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Natural selection: Survival of the rudest

Humans may be the most evil animals on Earth, but raccoons surely are a close second.

Certainly they are the most inconsiderate animals on Earth.

Right bastards, they are, raccoons.

Whoa, Ian, what’s with the raccoon hate? What, you ask, have these cute, cuddly-looking little bandits ever done to you?

Plenty. They’ve had it in for me from day one, and you’re a naive fool to see them as anything but the thieving, conniving bastards that they are. To wit:

  • As a small child, a raccoon mauled our beloved family pet, a soft, cuddly, and thoroughly un-maul-worthy bunny rabbit.
  • Frequently while camping, raccoons have raided my campsite, stealing the heavy food I packed in. And, surprisingly, all the beer. Though I haven’t ruled out my campmates on that.
  • On one camping trip, the raccoons broke into my car and stole all the Blake Shelton CDs that somehow found themselves, against all odds, in my car. They left all the classical music CDs untouched.
  • A few months ago, a domestic dispute between two raccoons unfolded on my roof. Loudly. At two in the morning.
  • Regularly while driving at twilight, I see raccoons skulking about the street corner storm drains, a shifty glint in their eyes. Clearly up to no good.

As I said, the most inconsiderate animals on Earth.

Which brings to me last weekend, when they went from inconsiderate to just f*cking with me.

About six months ago, my beloved kiddos, playing in the backyard, decided that throwing toys on the roof and then asking big, gullible ol’ Daddy to get them was the bestest, funnest game in the world.

Teenage Mutant Smug Turtle, more like

This crime fighter doesn’t inspire confidence.

It took me about three rounds of this sport to catch on, at which point I flatly refused to go back up and fetch their latest volley, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll, a plush stuffed animal that shouted TMNT catchphrases when flung against hard surfaces.

Such as the ground and roofs with slate shingles.

So up it stayed on the roof, through sun and rain and wind. My refusal to recover it instantly converted this into their favorite toy. The kiddos still cry themselves to sleep at night, mourning the loss of that toy and cursing not just my name, but the date of my birth.

Which I find ironic, given if their curses against my birth had any weight or power, there would be no them to curse me.

Time travel has its paradoxes, and so too, it turns out, does black magic.

I’ve attempted to explain to them the dangerous lack of logic in such a curse, in case it turns out they do have magical powers, but apparently six-year olds aren’t that good at understanding where babies come from or how their Daddy’s genetics contributed greatly to who they are.

And as they are still six, I have no enthusiasm for the birds and the bees conversation yet because I know, when I make the Missus give it to them, I will bear the brunt of her irritation at making her do it.

So the kiddos, not understanding, just wail anew and spit at me.

Numbskulls.

(I will say, the spitting is an improvement over their pre-potty training days, when they found less pleasant things close at hand to fling at me when expressing their disdain.)

But speaking of bastards, back to the raccoons.

Last Sunday, I retired to bed early. I’d recently been tasked to hire an engineer at work, and the lovely recruiter scheduled an 8am phone screen with the latest candidate.

I am not a morning person. I have never been a morning person. If the sun wasn’t essential for all life on Earth, I would have it snuffed out just to sleep in an extra five minutes. This is how I feel about getting up early, let alone being well-rested when I rise.

So I not only had to be at work at the normal start time, but I had to be sharp and pleasant and ready to talk to potential talent.

Where_in_the_world_is_Agent_Carter

Greatest (British) American hero

Hence the retiring early, despite the Missus’ entreaties to finish watching Agent Carter with her on the DVR. I’d sat through the first hour, quite enjoying the episode, but it was one of those ‘two hour events’ networks often put on to generate excitement about a program, and I simply could not stay up another hour.

I left my poor Missus, wailing and gnashing her teeth at my absence from her side as she watched the second hour without me, and went to bed.

Except shortly after closing my eyes, I heard something in the crawlspace above my bed.

Well, possibly in the crawlspace. Or possibly on the roof.

It’s surprisingly hard to tell, when lying half-asleep in the dark, whether the thump thumps you hear above you are on the roof, in the crawlspace, or maybe the result of some Lovecraftian beast walking upside down on the ceiling directly above you.

I am not a morning person because the night terrors that arise from my twisted, dark imagination keep me up at night.

I am a morning person out of necessity.

I struggled awake. I threw on the lights. I reached for the cricket bat next to my bed.

Nothing on the ceiling, thank the Old Ones.

Still some thump thumps, though.

I went outside, still clutching that cricket bat, and checked the roof as best I could in my PJs, bare feet, and with no ladder.

Nothing, which told me a truly shifty bastard was at work.

Naturally, my thoughts went immediately to raccoons.

I went back to bed, light left on, and tried to doze off. All was silent and right with the world.

At first.

