Alice was glad to get back to her secluded sylvan cottage now that her week was at an end. Tom, the outside package deliveryman for the Braille Institute where she worked, had talked her ear off that afternoon and set her work schedule way back. She liked her role as one of the blind volunteer coordinators at the Institute, but it was just as demanding as a paid position and had more stress than might be apparent to the casual observer. Still, it provided her with the feeling of independence that she so craved.

Alice changed out of her office clothes and started thinking about her evening. Maybe I’ll make a cup of tea…will help me wind down…maybe open that tin of Harney & Sons from Mom and brew the chocolate mint.   

Alice began to feel a few hunger pangs…too tired to prepare a full meal for dinner tonight…I think what I need after my tea is just a cup of soup and a chicken salad sandwich. 

The phone rang. “Hello.”

“Hello, Ma’am, this is the Verizon field support office. Since you’re on our special needs contact list, I’m calling to let you know that phone service in your local area will be disrupted for a short time due to some emergency repair work. The repairs will start in about half-an-hour and, with luck, will last no more than three hours.”

“Okay. Please let me know as soon as my phone is back in service. I’m blind and don’t feel altogether secure without a landline to the outside.”

“Not to worry, I’ll be sure to take care of it.”

Alice had received several such Verizon phone alerts in the past and knew they were reliable. She headed into the kitchen, humming as she heated the soup and made her sandwich. She relaxed as she ate while listening to her favorite classical music station. At the moment, it was broadcasting the Brahms violin concerto being played by Hilary Hahn. This Brahms piece has to be one of the high moments of Western civilized musicand Hilary Hahn is a spectacular violinist. Classical music had been a sustaining force for Alice throughout her lifelong blindness, and her singing of operatic arias and German lieder was one of the main creative outlets she had at this point in her life.


She was startled…that’s strange…sounds like something hit the roof. Oh well, was probably nothing…will ask Joe to check the roof during his regular maintenance rounds tomorrow. Alice went back to her meal and to Hillary Hahn playing Brahms.


There it goes again! Alice felt irritation and was getting concerned. I hope one of the tree limbs hasn’t broken off and damaged the roof…just put new shingles on it last summer…darn, wish I had paid attention to Joe when he told me to trim all the trees next to the cottage.

Alice then heard what seemed to be a knocking sound on the side of the cottage. Whaaaat’s going on here? There aren’t any tree limbs that low next to my home…gotta make sure Joe double-checks everything when I talk to him. Her throat felt dry and raspyShe poured herself a small glass of sherry.

Alice sat down near the radio, which now was playing the music of some obscure Renaissance composer.  Her thoughts drifted to the conversation earlier with Tom. Wonder why he was asking me about where I live…and why was he suggesting he could deliver packages to my home if it were convenient for me…plus what was that compliment on my ‘attractive appearance’ all about? Times have changed, but social relationships between blind and sighted persons…uh-uh. I’m just not ready to deal with such stuff right now. And I’m certainly not ready for him or anyone else to be nosing around my personal domain.


Why is the knocking sound at the back of the cottage now? I didn’t think trees could get legs and walk around. Alice attempted humor, but she was getting nervous and distracted and felt the familiar crampiness in her stomach that always bothered her when she was stressed.

Should I go outside to check on things?  Well, that’s dumb…how can you tell what’s going on? And it’s probably safer inside. Just wait until the phone service is back and call Joe tonight…he won’t mind.

The outside noises finally ceased and all was quiet. Alice breathed a sigh of relief. I don’t know why I let a few sounds get to me…must be the stress I’ve been under at work. There’s nothing out there…better finish my meal before my soup gets too cold.

The knocking sound resumed and intensified all at once. Now there seemed to be some sort of scraping noise with it. Someone is out there and is trying to get inside! Alice was suddenly gripped with panic and a sense of helplessness. She trembled. Where can I hide? Can I lock myself in the bathroom? Oh no…I’ll only be cornered and trapped!

I know, I’ll go down into the storm cellar…can hide behind the storage boxes down there. But have to go outside to get into the cellar…just can’t take that chance. What am I going to…God, please help me! She shivered with fright.   

The persistent knocking was now accompanied by what seemed like a sharp, loud, banging sound, and Alice was desperate. Someone’s trying to get in through the back window! What can I do? Okay, stay calm…get the garden shovel you keep in the broom closet so you can at least have something to defend yourself with.

Alice got the shovel, then slowly and deliberately inched her way along the wall of the hallway leading to the back.  Her whole body shook as she moved. The frightful din continued unabated and Alice began to feel fear like she had never felt it before. Suddenly, she heard a forceful staccato-like sound. I’m going to die…oh, God, I’m going to die. She could not control her trembling.

The noises became even louder, seeming to Alice like a painful, tumultuous crescendo that kept building up against her eardrums. Dropping the shovel, she clapped her hands over her ears. She heard a grunt. Someone was coming in through the rear window! If I’m going to be raped or killed, I’m at least going to put up a fight.

Alice picked up the shovel and lunged in that direction, swinging it toward the window and breaking the glass. Shards from the shattered window flew everywhere, some even bouncing off the floor onto her feet and ankles. She heard the intruder grunt some more as he tried to climb through. She swung the shovel at him with all her force, striking him again and again and again.

Dead silence.

Alice stood trembling and sobbing uncontrollably. Her foot touched something soft and she recoiled.

Later, the police told Alice that the raccoon had developed exceptional skills at getting into people’s houses and had been ransacking nearby homes in the glen for quite a few months. Hadn’t she heard about it?

Alice doesn’t live here anymore.