How busy are we all at this time of year? I can think back to Christmases past through a haze of idealized memory. It seems that in the past my life was simpler. I juggled book deadlines and my job; my shopping was done by October; my house was decorated by December 1. How did I do that?
It’s so different now. Company is coming (ticktock, the ticking clock, the looming deadline), I am still scrambling to finish tidying, no baking has been done, a few gifts are still unwrapped–chiefly to aggravate the dogs since they keep peeking and nosing among the presents under the tree to see if there’s anything for them (not yet, ha ha)–and I’m trying to throw together a plot synopsis while uploading a new book to Kindle.
Has life become more hectic? Am I slower? When am I going to remember to pay the end-of-the-month bills? Has anyone seen the dog’s prescription that I had refilled, brought home, set down, and haven’t seen in the house since?
Granted, most of us are chin deep in similar holiday scrambles. I am hardly unique. But in the midst of all this excitement, a visitor turned up yesterday morning. I heard him in the attic right before breakfast, that dreaded scratch scratch scratch, that furtive thumpity-thump in the ceiling above my bedroom.
I threw a coat on over my nightgown and raced outside to gallop around the house and check the soffit vents. All fine.
Then my visitor hit the trap left in the attic last summer because, you know, just in case.
He fought. He rattled. He crashed. He banged. He thumped. That live trap jitterbugged on the floored space in the attic for the rest of the day. I rechecked the house perimeter more carefully, looking for signs of entry. None visible.
While revising my book ending–yet again, but long story–in the afternoon, I could hear the distant crashing and thump of my caged, frantic visitor. I was afraid to look. I was furious at the prospect of shifting a sizable pile of stuff in the garage just to lower the attic steps. Not when I’m supposed to be putting out clean towels and making fudge! Bing’s mellow tones and Dean’s dulcet crooning couldn’t quite cover the thuds and rattling noises that seemed loudest above the kitchen.
Instead of thinking about the next line of dialogue I needed to get just right, I found myself wondering, how did it get in? what if it’s not a squirrel this time? could it be a rat? a raccoon? why isn’t it hibernating? could it be rabid? what else will get in if the house isn’t as secure as I thought? why now? where is the handyman and why isn’t he answering his text messages?
In the evening, the sounds ceased. Poor frightened creature, I thought. Gone to sleep, exhausted by the struggle to escape. Dratted, naughty, awful varmint. Why my attic? Why?
I left my vehicle parked in the driveway and moved the stuff in the garage so the attic steps could be lowered. All remained quiet until 11 p.m. and then the thuds and crashing resumed.
This morning, my visitor continued to fight and struggle, bouncing the trap around. The handyman showed up on time. We lowered the attic steps. I switched on the light. He climbed up there cautiously.
And brought down a fat sassy squirrel, with beautiful fur and a luxurious tail. We were both immensely relieved that it wasn’t a rat.
Still, how did this big healthy guy get in? We circled the house carefully. No signs of entry. The handyman prowled the attic and found nothing.
The squirrel, beady-eyed and wild to get away, refused to talk before he was hauled to the park much too close to home and released near trees and a pond. He’ll be back by dinnertime, I’m sure.
Maybe he teleported in, and is really an alien scout from the planet Peanutica VII. If so, how soon till he returns and how many cousins and siblings will he bring with him?
I’m reminded of Ray Bradbury’s short story, “The Trapdoor,” where mysterious sounds suddenly start up in the protagonist’s attic. Let’s just say it’s a creepy little story and the protagonist doesn’t fare well in the end. I wonder if it was inspired by uninvited visitors to Bradbury’s attic. Hmmm.
Meanwhile, the trap is set once more. Just in case. (Call me Trapper Deb.) Let the aliens come! I will defend my territory.
Come Christmas Eve, I won’t be lying awake listening for the sound of reindeer on the roof, but for thumps and crashes in the attic.