By: John Carlson—
I don’t believe in ghosts, much, but I do believe in raccoons.
If I ever doubted raccoons exist – which, of course, I didn’t – proof of them has become irrefutable of late, since a whole family of the pesky varmints has apparently moved under our house.
It all started with an occasional bump in the night.
“What’s that?” Nan would ask.
Naturally, being a world-class chicken, my first thought would be that somebody built our house over an ancient burial ground, and that sound was the spirits of dead people moving around our crawl space, trying to get at my beer.
“Better check,” I’d say.
“OK,” Nan would say. “Good luck, honey.”
“I meant you.”
But that was really silly of me! Now, the more rational adult in me understands that my house is merely possessed by two alternative realities. There’s ours, the humans, and theirs, the raccoons. Only it turns out that, possibly due to molecular brain alterations caused by nearby high-voltage lines, our raccoons are far more sophisticated than we humans ever imagined.
Those occasional bumps? They were made back when the raccoon family was touring our crawl space with their realtor, slamming cupboard doors and such. The louder, multiple bumps? That’s when Mr. Raccoon’s raccoon buddies, fueled by free pizza, helped him move in their TV and stuff. Now we hear lots of high-pitched raccoon giggling, too, which apparently is their daughters talking about dating and who’s taking whom to the raccoon prom. Sometimes I even think that late at night, I hear Mrs. Raccoon in bed, discussing the commotion we make upstairs.
“Rocky?” she nervously asks her husband. “What’s that?”
“It’s nothing, dear,” Mr. Raccoon says.
“But it sounds like people moving around.”
“Don’t be absurd. Hey, you wanna …”
Sometimes Nan and I hear such a ruckus in the walls, it’s like they’re not even trying to keep quiet. Any minute, we half expect Mr. Raccoon and his bowling team to come busting through, asking what the heck we’re doing there. If that happens, I don’t care how sophisticated those raccoons are. Part of me intends to greet them with my Dad’s trusty old squirrel rifle.
Of course, another part of me says, better wait a minute …
See, I’m not what you’d call a crack shot. Dad began teaching me to shoot when I was a little shaver, but it never stuck. One particular day comes to mind. We were at a rural gun club he belonged to, firing his .32 caliber Colt Police Positive Special at a target on the opposite bank of a little pond, maybe 30 feet across.
Lining up my shot, I held my breath and gently squeezed the trigger.
Seconds later and not five feet in front of me, the unfortunate bass I had just murdered floated to the surface, a look of shock on his fishy face, his circular fish lips forever frozen in a quizzical O-ring that seemed to ask, “What the hell … ?”
I don’t know how I was so off target, but I was.
So anyway, say Mr. Raccoon comes busting through the wall, perturbed to find me in his house. Wherever I aim, there’s a 99 percent chance that, at the most, I will graze him in the butt. The question then is, do I want a pissed off raccoon, plus a bunch of his buddies, rushing to avenge his aching keister?
I don’t think so.
So maybe it’s time to call the pest-control people. You can never act too early, as we learned in our old place before moving to this house. For a while we suspected we had a raccoon screwing around in our chimney, but by the time we called for help, it had turned into what you might charitably call “raccoon sushi.”
We don’t want to put ourselves or the pest-control guy through that again. So, my mischievous masked friends, consider this an eviction notice, and a warning. It’s time for you to pack up the kids and leave your house. I mean, my house.
I think you’re smart enough to understand.
(Listen to John’s interview about this story that aired on WLBC. Audio below.)
A former longtime feature writer and columnist for The Star Press in Muncie, Indiana, John Carlson is a storyteller with an unflagging appreciation for the wonderful people of East Central Indiana and the tales of their lives, be they funny, poignant, inspirational or all three.