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The time someone broke into our house

March 13, 2017

1a1Our off-kilter family had settled into the Delaware side of Delmar, having moved across the state line from Delmar, Maryland (Town motto;  “The little town too big to be in one state.”  Look it up.)  It was now time for Delaware to enjoy some of the Zockoll kids’ antics, whether the Diamond State wanted to or not.

We’d had some small incidents over on the Maryland side, like the time Gwen and Brent got into a shoving match and knocked a hole in the 50 gallon aquarium, and when my junior-high brain  mistakenly assumed that you could boil a two minute egg in a microwave.  Mom wasn’t home and I got the idea to explore various microwave possibilities.  Don’t laugh – I nearly went blind.  I can still feel the scalding of the egg white on my eyelids after the initial poke.  It was a traumatic experience, but over the years I’ve put it behind me and now use a microwave once again.  You gotta move on with your life.

We’d had some big incidents in Maryland, too, the kind that caused the townfolk to come running.  One was when we three boys – Bruce, Brent and Brad – were scooting all over the second story roof, scaling ladders and painting our home a fresh spring sky-blue color for Mom.  We had a twenty-something good-natured guy named Dave who gamely came along to help us finish up the top story in order to have some progress to show Mom before dinner.  Dave wanted to do the finishing touches on the very top lattice work of the roof and threw a short ladder on the second story porch roof, but he forgot to secure his ladder with chock blocks.  I was putting the finishing touches on a bedroom window when I heard a sickening scraping – his ladder sliding off the roof.  I looked up to see Dave in mid-air, flailing about.  He fell directly over my head, bounced off the porch roof with an “oof” and fell to the ground.  Miraculously, he only broke his foot.  As he was being put into the back of the ambulance, I could see neighbors nodding in our direction.  The Zockoll household again.  This time they’re slinging people off the roof.

Our move to Second Street on the Delaware side was relatively uneventful – only a few neighborhood scuffles with bullies and retrieving dogs who broke off of their leash.  Fairly calm.

Until a few months into the school year.

I walked home from a high school wrestling match on a dark October evening and came into a mess. The scene was bedlam. Middle schoolers Wendy and Sheila sat with elementary age Tammi and Kandy on the couch.  All of them were bawling like crazy.  Mom was livid over something, stomping about.  Bruce, the oldest of our siblings, was sitting at the dinner table, unusually quiet.  As usual, whenever there was trouble I ran upstairs to the boys’ attic bedroom and got the lowdown from Brent – he was the Associated Press of the household, always aware of every incident.

“Mom left Wendy to watch the three little ones while Mom went shopping,” Brent said.  “And somebody broke into the house and went after the girls.”  He paused.  “They came up through the cellar – broke through the basement window and then kicked the cellar door open.”

What?”  I was stunned.  Our little country town didn’t have this kind of problem. Maybe a speeding ticket on Bi-State Boulevard or a little vandalism at Flo’s country store, but not this sort of crime.

Brent raised his hands.  “Let me finish.”  He looked down and I could see that he was trying to measure his words.  “Sheila heard clawing on the cellar door and  starting screaming.  The wall phone was too close to the cellar door, so they couldn’t call the police.  Tammi and Kandy tore upstairs and hid under their beds, but were also screaming, so the intruder could hear them.  Wendy crawled out of Mom’s second story bedroom window and scrambled over the porch roof, screaming to people below to get the cops. The whole neighborhood was scrambling for help.”  He blew out a breath.  “Cops came.”

He paused.  I waited.

“It was Bruce.”  His mouth flickered.  “He thought it would be funny.”

He went on to explain that Wendy had gotten mouthy with him earlier in the evening before he went to a Scout meeting, so when he found out Mom was going to be gone until late, he unlatched the cellar window before leaving the house and under the cover of darkness when he came home, slipped through the basement window and began crashing and banging through the coal cellar and stomping up the wooden steps.

Pause for a moment:  For a deeper study on why my oldest brother would think this would be funny, please look up the psychological backgrounds of comedians Bill Murray, Jonathon Winters, and Moe, Larry and Curly.  Bruce had one comedic speed and it was wide open to Nearly Insane.

Why he thought that clawing on a cellar door while shrieking maniacally would be fun for a group of pre-teen girls on a dark October night, I’ll never know.

Man, did he ever get in trouble, but it actually could have been worse.  He endured the police lecture and the Wrath of Mom stoically.  He was dutifully remorseful, but I only think because it didn’t get the laugh he expected.

“Bad timing” was all he’d tell Brent and me.

Bruce is in Heaven now, having suffered a fatal heart attack years ago at the age of fifty-six.  We lost a dear brother and possibly one of the funniest guys to live on this planet.  We kids all grieved  … and we still do, but our comfort is in knowing Bruce is in the family of God in a much, much better place than this.

And even now, once in a while, we smile …

… because we can’t help but wonder if he’s not looking around Heaven, trying to see if he can pull a prank somewhere.









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