During my junior and senior years at Calvin, I lived on a cul-de-sac. Being poor college students, the area that my roommates and I lived wasn’t the greatest. It was populated mostly by poor college students, families on welfare, and drug dealers. During the summertime, there were often twenty plus kids playing in the cul-de-sac, usually playing basketball with the illegal street hoop that they set up (which the city subsequently removed for violating all sorts of city codes). It was loud but generally uninteresting until one late summer afternoon.


I was hanging out with my roommate in his room on the top floor. It had a clear view of the entire cul-de-sac. Everything was normal—the horde of kids was outside playing in the street, some adults were lounging around on their stoops—until things went quiet, a loud CRACK was heard, and everyone started running.

At first, I thought it was a drive-by shooting until I saw my neighbor Martha run out of her house with her kids, all screaming in terror. A few seconds later, her boyfriend came out of the house carrying a big cutting knife. At this point, my roommate looked at me and asked (in his typical deadpan voice), “Should we call the police?” He dialed the cops while I maintained a lookout on the situation. It quickly became apparent that this was not a domestic violence situation because Martha and the knife-wielding boyfriend scooped up the kids and ran across the street into a neighbor’s house.

While my roommate was on hold with the police, I quickly ran downstairs to lock the door and then ran back upstairs to keep vigil. The cul-de-sac was deadly still for a minute or two. My roommate had finally gotten in touch with someone at the police (after being transferred twice) and was saying, “I got no idea what is happening but people are screaming and there is a guy with a knife running around” when, from behind Martha’s house, a naked and bleeding man emerged.

There are some things you are just unprepared to handle—and seeing a six foot tall, naked (except for his white ankle socks) man covered in blood emerging from behind your neighbor’s house is definitely one of them.

I tapped my roommate on the shoulder and pointed outside. He looked out dumbfounded and returned to talking to the 911 operator, “Yeah, now there is a bloody naked man roaming around the neighborhood shouting. So…yeah, probably send someone?” The operator replied in a bored/annoyed voice, “When units are available, they will be right over.” And promptly hung up.


The naked man continued staggering around the neighborhood shouting and trying to get into people’s locked houses. At one point, he hopped into an unlocked van, lit up a cigarette, and jumped out twenty seconds later. After completing his circuit of the neighborhood, he staggered back inside Martha’s house.


It was a minute or two of dead calm before the residents of the cul-de-sac emerged from their homes. Most grabbed their families, hopped in their cars, and sped away. Martha and her knife-wielding boyfriend, however, took up sentry post outside her house. He was on the phone shouting, “Where are the motherfucking cops?!” when Martha shook him and said, “My baby!” while gesturing toward the house.


In a flash, the boyfriend sprinted into the house, and the tensest twenty seconds of my life followed.


The boyfriend reemerged holding Martha’s six-month-old son, handed him off to her, and told her to run for safety.


Over the next forty minutes the police arrived, and once there were enough officers on the scene, they went inside the house and extracted the naked, bleeding man. They brought him out, strapped him to a gurney, and loaded him into an ambulance.


It turns out that the naked man was Martha’s brother-in-law. He got hopped up on cocaine and PCP and decided to pay her a visit, sans clothes. The crack I heard, which I thought was possibly a gunshot from a drive-by, was him running full speed through their sliding glass backdoor. He then proceeded to start smashing plates and kitchenware while everyone in the house ran for safety.


There really is no way to end this story other than a question that has been burning in my brain since the incident. “When did he decide to take off all his clothes? He didn’t live nearby, and one would assume that the police would have been called far earlier if he traversed the city while naked. So did he arrive at his destination, and then take off his clothes? Why wait that long?”


  1. Elaine

    The kind of question that will haunt you for the rest of your life.

    • Avatar

      This all happened in the duplex into which you moved. They did disclose that, right?

  2. Bart

    So intense! Great writing, Paul.

    • Avatar

      Thanks! I love telling this story live because then I can gesticulate wildly.


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