Mind the Locked Door


One Sunday morning back in the very early 1980s, I had half-heartedly awoken around the 7 a.m. hour as per usual. I rolled out of bed, and, like many 8 year olds, I headed to my parents’ room to watch cartoons until I was awake enough to begin faking an illness to avoid dressing up for church.

But as I arrived at my parents’ door, I was surprised to find it locked. If I had been a little older, I would have known that locked parents’ doors mean things inside are going really bad or really well. Either way, I would have had the good sense to run into the kitchen and try my best to think happy thoughts.

As it were, I was only 8 and a locked door seemed fishier than a pescatarian’s trash can. So my instinct was to knock louder and louder until someone from inside that room came to open the dang door!

However, all I heard from the other side was my mother shout, “Luke, go back to your room now and make sure your brother stays right there with you!”

That command seemed rather odd at the time, but I obeyed and sat
with my 3-year-old brother, Austin, on his bed to await further instructions.

Several minutes—maybe even an hour—passed, and I struggled to make out what all of the muffled voices and various clunky sounds meant. Then, as if from nowhere, a shotgun blast rang out. The shot echoed across Lake Martin’s still waters like a noisy skipping rock.

Austin and I didn’t know what had happened, but we knew it could not have been good. Did Mom finally have enough of Dad’s snoring? Did Dad go all Elvis on the TV? Heck, we had no idea my parents had a gun! Where did they get one at 7:30 in the morning on a Sunday? (Wait, we live in Alabama; that’s probably not so hard to do.)

Just then, very randomly, the current greenkeeper at a nearby golf course appeared with Dad’s bright orange lounge chair. (It was the early ’80s, remember? Bright orange was all the rage.) There was a hole the size of Dom DeLuise’s mouth shot clear through the seat. I was still very confused.

Before I explain, it should be noted that my family had pet raccoons from time to time when I was growing up. I understand keeping a wild animal like a raccoon does nothing to combat the typical Alabama stereotype, but don’t judge us until you have tried it. They are like cats with thumbs (and without the snobbishness). Plus, you can give them cool and creative names like I did. We had a total of three pet raccoons during childhood and named them Rac, Rac 2, and Rac 3.

Back to the story, the night before that morning it seems someone (my money’s on my brother) left the front door open. That allowed for various nightlife to make its way into the house at
various times.

At around 6:30 a.m., Dad (sans desperately needed glasses) saw that the nocturnal mammal had wandered into his bedroom and assumed this was the triumphant return of Rac 3, who had run away a few months earlier.

Dad elatedly picked up Rac 3 and began tickling her throat and then her arms (she loved that he remembered). He then began to pet her belly. It was at that moment, even at his visually-impaired worst, that he could see a certain pair of rather bloated testicles this “female” raccoon owned.

In fact, the animal was no female at all. At least, there is NO WAY this raccoon could use the women’s restroom in North Carolina, I will just leave it at that.

Dad had been playfully petting an animal that was never our pet in the first place. Nope, this varmint had just stumbled upon an open door on Lakeshore Drive and was probably thinking, “Wow, what a nice family putting me in a cozy bed and tickling me like this! Humans get a bad rap.”

To make a long story short, after Dad’s startling realization that Rac 3 was not Rac 3 (or was Rac 3 after the world’s first raccoon sex change operation), he called for help from the golf course’s greenkeeper. After all, with two small children, Dad wisely did not have a gun in the house.

The now-frightened raccoon had dug itself into the upper side of the bottom of Dad’s chair, thus eventually explaining the shotgun blast through the seat.

To make a long story short, I never got to see my cartoons that morning (but I DID get to skip church so it was a wash, really).

There are probably like 273 morals to this tale, but the one thing I want to get across to the youth of America is this: If you try to get in your parents’ room early in the morning and the door is locked, trust what I say and just go back to your room. There could be an incident with a wild raccoon in there or maybe, just maybe, even something worse.

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