But then the thump thump again. Only this time, something new:

The Thing On The Roof (henceforth known as TTOTR): Thump Thump “Cowabunga!” Thump thump
Me: WFT?
TTOTR: Thump thump “Totally awesome, dudes!” Thump thump
Me: OMFG! The neighborhood teenage hooligans are playing on my roof, and they brought a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll with them! I mean action figure, I added, knowing they’d correct me as such had they heard my thoughts. Such are the teenage hooligans in my neighborhood – smug.
TTOTR: Thump thump “Cowabunga” thump thump I taunt you with my spooky ambiguity thump thump

I abandoned raccoons for teenage hooligans because come on, what raccoon plays with toys on a stranger’s roof in the middle of the night? It defies all logic.

I rose again from bed, blearly-eyed and more than a little put out. This time I went to the backyard, where a ladder leans against one wall of the house, left over from that game, many months ago, of Daddy Fetch From the Roof.

I climbed the ladder, and because I was tired and I couldn’t find a proper flashlight, used my cell phone for illumination.

Let me just say, when attempting to see something in the dark from far enough away that you have time to successfully climb down a ladder and flee in case said thing decides to charge you, a cell phone light is not sufficient.

This thought is the very one that went through my head as I alighted that ladder. It was not a comforting thought.

Made all the moreso by the fact that I couldn’t climb the ladder, hold my cell phone, and hold a cricket bat at the same time.

I felt naked.

Yes, my PJs are slight and flimsy (and mostly see-through), but I’ve never felt naked in them before.

Of course, I had forgotten all about the kiddos’ little game and the toy left up there as I ascended that ladder. I just knew that something very wrong was happening on my roof, and while I really, really had no desire to see what exactly that wrong was, the only way to get some sleep was to investigate.

I don’t do my best thinking when I’m tired.

Fortunately, in moving the ladder into position, I’d made a lot of grunting, groaning, and “Ow!”ing sounds. This, apparently, alerted the bastard raccoon on the roof that I was coming.

I was back to raccoons at this point because once my head cleared the eave and saw no living creature there, I knew only a raccoon could have slipped off so stealthily.

Almost like a ninja.

Teenage hooligans tend to make a lot more noise disembarking my roof in a hurry.

I speak from experience on that count…

The only thing to greet me, as I tottered on the top rung of my ladder, surveying my roof, was the now silent and dismembered TMNT doll.

This battle goes to you, raccoon, but the war goes on.

As is natural in these situations, I paused for a moment in order to tweet about it. I then scraped the remains off the roof, carried them into the kiddos’ room, and with a scream fit to reanimate a thoroughly dead-due-to-mauling toy, woke them so they might see the logical conclusion of fun had at Daddy’s expense.

I explained, as my father once explained to me while I lay sick in bed one morning, that a raccoon had mauled their precious, beloved companion.

There was much crying and wailing after this. Mostly from the Missus, who was not happy that I had awakened the kiddos in the middle of the night and distressed them so.

But they were out of school for the whole week and didn’t need to get up early like I did.

Why should I be the only one to suffer?

I am living proof that humans are the most evil animals on the planet. At least when they’re really, really tired.

No doubt the kiddos will carry on that tradition when, years from now and despite my protests to the contrary, they decide it’s time to unplug Daddy from life support.

Holy Disemboweled Ninja Turtles, Batman, the shingles on this roof look, well, OK, actually!

In case you thought I made this whole horrifying story up…


Yes, I’ve been away from this blog for a long time. It hasn’t just been raccoons depriving me of sleep and leaving me too stressed out and exhausted to post.
I had pretty much given up on life, and by extension, this blog, but then the raccoons came, and their outrageous disregard for common decency fired me up again. Gave me the will to live. Endowed within me a newfound zest for life (or at least revenge…).

 

 

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Reflections on Easter as a Parent OR Something Hoppity This Way Comes

Contrary to my toddlers’ insistence, Easter is not about candy.

It is not about any one particular season either.

Or a religious holiday.

It is about home defense.

My parents introduced me to this special holiday by explaining how the Easter bunny would come to our house with a basket of candy that he’d prepared just for me.

To make it interesting, he hid the basket.

Some years they’d also throw in a comment about the effort of searching helping me burn through all the extra calories I’d be getting.

Those years, the basket was usually very hard to find and/or get to once found.

This all began when I was three. Here’s how my under-developed yet surprisingly sharp little brain processed this explanation:

Every year at Easter time, a giant magical rabbit will, while I am sleeping, break into my house – undetected by my parents – to leave me a special container of candy that It knew will appeal to me.

  • Magic superpowers.
  • Stalking, to determine at a minimum, my candy preferences.
  • A veritable Raffles of the family Leporidae, able to break into any and every home inhabited by Christians. All in one night.
  • Undetectable to those charged with keeping me safe.

And thus began the long chain of recurring nightmares wherein, every March or April, just as I’m getting over the whole Saint Nick trauma, a new terror that moves among us arises.

I was a stupid child. I understood that I was dealing with a very dark and powerful force, but I also didn’t fully grasp my own mortality.

In a misguided attempt to protect my younger sister from this Lagomorphic fiend, I took on a new mission in life:

To find and stop the Easter bunny.

