Wednesday, February 26, 2014

He Left The Light On

The man woke up in his recliner to find the lamp on and the radar map still buzzing on the TV screen. This winter it seems that's the only thing worth watching when finally getting in from the farm every evening. How much more snow overnight?
But tonight, it was rain. A lot of wet, cold rain, dripping away at the snow. 

He looked up at the clock that hangs on the chimney: 1:42 in the morning. Time for bed. 
He turned off the TV, reached up and switched off the lamp, then walked through the dark house and up the stairway. 
Except the house wasn't dark. 
There was a light on in the kitchen; a dim one. The old fluorescent light that hangs under the cabinet. He could identify that particular light by the faint yellow glow. Every other bulb in the kitchen had been switched to the energy-saving kind, which would have brought a bright, white light to the old house

Nearly to the top of the steps, he stopped and considered the consequences of leaving that one light on. Shutting everything down and locking every door has been his routine for 30+ years. The wasted energy of an unused light. 
He also considered the consequences of his 63-year-old body going back down the steps, across the house, shutting it off, then beginning the snap-crackle-pop of climbing the stairway again. 

Out of character of him to disregard energy costs, he left the light on

The man slept (for what felt like 23 seconds) before his wife woke him, claiming she heard someone knocking at the door downstairs. 
His eyes opened to focus on the digital clock: 2:47 in the morning?
He put on the blue jeans he had taken off not long ago, and walked downstairs through the dark house. 
Except for the light. 
He flipped on the outside light, and through the the wet screen he could see a person and a bicycle. 
In the rain. 
The wet, cold rain, dripping away at the snow.
The person was shivering - shaking - and soaked to the core. 
The biker looked up at the man in the house; he was young. 

The young man was trying to get to his cousin's house, but had been lost for some time now. 
He didn't think he could go much farther. 
He was shaking uncontrollably. 

He had traveled all the way from Oxford, OH. 
More than 11 hours away - should someone walk it. 
He thought he could just ride north then ride parallel with the interstate. 

Forty miles of rolling rural routes via a bicycle on a wet February night.
And he had no idea where he was, or how to get to the gas station where his family claimed they would pick him up.
He needed help. 

Turning around, the man saw the concern on his wife's face. 
"He's frozen....He's someone's son," he said as he walked to the closet and got his coat. And his truck keys. 
Then he took his wallet out of his jeans, leaving it on the counter. 
"I'll be back."

The man put on a toboggan and went out in the pouring rain. 
He loaded the bike into the back of the truck and told the kid to get in. 
"He's someone's son," the wife thought as she watched everything from an upstairs window. The biker could not quit shaking.

Two miles into their journey, out on a black country road, the man stopped the truck and said, "This will only take a minute," as he grabbed a hammer from the console. 
Probably wasn't the best choice of words. 
In the middle of nowhere, with a man he's never met, on a cold rainy night - can you imagine what the young passenger thought?
The man lifted the hood and banged on a few things. 
The heat came on in the cab.  Warm air. Full blasters.
The kid was grateful. 
They both took a sigh of relief as the man climbed back in the truck. 

Through his chittering teeth, the young man revealed that his girlfriend in Oxford had kicked him out. 
He was from California, and didn't have anywhere to go, except the cousin's house in Indiana. But he had to get forty miles on his bike before they would come get him. 
And he got lost in the dark and rain. Completely. 
During the conversation the man learned the location of the cousin's house; just four miles past the gas station which was supposed to be their meeting place. He offered to take the kid directly there; the offer was graciously accepted. 

Miles later, the headlights cut down a side street of the small town and the diesel engine roared into the apartment complex parking lot. At almost 3:30 in the morning, there wasn't a light on anywhere, with the exception of the street. 

The kid thanked the man while reaching for something under his drenched windbreaker. 
"Here - thank you - it's all I can give you. Thank you."
Fourteen soggy dollars. 
The man didn't take the money. But he did ask:
"Why did you choose our house to stop? So far off of any main road between Oxford and Cambridge..."
The young man responded, looking out the windshield:
"It was the only house I could find with a light on."
Dad made it back to BSG that night and climbed back up those stairs, disregarding the light that was still dimly glowing in the kitchen. No use in shutting it off now; he'd be up shortly to check heifers in the calving barn. He actually had to wake Momma to let her know he was home safely and wouldn't be the next subject of Dateline. Not kidding. 

Roll with it. Even if your electric bill may increase $.12 next month. 
In each of your days, remember this: 


  1. I knew it was your dad before getting to the end. That's just the kind of guy he is.

    1. Yes, a good man. Of course, when Dad was telling us this story (it happened the Saturday night/Sunday morning before the Super Bowl) we all asked him, "Dad - ARE YOU CRAZY?!" He always does the right thing. Always.

  2. AMAZING story!!!!!!! Love it!