Thursday, December 17, 2009

Midnight's Wayne Gretsky

It started way too early this morning, the scratching, the scraping, the sounds of someone making bank shots on an ice rink. Except for the fact that my stairway hasn't iced over in a century. I threw back the covers and crept stealthily (you didn't know I could be stealthy, did you?) around the corner, stopped still, reached for the light switch, and...nothing. Midnight's "Wayne Gretzky" was nowhere to be seen.

But there it was again, only softer, like the distant padding of gloved fists against a punching bag, paddita, paddita, faintly echoing off the wooden bedroom floor and out the space beneath the door. Aha!, I thought, starting onto the steps in slow motion, I've got you now! At that moment, the c
at joined me, bounding up two at a time before I could urge caution.

Suddenly, it stopped, and I stopped, and the cat froze, as though by ESP we became aware of each other at the same instant. Then, almost level with my left ear, I heard it again. Pummeling, lightly pounding, then heavier and more rapid. Sounds of leaping up the inner wall space, once, twice, and then more pounding. It was like a scene from The Premature Burial with Edgar Allen Poe at his best.

I turned to the cat and mouthed, "It's a chipmunk between the walls." He looked at me as if to say, "I
didn't quite get that, would you speak up a bit, please?" and made pawing motions of his own. I may be thick but I can take a hint, so I began scratching on our side of the "tomb" to see what would happen. Silence. I scratched harder, off and on, up the wall, side to side. Nothing.

I even tried what I thought might be the chipmunk equivalent of Morse Code, tapping out an SOS: dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot. Hey, it couldn't hurt, right? No response. Sighing, I looked at the cat who, I'd swear, sighed in return, and we headed back to bed.

We'd just gotten comfortable when it started again, only this time much, much louder and accompanied by scampering (or "skating," if you prefer) back and forth. Certain the little guy wasn't trapped after all, the cat and I ran up the stairs with me shouting
, "Beware evildoers and late night disrupters of sleep -- Mr. Incredible is here!" I guess that was enough, because I heard paws scrambling madly from one wall to the next, into the attic and I'm sure, out the ventilator.

Once more in bed, the cat doing his "Good job, Beggar," paw thing against me and the dog snoring happily, I imagined the conversation at the local Chipmunk's Bar and Grill going something like this: "Give me a stiff one, Charlie. You know that guy in the house everybody says is so nice? He lights up the fireplace and it's all warm and cuddly? Lemme tell you, he's not so nice."

(Creative Commons vector illustration of Mr. Incredible, done in CorelDraw, by dpencilpusher via Flickr. "Mr. Incredible" is property of Disney/Pixar)
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