Last night, shortly after my husband had left for an overnight job and I had settled in on the back porch with the dogs to write, the power for the entire neighborhood went out.
Now, first of all, it was a crisp, cool, cloudless evening, so I was a bit surprised it went out in the first place. Second, we live in the boonies, so the sudden quiet and darkness was utterly complete.
There wasn’t a pinprick of light anywhere to be seen, and even the nocturnal creatures seemed stunned into momentary silence. Me? I couldn’t help but grin.
Grabbing my flipflops, I headed out into the cul-de-sac, laid on my back, and gazed at the stars. My friends, it was magnificent. Incredible in a way that is impossible to describe. Absolutely no man-made light could be seen, not even a flashlight or car headlight. Above me, the blanket of stars was so spectacular, so complete, I felt as though I were in a planetarium, looking up at a projected image.
From one end of the horizon to the other, what seemed like billions of stars peppered the sky, their normally muted splendor seeming to shout their glory.
Sad that Kirk couldn’t be there to share it, I decided to get Darcy—aka the dog that stays by my side without a leash. Popping back inside, I snap on her collar, grab the lantern, and at the last second snag my little hand-held pepper spray (we are in the sticks, after all) and head back out.
With the lantern on low, I led us back up the driveway and into the cul-de-sac, Darcy happily trotting along beside me. Once at our destination, I snapped off the light and started to sit back down.
And that’s when Darcy decided to have a panic attack.
With the suddenness of a cobra strike, she completely spazzed, launching into a freaked out barking fit as if the Swamp Thing himself had risen up in front of us. The abrupt eruption of noise was so heart-stopping, it scared the absolute bejesus out of me. In that moment, my whole body jerked, including the hand that was holding the pepper spray.
More accurately, I should say the finger resting on the trigger.
To my horror, a cloud of pepper spray instantly surged from the can, and now Darcy really does think something’s attacking us and starts running in erratic circles, apparently employing a move taught at the doggie school of evasive maneuvering in case of alien attack.
Meanwhile, I’m jumping away from the pepper cloud (have I mentioned I’ve been pepper sprayed in the face before? I’m eager to not repeat the experience) and trying to snap the lantern back on. For all I know, a rabid mountain lion is still poised to attack (based on Darcy’s initial reaction). In my heightened state of adrenalin–induced panic, turning on the light seems like a good idea.
Darcy does not agree.
The moment the light snaps on, her panic hits DefCon 6, complete with Kujo sound effects, as she decides that the lines of shadow the lantern casts on the ground are all black lines of death, there to destroy us both. Now the crazed dog circles have widened and increased in speed, and I start to think that maybe Sasquach really was out there, and she’s actually saving our lives.
With a new surge of adrenaline shooting through my body, we both sprint for the house. Darcy’s growling has stopped as she tries to outrun the death eaters, and I’m just trying to not be slower than whatever crazed wildebeest may or may not be behind us. I almost make it to the front walk when a whooshing sound next door to stop me in my tracks.
My neighbor’s head pokes out of his window, and he offers a calm and collected, “S’up?”
My heart is pounding so hard in my ears I am lightheaded, and Darcy is still racing through the yard, but my own, much more useful instincts of ego-preservation kicks in, and I slow and offer a negligent. “Nothing. Just looking at stars. You?”
Never mind that my fingers are tingling with residual pepper spray and my dog is running around like Underdog on crack, I refuse to look like a paranoid fool.
“Going to bed early, I guess,” he responds. “Night.”
I wait for the second whooshing, indicating the window has been closed, before bolting for the front door, corralling my Captain Spazoid dog in with me. I lock the door, wash my peppered hands, and collapse on the couch.
Moral of the story? Your dog is not an appropriate replacement for your husband for power outage stargazing. Trust me.