Tamara Jorell

Writing life and the neighborhood

Writing life and the neighborhood

 

Vermin

One day, I noticed a cloying, rotten smell wafting from a vague location in the house. It sent me into sleuthing mode, and I pinpointed its whereabouts to the kitchen. I inspected the trash can for spoiled food that might have missed the garbage bag liner. I cleaned out the fridge. I muscled the appliances away from the walls, mopping hot bleach water under each of them, but none of my efforts reduced the stench.

“This is awful,” I said. “Help me find what’s making that smell.”

Husband and the girls searched with me. The smell emanated from a certain spot by the refrigerator, but we found nothing. Since there was no more we could do, I tried to forget about it.

“This makes no sense,” I said, still enduring the stink two weeks later. “If something died in here, shouldn’t it have decomposed by now?”

“You’d think so,” Husband said.

Then one day, I had an idea. While I had moved the refrigerator in and out numerous times to clean under it, I had never looked underneath. I knelt down and removed the fridge’s front panel that ran along the floor. I switched on a flashlight and peered in. A mouse—suspended in some metal wires—stared at me with bulging, lifeless eyes. Startled, I flipped through my options and then phoned Husband.

“You can get him out when you get home,” I said at the end of my story.

When he returned from work, Husband pulled on a rubber glove. Then he crouched in front of the fridge and extracted the mouse, securing it between his index and middle fingers. He raised it—like a fat cigar—to his face and sniffed.

“Yep, that’s the smell,” he said.

 

Another day, we discovered a squatter on the property—living behind a hole in the peak of our house—and Husband decided it was as good a reason as any to race out and purchase a pellet gun. While he was preoccupied with how he would snipe down the squirrel, I wondered about the size of the rodent’s living quarters. And I worried about the future of the window located just inches from the roofline.

Curious about the loudness of his new weapon, Husband squeezed off a practice shot into the ground in the back yard. But since it sounded like a cannon going off, he was convinced ShotSpotter—the city’s gunshot locator system—would bring the police over for a visit. And, he decided, the gun might also leave craters in the house’s stucco. So he drove back to the store to exchange his purchase, settling instead for a standard pump-action bb gun with a scope.

That night, Husband took his post in the back yard by the fire pit—his bb gun at his side—and the girls clustered around him, all of them keeping keen eyes on the hole. I hoped the sound of a crashing window wouldn’t be the exclamation point at the end of our day. Husband’s hunt was fruitless that night, but he tried again the next day. The girls, enthralled with his new hobby, settled into a routine with him; each night after dinner, they followed him outside, and the four of them trained their eyes on the peak of the house and waited.

One evening, the squirrel poked its head out of its hole, emerged, and hunkered down on top of the window frame. Husband later told me he had considered—in that moment—the possible consequences. With the inaccuracy of the bb gun and its useless scope, it was a sketchy shot and posed the strong possibility of blasting out the window. But he took the shot anyway, which sent the squirrel skittering down the house. Like a pack of hunting dogs, the girls chased after it, and the rodent zipped around the corner. Husband squeezed off one more round before the animal disappeared for good.

Confident the squirrel wouldn’t return, Husband rented a forty-foot extension ladder from a north side hardware store, so he could patch the hole. The ladder, though, was harder to control than the bb gun. During the repair job, Husband almost smashed the window he had earlier avoided shooting. But the ending of the story was a happy one. The squirrel was no longer a tenant, and no windows were harmed in the making of Husband’s adventures.

 

Glenda called us one day, her normally relaxed voice taut.

“There’s a bat on my porch. Could you come and get it out right now?”

Husband pulled on gloves and headed over next door, armed with a broom. Glenda, bat-phobic and shaken, had gashed her knee from falling in her attempts to shoo out the creature. She had also sprayed her garden hose inside the enclosed porch—soaking its insides—in the hopes of blasting out the rodent that now cowered in a corner.

In just a few minutes, Husband scooped up the bat in his hands and set it free outside. And peace was restored to Glenda's house.

 

We homeowners have a tight screening process when it comes to what’s allowed in our homes: domesticated animals, yes; creatures of the field, no. In this world, it’s the perennial struggle of the owner to keep his or her home from succumbing to nature. But we’ll fight for it if we have to. And it doesn’t hurt to have a Husband come along and save the day.

 

 

*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

© 2014 Tamara Jorell. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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