Note: This is the first in a series of super-short stories about animals.
When we first became homeowners, I was paranoid constantly about any little noises I heard in the house. “What was that?!?” I’d hiss when something creaked in the middle of the night. My lovely wife Jen would soothe my worries with her calm words: “The furnace kicked on,” or, “It’s the sump pump again,” or, “Stop waking me up with these dumb questions!” Etcetera.
One night, before bedtime, I heard a bump in the kitchen. “Don’t even say anything,” Jen said. The next night, same thing. Then I started hearing a similar sound early each morning. After about a week or 10 days, I would stand in the kitchen and try to locate the noise. I got up before sunrise and hovered near the door that opened up to our deck; the door is in a little bay with a window on either side of it, jutting out from our house’s foundation.
I heard the bump. It sounded like it was coming from inside our floor vent. I popped off the vent cover and didn’t see anything. Then I pushed against the metal sides of the duct and held my hand there. And something pushed back against my hand! I ran downstairs into the basement to see if I could find anything down there, but part of our basement is finished, with drywall blocking access to where the duct runs. I ran outside but couldn’t see anything.
That night, around bedtime, we heard the whatever it was rustling around again. It seemed as if it was coming into our house and then leaving in the morning. Or vice versa. So again I ran to the basement. About 10 feet across from where the vent is, the finished part ends, and I could get on a chair or ladder in the unfinished part and look between the kitchen floorboards and the basement ceiling. I set up a ladder and glanced: I saw something moving but forgot a flashlight, so I ran back upstairs to tell Jen: “I saw either a cat or a kitten, or maybe a tiny rodent. But it was dark.”
I sprinted downstairs with the flashlight, whipped through the finished part, through the doorway into the unfinished part, and around to the ladder. And there, coming out of the crawlspace, about to place one paw on the top of the ladder, was the biggest raccoon I had ever seen in my life.
I screamed at the top of my lungs. Not a manly scream, and not intelligible words either; one of those “is someone strangling a goose?” noises. I scared the bejesus out of the raccoon, who hightailed it back through the crawlspace, out whatever hole was in our house, and out from under our deck. I went outside and piled a bunch of stones over every conceivable opening into the base of the deck.
The next day, I called Randy, my handy neighbor. Randy came over, and we (and by “we,” I mean “he,” while I handed him tools) tore my deck apart and looked under the bay: the house builder had stuck some insulation under the bay but had never installed any sort of wood to secure it. So animals were free to enter our house, which obviously this raccoon had been doing. I got a large piece of plywood, and we (“he”) cut it with a circular saw and hammered it in place. There have been no raccoons in the house since then.
Also, Jen listens a little more intently when I say, “I heard something!”