Saturday, August 8, 2009

Regularly scheduled program interrupted by...el chupacabra?

Okay, let's forget work for a moment. I've gotta tell you this, because it gives you a nice glimpse into the dumb things a "tough chick" like me will do. This will be a recurring theme, with episodes when you least expect them - so this is what's going to make this blog worth the while.

So last night, I'm working away and I hear "CHEEP, CHEEP, cheep, cheep!" Since it's approaching midnight, I'm pretty sure it's no chickadee or anything. Whatever it is, it's shrill, it's loud and it's in distress. Then I hear noises like something is flapping and struggling to get out off the ground - or out of the clutches of a cat.

And then I think, well, if it really is a dying bird, then I'm gonna have to take it inside and have to suffer its peeping (and its lice) all night long - or worse, I'm going to find out it's been broken and eviscerated or something, and then I'm going to have to put it out of its misery - not something I want to do last thing on a Friday night!

This isn't the first time I've been disturbed by the local wildlife, either. There was one night I woke up to the banging of the door at 3:00 in the morning. Thinking it was the police, I rolled out of bed and into my pants and I threw on the nearest shirt-like thing I could find, rushed stumbling to the door without my glasses and flicked on the outside light - to discover a cheeky little raccoon had knocked over the garbage pail and was rolling it against the front door to shake loose the crusty stuff at the bottom. I looked at him through the window in the door, he stared back at me as if to ask, "Do you mind?" I opened the door and he jumped - then he assumed I was a loser and actually went back to eating - saucy little thing. I shouted "SCAT!" and waved my arms, and it stepped back, cautious but growling. So I shouted, "GIT OUT!" And he went back to dinner, ignoring me quite thoroughly. It wasn't until I grabbed the pail out of its grip that it finally ran off. Even when I put the pail inside and locked the door on him, he sat outside my window glowering at me.

Then there was the time I heard something else muttering and banging at the door. This time (again, three in the morning, not at my brightest), I swore a burglar was breaking it with murderous intent. And stupid me, I figured the best defense is a surprise offense, so I ran to the door again looking like a homeless crazy person with two fists and a scowl that would have made Popeye proud. This time, the burglar - and my beleagured garbage pail - had both ambled half-way down the driveway, leaving a streak of all the most embarrassing and disgusting garbage - and ladies, you know what kind of garbage I mean. Naturally, it had been the night I cleaned out the bathroom trash. This time, groggy, stupid and legally blind, I burst out through the door, waving my arms and hissing. And though I might not be able to see distinct shapes, I can certainly detect a contrast of colour - and there is no better contrast than black and white, even at 3:00 a.m. My friend the neighbourhood skunk turned upraised tail and aimed. Suddenly discovering ourselves at an impasse - her with all the power of stink and me with all the power of scary crazy person - I politely asked her to move along, and she did.

I don't know what it is about the wildlife in NDG, but it's nuts! The animals are not only fearless, but sometimes they're not even identifiable. There was one night I was coming home from the Metro, and suddenly - I swear to you - a koala ran across the road. It was either a koala or a chupacabra. Whatever it was, it was sandy brown, it had hunching shoulders and a squat rear end, it had no tail, and it ran like a very small bear. It was also two in the morning at the end of a gruelling week, so it could have been a hunchbacked leprechaun for all I really know.

But the story that takes the cake happened last night. Here I am, typing away in the middle of a scary scene where a bunch of people trapped on an island are ambushed by a pack of ravening werewolves in the pitch black night. Then I hear the sound of the animal in distress, and I'm thinking I have to go outside to twist a little bird's neck or something.

So I stand up and open the living room curtains. Can't see a thing. Too bright inside, too dark outside. So I go to the kitchen door and flick on the outside light. Now, I have a triangle of very bright light, bracketed by very deep shadows. I hear the sound again - a cascade of shrill chirps and a frantic flapping, scratching noise. So, I turn off the outside light and turn on the kitchen light, which shines through the windows out onto the driveway a little closer to the backyard. Not the brightest idea, if you pardon the pun, because it's still too light inside and too dark outside. I decide to laugh it off and go back to my work.

A couple of seconds later, there it is again - right outside my window. I figure I'm not going to get any peace - or any sleep - until I shut off the animal alarm. I have to open the door - despite my flashbacks to previous encounters with dauntless - and potentially rabid - animalia. And as big and tough and outdoorsy as I am, I stand on the inside step, staring out into the driveway because I'm too scared to go outside without a light. Whatever it is, it's big and it sounds like it's breaking into the upstairs apartment. Any second now, I expect the sound of crashing glass and a shriek. And to make matters worse, after flicking on all the lights in the house, I have absolutely no night vision.

Once again, I laugh it off and close the door, because whatever it is, it'll go away and I can get to bed. I go back to the all-important scene where spiritually contaminated werewolves are bursting soundlessly out of the dark, teeth and claws first and where there is no escape - and then the infernal cheeping again! Right outside my window!

The drama goes on like this for a good twenty to thirty minutes before I finally give up and decide to go outside. The only flashlight I have is buried under three seasons of camping gear and other various junk, so I light a large candle instead.

Once outside, I shine my pathetic little light in my own eyes, so candlelight or not, I'm blinded by these floating afterimages of a flame I held too close. So I raise the candle over my head, feeling very much like the pretty little extra who ventures too far into the woods in the third act of a B-movie saying, "Hello, hello, is anyone out there?" It was the moment in any bad movie where the camera pans back and the music stops...

What I hear is eight feet tall and full of teeth. Trees bend. A fence wobbles. Weeds rustle and garbage pails fall. Whatever it is, it's in the back yard and it's coming closer - and more precisely, it's coming toward me. The night is cold and overcast and all the street lights have mysteriously gone out, and the only thing lighting my stygian doom is this dumb candle I've got overhead, flickering in the wind.

Then at the bottom of my field of vision I realize there's something white on the lawn. My heart starts to race. Afterimage, I figure, or an optical illusion! I blink, and I realize - not only is that little white spot still there, but it's closer than it was before! For a split second, I think, "What if it's not an animal at all?!"

I blink again, and this time the white spot is scrabbling noisily up a tree to my immediate left. I hiss like an angry cat - and then suddenly the scrabbling is noisier and louder than ever and I realize that this white splotch is running down the tree toward me. I hiss and growl again, but now claws are scritching on the pavement where the backyard ends, and he's gaining ground.

So yes, I admit it. With the candle flame bobbing over my head, with my pride chucked over my shoulder, yes, darn it, I turned tail and ran with that crazy CHIPMUNK right on my heels.

Chipmunk: 1. Ego: zero.

I'm investing in a rubber band gun - THEN we'll see who rules the roost.

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