I was traveling around the country on foot, and naturally, I had grown a bit tired. Somewhere in Indiana, a family named Cooper took me in and let me stay in their home. They had the air of a church-going family, and little plaques and decorations around the house supported that conclusion. The father, Bob Cooper, was a big robust man with white hair. He smiled often, as though he were constantly preparing to pose for a portrait with his family. He wore these yellow polo shirts that offset his imposing physiognomy by suggesting that he was harmless.
The family had a nice pool in the back yard, and after a nice long nap I went for a invigorating swim to clear my head and shake off the funk from the road. Afterwards, when I went to get dressed in the clothes that I had left in the downstairs bathroom, I found a bunch of folded up scraps of paper in my pocket. Apparently they had been left there by some mystery person who bore a grudge against the Cooper family or had been wronged by them in some way. One scrap told me that I was in danger. Another informed me that Bob Cooper was a disgusting, evil, human being.
Yet another scrap actually played a video when I unfolded it, giving me some background on the situation. Unfortunately, the video came off more like a propaganda piece, short on information and long on invective. It certainly gave the impression that there was a sinister and ugly underside to the Cooper’s middle-class lifestyle. The upshot of the video seemed to be that Bob Cooper had been brought up on some sort of criminal charges which he had been found innocent of. The brother of the victim, however, was convinced of the Coopers’ guilt, and he was trying to get the word out. He must have been the one who left the papers in my pocket. The video ended with this brother singing “God Bless America” in a whiny, grating, voice. I started to worry that someone in the house would overhear. I tried to tear up the paper that the video was on, but the singing wouldn’t stop until the song was done and the video was over.
I wanted to know more about these criminal charges. I dug in my pocket for my phone so that I could search for the information online, but my phone was gone. The Coopers must have taken it. Now I was getting worried. I needed to slip out of the house as casually as possible and get away. I passed by Mrs. Cooper in the kitchen. She was preparing dinner over the sink. She had her back to me. I turned the corner and started down the stairs to the door. I started to think about the laugh I would have about all of this later and the piece I would write about it, although I regretted not having my phone so that I could call someone or post a video online telling people where I was, in case something happened.
But that didn’t matter now. I just need to get in the clear. Then I could call someone from a neighbor’s house or a gas station or something. I opened the door that led out to the attached garage, turning the knob slowly so as not to make too much noise. Once I was through the door, I would make a run for it. But as I swung the door open, I found Mr. Cooper standing on the other side. He stared at me blankly, but his chest heaved with anger. I tried to dart past him, but he snatched me by the belt and pulled me back. As I struggled, he slammed me hard against the wall of the garage, and I knew then with horrible certainty that I was never going to leave this house alive, and no one would ever know what happened to me.