Wednesday, November 28, 2018

COLUMN: Assassin

Throughout my fake career as a fake journalist, I've experienced a lot of milestones.

I can still remember the very first sample column I ever submitted... and the rejection letter that soon followed. I remember what it felt like to see my picture in the paper for the first time. I remember my first fan letter just as I remember my first piece of hate mail. I remember when a guy from Missouri showed up at our office after I wrote a less-than-enthusiastic recap of an unpleasant roadtrip I took to the Show-Me State.

And now, I'm pretty sure I'll always remember the first assassination attempt on my life.

It was last Wednesday, and I was just getting back from a trip to the vet. There I was on my back steps, keys in one hand and cat in the other, when it happened.


When I first bought my house, my dad was eager to make some improvements to the place. One of the first things he did was install an outdoor floodlight next to my back door. When you're standing on the back steps, it's mounted just beside my door, roughly at eye level. When turned on, it does a pretty good job illuminating my tiny yard. When turned off, it does nothing -- except for last Wednesday, when it exploded.

All I heard was a huge bang, and then felt glass shards hitting my face, my hair, and covering my entire back steps.

Despite how savagely cool I may look in my photo, I am not an especially street-smart individual. I am neither well-read nor experienced in the inner workings of the modern floodlight. One thing I can say with confidence, though, is that they're NOT supposed to explode in your face, especially when they're off. I've never seen a caution label that reads: "WARNING: May spontaneously combust at any time, scaring you within an inch of your life."

There was only one possible scenario that sprang into my head: GUNPLAY. Either someone just did a really good job shooting at my floodlight or a really bad job shooting at me. Either way: SHOTS FIRED.

I refuse to believe that our world has devolved to the point that random acts of terror and violence are the new norm. I still believe in the power of goodness. But bad things CAN happen, and who among us hasn't wondered how we'd react in a God-forbid sort of scenario?

I now know exactly what I would do. I would, in fact, scream "WHAT THE FAAAAAAAA" in an octave I didn't know I was capable of, and then I would awkwardly dive into my house like a lame overweight action hero being chased by assassins. Then, once my hands stopped shaking, I would avoid all windows (you know, in case it was a SQUAD of assassins,) and then I would call 911 and tell them I thought I was just shot at.

"Do you, umm, have any enemies?" the operator asked me.

Good question. DO I have any enemies? Hmm. That fella from Missouri was awfully steamed. Urban chicken-keepers sure hate me (long story). There's my 5th grade gym teacher, but I'm pretty sure he's dead. That pretty much only leaves my mortal enemy, Tom Cruise. I'd like to think he has better things to do than take up sniper positions outside my house.

"I don't THINK so?" I replied.

To the credit of the Rock Island police, an officer was at my door in less than two minutes. In fact, SIX officers were there. And as they searched the back of my house for bullet holes that didn't exist, all I could do was apologize.

"No worries," one of the officers replied. "Better safe than sorry. I would've done the same thing." I don't think he would have done EXACTLY the same thing -- the artistry of the belly-roll-dive I performed shall forever be mine and mine alone.

The exploding floodlight, though, remained a mystery. Then it hit me -- on the head, literally. My neighbor owns a walnut tree. The tree, in turn, owns most of the airspace over my yard. And every year, a team of black squirrels farm that tree for every scrap of walnut they can get. And they HATE me. Every day, I open my back door to a sea of cracked walnuts while squirrels scamper up the tree and chirp at me angrily. If I stay out there too long, they'll drop walnuts on me -- or worse. Let's just say you haven't lived until you've had to clean squirrel pee off your head at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday.

Do I have enemies? I have a whole furry family of them, and I'll bet one of them dropped a walnut directly onto that floodlight while I was standing next to it. Those adorable little assassins have officially crossed the line, and I'm through playing. If you were driving by this morning and saw me yelling angrily at a tree, I promise I'm not insane. I just have a treeload of enemies that need eviction. My guess is they're from Missouri.

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