Nothing quite spices up the morning when, stooping to retrieve the paper from the driveway, a succession of pistol shots are fired nearby.
Pop-pop. Pop-pop-pop-pop, pop-pop, pop.
The possibility of one's neighborhood being featured as the headline in the next day's newspaper, suddenly becomes very real.
It happened in my neighborhood yesterday, shortly before 7am when the steady thrum of rubber tires on asphalt from the nearby four-lane highway, drowned out the sounds of bird-song and cockerels crowing. Yellow school bus diesel engines purred in concert, collected in a convoy as they neared the small community's single traffic light at the cross-roads, readying to turn toward the Middle and High Schools.
Dogs of all varieties, in, out and under a cluster of mobile-homes scattered within sandy and wooded lots bordering washboard dusty roads, yelped and barked.
Not a soul was to be seen except a cluster of scared-looking parents and children gathered, waiting for the later Bible School bus. Safety and curiosity tugged, briefly, before caution overruled and retreat to the comparative safety of the cedar-frame and tin-roofed Victorian house, won out.
The 911 Emergency Operator said she was already aware of the gun-shots, thank you very much, click!
Its very unsettling knowing one's active imagination has NOT transformed the backfiring of an old clunker, somewhere in the distance, to the reality of lethal gunfire nearby.
The instincts of a lifetime on the front lines of police reporting, pen and camera pushing toward the greatest source of activity to determine who did what to whom, when and why, were strong. However, as a “civilian” one has the right to pay pay taxes, call on the law when necessary, but otherwise, stay below the radar. Also, with maturity comes a realization of personal vulnerability and likelihood of becoming an innocent-bystander victim caught in a collateral collisions between good and evil. The certainty of invincibility dissipated along with hair and original teeth.
Dozens of scenarios race through ones mind: a domestic dispute, a drug-deal gone sour, feuding neighbors or an early celebration of an unknown Latino holiday. That last was cruel but real. Seems there can be no event, whether its the birth of a newborn, the outcome of a football/soccer game, or heralding the New Year, without fireworks and gun-shots.
As any student of Newton's Law of Gravity knows, what goes up must come down. And bullets, after peaking at their trajectory, have a return rate to earth of 32-feet per second per second.
There was nothing about the shoot-out on any of the area television newscasts. Apart from bickering, babbling and preening for the cameras – always a a split-second after the angle changed – the studio clowns joshed their way between an avalanche of commercials, weather reports, traffic updates and canned network newscasts,
No sense calling the local newspapers during the current economic crunch to get a recoded message stating: “You have reached an unoccupied desk. If you wish to leave a message call...” following by a string of gabbled numbers no one unfamiliar with could possible retain.
A day housebound, at least until the sound of sirens in the distance; patrol cruisers, emergency vehicles, fire-trucks fade away for good.
The laundry, file sorting, bill paying, tasks set aside for a rainy day loom as an immediate time filler until its deemed safe to venture out to the bank, post-office and grocery store.
All doors and windows closed and locked, while the mighty-mouth AM radio jockey babbling in the background, just in case a listener with a police monitors calls in an up-date.
The Middle-East is in turmoil, there are two wars being waged overseas, airports are combat zones with frisk and squeeze security scans, terrorists with bombs in their skivvies fly the friendly skies overhead, and some nutter is firing shots in the neighborhood.
And, as someone with the ear of the nation was wont to say as he signed off his newscast: “That's the way it is.”
Can't wait to pick up tomorrows newspaper and find out what happened – but not holding my breath of any explanation.