“Did you hear that?” My wife poked me in the ribs with her elbow. “Was that the back door?”
I sat up in bed and looked over at the bedside clock. It was 10:50 PM on a Saturday night and I had to be up at a quarter after five if I was going to make it to the pre-alert briefing on time. I was a USAF Missile Combat Crew Commander in the Titan ICBM system, stationed at Davis-Monthan AFB outside Tucson, AZ. Alerts were 24 hours long and sleep while on duty was sporadic at best. I needed my rest.
“Mmumph! What’s wrong?”
Trish started to say something, but was interrupted by a loud rattle from the kitchen. Someone was messing with the knob on the back door. I hopped up, opened a drawer in our dresser and picked up my .45. I bought the gun when I was an enlisted man in the Army, before I got smart, transferred to the Air Force and got my commission. It was a GI weapon, probably brought back from Viet Nam. I paid $80 for it and hadn’t asked any questions.
“Somebody’s trying to break in,” I whispered. “Call the cops!” I slipped into the hall and peeked around the kitchen door frame just in time to see the green plastic panel that had been set into the middle of the back door crack and scatter across the floor. “This guy has to be crazy,” I thought. “There are two cars in the carport! Does he think there’s no one home?”
I moved across the living room and into the kitchen through the far doorway.
When we bought this house, it was pretty obvious that the back door was a weak spot. The cheap plastic panel, about 14” wide by 4 feet high, could be easily kicked out, giving an intruder access to the deadbolt knob on the inside. I should have replaced the whole door, but I kept putting it off. Instead, I screwed two heavy-duty eye-bolts into the sides of the door frame at waist level and ran a piece of ¾” steel rebar through them, making it impossible to open the door. I drilled a hole in the rebar and used a small padlock to secure it to one of the eye-bolts.
The intruder reached inside, found the deadlock knob and unlocked it. He turned the outside doorknob and pushed. The door moved an inch before hitting the rebar. I walked silently across the kitchen and stood next to the door with my back against the wall. The door knob was less than a foot away. The intruder grabbed the rebar and tried to move it. No luck. The bar wasn’t going anywhere.
A dark-haired head appeared through the hole where the panel had been and the intruder examined the rebar, trying to identify the problem. He twisted the padlock and banged the rebar back and forth, making quite a lot of noise. From the bedroom, I could hear Trish on the phone with the cops. Was this guy deaf or crazy or what? He turned his head in my direction, but was so intent on the rebar that he didn’t notice me standing right there.
Off in the distance, I heard a siren. This guy might be a total loon, but was he really going to hang around with a code-three cop on the way?
I swung around facing the door, grabbed the intruder’s right wrist and shoved my gun into his belly. I explained to him in very colorful terms that, if he did anything that I didn’t specifically tell him to do, I was going to spread his insides all over the back yard. I’m pretty sure he didn’t speak English, but he understood me well enough.
Now, you should understand that, through all this, I was wearing my .45 and my wedding ring. That’s it. I called to Trish to bring me a pair of shorts and I’ll leave the process of her getting them on me while I was holding a man at gunpoint to your imagination. Whatever you’re thinking, yeah, that’s about right. It was awkward.
Before long, we had plenty of company. The cops cuffed the intruder and took my statement. Apparently, he was an illegal. No surprise there. By the time the cops were gone and I’d screwed a piece of plywood over the hole in the back door, it was after 1 AM.
Luckily, Sundays were pretty quiet for missile crews and, aside from running some training scenarios with my crew and reacting to a few exercises from the SAC Command Post, I found time for a few naps.
What happened to the intruder? Damned if I know. I never heard a thing about it.
But you can be sure I replaced that back door on Monday!!
Joke Gone Wrong
Florence, Italy, 2013. My wife and I were on vacation. We’ve made it a habit to take a trip to Europe every year since we retired and this year we were seeing Rome, Florence and Venice. The previous year, we’d hit the Baltic countries, from Denmark and Norway to Russia. While in Russia, I was careful not to mention all the years I’d spent in Titan and Minuteman Launch Control Centers, waiting for a message telling me to nuke the hell out of the USSR.
Trish and I came out of the Uffizi Gallery on a Saturday afternoon. The steps outside the Gallery and those across the wide pedestrian walkway were crowded with people, drinking wine and enjoying the late August weather. Street performers were everywhere.
As we walked into a nearby plaza, I glanced to my right at a particularly ugly statue. Suddenly, a hand appeared, reaching for my right side at about belt level. At home in Florida, I always carry a handgun right there and I’ve practiced what are known as “retention” techniques to keep anyone from snatching my gun. I snapped my right hand down across the back of the invading hand, got a good grip, bent my wrist back and turned to find myself holding a mime in a wrist lock.
Apparently, this guy had snuck up behind me, intending to tickle me under the short ribs for the crowd’s entertainment. Instead of succeeding with his planned joke, the joker ended up on one knee, in considerable pain. The crowd roared with laughter.
I eased up on the pressure. Slowly, I waggled my left index finger in the poor guy’s face and shook my head, “no”. The crowd clapped and cheered. I released the mime and stepped back. He got to his feet and, you have to give him credit, gave me a deep bow. The he turned to the crowd and threw his arms open wide, as if the whole thing was his idea!
Explaining to Trish why I’d assaulted a mine took a while.
I’ve searched YouTube, hoping to find a video of the encounter, but no luck.
“Anything I can help you with?” asked the clerk hopefully. It was a slow day in the jewelry store and she probably worked on commission.
“Not really,” I said. “I’m just trying to stay out of lady shoe departments.” My wife Trish was determined to find just the right pair of heels for a “Friends of the Symphony” fund raiser the following weekend. Since it’s a well established fact that I have no taste, I was staying out of her way.
The clerk smiled. “Okay, let me know if you need anything.” She didn’t move and I could see her checking me out. I was looking at the watch displays and was wearing a nice, expensive watch. Adding two and two, she asked if I wanted to check out the Rolexes that were on sale.
“No thanks. I’m more of a Breitling fan.” I wiggled my wrist, showing her the Navitimer model I was wearing.
Twenty minutes later, I wandered back into Macy’s and saw that Trish was trying on a pair of shoes. I got her attention and pointed to the exit. She nodded.
I walked outside and stood under the portico on the East side of the mall. My view of the parking lot was less than exciting.
To my left, a guy in his early thirties, wearing jeans, a faded polo shirt, sunglasses and a reversed Florida Gators cap leaned against the wall. I assumed he was also waiting for someone. As it turned out, I was right.
Five minutes later, Trish came out carrying a shoebox-size shopping bag. As she gave me a kiss, the guy I’d noticed earlier walked quickly over to us. I automatically checked his hands and saw the knife.
I shoved Trish out of the way and took a short step back, raising my hands chest high in apparent surrender. The instant the robber opened his mouth, I snapped a hard, straight, no wind-up kick into the center of his left thigh. As his leg buckled, turning him to my right, I stepped forward and smacked him with a full-swing right-handed roundhouse slap to the side of his head, using lots of english and plenty of follow-through. I’m not a big guy, but I stay in shape and I’m fortunate to have inherited my father’s quick reflexes. The impact of my palm against his head sounded like hitting a medicine ball with a two-by-six. The robber dropped like a stone. His knife bounced away and came to rest next to the door.