What If?


When I was a kid, I just assumed everyone wanted to be a writer, like I did. I didn’t realize that most people couldn’t give a rat’s ass about putting words on paper in a way that would affect others. When I finally figured out that there was a difference, I wondered what separated “us” from “them”. Here’s what I came up with: Writers are people who are always, always, always asking, “What if…?”.


Early this morning, there was a cop car parked on my street. I live in a fairly genteel neighborhood; we don’t see a lot of police presence. The “what if” part of my brain immediately kicked in. I spent a really pleasant half hour or so conjecturing. Who were the police visiting? The single guy down the block, who’s extremely nice and always just a little baked? The family with 2 skateboarding teenagers (you just know that where skateboards go, shenanigans follow)? The lesbian couple 2 doors down, whose fight the other night came to blows (albeit rather girly ones)? That sketchy house at the end of the block, the one with dead cars parked out back, that looks like it’s the answer to the game, “One of these things is not like the others.”?


Nope. Turns out they were right next door.


My neighbors were robbed. They were broken into, sometime yesterday morning or afternoon. I was home all day yesterday. I have a huge, uncurtained window that faces their house. I can hear every car door slam, every set of footsteps on their porch. I never noticed anything.


I always assumed that if something ever happened here, my neighbors would hear it. Someone would notice my door hanging open, hear my screams, smell smoke. I need to assume this. Because while the “what if” game can provide some really great ideas for stories, it can also make for some sleepless nights, while you conjure up a variety of horrific tragedies that can/will befall you and your family. And now I have this ugly little piece of evidence that smashes my assumption to hell.


Yes, I do realize that robberies happen all the time. And no one was hurt; I’m sure all the stolen items are covered by insurance. It’s just that I’m having to let go of yet another flimsy construct that I’d been using to get by. For Mother’s Day, all I want are some new smoke alarms and better locks. Something slightly less flimsy to pin my hopes on.


5 responses to “What If?

  1. I like your writing, even if it is fueled by paranoid delusions and childhood flashbacks. I like your personality that comes through your words. I like the references you use, like “One of these things is not like the others”. They make me smile.

    What I don’t like is my over use of the word “like” and the fact that I know that vulnerable feeling to which you refer. As fate would have it, in the distant past, my house was the house that got broken into. I came home as “he/she/they” hightailed it out the back. I refused to leave the house until wrought iron was installed on all of the windows and doors. It’s a very ugly feeling.

    With that I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day full of security affirming quality products. I hope you have a most wonderful weekend. Take care. 😉

  2. Thanks Peter! I do what I can. And if you like it, well hey, that’s wonderful. (“Paranoid delusions…” What are you, my shrink? Cause I can only pay ONE of you a hundred bucks an hour 😉 )

  3. Wow – that is super scary.

  4. It kind of is, Maria. The actual robbery doesn’t scare me; the loser only took small electronics, and ditched his bike in the neighbor’s yard, for Christ’s sakes! It’s just having to give up a corner of the security blanket I’d been using.

    (And by the way, Peter, I DID get those new smoke alarms for Mother’s Day 🙂 )

  5. I don’t write as much as I used to, but I definitely get the writer mentality. I wouldn’t trade my imagination for all the well rested nights in the world, but yeah, it gets you thinking. Especially after scary stories/movies/news clips. I’m pretty sure there’s a small, evil, vaguely asian child of questionable gender hiding in every room, but you know, that’s just the price you pay for an overactive imagination I guess 😛

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