The Creak at the Top of the Stair

Andy Pruter

Andy is the owner operator of the tour outfitter Everyday Adventures.  You may reach him at trustyourguide@yahoo


Oftentimes I will get guests staying at my beach house rental telling of their restless night due to the “noises” outside.  It really isn’t the decibel level (howler monkeys excluded) as much as the unfamiliarity.  Crashing surf, scuttling crabs and arboreal chittering can be disruptive to the slumber of new comers though it’s a lullaby to me.

Like anything in life, familiarity breeds comfort and solace.  I see it in the faces of the clients I take tree climbing and waterfall rappelling;  this look of insecurity.  One way I reassure them is to “trust their guide.”  If I were to be with them in their environs, be it the bush of Alaska or alleys of New York or the autobahn of Germany, I would place trust in the familiarity they have in their own ‘hood.  Another anecdote I use is that they have the same look on their face I had when shopping at a mega mall for the first time.  “Oh, hell no,” I told my then wife. “I’ll stay right here in the car listening to the radio and completing a crossword.”  Now however, I can negotiate any section of department stores with aplomb.  Even the kids’ section!



But sounds . . .  Sounds are a different animal.  When my children were younger and we hiked up the cataracts of King Louie’s waterfall, it wasn’t the force of the water that freaked them out.  It was the thunderous roar of the water.  Likewise, I can imagine explorers on the galleons of Drake’s expeditions, anchored offshore and hearing the roar of howlers coming from the verdant forest. Hardened sailors begging to stay back and scrub the galley instead of determining what beast emitted such a growl.

Again: unfamiliarity.  So, when good fortune befell me and I was invited to overnight at a friend’s home, it was a restless night indeed and not only because of the extracurricular activities.  In a sleepy town called Blue Lake, a thick marine fog settled in, dampening any sounds outside the shuttered windows.  That was my initial observation . . . the absolute stillness of it all.  Intensely dark and silent.  Eventually, my comrade in lascivious affairs fell into slumber, and I became aware of her breathing.  A deep, rhythmic cadence that I yearned to have my own.   As my own breathing slowed to match hers and drowsiness won over mental imagery of the previous few hours, I slipped into the shrouds of gossamer dreams.  In this state I dwelled until a telltale floorboard creaked.  At the top of the staircase leading to her loft, 100 year old milled timber gives away the travels of those padding upon its carpeted joists.  Should the need to use facilities downstairs or thirst for water send you to the escalade, the wood will reveal you.  There’s no stepping around it nor, would I want that.  It is a sound I hope to become familiar with.



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