This is a recycled story, published some time ago, that some of you have seen, but I thought it should be updated for the season and for the slew of new readers that have joined the fun since then. Enjoy!
“Steve, I think I hear someone downstairs” my wife said to me as she shook me and woke me up from a deep slumber.
“What… what’s going on?” I murmured still half asleep.
“Shhhh” she said. “I think I hear someone downstairs!”
Now I was wide awake. It was the middle of the night and there was an intruder in our house. I wondered why our dog, a 200 lb. St. Bernard, hadn’t woken up and barked. I quickly remembered though, all the times I had come home from work, walked into the house and not awakened him.
“Great watchdog” I thought to myself.
“Should we call the police?” my wife asked.
“Whoa there, hold on. Let me sneak down there and see what’s going on.”
“Okay, but what if someone’s down there?”
“I’ll be fine.” I crawled out of bed, adrenaline spiraling through my body, threw on some sweatpants and started heading towards the bedroom door.
“Be careful”, she said as I left the room.
I took a quick glance at the kid’s bedroom doors and both were closed. I had been hoping it was just one of them awake and downstairs getting a snack or something to drink. Two closed doors meant both kids were still asleep in their rooms. I continued to the stairs.
The stairs in our 120 year old house are terribly creaky. I’ve always thought that would be beneficial someday when the kids were coming home late at night. But not now! Not as I was risking my life to find out who was walking around our house in the middle of the night. I desperately tried to remember which steps made the loudest noise so I could avoid them, but other than the bottom three, which I knew were loose, my mind was drawing a blank. I gently took each stair, trying to be as silent as possible.
First step… okay.
Second step… okay.
Third step… CREAK!
“UGH,” I groaned quietly jumping down one more step to try to minimize the noise. I stood there quietly trying to catch my breath and get my heart rate down a little bit. In the deadly stillness of the night, I heard some rustling noises downstairs that sounded like it was coming from the family room. “This is absolutely nuts” I thought. “What are you thinking?”
But something drew me on, so I continued down the creaky steps, one at a time and thankfully, mostly quietly. Those last few steps could be a problem, but maybe a few loud creaks would scare off the intruder. I moved quickly… CREAK… CREAK… CREAK… and I was in the dining room, heart beating out of my chest, but still alive, and having not yet come face to face with anyone.
The rustling noise was still coming from the family room which was the room next door to where I was standing. I guess my plan hadn’t worked! With my back against the wall, like one of those cops you see in a Hollywood blockbuster movie, patrolling a house full of armed thugs, I peered around the corner. That’s when I saw him, this intruder that was invading the privacy of our house. His back was to me and he was working fast moving about the room with a bag packed full of stuff.
I stepped back behind the wall to reassess the situation. My heart was beating uncontrollably and I noticed that my hands were now shaking. “I’ve seen him before” I thought. “What is he doing here?” In just that brief glance I had recognized his grayish white hair and his clothes. I stealthily peered around the wall once again and he was still there, back towards me, but moving fast… so incredibly fast… doing his business rapidly so he could get to the next house, to the next job.
For a moment I just watched in stunned amazement, afraid to startle him, afraid to interrupt him. Finally I couldn’t help myself. “Pssst” I said, trying to gently announce my presence. He didn’t hear me. “Pssst” I said again, a little louder. This time he whipped around rapidly, surprised at being seen, his eyes wide open and his white beard and his traditional red suit now clearly visible.
“Oh, it’s just you” he said with a relieved tone. “For a second I thought it might be a kid.”
“No, I checked and they’re still sound asleep” I reassured him. “But what the hell are you doing here?” I scolded. “You scared the crap out of me. My kids don’t believe in you anymore. I thought someone had broken into the house.”
He smiled that familiar, big grin and laughed that familiar, jolly old laugh and tossed me a big chocolate snowman wrapped in silver and red foil. “Eat this and go back to bed” he said as the snowman flew across the room towards me. “Lots of kids say they don’t believe anymore. Most of ‘em still want to believe but there’s just too much peer pressure from their friends. I’m not ready to give up on yours just yet!”
“Yeah, I guess that makes sense” I replied.
“Here, put this in one of the kid’s stockings, I don’t need it. I ate a bunch of candy before I turned in tonight.” I tossed the snowman back to him. “Guess I better get back to bed.” “See you next year, maybe?” I asked as I started to turn around to head back upstairs.
“We’ll see, that’s a long way off, let me get through this year first.”
“Yeah, okay… alright good night” I said and I turned back towards the creaky stairs. For a brief second I wondered if I was sleep walking and I stopped and glanced back. No, I was definitely awake, but our guest was gone, the dog was asleep on the floor gently snoring, and the rest of the house seemed deathly quiet. I grabbed a glass of water and poured it down my parched throat as I pondered this late night encounter.
A few moments later, up the stairs I went, back into the bedroom. My wife was asleep as if nothing had happened, but as I climbed into bed, the jostling of the mattress woke her up.
“You okay?” she mumbled, her now half asleep.
“Yeah, I’m fine” I said. “I just needed a glass of water… I haven’t been sleeping real well tonight. Must be all that chocolate I ate.”