boon-dog-gle: (noun) work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
free: (adjective) provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment.


late update...

I know, I know; I broke my promise. But here's the scoop on what happened.

We were back in Nebraska for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. We got back to St. Louis on Monday night, pulling up to our house about 11:00 p.m. Usually, we pull into the alley at the West end of the street in order to get to our garage behind the house. For some flukey reason, Suzanne, who was driving, decided to go around the block to enter the alley from the other side, which meant we drove by the front of our house.

Suzanne saw it first, and pointed out that something had happened to our house. Our front yard was all ripped up, and the windows on the front of the house were all broken. My first thought was that we had been robbed. Our house is set up off the street level about 8 feet. I figured that someone had backed a pickup truck up to our window, busted it in, and loaded up all our valuable stuff. (Of course, our "valuable" stuff is summed up by a t.v., Playstation2, and DVD/VCR machine; unless you consider all my theology books valuable, which I do, but not many others do.) Well, if that was the case, then I didn't think anybody would be left inside. So, I went in through the front door.

The first thing I noticed inside was that one of our front door house keys was on the floor, just inside the door, as though someone had slid it under the door. (We had just randomly left that key on our dining room table.) I thought to myself that such thoughtfulness was probably rare among thieves. But the next thing I noticed was that our "valuable" stuff was still in place. The third thing I noticed was that our windows were not broken all the way through. We have double-pane windows, and it was only the outside windows that were broken. At this point, I was growing pretty confident that we were not robbed. That confidence was confirmed by my final major observation, which was that our back door in the kitched had been busted in and then nailed shut from the inside. Either these were the most incompetent (in not taking our stuff) and most thoughtful (in securing the house behind them) thieves ever, or someone had been in our house for another reason.

I went back outside and explained my findings to Suzanne and started trying to piece things together. I noticed that some of the windows on our neighbor's house had been boarded up. And then I saw that both of our houses had the brick discolored by what must have been smoke. So, my next hypothesis was that our neighbors had suffered a fire. I figured that would explain the smoke damage, and also that firefighters would probably have to get into our house to make sure the fire hadn't spread into it. Well, we felt terrible about this possibility. Not only are our neighbors nice people, who have a bunch of kids and pets, but when we moved into our house last spring, they were just moving back into their house after suffering a bad fire a year earlier.

Well, to move the story along, I called the police that night to report that someone had been in our house. The man I talked to indicated that the fire department had indeed been dispatched to our neighbor's address, which seemed to confirm my previous suspicions. When an officer came to our house, however, he once again shed new light on what had actually happened. Yet even he did not have all of his facts straight. He hadn't been working on the night of the events, so he only told us what he had heard.

Finally, the next morning we got the full story. As I was taking pictures of the damage for the insurance, I saw my neighbors--on both sides of our house--who were witnesses of what happened. And it was crazier than anything I would have guessed.

Okay, now you finally get the tale, as I've pieced it together from various sources. Some kids had stolen a car somewhere in the city. I've heard reports of 3 and 4 kids, but there were at least three. From the most reliable account, the driver of the car was 12 and the oldest passenger was 14. They were being chased up our street by the police and they hit the back end of a car parked in front of our neighbors' house (the one with the broken/boarded windows). This caused them to jump the curb and then begin to drive up the hill that slopes up from the street level to the level of our houses. Well, at that speed, the grade of the hill caused the car to go airborne. The car actually bounced off of our house above our entryway (about 10 feet above ground level from the top of the slope). While it was airborne, the car also did a flip of what must be 135 degrees. When it landed, apparently the gas tank ignited and the car exploded in a fireball.

There were two boys in the front seats who managed to kick out the windshield of the car and get out. Sadly, they left a girl in the back seat, and the last I heard she had burns on 90% of her body and the outlook for her recovery was very poor. If there was a fourth person, I haven't heard anything about him. If I can, I would like to somehow find out about this girl and, if possible, minister to her. Please pray for her.

As far as the boys go, their outcome was as crazy as everything that preceded. Our neighbor on the other side of our house (the one whose house was not damaged), was outside within moments of the car explosion. His account is that once the boys got out of the car, they were immediately stopped at gunpoint by a female police officer (it probably doesn't matter that she was a female, but it was part of his account). He said the officer had the boys lay on the ground just a few feet away from where he was standing. He expected that she would then handcuff them. Instead, she turned away and went back to her patrol car. As soon as the boys realized they were no longer guarded by anyone, they took off running. Our neighbors on the other side (the ones whose house was damaged) who were outside in their backyard with their children, reported that the boys ran through our backyard, then jumped the fence into their yard and ran right by them. As far as I know, they were never caught.

The force of the explosion and heat of the flames caused all of the windows on the front of our house to break and melted the vinyl frame of our upstairs windows. Our railing was also torn out, and our concrete stairs were moved out of place. The paint and stain in our entryway was melted, and there was smoke over the entire front of our house. Then when the firefighters busted in through our back doors to check for fires inside, that caused more damage.

All in all, things could have been worse. But as it is, things are not good. I do feel very bad for the girl. I feel bad for our neighbors. They were only recently able to regain homeowners insurance after their fire two years ago. They can't really make a claim on the damage to their house without the almost-certainty of having their policy dropped again. I usually don't feel much but anger toward the boys, except when I remember that they are like 12 years old. They're just babies! It makes me sick to think of what life holds for them.

So, that's the scoop. Most of what was written above was written late last week. In the meantime, we've had the winter storm of the century in St. Louis (okay, maybe the storm of the bi- or triennium), which knocked our power out for a day, then our internet out for two days. Then, unrelated to the storm, our furnace died for a day, before being repaired. Now, over the next six days, I've got to finish the final projects for all three classes I'm in. Actually, I'm working on one right now, or was, until I took a break to finish this post, which is, now, finished.


Craig said...

That is one un-stinking-believable story, Nick. So, so sorry you're having to deal with all that right now. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Another evidence that truth is stranger than fiction.

nickg said...

I forgot to mention one of the few truly funny parts of this story.

As anyone who has children, or anyone who has known Suzanne and I for any length of time might expect, and despite our best efforts, we got ready for our trip at the last minute. Thus, we didn't have time to totally organize the house or clean the place before we left. One example: as I was packing, I noticed that a pair of boxers had a hole in it. Most peoples' response to this would probably be to walk them over to the trash. What I did was tear the hole wide open so the boxers were almost split in half, then I dropped them on the floor. They were still there when we got back.

So, here's the punch line: as soon as we realized that we were not robbed but rather that well-intentioned people had been in our house on "official business," Suzanne's first verbal response was, "Oh, I'm so embarrassed; the house is such a mess!"

Anonymous said...

that's an incredible story. really.

also, i'm in the same boat as you regarding anthony bradley's take on government regulation of fat and seat belts. i used to be uber-laissez faire, but not so much any more. and i don't get too excited about arguments that rely on the words "freedom" (which is used mainly as a buzzword) and "stupidity" (which i can't figure out the use of) to gain most of their rhetorical force.

nickg said...

Matthew--thanks, I was beginning to think I was on my own.

G.K. Chesterton...

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."