It was two AM; I worked the late shift and was winding down after a long day, veg’ing out on the sofa, watching TV with my dog. Then I heard a noise, a metallic ping. I glanced at my dog, her ears pricked up, primed, and then she ran for the window. We both looked out. I had a sign on my front lawn, and now it was gone. Only the metal post remained, swaying back and forth. I looked at my dog; she looked at me, both of us indignant. Someone stole our sign, right under our noses!
It was like a switch flipped. All of the day’s stresses, along with the mounting tension of living in a neighborhood frequently subject to minor thefts by partying students and a recent infiltration of petty drug dealers, making their mark, made me angry. In fact I was seething. I was tired of being afraid in my own home.
I grabbed my dog’s leash. She was ticked off too and we headed out the door. My dog sniffed around, her body tensed, tail straightened, and nose pointed like a directional signal down the block. She is a pretty good tracker for a city dog. We made eye contact again, and were off. On the trail.
At the end of the block we turned and saw them. A group of three guys. Probably college students. Probably inebriated. On the other side of the street. Two with arms full of street signs, directional signs, parking signs, you name it, and the other stooped over a beautiful wooden sign in front of the Catholic Church’s student house, digging it up.
We caught them, in the act, red handed, and I yelled: “Give me back my sign!” Nothing fancy, but effective. They ran. I ran. My dog ran. We were in pursuit. We ran two long blocks, chasing as they fled and dropped signs along the way. They turned up another street and as my dog and I closed in on them it finally dawned on me. I’m 5’ 3, more like 5’ 2, if really pushed to be accurate. I won’t relate my weight, but those guys probably had at least 50 lbs. on me, each, and much more height. It was the middle of the night. I was chasing three big guys through empty city streets with my dog. What was I going to do if I caught them?
I stopped. Finally sanity took hold of me. I turned and walked back home, picking up the dropped signs along the way. My husband was up when I got home. “What is going on?” He wanted to know. I explained it to him, and realized as I was talking how crazy I sounded. I called the police and reported the thefts. They sent a squad car. As it pulled down the street I gathered up the scavenged signs, and my husband quietly slipped away, back upstairs to bed.
I went outside, gave the officer the signs. Explained my sign was still stolen. He asked if I happened to know which direction the guys went. This is where my temporary insanity became painfully obvious. I explained that the perpetrators fled down my block, then turned right, attempted to steal the Catholic sign, were interrupted, ran two blocks to the left and then turned left again. The officer looked at me. I could barely make eye contact. I wondered if he was contemplating bringing me in for questioning. I finally mumbled that my dog chased the guys and I had to get my dog. I don’t think my dog appreciated it.
The officer left. I went back inside. My heart beat returned to normal. My dog sat down and sighed. And that was that. The end of my life as a vigilante crime fighter. No one the wiser. Except my dog. And my husband. And a few friends, usually after someone comments, “Sara is so quiet and reserved,” and my husband’s eyes start to glitter and he casually mentions, “Well there was the incident with the signs.”
“The very contradictions in my life are in some ways signs of God’s mercy to me.” - Thomas Merton