Columns

2008.06.11 Pound! Pound! What's there?

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

It’s 3:33 a.m. Do you know where your house animals are? Ours are safely ensconced in our walls.

“I think you should turn the light on,” my wife said recently. “There’s something in the room. It’s not in the walls. It’s in the room. I can hear it.”

I listened and determined it was the slowly unwadding piece of plastic wrap my wife had removed from a package of tissues and thrown toward the waste basket. We got through that early-morning emergency without much trouble, but it wasn’t the end.

I suppose Colleen had good reason to think there might be an animal in the room. Or at least the walls. We seem to be visited most every night.

These night visitors are causing a degree of creeping fear to grow in our bedroom. For me, it’s not the animal in the wall. I can handle that OK. It’s the fear of Colleen screaming or of her madly whipping the covers around or nearly jumping on top of me to elude the beast.

I know the beast is in the walls. She knows it might be hiding behind the dresser.

One night last week we moved in an entirely different direction. Quite entertaining, actually, but it didn’t start out that way. It began with an element of fear.

It was probably 3:33 again. It’s a beastly time of night lately.

Colleen had come to bed after her usual midnight musings and the scratching began in the walls.

We talked about what kind of animal it might be. She said it was probably a raccoon or possum, but I disagreed. It couldn’t possibly be either one of those.

“Whatever it is, it’s quiet,” I said. “It doesn’t say anything.”

That’s when the room suddenly exploded with squirrel talk. It caught me off guard. I quickly realized it was Colleen—she does an excellent squirrel imitation, especially for a big city girl—but it raised the adrenaline level. You don’t expect a loudly calling squirrel in a dark bedroom.

She figured if it were a squirrel she might get an answer, but there was only silence. Not a squirrel, we surmised.

“It’s not a chimpanzee,” I offered.

“It’s not a rooster,” she suggested.

“How do you know it’s not a rooster?” I asked.

“We haven’t heard it crowing,” she answered.

Of course not. I was a little slow to catch on to this game, but unlike Ms. Leddy, I had been asleep for several hours.

“What’s the enemy of a possum?” I asked. “You could make that noise and scare it away.”

That would probably be a fox.

“But they don’t make a noise,” she said.

“Sure they do,” I said. “They bark.”

I was truly amazed that we were having this conversation at this time of the night.

“Listen!” she said.

I listened. It was the gurgling of my digestive system that had been awakened from slumber.

A little later I heard something else, but it turned out to be her breathing through slightly clogged nostrils.

Then we both heard something else. It sounded like a high-pitched dog bark and that’s exactly what it was—a dog somewhere across the block.

I don’t know how we got into all of these other sounds because they’re not the animal in the walls.

The animal in the walls lives an extremely odd life. Sometimes when I hear it scratching, I think about its plight, moving up and down the lathe strips in a narrow passageway, always in the dark, always in the hot, stuffy air of the walls. Is it trapped? It can’t be; it must come out for food now and then, but why is the wall space such an attractive return destination?

Perhaps it enjoys communicating with us. It makes this odd vibrating sound like it’s beating against a lathe strip. We answer by pounding on the wall in hopes of scaring it away.

In my mind, the only sensible answer to this continuing dilemma is that it’s a bat. I don’t know why it enjoys the trips up and down the walls. Maybe it’s the best thing short of a cave.

Last night I felt something pricking on my leg. I feared it might be a wasp crawling around. Colleen thought animal in the walls and wanted the lights on quickly. It’s taken over our night thoughts.

Pound! Pound!

Who’s there?

I just don’t know.

I just don’t know who?

Just shut up and let me go to sleep.

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