I am told that thoughts become things, and I believe it.

It’s therefore a little disconcerting that my thoughts, and my life, have most recently been overrun with rodents and other vermin.

The 19th century church in which I live at the present has been resonating with low squeaks, chattering squeals and the unpleasant clickety-clack of very small feet on shiny hard tiles.  It’s enough to keep a girl awake at night.

Now, I can handle mice.  A mouse is a sweet creature, a shy and demure child of the Universe who nonetheless must die if he insists upon depositing turds in my cutlery drawer.  Rats are a different story.  They’re just evil.  We know this because their backs spontaneously hunch as they skulk their way across the floor, scaly tail dragging in their wake.  Squirrels are just rats with fluffy tails, and have no illusions, they’ll bite off your finger as soon as look at you.  But the highest level of my dis-ease is reserved for that villainous marauder, the raccoon.

After a month of laying poison (I like to pretend I’m Long John Silver from “Treasure Island”, and pronounce that ‘PIE-son’ with a bastardized Cornish accent), I felt that my efforts to reduce the cadre of gnawing, scurrying, defecating, non-rent-paying guests had been successful in the extreme.  True, I’d spent a morning taking my stove apart in order to find the source of a particularly disgusting smell emanating from its depths, but this seemed  a small price to pay.  Yep, this gal was feeling pretty cocky as she innocently climbed into bed several nights ago, and pulled her warm duvet up around her chin.

Then, it started.

From a closet space, a horrifyingly high-pitched scream ripped the midnight silence.

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

I sat bolt upright in bed, my heart pounding a frantic Iambic.  Panicked, I looked toward my trusted hound for support … for the protection which only his mighty jaws encircling a rodent throat could provide.

He was fast asleep.

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”  It began again.  “AarrrrrrrraACCCCCCCCCKKKKK!”

God, would it never end?  Something was obviously dying in that closet, a victim of the cruel toxins I had laid out neatly round the property in little pet-safe containers.  O, cruel human, to cause such suffering in an innocent rat.

And then, it ceased as suddenly as it had started.  The deep hush of the darkened sanctuary resonated gently for a second, and then was still.

I lay quaking in my bed, praying earnestly for liberation into spirit and a release from these worldly travails.

But more trepidation lay in store.  In the morning, when I gingerly opened the closet door to ascertain the exact location of the rotting corpse … it had vanished.  It simply wasn’t there.

It obviously wasn’t a rat.  It was a reincarnating Ninja rat!

Still, I was able, with enormous effort of will, to put the incident from my mind.  I had work to do.  Important work.  Work involving Shakespeare, and one more feeble attempt to triumph at Forty Thieves Solitaire.  For a brief, stolen moment, life was idyllic.  But while sitting on my bed the next day putting on my shoes, I was startled by a sickening sound coming from the wall beside my headboard.

“CCREEEEEEEEE!”  There was a mad scrabbling of claws on wood.  About a half inch of wood to be precise … the slender width dividing some deranged creature from my living space.  “Currrrrrrrrrggghhhhh ………. CREEEEEEEE!”  Yes, yes, it HAD to be mad, perhaps literally.  My mind raced in search of explanation.  It was undoubtedly a rat, sickened with disease, rabid blood coursing round its fevered brain.

And it was in MY wall!  RIGHT BESIDE MY BED!!

I knelt beside the wainscot, my cheek mere inches from the foul beast, protected only by a measly piece of pine board.  “GET OUT OF MY WALL!”, I screamed.  “GET … OUT!!!!”  The only response was more crazed scratching and a return to the former vocalizations, at an even higher volume level.  On impulse, I leaned yet closer, and went wild.  I barked, I screamed, I sang a Mozart aria at full screech.  Finally, something shifted.  I heard the scuff of clawed feet scaling the wall and departing into the upper crawl space above the vaulted ceiling.   Light-headed with fear, I sank back onto my bed.

Now, there are times when our native resolve fails us.  Times when Germaine Greer must inevitably sigh and shake her head in disappointment.  When woman fails to roar and instead just miserably peeps, waiting for someone of the male gender to gallop into the scene on a white horse, sunlight glinting off the barrel of a gun, vermin murder in his eye.

This was one of those times.

Fortunately, I didn’t have long to wait.  Dizzily anticipating the joy of rescue, I sensed a warm, masculine presence beside me.

My not-so-trusty hound had roused himself from slumber, and was now sniffing the wainscot with an air of interest.  Unfortunately, his interest lasted no more than three seconds.  By the time I could say, “Kill!  Kill!”, he had tip-toed back to the comforter he calls a bed, and sunk morosely within its depths.  I was on my own.

So I did what I always do when I’m afraid of something … I researched the hell out of it.  Google would be my saviour, now as before.

What I read raised my spirits and gave me hope.  There are apparently a wide range of nocturnal vermin living within walls and in attics around our fair country, but the noisiest of them all is the lowly ‘coon.  And praise be to the Almighty, they could be trapped!

Racing home from TSC, a sturdy live trap packed safely into the back seat of my CRV, I mentally went through the list of suggested baits for raccoon capture:  vegetables; fish; smelly meat; and, quixotically, marshmallows!  I reasoned that meat would attract every feral cat within ten miles, so back in my kitchen, I sliced some zucchini, covered it in honey, and, reaching my arm way, way back into the confines of that long, wire-meshed box, baited the trap.

