I couldn’t sleep. When I did sleep I found myself dreaming about strange things and when I woke… it was before my six thirty AM alarm. I heard a sound I couldn’t place and discovered not everything in my dream had been locked inside my mind. Was it coming from the roof?
I blinked several times to try and wake myself up. It had been raining for days so perhaps the sound was radiating from the trees. Sometimes water collects on leaves until it’s too heavy to hold. Branches bow and fat droplets make crazy noises when hitting shingles. It didn’t really didn’t sound like that though. More like banging… or gnawing. A shiver shook me from head to toe.
Barn cats playing above my head? Sometimes they get a mischievous glint in their eyes during witching hour. They tear across the pasture, sink claws into bark and shimmy their way up to chase one another on top of my house. If I were to guess… I would say something was trying to eat it’s way- in. I was wide awake now.
I ran outside wearing only an over sized sweater, tiny pink shorts, and my muck boots. Wild red hair piled and knotted atop my head. Thankfully I have hardly any neighbors because even astronauts would have been blinded by my white chicken drumsticks for legs. I grabbed a handful of rocks and launched them (rather poorly) at my own house. I missed and nearly hit a window instead.
When I came back inside everything was silent again. Nothing but a rush of cold air blowing from my vents. So I breathed a sigh of relief, kicked off my boots, and tip-toed back to bed. I was asleep for less than half an hour and the devil was back. This time the gnawing was so loud, it seemed to shake my bedroom wall. I shot into a sitting position, ice blue eyes flaming with anger and rimmed in red.
I thought about the squirrel who lives inside a massive crimson maple. He once lectured me in his accusatory squeaky tone for stepping into his domain. Right before the little jerk chucked a half eaten acorn. I had been trying to refill water buckets for animals on my farm and that stupid acorn nailed me in noggin. He had much better aim than I did.
“Hey! I have to live here too you know!” I yelled as I rubbed the lump forming on my head.
“That seriously hurt!” He didn’t care.
I wondered if squirrels could eat through the roof of a house. I grabbed my cellphone and propped it up in the window where (If I was lucky) I could get one bar of service. The page loaded and I almost woke Nikolai up when I squealed in delight. After clicking on the most relevant link to my question, I learned squirrels can indeed eat through the roof on a house. This was not great news for someone who lives on eleven plus acres- in the woods- surrounded by squirrels.
The gnawing continued but it didn’t sound like it was coming from the roof anymore. It sounded like it was in the wall… or in my bathroom. I shoved my feet into my slippers, slid down the hallway, and paused at the threshold. What if I find it? What will I do then? My 22 caliber firearm was out of rat-shot. I didn’t have a bat or a golf club handy (Rob doesn’t even play golf) and the nearest shovel was laying somewhere in the garden. I am so screwed.
I decided against opening the bathroom door until I could get some advice. So, I located my cellphone and called my husband for backup. The call went to voicemail but I tried again. His sleepy voice was finally coming through the speaker on my phone and it gave me an instantaneous feeling of relief. Surely he would have some insight into my dilemma.
“It’s probably just a mouse.” He lectured.
“It’s definitely not that.” I stated firmly.
“Well, why don’t you just grab a frying pan or something?”
“A frying pan? Seriously?”
“Well, that’s what I would do. Hit it over the head.” I could hear him shrugging his shoulders.
“I think it’s coming from underneath the bathtub” I whispered frantically.
“Just pry up the sealer around the tub, stick your hand in there and figure out what it is.”
“What kind of advice is that?”
“Use your bad hand. You can lure it out with your broken finger. It doesn’t function well anyway.”
“Are you crazy? Stick my hand in there… you’re as useless as tits on a bull.” He roared with laughter but I was livid.
“Trust me. It’ll work.”
“Trusting you is how my middle finger became permanently screwed up in the first place. I don’t need a side of rabies to go with it.”
“Hey, you called me remember? This is the advice you get when you wake me up at three in the morning.”
I hung up the phone and walked back to bed. Nothing was going to get resolved tonight. I pushed a pillow over my ears to muffle sounds of my house disintegrating in the devil’s jaws.
When my alarm finally sang to wake me up again, I had a sharp pain radiating within my skull. The house was silent… but it didn’t last long. I got Nikolai ready for school while I scooped up his backpack. Yet right before dogging thunderstorms to get to the car, we nervously held hands near the mouth of hell so I could take a video recording.
Thankfully my husband isn’t the only person I call for advice. My friend Heather almost always has a creative solution for farm situations. I sent both her and my husband the video recording and waited for a response.
A ping sounded off after I had pulled back into my driveway alone. I fished through the contents of my handbag to locate the source. Two notifications flashed across the screen, a text from Rob, and a missed call from Heather.
Rob: “You’re right. That’s definitely not a mouse. That thing sounds like a bear.”
Me: “I told you!”
As I returned Heather’s call, I was pacing the length of the farm. Kicking rocks and dreading another sleepless night. I had days left before Rob could make it home. This had to be resolved now.
“It could be an armadillo, or a gopher rat.” She suggested.
“Awesome! I love armadillos and rats the size of cats.” I quipped sarcastically.
“Mmm leprosy, the health crisis I always wanted!”
Heather’s advice involved a large quantity of rat poison. I grabbed a screwdriver and scraped along the edge of the tub to remove the caulk. My fingers trembled but I managed to make a small hole. Using the tip of the tool I carefully pushed the delicious treat into position. Some dangerous contents broke apart and sent powder peppering my leggings and arms while I worked. Praying I stuffed enough in there to entice the beast, I stripped myself of clothing.
After cleaning up and washing my hands six or seven times (the packaging said to handle the product with gloves I didn’t have and to avoid getting it on my skin… whoops), I sat on the sofa in my living room to wait. I listened intently, typed on my laptop, and stared at my opening paragraph. My eyes nearly crossing out of exhaustion, I gave up and closed the screen. I decided a nap was in order and had stretched out to get comfortable.
Until I heard it… enjoying a morsel. I picked up my cup of tea feeling warmth radiate from within. A smirk played at the corner of my lips as I sent the creature to another kind of hell. The kind that lasts eternal. Eat up little devil, don’t you miss a crumb now.
As I held Nikolai in my arms later that night, I listened to his rhythmic breathing. The crickets serenading the two of us to sleep. The bull frogs croaking in the creek, as I slept poetically deep. As for The Devil… lets just say he didn’t make a peep.