And so the annual Spring tradition began:

  • Act excited about Easter so my sister wouldn’t be afraid.
  • Surreptitiously unpack the Xmas rubber sheets and install them on my bed to minimize the clean-up every morning in the week leading up to the horrific event.
  • On Easter Eve, go to bed early, try to nap a little to build a reserve for the coming ordeal.
  • Instead of napping, lie awake in bed, listening to every sound of that accursed house. Wait to hear my sister skip off to bed, and then, later, my parents knocking off. Mistake every groan of the house, every click and sputter of the refrigerator, as the sound of whiskered Death approaching.
  • Creep out of bed with my talisman of protection, a stuffed animal we’ll refer to here as ‘Roosevelt’.
  • Strain to stay awake despite my pounding heart burning through three days’ worth of calories in less than an hour.
  • Fail to stay awake.
  • Come to the next morning, somehow back in my bed, under the covers, still, amazingly, alive. Do a quick external inventory, making sure I’m still intact while checking for giveaway surgical scars suggesting organ removal.

This went on for some years. The night terrors became impossible to hide, and I was sent to a string of child psychologists. But the first one made a mistake that tipped me off to whose side they were all on – he had stuffed bunny rabbits in his waiting room.

Oh yes, the Bunny has his lucky paws in everything.

I tried to warn my peers in grade school, but they didn’t believe me.

The fools! They laughed at me! Laughed!

That’s when I started staying up with Roosevelt and my Spiderman camera. If I could obtain photographic evidence, then they’d have to listen.

They’d have to believe.

That came to an end when one Easter night, my mommy came downstairs after we’d all gone to bed. I had stationed myself on the sofa to await our midnight interloper, and only heard her in time to cram Mr. Spiderman under the sofa.

I survived that discovery by claiming to be sleepwalking.

Mr. Spiderman, however, and my faith and trust in my parents, were not so lucky.

For you see, two things were clear to me now. One, my Spiderman camera was not built with the act of cramming it under a sofa in mind. And two, Mr. Bunny, in stalking me to learn my candy predilections, had discovered my awareness of the threat It presented, and my efforts to stay up in order to confront It. And to stop me, It turned to Its well-placed, above-suspicion allies, a.k.a. my mommy and daddy.

I imagine the conversation went something like this:

(phone ringing)

MOM
(answering phone)
Hello?

BUNNY
It’s me.

MOM
Oh, yes, Sir.

BUNNY
We gots a problem, see? It’s that twerp kid of yours, see?

MOM
Ian? Oh yes, he is a very annoying twerp. Should I kill him, Sir?

BUNNY
No, no! That would draw too much suspicion, see? And he’s not ripe yet, see? I can’t eat human flesh that isn’t ripe yet, or fattened up properly with candy. Gives ’em a bitter taste, see?

MOM
What would you have me do, oh Dark Lord and Master?

BUNNY
(sound of chomping on cigar)
He’s gonna try and stay up tonight, see? So youse is gonna come down from your room about 11:45, see, and ‘accidentally’ stumble across him. Get him back to bed, see? Slip him a mickey if ya have to, got it?

My parents’ ‘inability’ to detect the Easter Bunny’s intrusions made so much more sense after this realization.

So I had to up my game. In high school, I took up cricket just for the bat. I feigned obsession with the world’s most boring, confusing sport so no one would question why I kept the bat always at my side, why I slept with it under my pillow, why I walked in my sleep every other night with that bat in hand.

All to convince them I really was sleepwalking, and not just preparing for the coming Easter.

It took a lot out of me. My few friendships withered. My grades suffered. My health declined. Precipitously.

I learned more than it is safe for any one person to know about the game of cricket.

But it was necessary. Necessary to keep my sister safe.

And then, my first year back from college for Spring Break, something incredible happened.

The Easter Bunny lost interest in my family.

It didn’t come that Easter.

Or any Easter after that.

I asked my sister if the Easter Bunny had left her anything. She just snorted derisively and told me she hadn’t gotten a visit from the Easter Bunny since 8th grade.

I see it now. I see that It was playing the long game. But I admit, at the time, I was fooled.

I lowered my guard.

I desperately wanted to believe.

The AR-15 I’d planned to buy as soon as I turned 21? Unbought. By me, anyway. Given the current gun control climate, I’m sure someone bought it and has it safely tucked away in their rabbit-proof arsenal.

The cricket bat that had been my constant companion since freshman year in high school? Retired to the top shelf in the closet.

The windows that were nailed shut in my room? Pulled out with the back of a hammer.

The soul-consuming nightmares of whiskered, non-Euclidean horror that burned out most of my youth? I still have those, but only every other night or so now. I find getting blind drunk right before bed has a pleasant ‘black-out’ effect that diminishes the intensity of the nightmares significantly.

And then, out of the blue, the Missus turned to me last month after I’d tucked my toddlers into bed and said, “You know, the kids are old enough to appreciate it now. What should the Easter Bunny bring them this year?”

Her question came with just enough time for me to dust off the old cricket bat and fill out the paperwork to start the mandatory waiting period for a gun.

So if you’re wondering why this blog post is a little late, it’s because that paperwork is really complicated to fill out.

Oh, and I was up all night Easter Eve watching over my kiddos.

I love them too much to let that furry bastard harm a hair on their head.

 
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Posted by on 2 April 2013 in Angst, Life

 

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