by Larry Teren
“There’s a bear in your bedroom.” That’s how Harry the lawyer greeted Dick, my accountant over the phone. Or at least that’s how he started the story he was repeating to me. Harry and Dick shared clients so it was not unusual for them to have regular phone conversations. Dick’s father-in-law lived next door to Harry. So, it wasn’t Dick’s bedroom- it was his father-in-law’s. And it wasn’t a bear but a– wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
I stopped at Dick’s office to kill some time and lament about the Cubs. I did so at least once a week. It’s a better cure than chicken soup- lamenting, that is. Dick had mentioned that his father-in-law was on his last legs. He hadn’t been living in the house for quite a while. He was in a medical facility waiting out his time but probably not knowing it. The house was unoccupied, or so everyone thought. I had asked Dick why he and his wife had not tried to sell it and he said that out of respect they would wait.
The day that he died, Dick called Harry to let him know. Harry was looking out a window in his house at the dearly departed’s bedroom window. That’s when he yelled into the mouthpiece, “there’s a bear in your bedroom.” Naturally, Dick replied, “you’re joking, right?”
Harry responded, “well, if it isn’t a bear then it’s something. I think you better call animal care.”
Dick called and found out what I could have told him- that municipalities aren’t into the business of getting animals out of your house. You gotta call a private firm. He did and they came out, put in a trap and waited until the next morning to check the results. As expected, they caught a more than forty pound raccoon. The masked invader was an uninvited guest using the house as a summer home. The professional trapper told Dick that there was good news and maybe not so good news. Depending how long ago the animal took up housekeeping could determine whether it was a lonely interloper or if there was a family. Another trap was put up. The next day another raccoon was caught. No other animals were subsequently found.
Animals have a way of leaving a scent as to whether a place was a good haven or not. Most likely the two that were caught left something to warn off others. But it didn’t help the damage that was done to the foundation and drain pipe. The insurance company indicated that it was over fifteen thousand dollars or at least that’s how much they were willing to pony up.
This reminded me of the time a few years back I was visiting Ma and took a nap in the early afternoon in the middle bedroom. I was awakened probably ninety minutes later with the sound of pitter-patter coming from above the ceiling. Or was it outside scampering up the side of the house?
I mentioned it to ma who told me that she had been hearing it on and off lately. I told her that it meant that squirrels were probably in the attic; We were also forced to hire animal control experts who put up a couple of traps and snicker bars laced with poison. Over a couple of days the chocolate killed two fury pests. Just as they had sent a message to others to use the place as a refuge, their last act was to kindly leave a scent that warned off their buddies. The control fellows were also intrepid and discovered the source of the hole that the squirrels created with their strong teeth. They filled it up with sheet metal. They also said that there were several houses within a block or so radius that had similar problems. It didn’t matter whether the homes were expensive with many rooms or just a townhouse. The squirrels were not picky.
The pitter-patter wasn’t only a sign of rodents looking for a place to hibernate. A few years earlier, both my brother and I stayed overnight, each taking a separate room. We both heard pitter-patter early in the morning and thought it was a couple of squirrels playing catch. We found out later in the day that a couple of goons had broken into ma’s next door neighbor’s townhouse unit through a hole in the roof. They had gone through the rafters between units until they picked hers. Apparently they were able to tell no one was home. They didn’t take much but no one wanted to feel violated. So both the neighbor and ma paid for a security alarm service.
But, I digress. A man lives a long, long life filled with good tidings- children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and some relative wealth. He outlives his wife but he cannot outlive time. For all his effort in making something of value to his years spent here he ends up giving himself back to the earth practically unaware as the moment he is born. Creatures of nature try to claim their right for the sanctuary of his home but they end up back to earth just as unaware. The cycle continues.