Raccoon, Party of One

The thing about living in a sterile city condo is that it is, well…sterile.


I rarely see other life forms in these white rooms where even dust bunnies are hunted down with efficiency and humanely disposed of.

No more silverfish, earwigs, or the potato bug of dubious fame. (You say potato, I say Armadillidiidae others say pill bug and Wiki makes the interesting observation that they can make very nice pets, live for up to three years in captivity and love leftovers)

No more mice to set up housekeeping under my bathroom sink. I remember being particularly touched by the efforts of one mouse family who had enterprisingly assembled an empty toilet paper roll as sleeping quarters, (how they got it in there through their tiny pipe opening remains a mystery to this day) made plush by cotton balls and paper lint, and a well stocked larder filled with taco chips and one precious little macadamia nut.

Yes, as a matter of fact I did love The Borrowers.

Certainly there are no more squirrels to entertain and exasperate. They considered themselves the rightful owners of our house, and never missed an opportunity to vent their disapproval upon us. No more being roundly scolded by an angry squirrel who took up a position in the middle of the bedroom floor and refused to leave until he had had his say. ( about fifteen minutes’ worth) We finally discovered they were getting in via the electrical panel, and tried to block their entrance, but this proved only slightly discouraging and the squirrels remained in residence just under the floor.

No more feeling their little squirrel heads thumping and bumping against the bottom of my feet as they raced back and forth along the heater ducts under the old floorboards. They would do this when I played piano in the evenings. We were never sure if the activity was a staged protest against the music, or if they were, in actual fact, dancing.

Admittedly, when it comes to dancing, I really miss Earl.

Earl was a raccoon who adopted the slightly flat roof over our bedroom as his own. He was a big boy for raccoons, probably weighing about thirty pounds. This is an important detail because the high vaulted ceilings in our bedroom (with no insulation) meant I could hear a sparrow hop lightly across the roof. A cat sounded like a cougar.

In trying to interpret and identify the various movements I was hearing–and thus productively occupy my mind in the wee hours of the morning–I decided that Big Boy Earl was practicing his square dance moves. I blame this particular flight of fancy on watching Fantasia as a child and having the sight of those dancing hippos seared into my brain.

There would a thump, a thump, then a slow sashay, allemande to the left, followed by a Promenade and a Doh Si Doh; then GALUMPH, GALUMPH, GALUMPH which carried him to the other side of the roof. Another thump, drag, some sort of rotation, a sound that was hard to identify and can only be described as suggestive of roofing shingles being ripped up and tossed to the side–perhaps with a sort of tango-like bravado; then the carefree GALUMPH, GALUMPH, GALUMPH back to the spot over my head again.

First dance sequence completed.

This would go on for some time. Earl seemed to be either having a lot of fun, was obsessive compulsive, or just had trouble mastering this particular maneuver of the dance. At one point he varied the routine, or perhaps got bored–and went from the roof to the rooftop deck where we had a pair of solid teak chairs for ocean viewing. He would jump onto the chairs and settle in noisily. But then, as apparently they were not situated to his liking, Earl would attempt to rearrange them. This was accomplished with much scraping and thumping. These chairs were solid teak, quite heavy, and I remember beginning to be a little frightened at the thought of what sort of creature might actually be out there.

Occasionally my husband would wake up (this should give you some idea of how noisy this was) and he would get up to deal with the situation as only a man can do–take out the long handled Swiffer Maxi and pound on the ceiling. Earl would respond with an allemande to the left, a heavy thump, and GALUMPH, GALUMPH, GALUMPH back to the spot over my head. More ripping up of the shingles.

I note that the impact of his weight is causing debris from the beams overhead to filter down into my staring, sleepless eyes.

Our dog Fitz, by the way, is deeply interested in the curious goings on, but makes no useful bark. (Note on Schnauzers–they do not bark when you want them to, and in an emergency, they maintain a strangely silent stance of alert attention as though they don’t want to miss a thing)

We still have Fitz, thank goodness. But he misses barking at the deer; particularly those sweet little fawns nibbling delicately away at the petunias on my front porch and gazing with innocent wonder through the glass windows until all schnauzer pandemonium would break loose.

‘Them that nibble endlessly’ but are loved, nonetheless

No more mold.

Yes; no more mold. That’s why I’m here. Enjoying life with contented lungs and considerably fewer pathogens.

But I do often wonder if Earl still dances on the roof down there where the ocean breezes blow. Perhaps he lost interest once the teak chairs were gone.


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