It was like a Greeting Committee. Like they were saying, “Welcome back. Hey, clean porch.”
The Dunes Summer Theatre is walking distance from the cabin. We see a show our first night. Little Shop of Horrors. Not up to their Pirates of Penzance standards, but still pretty good. Despite a limited budget, they deliver a persuasively menacing carnivorous plant. Oddly – though understandable in Indiana – the show’s featured three-girl “do-wop” chorus is all white, although the director has instructed them to speak with inner city dialects, resulting in “cool” with a corn center. A little jarring.
By the time we arrived there, two of the three prisoners who’d escaped from Indiana State Prison had already been apprehended. The third one, a convicted murderer, remained “at large.” It was believed he was still in the area, an area that included our cabin, where our only form of self-defence were a couple of knives, so dull they were unable to slice through a hot dog bun. This situation would loom as background for our entire vacation.
We donated the cabin’s television to the Salvation Army, though it wouldn’t have worked anyway, after the recent format turnover from analog to digital. (Am I close?) To fill the time, we read books, saw four movies and two plays. We also attended two baseball games, a Cubs game in Chicago, and an “A”-ball game in South Bend, Indiana, (thirty-five miles from our cabin), where we watched the South Bend Silver Hawks (a team of which I was once part owner) play the Peoria I Don’t Remembers.
Movie tickets in Michigan City cost eight dollars (six for seniors). But in nearby La Porte, the tickets are – are you ready? – a dollar-fifty for first run pictures (The Proposal and Ice Age 3). This is a change from last year, when tickets were a dollar seventy-five. That’s right. The prices went down! Oh, yeah, refills for popcorn and soda are free. They’ve got to be laundering money at that place. Otherwise, I don’t know how they’re making a living.
Our second evening, we went to a local Greek festival. Lots of good food, dark-haired people and lines of dancers with their arms draped around each other’s shoulders. The names of Greek desserts always sound to me like the rain pattering onto your roof.
Pita-pa-tapita. Tika-pa-tipita. Spana-kapata-kapata-patipika.
But they’re all delicious. Though messily sticky.
Our third night, there’s a thunderstorm. It’s coming down so hard, trees are begging us to let them in the house. (“There’s lightning! We’re wood!”) We sit on the porch enjoying the show, counting the seconds between the lightning and the thunder, which supposedly tells you how far away the storm’s center is. The system doesn’t seem to work. Though the intervals vary from one lightning-thunder to the next, the storm seems to be centered directly over our cabin.
And then we hear it.
First a loud, cracking sound. And after a few seconds, an explosion. Well, not exactly an explosion, more like the roar of a cannon. Well, maybe not a cannon, but the ear splitting report from a very big gun, maybe a .357. (Like I know what that sounds like.)
All our lights are now out. In the sudden darkitude, we make out way towards the direction of…let’s call in the explosion. And then we see it. One of our trees has fallen across the road, taking down the power lines on the other side of the street. The entire neighborhood is now without electricity. (We subsequently learn that a branch from one of our dead tall trees broke off during the storm, fallen onto an adjacent smaller tree, causing it to topple onto the power lines, and detaching them from the pole.)
You may recall my mentioning that our phone didn’t work. And our cell phone was of little use. There was no way call for help. Fortunately, a neighbor, who had also lost electricity because our tree had severed the power lines, did. We didn’t know about that at the time. We were, literally and figuratively, in the dark.
I have a standard M.O. when a crisis occurs. I do nothing. This proved a detriment during the L.A. earthquake of ’92. There were things to do, and I was a little bit frozen. This time, however, I was not frozen. I still did nothing, but it was an easygoing nothing. The truth was, there was nothing to do. Just wait for the electric company to reconnect the wires. My relaxed inaction actually seemed helpful here. It was almost reassuring. Or at least it could be interpreted as such.
For a middle-aged couple, sitting in a candlelit cabin, the rain sheeting down, no electricity, no phone, a escaped murderer on the loose, the situation was seriously unnerving. But with nothing we could do about it, we decided to go to bed.
We lie there in the stillness, shrouded in darkness, waiting for a desperate prison escapee to appear at our window. Eventually, we fall asleep.
Two in the morning, half asleep, we pick up the high-pitched whir of an electric saw. Is someone sawing through our cabin, trying to get in? Or are we just dreaming they are?
Like having dental work under Demerol, we are at that point too out of it to care.
Minutes later, every light in the cabin flashes on at the same time. Now we’re awake. After resuming regular breathing, we realize we can relax. The damage is repaired, the crisis is over. The next day, a tree specialist executes our three dead trees. There’ll be no more trees falling onto electrical lines.
A week later, it happens again. Thankfully, it wasn’t our fault. It was across the street. I didn’t know this, but trees appear to have “expiration dates.”
Apparently, a lot of them were coming due at the same time.
Tomorrow: The saga continues.
Postscript: I found another crime report story from the Michigan City newspaper. “A 17 year-old boy was arrested at 1 p.m. at home on the charge of having been a runaway.” A “runaway” arrested in his home. That one, you’ll have to explain to me.