I’m not sure how a raccoon came to think he belonged in my office, but one night a few weeks ago while I worked at the computer, writing of course, I caught motion from the corner of my eye and looked into the hall. There at the office door stood a raccoon, Now I’m not a screamer, so I just looked him in the eye and he turned and left. After midnight I’m pretty scary to look at. I followed to make sure he went back out the cat-door between the garage and laundry room through which he’d entered. We keep the cat-food inside the garage. It must be good stuff because it has attracted the raccoon’s grandparents and parents and brothers and sisters, whenever I forget to put it away at night. Oh, let’s not forget the occasional possum. Anyway, I shut the people-size door between the laundry room and the rest of the house, but I often forget that too. Details.
About five nights ago the raccoon made his foray to my office door earlier, 11 p.m. Cheeky critter. This time he looked at me as if to say, “You forgot to fill that cat-food dish, you slacker!” Then he turned and made his leisurely way back through the hall, the dining room, the kitchen, the laundry room, and finally the garage. Of course I followed, and the dish was very empty. I cleaned the dirt out of the cat’s water from where the polite guest washed his paws before dinner, then blocked the cat-door leading from the garage to the outdoors with something heavy. Poor raccoon would have to finish his meal elsewhere. Let that be a lesson to me in remembering to close the laundry room door at night, That lesson lasted three days.
After an exhausting day spent scuba-diving Friday, I was too tired to make it to the office and write. So I plopped on the family room couch with my laptop to read and write emails. No later than 10 pm this raccoon walked right past me, headed straight towards the office. I tried to get my teenager’s attention. With headphones on, he couldn’t hear until I clapped and hollered. I thought sure that would have sent the raccoon scurrying back out the cat-door. My son looked in the office and couldn’t see him, then shut the office door while I shut the laundry room door. Half an hour later I heard a clunk from the office. Halfway there to investigate, I heard another crash. We had company, trapped. I sent teen for the humane trap, the device responsible for relocating many a raccoon and possum guilty of cat-food snatching. This guy had ignored the bait in the trap for weeks, so here was a chance too good to pass up. Famous last words, cliche, but true.
My son brought the trap and stationed it in front of the armoire the raccoon was hiding under. Then he donned a thick coat and gloves to avoid getting bitten. Raccoons carry rabies from birth. I brought flat pieces of cabinet facing to funnel the critter into the trap. See? Procrastinating cabinet installation paid off after all! Or not. After a half hour of the trap snapping shut on nothing, my son tried using my picker-upper to pull the interloper forward towards the trap. Now the picker-upper is a glorified stick that grabs stuff from a distance, and the raccoon didn’t like being grabbed. “Uh-oh, he’s climbing,” said son, a mere few seconds before I looked up and saw the raccoon looking down at me from on top of the antique furniture. How the heck did he squeeze between the wall and the armoire, a couple of inches at best? And who knew a raccoon could climb the smooth vertical back of furniture? It’s nothing like the rough bark of a tree.
In all this time, the raccoon hadn’t made a single sound. Poor thing didn’t understand why we were persecuting him when all he did was come in to ask for more cat-food. Nevertheless, he had to go. It was way past time he went to live with his other relocated relatives in the wild. So we changed strategies. The office was already pretty torn up from us shifting things around. Now we had to remove the planter and pictures off the armoire top, plus a large mirror I hadn’t gotten around to hanging. It was covered with little paw-prints. During this operation, the raccoon retreated. I could see his tail extending around the armoire side, about halfway up its back. Quite the acrobat.
My son, not so much. After he near fell off the rolling office chair trying to climb the armoire, he decided to grab the stepladder. We pulled the armoire away from the wall, then he climbed on the furniture top while I held the wood panels down below to block the raccoon’s path to anywhere but the trap. The raccoon had other ideas. He still wouldn’t move forward until my intrepid teenager shimmied down the armoire back himself. So maybe he is an acrobat. But once those teenage shoes hit the floor, raccoon decided to pee on them. “So there, you big bully!”
Only then did he deign to walk into the trap. After all those times the trap had sprung shut on nothing, it didn’t spring. Raccoon walked back out and took another pee. Those shoes made such big targets. We repeated the whole episode again before I decided I would have to dismantle the unsprung spring and hold the trap door open for a third try. From behind the armoire, my son had to give me instructions because I can’t see worth a darn up close. And I didn’t have enough hands to also hold the wood panels, so now my feet were employed in bracing the trap. I hoped my shoes wouldn’t be such attractive targets. When my son’s shoes hit the floor a third time, there raccoon went, into the trap. I let go the door and clang, we had a winner.
Raccoon looked a little surprised. But he still didn’t complain when I picked up the cage. I think he expected some cat-food. What he got was a nice ride in the bed of our old truck. Perhaps I exaggerate the “nice” part. How can I describe the trip from home to the military reservation in a stick-shift truck with a teenager who hasn’t learned to shift? Let’s just say it made raccoon catching seem smooth in comparison. Guess which adventure shook me up more? After that ride I know the truck cringes when it sees my son coming. During all those jerks and stops which killed the engine, my son kept asserting he usually shifted much smoother. Yeah, right.
But we got there, an undisclosed location near the forest edge. Faced with a forest of real trees to climb, the raccoon didn’t want to leave his cage. He must prefer armoires. My son had to tilt the cage to get our guest to leave, not the first guest who didn’t know when his welcome had worn thin. But the raccoon finally saw the light, meaning the flashlight shining in his eyes. That convinced him to go meet his family, all released in the same location. They’ve probably given him his welcome briefing and shown him how to forage for food like raccoons were meant to. He has his life, which he wouldn’t if we’d called animal control, and he’s free to explore, as long as it’s not in my office. He might even find the local dump is within range, next best thing to cat-food.
To cap-off the night, teenager detoured all over town trying to find an open fast-food restaurant rather than take his very tired mother straight home. Raccoons and teenagers, always hungry.
What does all this have to do with writing? Isn’t it obvious? Whatever keeps you from writing one day is often the the thing you ought to write about the next. Go out and live life. Then you’ll know what to write.