Dolores had fallen asleep that evening in the same way she had all week long: face down into her sofa the moment she got home from work. She had been on her feet all day at her uncle’s antique store. He was traveling again to secure more inventory and had left her to manage the store and deal with a steady stream of customers. Today none of their part-time clerks were available so Dolores was left on her own to open and close and handle everything else in between. She was completely spent.
Dolores dropped her bag on the living room floor when she walked through the door. She immediately flopped onto the sofa “for just a couple of minutes” she told herself before she would make supper. Her little chihuahua mix, Rat-Dog, greeted her with a couple of yaps, jumped on the sofa next to her and nestled down. He seemed to sense her exhaustion and did not whine for his supper. Fortunately, her apartment had a doggie-door to a small patio off her bedroom so she did not have to worry about taking Rat-Dog on a potty-walk. She just wanted to get off her feet for a few minutes.
Dolores emerged from her sleep when she felt Rat-Dog jump off the sofa. “Hmmmm, I bet you’re hungry,” she mumbled as she swung her feet to the floor. “Time to get us both fed.” She glanced at the time display on her tv’s cable box. “11:30! Oh, sweetie, I’m so sorry. You really must be starving.” She quickly rose to her feet.
As she started towards the kitchen, she saw the tiny dog come to alert, his face trained on her apartment’s front door. His hackles were raised, and a low growl rumbled from his throat.
“What is it?” Usually when Rat-Dog heard a visitor come to the door, he would yip, yap and bark until Dolores scolded him into being quiet. This time was different.
“Is there someone there?” No one would come to visit this late, she thought. Dolores stepped to the window and tipped a slat in the blinds to peek out. She could see no one on her front porch.
“Silly dog.” She let the slat fall back into place. ” I bet you really want your supper now.” Rat-Dog did not respond. He continued to stare at the door.
Dolores shuffled into the kitchen, pulled a can of dog food out of a cupboard and got out a can opener. As she was scraping the can’s contents into Rat-Dog’s bowl, she heard him whimper. She walked out of the kitchen and found the dog shivering and backing away from the door. Then she heard it: a soft scraping noise on the other side of the door.
“Who’s there?” she called at the door. The noise stopped. Dolores stomped to the front window and yanked the blinds up.
No one. She strained to see the threshold, but the shadows cast by foliage prevented her from detecting any animal or object brushing against the door. She let the blinds fall down. “It’s probably a raccoon…. I just hope it’s not a skunk.” Her mind immediately went to the doggie-door leading out to her bedroom patio. That’s all she needed: one of the wretched little beasts getting into her apartment. She rushed into her bedroom and snapped the latch on the doggie-door. She could see the quivering little lump that was Rat-Dog hiding under her bedspread.
“My hero….” Dolores shook her head. “C’mon, let’s go eat dinner. I’ll keep you safe from the big bad racc–”
A loud bang on the front door made Dolores jump back against her bedroom wall. Rat-Dog began to bark and thrash his way from under the tangle of the bedspread. Dolores pulled herself together and rushed back into the living room. Keeping her eyes on the door, she grabbed her handbag. She rummaged through it until she found her cell phone. She pressed the side button and saw a tiny sliver of red pop up on the display and the words “Battery Empty. Please recharge.”
“No, no, no….” She punched the face of the phone. The display momentarily flashed and then went black.
Another loud bang rattled the front window and shook the door on its frame. Dolores tossed away the phone and crouched on the floor between the sofa and the coffee table. Rat-Dog went berserk. Foam and saliva flew from his mouth as he barked.
There was no point in yelling for help: Dolores knew that the couple upstairs were on vacation and the old man in the adjacent unit never heard anything at night when he turned off his hearing aid.
Her eyes darted to the top of her curio cabinet in the corner of the living room. Atop it was a katana, a pre-World War II Japanese sword that she had acquired from her uncle. The cold curve of its steel blade and its elegant black-lacquered sheath glinted under the display lights above the cabinet.
Another bang startled Dolores and she glanced back to the door. Then she saw the deadbolt latch. It was vertical. She had forgotten to turn it to locked position when she came home. Dolores started towards the door to turn the latch but jumped back when the door knob jiggled.
Dolores raced to the curio cabinet and pulled the katana off the display holder. She gripped the sword and held it out in front of her.
Truth be told, the real reason she had acquired the sword was not for its aesthetic qualities or historical significance. Rather, she got it to silence her gun-toting friends who insisted that she needed protection if she chose to live alone. Dolores hated guns and would not have one in her home. Her concession, laughable as it was, was to get the sword and buy a dog.
Dolores shifted her grip on the sword. Her breathing was quick and shallow, and sweat beaded on her forehead and face. Rat-Dog had stopped barking and stood whimpering behind the coffee table.
Could she defend herself? She had been taught all her life to “turn the other cheek”, “do unto others,” and “love your enemy.”
Dolores sighed and gently laid down the weapon on the coffee table. She had envisioned in her mind when she got the sword that IF she ever found herself in this situation, she only had to wave the sword around and frighten off her intruders. Here she was now– living out her own fantasy. Or was she? She knew that if someone came through the door, no amount of blade-wielding bravado would help her. Could she actually hurt someone? Could she draw blood to save herself? Would she?
Everything had gone silent except for the ticking clock on the dining room wall. Dolores counted the seconds and after a couple of minutes, she let out a huge breath of relief. She would not need to be tested after all.
Then, the door knob turned. The door swung open and hit the wall, leaving a crack in the plaster.
Dolores’ gaze returned to the sword resting on the coffee table.
ljgloyd (c) 2016