Johnny America


Let’s Frame the Picture


That night, af­ter his house was bro­ken in­to, he re­gained composure.

He an­a­lyzed the sit­u­a­tion and thought it could not have been bet­ter. He had
been to din­ner with his fam­i­ly, so no one was ever in any dan­ger. Af­ter they
got home and parked the car, they found an emp­ty space where the large window
used to be. Now, no one would dis­agree that the win­dows need­ed bars.

His daugh­ter was the first to no­tice some­thing amiss when she stepped on
scat­tered pieces of bro­ken glass. “Why is there bro­ken glass?” she
asked. She on­ly need­ed to raise her head to find the an­swer. No more words came
from her mouth. Ready to go in­side, she stepped to­ward the emp­ty space.

“Don’t go in there!” his wife cried, afraid that some intruder
might still be lurk­ing in the house. Then she burst in­to tears, repeating
with­out re­al­iz­ing: “It’s not pos­si­ble.… It’s not possible.”

He re­mained silent. Tak­ing his daugh­ter’s hand, he stared in­to the hollow
space as if hyp­no­tized, un­able to sup­press the smile that broke across his

“We have to call the po­lice,” said his wife as he led his daughter
to­ward the door. No one lis­tened. He slipped the key in­to the up­per lock and
turned it halfway. Then he put the sec­ond key in­side the low­er lock and turned
it six times to re­lease the huge bolt.

“If some­body is still in there, your cries have alert­ed them,” he
said as he put the first key in­to the mid­dle lock to open the heavy wood­en door.
“We don’t have to en­ter through the win­dow,” he told his daughter.

Six months had passed since the morn­ing when his wife and daugh­ter decided
to re­move bars from the large win­dows fac­ing the gar­den. He agreed on the
con­di­tion that the cur­tains of the large win­dow — through which the house was
bro­ken in­to — would al­ways stay closed, so no one could see that the house was
un­pro­tect­ed. One thing led to an­oth­er and, in less than three weeks, the large
win­dow fac­ing the street lost the iron bars and the cur­tains stayed open day
and night.

“It’s on­ly a mat­ter of time,” he thought dur­ing long sleepless
nights, tired of warn­ing his fam­i­ly about the dan­ger of liv­ing with­out security

They walked past the en­trance and turned on the light. The first thing they
did was open the door of the bath­room in the small hall and look in­side. Then
they took a few steps and went in­to the of­fice on the first floor. He turned on
the light and told his daugh­ter to stay put. He grabbed blank sheets of paper
and felt-tip pens and hand­ed them to her so she could draw.

He combed through the first floor, turn­ing on all the lights on his path,
leav­ing them on once he left to make sure no one was be­hind, un­der, be­side, or
above any­thing, in­clud­ing places where even a dwarf could not hide. He went out
to the gar­den and did the same. Back in the garage, he found his wife still
kneel­ing by the car, sob­bing in silence.

“No­body is down here. I’ll go up­stairs,” he said in a for­mal tone.

There was no sur­prise on the sec­ond floor ei­ther. The house was empty.
There, against his usu­al prac­tice, he al­so left all the lights on.

“No­body is up­stairs,” he told his wife when he reached the bottom
of the stairs. “At least they left us the beds.”

He went in­to the of­fice and wait­ed for his daugh­ter to fin­ish her drawing.

“Do you like it?” she asked.

“What is it?”

“The win­dow they broke to get in­to the house.”

“Oh, well done,” he said with a smile. “Let’s frame it.”
Then he picked her up, car­ried her to her room, helped her put on pa­ja­mas, and
tucked her in.

“Sleep tight,” he said. “We’ll take care of that

When he went back to the garage, his wife was sweep­ing up the bro­ken glass.
He went for an­oth­er broom and helped her fin­ish clean­ing. He thought it would
be in bad taste to re­mind her he had warned them this would hap­pen — to tell
her “I told you so.” He opt­ed to keep his mouth shut while listening
to her sobs.

When he went to bed — with a large emp­ty space on the first floor of his
house — he had no trou­ble falling asleep.

Filed under Fiction on October 12th, 2012

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