The phone at the end of the hall, right next to my room, occasionally came to life in the middle of the night; its merciless metal bells clanging, resounding off the tall walls of the winding front steps and down the long, carpet-less hallway leading from one end of the upstairs to the next.
Startled from my dreams and tormented by its unanswered ring, I’d crawl over whichever dog or cat was hogging most of the bed that night and shuffle toward the noise, hoping to get to the phone before another blast of the bell pierced my brain.
Fumbling for the receiver – and words – I’d already know that the only kind of news that comes in the middle of the night is usually bad.
Or at least not good.
And if I was answering the phone, that meant that Mom and Dad didn’t, and I was about to be made the reluctant messenger.
Sleepless in the hours that followed.
Anxious to hear the garage door rumble and footsteps – two sets.
Hoping the anger and the lecture had happened on the ride home and details would come over a bowl of cereal in the morning.
Happy everyone was back home and in bed.
And all was quiet again.