02:37 hrs. Allen household, just south of Loganville.
All is quiet at the Allen residence. A low rumble in the distance and a muted flash of lightning fortell the trouble to come.
I roll over, check the clock. hmm...early. Or late, relative to the time you went to bed and the time you plan on rising. There's math involved, no doubt and since math makes my head hurt, we'll just go with early. My wife sleeps soundly beside me. I feel her feet still tucked up against the crook of my knee, so I know she is undisturbed by the approaching storm. Yet. I cock an ear towards the door, straining for sounds, indications that HE might be approaching. Him. The Ninja. I hear nothing, save another muted clap of thunder. Satisified that nothing is stirring in this house besides me, I fall back into a fitful slumber.
The wind has picked up now, gently batting the hedges against the side of the house. The flashers are closer now, more intense. Thunder booms a moment later, rolling like a freight train. Loud and insistent, but not yet overpowering. Light rain begins to patter the deck outside. I sense my wife stir beside me. She rolls towards me, sleepily brushes the hair out of her face. Half-asleep, she asks me, "msssfffppthhhh af tu stifffeltthhh?"
I have no idea what she just said. "Why yes, yes I did brush my teeth" I reply. Satisfied, she flops back down on her pillow, slides back into slumber. The dogs are whining now. I rise, open the door to let them outside. They look at me as if I'm nuts then bolt for the open bedroom door and straight under the bed.
Some guard dogs they make. Man's best friend, indeed. I check the house, no sign of movement, no ninja in the shadows. I go back to bed.
The wind is howling now, slapping cumquats and who knows what against my windows. The rain is coming down hard now, sideways like in that scene from Forrest Gump. Strobing flashes light up the back yard. Hail pelts the roof above us. Thunder growls, so close it shakes the house. Then, I hear it...approaching footsteps, soft against the hardwood floor in the living room. It's him...he's coming...The NINJA!
The door creaks open. A flash of lightning throws a shadow of a figure across the room. The dogs, vigilent hounds that they are, are no longer content to cower under the bed. Now they want ON the bed. One jumps, misses, and crawls back under the bed. The shadow approaches...now he's at the foot of the bed...
I am aware of his presence now, I flip the light on...the ninja speaks...
"Dad? Can I sleep in between?"
My son, wide-eyed in his Ben 10 pajamas, with his yellow Tae Kwon Do belt proudly tied around his waist. Clutching a stuffed turtle.
"Sure, buddy. That's a scary storm out there, huh? Ninja's don't like lightning, do they?"
He shakes his head as he climbs over his mom and to the center of the bed. "No," he says. "Ninjas hate lightning."
One day soon, he won't need me to make him feel safe on stormy nights. He'll stay his beds on nights like this. Then he'll be gone, out there in the big scary world by himself. No more ninja attacks in the middle of the night, taking up all the wiggle room on a night like this.
But not tonight. Tonight, he nestles close to his mother. Soon he is out, no longer paying heed to the rumbles and flashes that rage just beyond these comforting walls. He opens one eye, assuring himself that I'm nearby, then slowly shuts it again. The ninja rests.
I toss and turn a bit, trying to get comfortable again. I do find comfort in the fact that he feels safe with me. All the mistakes I make as a father, here when he needs to feel secure and protected, he still looks to me. It's almost worth giving up all but about 3 inches of the mattress for the rest of the night. How does such a small kid take up so much bed space, anyways?
Secret ninja trick, no doubt. Goodnight, son.