I gingerly set it on the ground, near the hole that served as a ventilation shaft into the stone foundation; backed away slowly, and returned to the church filled with a grim satisfaction.  Now, one only had to wait.

The next morning, I exultantly sprang outside to witness the sight of my antagonist trapped within a cage, and at my mercy, but my jollity lasted the space of a sigh:  the trap was empty.

Fine, I thought.  So be it.  If you want a war, then you’ve got one!  I took out a can of smelly sardines, re-baited the trap, and set my mind to thoughts of where I would release the beast, far enough away that they would never find their way back.  I checked the trap several times during the night:  empty!  But towards dawn, I heard the muffled snap of the mechanism as the trap closed around its unsuspecting guest.  Ah ha .. victory!  I jumped onto the playing field to discover … a large tabby cat sitting neatly within the mesh of the cage, calmly eating a sardine.

Arrrghhhh!  I would not be foiled!  I studiously directed my attention towards the following:  1.  Ways to trap raccoons; 2. Ways to bar raccoons entrance to my walls.

The whole thing was exasperating.  After all, I was the superior intelligence:  surely I could outwit this damned ‘coon!  My brain literally fizzled with the strain of it.  Finally, it came to me; a sinister smile crept slowly across my face.

That night, I set my alarm for 5 o’clock in the a.m., and, jumping into bed, slept the deep sleep of the righteous.  When my smart phone began its excited chime, informing me that it was time to rise, the sound penetrated my brain like an arrow.  With an admirable force of will, I pulled myself into a sitting position, then, swiveling my legs over the edge of the bed, lurched upright and staggered round the room like a schooner caught in a gale.

“Outwit the ‘coon,” I muttered drowsily.  “Gotta outwit the ‘coon!”  Pulling on the pants and top laying on the nearest chair, I suddenly felt surprisingly calm.  I was waking up.  It was all going to be fine.  I felt it in my soul.

In the foyer, I donned armour for the coming battle:  high boots, in case it went for the ankles; leather gloves, in case it nipped at the hands.  I briefly considered putting on my motorcycle helmet in case it took a dive towards my nose, but even in the dim haze of the street light as it drifted through the stained glass windows, this seemed like over-kill.  I looked in the mirror and greeted the warrior image I found there:  I was ready.

Slipping into the cold night air, armed only with a flashlight (and a spade, in case things got really nasty), I tiptoed towards the hole in the foundation which I’d decided was the varmint’s most likely point of entry.  The street was quiet, the houses dark.  Parting the  branches of the spirea, I took up the two large bricks placed there the night before, and holding my breath in dark foreboding. plugged that round hole.

It was done.  Now, there was nothing to do but wait.

From several night’s surveillance, I had discerned that the ‘coon almost always came home from a night’s foraging around 6:23 a.m.  Wanting to leave myself a wide margin for error, I quietly opened the car door, crept in, and, starting the engine, backed up and around until my headlights faced the now barricaded entry point.  From this position, a flick of a switch would turn on the lights, allowing me to look directly into the iniquitous face of my prey; to experience a sinfully delicious pleasure as he discovered the plugged hole.  To observe him angrily tearing at the bricks, only to give up in disappointed rage.  Then, and only then, would I know I was safe.

I switched off the key, sat back … and waited.

The time dragged on.  5:45 a.m.  6:00 a.m.  The street was beginning to awaken now:  soft lights were appearing in windows, and the occasional truck revved by, carrying its owner towards their workplace.  Still, no ‘coon.  Not to worry, I reassured myself.  Patience is the badge of all my tribe, I could sit here as long as it takes.  6:15:  the birds were creating the most delightful cacophony imaginable around me, but still my nemesis kept me waiting.  6:23 a.m.:  where was he???  It was the appointed hour, what could be keeping him away?  Had he seen me blocking the hole?  Had he witnessed my clumsy attempts to trap and forcibly relocate him?  Or … perhaps he’d been run over by a car that night:  it would be one heck of a coincidence, but was it too much to be hoped?

At ten minutes to seven, I gave up in defeat.  Despondently shutting the car door, blinking into the rain with bowed head, I was moving towards the front of the church when a truly petrifying thought came into my head:  perhaps he hadn’t left the building last night!  It had been stormy … maybe he was afraid of thunder.  In that case, I had literally trapped myself inside the church with the foul fiend!  A shiver, as quicksilver as the lightning around me, coursed through my frame.

But now, some hours later, I’ve become reconciled to any eventuality.

Time will tell.  When night falls, and the creature emerges from its hiding place, it will either be on the outside … or within.

So let me crave a boon of you.  Tonight, as you settle into the soft sheets of your warm bed, say a brief prayer for me … a prayer that I may somehow find the mental fortitude and physical strength to face whatever may come.

And I solemnly promise the universe that, if I am blessed with survival, I will no longer dwell on vermin.  From that moment forward, I will fill my conscious mind with images of butterflies, and unicorns and baby bunnies, manifesting them into existence, whatever the cost.

After all, a baby bunny, inside a wall or out, does not scream its own brand of obscenity into the night.  A bunny is as silent as the grave.

Come, bunny.  Come, butterfly.  I forsake all thought of the dark marauders that have hitherto been my nightly companions.

I am ready for you:  please become manifest now.

Advertisements