WHISPERING THIEVES IN OUR BEDROOM

In the summer of 1962, we lived in Canilléjas, Spain, a suburb of Madrid. All our bedrooms were upstairs, except the maid’s room, which was downstairs behind the kitchen. Our upstairs master bedroom had sliding glass doors that opened onto a second floor wrap-around porch. Our house and yard, which included a small kidney-shaped pool, were protected by a high cement wall with shards of glass pointed upward and set securely into the cement on top the wall. Greenery disguised the ugliness of all that protection. We drove our car into this rented villa through a heavy, black, wrought iron gate that was always kept locked. We never left the gate unlocked or the car parked outside the gate, not even for a minute. We knew to expect, and guard against, theft.

While in Spain, Mac and I enjoyed an active social life with the Fighter Squadron’s F-102 pilots and their wives, most often at the Officer’s Club on Torrejón Air Force Base. After one of those Saturday night parties, Mac and I came home, shedding our clothes, one garment at a time, as we walked through the front door and straight out back to the swimming pool and slipped naked into the water. It was a very hot night, and the dip felt refreshing and wonderful before going to bed.

Somewhere around 3:00 a.m. I was awakened by loud whispers at the foot of our bed. I could tell it was two Spanish men discussing the pocket change, pocket knife, cigarette lighter, cigarettes, wallet and car keys that Mac had left on the dresser when he emptied his pockets. Mac was snoring loudly. I grabbed and squeezed some bare skin near the lower part of his rib cage. He snored again. The men continued to whisper. I grabbed more skin next time, and squeezed harder. He shifted his position, but snored again. The Spanish men were still arguing in their loud whispers. On the third try, I took a bigger fistful of Mac’s flesh and twisted hard. He reared up and said angrily “What the hell do you want?” I answered, “There are two men in here”. Immediately on hearing Mac’s voice, the men started scurrying out. Mac was yelling “Get the gun! Get the gun!” I was telling him I was not about to turn on the light to get the gun until those men got out of there.  I didn’t want them to see me naked.

For the men, getting out of the room was not that simple. Due to the heat, we had left the sliding glass door open, but with the door’s wooden slat blinds lowered all the way to the floor, the slats open to let the night air in. The thieves had used pieces of our firewood to prop up one end of the wooden slats, giving them an eighteen inch high triangular opening to crawl through on their stomachs. Their only way out was to crawl back through that opening, single-file. They crawled on their bellies, like snakes, first one thief, followed by the other, both slithering out the door, then Mac, third in line, on his belly, stark naked, and still yelling at me to get the gun.

Once out of our bedroom, the men had to run the length of the wrap-around porch, drop down onto an attached storage shed, then drop further down onto the coal bin, then down to the ground, then run across the driveway to the iron gate and climb it. It was the only way out, as they couldn’t climb over the wall topped with glass shards.

While they were doing that, I turned on the light, threw on a nightie, got the gun from the top shelf of the closet, raised the wooden slat blinds so I could walk out upright, and quickly delivered the gun to Mac who was throwing sticks of firewood the men had used to prop up slats down at them as they scrambled up and over the front gate. As they dropped to the sidewalk outside the gate, Mac started firing his .38 pistol. Thankfully, he missed. By then, the two men were running away with lightning speed along the sidewalk just outside our hedge. Mac, still naked, was standing there bragging that he had hit one of them in the middle of the back with a piece of wood. It made him feel better about missing with the gun. I was just as happy that there wasn’t a dead body in front of our house.

I recall then, following the shouting, scurrying, scrambling and gunshots, the oddly quiet, peaceful and beautiful, balmy moonlight night out there on the second floor porch. I stayed a while, enjoying the moment.

Eventually, I went back inside and into Eric’s and Casey’s bedroom which was across the hall from ours. They would have been seven and six years old at the time, sleeping on Government Issue army cots. I remember saying, “Now, you may have heard gun shots last night, but everything is alright”, and it was. We had a new story to tell, and tell it we did.

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