She and I had been awake for most of the night. It was one of those crazy times of near exhaustion resulting from my rotating 12 hour work shifts. The brutal schedule pushed me past normal limits of endurance and energized me. The chaos tapped into an inner reserve that made me insatiable, and a little disconnected from reality.
The long work hours and the exertion of the night worked its magic on me and, finally, I was still. The rise and fall of my breathing became almost imperceptible. I stared up with fully dilated eyes, my overactive mind searching out patterns in the ceiling panels. The night air cooled our naked limbs and evaporated away the sweat. I did not speak.
The languid silence stretched on until She put her hand on my chest. “Are you okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’m okay. I just feel a little strange.” I rolled over on my side and continued, “I really wish I was sleepy. And why is it so bright in here? It can’t be a full moon already.”
The bed creaked when I raised myself up to look out the window, “What the …?”
I blinked my eyes in disbelief, then stumbled through the living room and out onto the rickety porch. A harsh light emanated from a streetlamp across the road. The lamp bathed my yard, as well as the neighbor’s, some 130 yards away, in an unnatural glow.
I was completely incensed. I chose to live in the countryside for a reason. I no longer wanted to be a part of the false sameness that afflicted the city. I wanted peace and quiet. I wanted to see the stars in all their glory, without light pollution.
I looked up and swore. There was a haze of light covering the entire hillside. The haze robbed me of my night vision and stole away the fainter stars in the sky. The overwhelming light made it all but impossible to see the Milky Way.
“That street lamp has got to go. If the neighbors are so afraid of the dark, they need to move back to the city.” I went back inside, wracking my mind for a solution. My agitated state was beginning to frighten her.
“It’s okay. I will think of something.” I think I may have misunderstood what was bothering her.
I went to my room and looked around for something to help me with the problem of over-illumination. My eyes settled on a bolt-action Winchester rifle leaning in a corner. The knurls of the bolt and the fore-stock spoke to me of action and resolution. I quickly dressed, grabbed the rifle, a box of shells, and rushed out the door. I left in such a hurry that I did not even hear her ask me where I was going.
I jumped behind the wheel of my ’84 Toyota van. It smelled of sun drenched plastic and burnt motor oil. The van’s silver paint gleamed under the bright lights like a space shuttle out of some horrible b-movie. I hit the ignition and blasted off. The tires slid in the mud at the end of the driveway, finally caught traction and I drove down the hill.
At the end of the road I pulled over in a small clearing next to the creek. I was far away from the streetlamp, under the foliage of the willows and birches. When I killed the headlights, the darkness was total. The sharp smell of wild spearmint accented the musty pungency of wet leaves. The chorus of insects and frogs, sensing the affront to the natural order of night, sang and spurred me on.
Some part of my mind was still lucid enough to realize I could find myself in a great deal of trouble for what I was planning. The lunatic half of my mind told the sane half to just take care of business and make sure I didn’t get caught. I calmed myself. My anger at the heinous streetlamp transformed into focus and discipline. I began moving slowly and silently up the old logging road that paralleled the black-topped county road.
The strong smell of walnut trees filled my nostrils. I knew by the smell I was coming to the end of the clear trail. The logging road was wide, and very little light made its way past the canopy of leaves. When I neared the edge of the thicket, I slowed my pace further. I placed each step with great care, feeling for sticks, rocks or dry leaves before putting my full weight on the foot. One misstep on a dry branch and a loud crack would ring out. A noise like that would be sure to wake the neighbor’s rottweiler.
I knelt down next to a fallen pine tree and brushed my hand across the trunk. Rotten bark came away in large sheets at my touch. Under the bark, the wood was mostly smooth, except for the etchings of tiny worm lines. That I could see such detail on a moonless night re-ignited my anger. I rested my left hand on the denuded log, and reached into my pocket for the shells. I loaded seven shots…for luck.
I pulled the bolt back, and then slid it home, chambering the first round. I steadied the barrel on the fallen pine and leaned my face in close to look up at the hated luminescence. I peered along the barrel, moving my arm to bring the pin and the notch of the open sights together like soul mates, the halo of the street lamp pierced by their oneness.
The dog started barking. A sick knot descended into my stomach. Adrenalin dumped into my veins. My breath and heart-rate quickened as fear of discovery came over me. The end of the rifle moved in time with my breath, ruining my aim. I had not made a sound. “Why is that devil dog barking?” I thought to myself.
I struggled to regain control. That miserable cur wasn’t going to stop me. The terrorism against stargazing had to be stopped!
I took a deep breath, steadied the rifle once more, and began letting the breath out slowly. The seconds stretched beyond reasonable length. The dog’s barking lowered in pitch as it was drawn out. The sounds of the insects rumbled like thunder. I found a still place within my mind and began squeezing the trigger.
Bang! The smell of oil and smoke ignited the air around me. The shot echoed against the tree line and bounced back to wash over me. The rottweiler stopped barking.
The report of the rifle covered the sounds of the shattered glass, but I could hear a faint buzzing as the streetlamp dimmed. I must have scared the dog into silence. At any moment the stupid mutt could start barking again. It also occurred to me that the sound of the shot would have awoken my neighbor. It was time to leave.
After all the noise my act of vengeance had made, there was no use in quietly returning to the van. It would have taken too long, and I was ready to go. I was sure someone would be investigating and maybe trying to catch me. Once again I thanked the guardian angel of snipers for the width and sparse undergrowth of the logging road. I ran down the trail, leaping and almost flying in exultation.
I flung open the door of the van, leapt into the driver’s seat, and placed the rifle on the floor next to me. In one motion I twisted the ignition switch, put the transmission into gear and stepped on the gas. The van bolted across the bridge, and I was over the creek, speeding around the corner onto the main road.
I had one eye on the road and one eye on the rearview mirror. But I saw no headlights behind me. The country back roads had many twists and turns. I was sure that no one would be able to follow me. I turned off on a road I didn’t even know, just to be sure.
I began to feel a little silly the further I drove. No one was following me. And I was tired. It was time to get back home. I turned around and made my way back.
Eventually, I pulled slowly into the driveway, and got out of the van. I walked across my yard and threw a casual glance over my shoulder at the neighbor’s house. No lights were on. The dog was still silent. All was quiet. Eerily quiet. “Great!” I thought to myself, “ All that driving around for nothing.”
I trudged up the steps of the porch and into the house. She glared at me as I unloaded 6 bullets from the rifle. “What the hell were you doing? Where were you?”
I put the rifle away and threw my clothes to the floor. “I turned off the light,” I said. Then I collapsed on the bed and fell immediately into a deep, peaceful slumber.