Beast in the Night
-- what can we help you with today?" she asked, flouncing down
in the chair behind her desk. Stacy wore a forest green pantsuit
that flared out unflatteringly at the hip, a detail I would normally
omit but in this instance feel compelled to record.
raccoons," she mindlessly agreed while messing with some papers
on her desk and glancing distractedly at the blinking red light
on her telephone. "We're going to get some traps up there for
you! I loved it. Like it was a personal favor for the leasing office
to rid the building of ferocious vermin. Like I was asking them
to go out of their way because I had some quirky desire to sleep
been hearing that for weeks," I said.
smiled broadly as if this were a pretty good comeback.
not sure you appreciate the urgency of our situation," I said
flatly and, I hoped, just a touch menacingly. Menace is tough to
pull off unless you have a commanding physical presence or a strong
German accent. Unfortunately I am slight of build and non-Teutonic.
don't know what to tell you," Stacy said, throwing up her hands
in mock helplessness.
me you will do something."
launched into a lengthy non-answer that featured words such as "shorthanded"
am not a well man," I said, interrupting her mid-ramble. As
I spoke, I began tapping the edge of her desk with my knuckles.
"I haven't slept, really slept, in weeks. I can't think straight."
Stacy, it feels like I'm losing my mind. Do you know what that feels
like? Do you know what it feels like to lose your mind?"
no longer tapping her desk: I was hitting it. The sentimental trinkets
and framed photographs of her grinning loved ones bounced with each
I'm not trying to bother you," I said, my voice pseudo-sincere.
"That's the last thing I want. I know you're a busy person
with many important matters to attend to. Maybe the raccoons don't
seem like a big deal to you, Stacy. But they are a big deal to me.
A very big deal. The biggest deal. I'm asking - begging - you to
make the raccoons go away. I don't want to go crazy. Please don't
let me go crazy."
eyes were wide and the perkiness had drained from her demeanor.
Stacy's mouth hung open for several moments while she gathered herself.
will talk to Jim," she said finally.
like to report that immediate action was taken, that my desk-thumping
tantrum did the trick. But that would not be true. We suffered through
several more weeks before the traps were set. Eventually, though,
the raccoons were caught and we watched as one of them was lowered
in its cage from the roof of our three-story building. It was impossible
not to feel sorry for him. After all, he had done nothing to warrant
forcible eviction except to behave like a nocturnal animal, which
of course he was. But our twinges of fellow-creature sympathy were
outweighed by the sheer, gorgeous, unsurpassed bliss of a good night's
then we've moved a couple of times, gotten jobs, purchased a house,
and become the kind of people who walk the dog each morning, fret
uselessly about world events, and forget to pay our bills on time.
Average citizens, in other words. The raccoon episode has naturally
begun to fade from our minds, replaced by other memories, some of
them pleasant, some of them painful. Life has gone on, as life tends
I was reminded of the raccoons recently when, late one night, we
were awakened by a yowling. It was gentle at first, more like a
soft mewl, but the volume steadily increased and the noise became
more insistent until the room was filled with a racket that could
rouse even the deepest and most dedicated sleeper.
do you think it is?" I whispered stupidly.
think he's hungry," Kellie replied.
on the lamp next to the bed while Kellie scooped up our three-week-old
son. It was obvious from his half-closed lids that he was tired,
but hunger had trumped fatigue in the age-old battle of pressing
needs. While I can't say I was thrilled to be conscious at such
a dark and godless hour, it was difficult to be upset with the little
guy as he suckled merrily away, his tiny hand wrapped around my
wife's finger. And, besides, we had no right to complain; this time,
it was all our fault.
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