His thinning brown hair disheveled much more than usual, Bunt Crumley, 43, sneaked into the back door of his house, entering the cluttered and cat-infested rear porch. Holding the wooden, spring-loaded door so it wouldn’t slam behind him, Bunt gently eased it back into place. He squinted in the darkness, trying to focus on the myriad objects lying about on the floor between him and the door into the kitchen. He smelled cat musk, and swore to himself that he would rid his house of the vile creatures one day soon. He saw a cat lying on his narrow route. Bunt thought it must be Brown Slime, the one he hated most. He stepped toward it and kicked, connecting nicely on its side and sending not Slime but a football crashing through the glass pane of the kitchen door. Bunt’s sneak was over.
With the exploding windowpane and resulting tink-tinkle of glass shards on the kitchen floor, Jinx Crumley, 42 (her once coal-black hair almost completely overrun with grey), awoke from a deep and beautiful slumber. Noises in the night rarely interrupted her sleep, but the sound of breaking glass was a rarity. She instantly thought of the mess it must have made wherever the pieces landed, and she visualized the shiny, tiny, splintery fragments lying about on her carpet. Then she realized the sound was more like glass hitting a hard floor. The only hard floor in the house was in the kitchen. She sighed about the mess in the kitchen, then reached over to wake Bunt. Bunt was not there. Jinx looked across Bunt’s vacant side of the bed to the alarm clock and saw 2:46 in red numbers. Tuesday morning, almost 3 a.m., and Bunt was probably squeezing the trigger on an intruder.
On the way to the kitchen, with her heart pounding violently, Jinx looked anxiously into Whit’s room. The fifteen-year-old was peacefully asleep, his hands folded upon his stomach, his chest rising and falling almost imperceptibly. Schoolbooks and papers lay about on the floor. Whit’s Barbie dolls and G.I. Joes co-mingled upon his quilt. Jinx pulled his door closed, thinking that an intruder wouldn’t hurt him if he didn’t know Whit was there. Jinx continued on her way, now very slowly as she tiptoed through the living room and listened intently for further noises. She heard someone moving, stepping on glass pieces and grinding them into the floor, likely scratching it and making it unsightly as well as difficult to clean and wax. Jinx moved cautiously toward the doorway to the kitchen. She peeked around the doorjamb in the darkness, and there was Bunt in his underwear, pistol in hand and pointed toward the door.
“Bunt,” Jinx whispered. The small light on top of the range lighted the room sparingly but sufficiently as it had for all of the twenty-two years of their marriage.
Bunt turned around and looked at her. His eyebrows were arched and he was biting his lip. His hair, still a mess, was speckled with bits of straw and small chicken feathers, although Jinx didn’t notice. Bunt shook his head and looked back at the broken window.
“What happened?” Jinx said.
“It’s the football,” Bunt said. “It came through the window.” He pointed with the pistol to the ball on the floor near the refrigerator. Jinx looked at it and then looked back at the broken window.
“Someone threw it?” Jinx’s forehead wrinkled with annoyance and confusion. “Who did it?”
Bunt considered the possibilities before he answered, all the while wishing he had thought about a response to such a question while he had been pulling off his shirt and pants and stuffing them into the corner of the porch behind the boxes on the floor. He could only muster a headshake.
“I have no idea,” he said.
“Maybe it was Nutty Nick,” Jinx suggested.
Bunt liked it. “I bet it was,” he said. “Has he been around here lately?”
Jinx shook her head.
“Did Whit say something to make him mad at us?” Bunt said.
“Oh, wait,” Jinx said. “I saw him at the grocery store yesterday. He was opening bags of donuts and eating from them. I told him to stop.”
“That’s it, then,” Bunt said, smiling at Jinx’s timely recollection.
“Look at this mess,” Jinx moaned, surveying the flashes of light on the floor. “Are you going after him?”
“Heck, no,” Bunt said. “We don’t even know it was him. Maybe it was a bunch of thugs or somethin’.”
“I don’t care who it was, I wish they’d come back and clean up their mess.”
Bunt stepped toward the door with the broken window and Jinx squealed.
“Stop! Bunt, don’t step on the glass!”
Bunt stopped. Jinx then noticed that Bunt was wearing his dress shoes and navy knee-high socks. His shoes, black wing tips with leather soles and rubber heels, were caked with something that resembled mud.
“What’s on your shoes?”
“My shoes?” Bunt said, looking down.
Chicken shit clung to the edges of Bunt’s shoes. Bunt groaned when he saw it, then he noticed that the ripe, slimy material was smeared throughout the kitchen, including up to and under the back door.
“Hey,” he said, “where did I pick that stuff up?”
Jinx was silent as she considered Bunt’s question. She then considered his attire. Next, she thought a bit about the whereabouts of her husband when she heard the glass shatter, and that she groped for him in the darkness no later than four or five seconds after the event. She marveled at her husband’s quick reactions in his middle age, and that he could have not only got into the kitchen so soon after the football entered it, but also that he could have pulled on those long socks, slipped on and tied his shoes first. Bunt was quite a man.
The antiseptic white glare from the lamp on top of the 1957 Magic Chef oven played games with Bunt’s face. His curling, struggling lip, pulled up high on his teeth, cast a shadow under his nose, making him look like someone else, a mustachioed stranger that Jinx had never seen before. Bunt shook his head, knowing that Jinx was probably thinking unkind thoughts about him and that he must look pretty ridiculous right now. He said nothing as he worked his lip up hard under his nose and let Jinx search his face for answers.
Jinx finally smiled and stepped up to him. She shook her head and patted his cologne-soaked cheek.
“I’m sure you have a reasonable explanation for your appearance and for this mess. There’s always a reasonable explanation for everything.”
Jinx patted Bunt’s cheek some more, then stepped back and scowled at him.
“But I want this mess straightened up, NOW,” she said with the authority and inflection of a drill sergeant.
“All right, all right,” Bunt mumbled, then shuffled off to get the broom and dustpan out of the closet.
“Please, Bunt,” Jinx said, “take those awful shoes off. And be careful with the glass. You’d better put something over this window, too. Then get those shoes cleaned up. All right?”
“Yes, Hon,” Bunt said. “Why don’t you go back to bed? I’ll take care of all this.” Bunt patted Jinx’s shoulder.
“I think I will,” Jinx said, turning and shuffling toward the bedroom. “Yes, it’s time to go to bed. Who in the world would have guessed I’d be up past two o’clock on a weekday. I have to get some sleep.”
Bunt turned to the task as hand, knowing that Jinx truly would accept any reasonable explanation for what had just happened. Perhaps he would believe one too.