Mrs. Winslow had become quite old, and along with her increasing age, a growing paranoia had fermented. She had been our next door neighbor for many years and I could personally attest to the fact that she had been a tough old bat, but as she approached ninety I could tell there was a crack in her armor and it was time for payback.
The old lady had run my little brother and me off many times for playing pinners with a rubber ball on her front steps. We usually played our games when she was at work, but she began inspecting the steps for red rubber marks and would immediately report her findings to my mother. These were the type of trivial complaints that had put a kink in my lifestyle. When she began a series of interrogations concerning trespassing on her front lawn, I figured she was bored with life and probably needed something else to worry about.
A deepening gloom set across the sky with the onset of nightfall. The approaching Norther sent streaks of blue-green lightening across the horizon. I peered out my bedroom window to examine the oncoming storm and noticed that the lights in Mrs. Winslow’s study were on. This was an indication that she was about to get liquored up on her favorite Scotch whiskey. My brother handed me my pea shooter and I quietly opened the window. We both packed a mouthful of beans and took careful aim at the study window. “Tap, tap, tap,” the beans sang as the raven tapped against the window pane. We quickly ducked down and then peeked from behind the drapes.
Mrs. Winslow was staring intensely out her window, Scotch in hand, trying to determine the source of the disturbance. The blinds soon closed and once again we inserted our straws and drew aim. “Tap, tap, tap,” the raven knocked once again against the glass window. Edgar Allen Poe rolled over in his grave. From behind the drapes we could see her Coke bottle glasses peeking out. “Don’t move,” I told my brother. “Those Coke bottle glasses may have night vision.”
The following evening was Halloween and I geared up for a repeat performance that had an unintended twist. Once again the rain began to spit from the sky and Mrs. Winslow’s study lights illuminated the room. The pea shooters were drawn and a measured attack began. An errant pea struck the metal gutter above the window with a loud twang and the Coke bottle glasses were soon scanning the perimeter. As soon as the blinds shut, another pea was ricocheted off the gutter. The chain of events was repeated five times before we decided to terminate the Chinese water torture treatment.
“Tap, tap, tap,” the raven knocked at our front door.
“What is it, Mrs. Winslow?” my father said.
“I think there is a prowler outside my house,” she said.
“It’s almost midnight. Are you sure?”
“I am hearing strange noises,” she said.
“All right, let me get my flashlight and I’ll take a look,” he said. We could see the beam of the flashlight as my father stumbled around Mrs. Winslow’s back yard. “I don’t see anything strange,” he assured Mrs. Winslow. Her front door closed and all was silent. Our bedroom window opened a crack and my brother and I delivered a strafing to the gutter and window: Twang, tap, twang, tap! We pulled our blankets over our heads and pretended to saw logs. Within minutes the red and blue flashing lights of a police squad car danced across the bedroom ceiling.
The police met Mrs. Winslow at the front door and an animated discussion took place. She pointed to the study window and closed her door, returning to the inner sanctums of her house. My brother and I watched in horror while the police circled the house and rendezvoused in front of the study window with flashlights drawn. “I think now would be a good time to go to sleep,” I told my brother.
“Tap, tap, tap,” the raven returned to our front door.
“What is it officer? I’m trying to get some sleep,” my father said.
“Your next door neighbor called us and reported that she had a prowler outside of her house. We searched the perimeter of her home and couldn’t find anything unusual until we came to the study window. That’s when I noticed a pile of garbanzo beans on the window ledge. Do you have any idea where they may have come from?”
“Rap, rap, rap,” the folded newspaper hit me on the side of my head as I pretended to sleep.
“Hand over the beans or you’re going down,” my father said.
“Tom, give him the bag of beans under your bed,” I said.
“Rap, rap, rap,” my brother was thrashed by the raven standing over him.
“Now, go to sleep before you get your teeth rapped out!” he shouted.
Edgar Allan Poe rolled over in his grave once more for good measure.