Sunday, February 1, 2009

The night I thought for sure I was a going to die. (FYI - I didn't)

It seems that I am full of stories.  They seem to burst out of me like miniature butterfly shaped barf nuggets.  I am not sure if I have more zany life stories than the average person or if because of who I am, I am just more apt to experience them.  In other words, do I have zany stories because I am zany or are my zany stories simply a reflection of my zaniness?  It's like the whole chicken in the womb thing.  

At any rate, while watching The Office tonight, I was reminded of a moment in my life in which I was the more frightened I have ever been. I thought it best that I share, if for no other reason than Lincoln might someday read it and find it amusing.  If for some reason, he refuses to read his own father's blog, perhaps he could pass it on to his child and so on.

This story takes place on my mission.  Now, I am definitely not one to rehash old mission stories and I cringe when every story someone tells begins, "There was this one time, on my mission."  It might as well be a story about Band Camp.  There are some folks from former Elder's quorums I have been in, that I could recite their mission experience before they even began sharing.  Many mission stories actually sound and are in reality the same. It is these stories that I dread the most.  At any rate, I hope this story is different; original, formative and at least slightly entertaining. I hope.

I had been on the mission for just over 6 months when I received a new companion.  We were stationed in a tiny town in Central PA known as "New Bloomfield".  It was quaint, dainty and secluded.  In fact, while there, I often felt as though I was trapped on the set of a horrible small town chick flick.  It was autumn and the streets were lined with large elm trees.  The houses were mainly Victorian style and the main street was charming.  It was one of those places where you would expect Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks to come walking down the street, wearing turtlenecks and holding hands while walking a dog.  It truly was a bewitching mix of charm and winsomeness. 

My companion and I had only been together a short time, and I could tell that this would be one of those "enduring" type situations.  He was rigid and aloof.  I was goofy and sociable.  He seemed like a good enough guy, but our personalities clashed.  Little did I know...

After the fifth long day of tracting (Tracting is mainly what we did in PA, along with talking to cows in the fields.), we returned to our apartment exhausted.  Before I continue, I feel it important to explain the beauty of our housing situation.  

This apartment was situated in the basement of an old church that had been converted into an complex.  There were about five apartments upstairs, but our place took up the entire basement.  It was the gem apartment of the mission.  It was approximately 2,000 square feet with four bedrooms and two bathrooms.  The front room was enormous and during down times we would play broom hockey or throw a Frisbee back and forward.  Because of it's size and the tile floor, it did echo quite a bit and in the evening an eerie wind would swirl through the ceiling.  The church bell still chimed occasionally - however, we could never figure out when or why it would chime; there was not a set pattern to it's madness.

On this evening, I was exhausted and went to bed as soon as we got home.  I slept well until midnight, when I awoke startled to an ear-piercing bang that seemed to be coming from the front of the apartment.  I glanced over at my companion and he was hiding behind a large beam in the middle of the front room.  He yelled at me, "SOMEBODY IS SHOOTING AT US!  GET DOWN, GET DOWN!"

Not knowing what to do, and still clearly in a sleepy daze, I rolled out of bed and onto the floor.  I then spider crawled over the beam next to him.  The entire time, the bangs continued to ring through the air, each one sending chills down my spine.  

We sat, behind the beam, and I whispered, "Who is it?  Why are they shooting at us?"  I could see the front window, but I could not see a single soul roaming around our apartment.  My companion responded, "It could have been those guys we met on the street the other day.  They were pretty angry."  

Now, I couldn't remember any meeting any angry guys on the street.  Certainly not in New Bloomfield, the cheesiest, sappiest small town in all of Pennsylvania.  It didn't matter though; my mind was spinning a million miles an hour and my hands were now shaking.  The gunshots did not let up either, and they seemed to be getting louder.

My companion finally suggested I crawl over to the phone that was laying on the floor and dial 911.  The phone was about 30 feet away and close to the wall.  I held my breath and slowly spider crawled to the phone.  Fortunately, my training at the MTC had given me the confidence to crawl across the ground on my belly.  About half way to the phone, the gunshots rang out again, piercing the air like missiles.  I reverted to a corner where I huddled, shaking and out of control.  I looked like a little girl that had went out to buy her mother some Christmas shoes, but instead died in the cold. My senses had officially given in to the fear.  I could feel the wind as the bullets whizzed by my ears.  I knew that my time had come.  "At least dying on your mission gives you a pass straight to the CK", I thought.

It was then that my companion turned on the lights and began to laugh.  What?  What was going on?  The waking out of a slumber sleep, the noise, the fear for my life - it had all completely shut me down.  My companion then walked to the kitchen and returned with a frying pan.  Inside the pan lay a very long strand of Black Cat fireworks. Inside our enormous, echoing apartment, the sound of them going off was like a battle scene from Saving Private Ryan. Finally, my overloaded and frantic brain began to make sense of things.

While my companion laughed like a baboon sitting on a peacock, I sat down in our makeshift sofa and stared at the wall.  It likely took 15 minutes for my hands to stop shaking, but it seemed like I sat there all night. Finally, I got up from my chair and without saying a word, returned to bed where I lay, open-eyed and in shock for the rest of the night. 

My companion, knowing that he had crossed the line, apologized to me profusely again and again.  We spent the next week or so in relative silence; only speaking while teaching together. The next time I saw my Mission President, I told him that I would like to be transferred; that things were just not working out for our companionship.  I was gone the next week. I told a few other missionaries on my mission, but this is the first I have brought it up since my return.  

I thank you for allowing me to yield upon you a piece of my missionary history.  While I hope you enjoyed my foolhardiness, I promise not to annoy you with another mission story for a very long time.


Mackenzie said...

OH MY GOSH!! I am still laughing so hard. Abe sorry to say but that was one of the funniest things I have heard!! I love it... I know it scared you to death but I would have paid to see it.

Lori said...

That's funny Abe! Ironic that the "rigid and aloof" companion was the one to play such a great practical joke!

Tammy said...

Love it Abe! Hilarious story and I'm happy to see you could work the "Christmas Shoes" into it too! Maybe this experience is why you're so frightened to see "scary" movies!

Did you retaliate?