The Night Of The Living AA’s: Report #3


I’m sitting on the sofa in our screened-in porch listening to the rain falling, heavily and with vigor, on our deck, roof and the new leaves of the maples.  I want another mug of Dorset tea, but that would mean going into the kitchen one more time.

I’m reluctant to do that.  There is something going on in the kitchen that causes me to suffer the most prolonged insomnia and induces the more horrific nightmares when sleep does finally come to my weary and reddened eyes.

I have only myself to blame…

I’ve always wanted to own an indoor/outdoor thermometer.  I wanted one even as a young child.  While the other boys in my neighborhood would be playing catch or stealing apples from the old orchard or riding their bikes around the block singing: “Back in the Saddle Again”, I would be dreaming of owning a device that would let me know what the temperature was both inside my home and outside in the yard. The only problem was that these instruments weren’t yet invented.  If I wanted to know how cold it was, I would have to don a coat and flannel-lined jeans and trudge out to the wall of the garage and look up at the mercury column, inside a glass tube that was attached to a Coca Cola advertisement.

Now, sixty years later, I own three of these wonderful little units.  There’s one in my “man-cave” in the lower level of our house.  There’s one still in the box, just as it was when I bought it at a Costco’s in Jupiter, Florida.

And, there is the one in the kitchen…on the narrow sill just above the sink.  It’s small.  It’s accurate.  And, it simply terrifies me.

I’ve written two posts on this Radio Shack model before (or maybe one blog and a Facebook post, I can’t remember).  So, for those who have been following me over the years, you may know what’s coming next in this particular report.  For those of you who are more recent “followers” of my stuff here on WordPress, then be afraid, be very afraid.  Do not let your children read this post.  If you’re weak of heart or a faithful church-goer, you may want to stop here.

You’ve been warned!

You see, my friends, my wife and I bought this house in 2000.  We used it as a vacation home for a number of years, renting it out to people willing to come to the Adirondacks and get bitten by black flies and deer flies and mosquitoes while enjoying the hiking, boating and swimming that the Park offers.

We were living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at the time.  It was the perfect weekend get-a-way retreat for us when we felt the need to escape the artistic and cultural life of a vibrant city.  It was only a mere six and a half hour drive (305 miles) from our front door on W. 93rd St. to the driveway at 58 Garondah Road.

Within a month or two of buying the house, I happened to be in the Saranac Lake Radio Shack.  I was looking over the radios and kits of all sorts when I spotted it.  There it was.  An indoor/outdoor thermometer!

Naturally, I bought it and within an hour I had it up and running.  I carefully placed the outdoor sensor outside our kitchen window and behind a shutter…in the shade.  It was this very same thermometer that I glanced at one evening while we making a quick winter trip to use our new L.L.Bean snowshoes, and saw that it was -36 degrees.  This was probably the first time that I began to question why we had chosen to live this far north.

I put in two AA batteries.  It was 2000.  At first, for a year or two, everything went smoothly.  Then, I began to notice something strange…something sinister…something that has grown more terrifying as year came and went.

The indoor/outdoor kept working!

“What’s wrong with thing?” I asked Mariam.  “It should have needed new batteries by now.  Nothing made since 1957 was made to last more that a few years.”

I knew this was especially true of batteries.  Why else would places like Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Radio Shack sell them in packages of sixty?

And, this, dear reader is where the story becomes unnatural…eerie…and downright frightening.  It’s been sixteen years since I put in those two AA batteries…and they are still working!  It’s not my imagination.  I will swear to the good Lord above that I have not replaced those two batteries.  I want desperately to open the back of the indoor/outdoor thermometer and check on the brand, but I am afraid to open the small plastic door.  I’ve seen enough Steven Spielberg movies to know that when you open certain items, unholy things come, like smoke from a clay Churchwarden pipe and the demons of the Other World are released.

I have enough guilt in my heart already…I don’t need to unleash Satan or whatever into this world.  It’s already too violent, religiously insane and terrorizing…and I’m not just talking about Donald Trump here.

But, something is powering my indoor/outdoor thermometer. Something sinister and unworldly.  It certainly can’t be the AA batteries…sixteen years is fifteen and a half years beyond their expected lifetime.

I still want a second mug of Dorset tea.  I think I’ll ask Mariam to go into the kitchen to make it for me.  I can claim my back hurts.

And, it does.  I have an MRI to prove it.

Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve VII: “Beyond The Campfire”


The autumn leaves are rustling in the chilly breeze–the chilly breeze that is coming from the lake–drifting through the trees with the promise or a threat of the coming winter.  He threw another split piece of hardwood on the already warm fire.

His wife looks at him when the pack of coyotes begin to howl.  There is a den that is only about a half-mile away, out in the woods, near Grandma’s Pond.  It gets very dark out by Grandma’s Pond–a good place for a pack of coyotes to live.  A few years ago, a neighbor let her brown labrador out for the night.  The poor dog was never seen again.  The coyotes?

Another pack picks up the howling.  Or is it just an echo from the esker across the lake?  It’s hard to tell sometimes when only one wild animal screeches in the night…or whether it’s twenty wild animals.  The echoes can fool anyone.

He’s been planning on attempting a hike that will take several days to complete.  That would mean several nights too.  He tried the hike forty years ago, solo.  He found that as much as he loved the forest, the quiet, the trees and the sounds…during the day, that it was very different when the sun went down.  A flashlight only provides a person with a small cone of light in a large cathedral of dark trees.  And, once the flashlight is switched “ON”, the batteries begin to drain…ever so slowly.  A hiker can’t carry a pound of Duracells for several nights out.  The weight is too much…like the darkness.  It tends to envelope the solo camper.  It tends to act like a shroud.  The burden of the dark and being alone can sometimes drive a “normal” person into levels of fear that can alter their psychology…that can make them do irrational things…think irrational thoughts…make irrational plans.

Those pressures have been known to drive people insane.  The fear of what lurks in the dark forest, is as bad as the fear of what lurks in your brain.

What are people capable of doing?

But he’s not alone on this night.  His wife is sipping her Chardonnay.  Their house is just behind them.  There are motion lights in several locations around the house…able to detect someone (or something) approaching.  Or, just to make sure you don’t trip over a log.

Or an axe.  He remembered he sank the blade of the axe into a stump.  He looked around to check it.  He could see the orange plastic.  The handle arched at an obscene angle…about 45 degrees and pointed toward the area where the coyotes were howling.

The perfect sized fire gave off plenty of light.  There were two Tiki torches on each side of the stone fire pit.  But, even with this light, there was an intense and awful darkness just beyond the limit of sight.

Was there anything out there?  What did he just hear?

As a child, afraid of the dark, he was told by adults that the night forest is just like the day forest.  If you could turn on a light at midnight, everything would be the same as if it were noon.

He knew as an educated adult and former science teacher that those reassuring remarks were simply not true.  The night forest is very different from the day forest.

But what was out there?  He rose from the chair and went to get the axe.  He brought it back and leaned it against the stump that held his wife’s wine glass.

He avoided looking into the darkness.  Instead, he stared into the bright flames and the red embers.  There was comfort there.

It was getting colder.  The coyotes stopped howling.

He put his hand on the axe handle.  There was comfort there.

He stared into the embers.  There was comfort and ease there.

But away from the fire…was overwhelming and terrible discomfort and unease.

Out there.