Friday, September 11, 2015

close encounters

Writing recently about wildlife management and habitats and Cecil, etc., caused me to remember two times when I saw an unusual, wobbly-looking animal in the dark, unexpectedly, and how startling it was.

It must have been in 1996 or 1997, a friend and I went to see

(ladies' night out), and then went to a local lounge (nightclub? tavern?) afterwards for refreshment and conversation.

When we left to go home, we walked up the street in the dark

and we were talking, and then, up ahead in the next block, looming in the gloom, waddling unevenly yet steadily, in our direction, was this four-legged animal, and we did not know what it was.

"What is that?!"

A brief gasp of silence.  (Perhaps similar to what the military calls Shock And Awe.)

"Is it a giant rat?"

We were baffled, freaked out, horrified -- we started screaming and squeaking.  We were like Drew Barrymore and E.T. when they first see each other --





I think we both wanted to turn around and run the other way, but we also wanted to go home -- fast -- and our cars were parked up ahead, around the corner -- to get to our cars, we had to continue in the direction of the wobbly Unknown-Rodent Thing (UWR?), which was also coming towards us.

So we RAN -- toward the wobbler, only a few steps, then AROUND the corner, and east, toward our vehicles.  We called "good-bye" and "see you soon" to each other, from opposite sides of the street, then drove away, without seeing the giant rat again.  (I guess we both felt silly for being scared, and we also both wanted to get the heck out of there...)

It was bizarre.  And I got home and thought, What was that?  I mean, I don't really believe in "giant rats" but I just couldn't come up with an explanation or an idea of what that could have been.

The next day I was at the home of some other friends, and while giant rats might not have been a lovely, elegant topic of conversation, that Unexpected Rodent was haunting my memory, so I described it to one of my friends, and he laughed and said, "Oh it was probably a muskrat!  There's been so much rain and the river rises and floods them out of their homes -- then they walk into town!"

And I was like, "A muskrat?"  The image of the large, shadowy figure in the darkness couldn't exactly be diminished, but still -- muskrat sounded much better, more benign, than Giant Rat.  And I felt more relief, somehow, than I could have anticipated -- "Oh!  A MUSK-rat!"  ("Is that all?")

Then I went a long time without thinking about either rats or muskrats, until one night in, maybe, 2011 or 2012, I got home from work in the pitch dark, pressed the button for my garage door to roll up with its gentle "roar," and concentrated on driving into the lighted interior of the garage, when suddenly I saw, in the lighted interior, moving awkwardly from the south side to the north side of the space, a Giant Rat -- no, I mean muskrat!  (Oh my God!)

It was a Friday night:  I thought, "Ooooooh, WHAT am I supposed to do about that?"  and the answer was Nothing, and I pressed the remote to lower the garage door back down to where I'd left it that morning, a few inches higher than ground level, so it wouldn't freeze shut.  Only I made sure to leave it high enough above the ground so that thing could leave if it decided to. 

(What if it lets more of them IN?  Oh for God's sake...)

I drove around the block and parked in front -- that's it, I said.  It's Friday; I'm tired.

--------------------------- The next morning I had an appointment to take my car for an oil change or something.  When I returned from that, I parked in front again, wondering where the Muskrat was at, and sat quietly in the car for a minute, savoring the idea that Peace and Quiet of the Weekend

was about to begin.  Then I noticed my neighbor's garage door was not all-the-way closed -- he had left it a little ways open, just like me, probably for the same reason, so it wouldn't ice-shut.

And the ungenerous thought crossed my mind:  maybe that muskrat will -- exit my garage and -- migrate over to their garage...out under my garage door, and in under theirs...

We're supposed to "love thy neighbor" -- does that include, "Foist not thy problems upon thy neighbor"...?  Well -- technically I wasn't going to "foist" the muskrat -- hell I'm scared of the damn thing.

It was only a thought.  And I tried to push it out of my mind, and be a nicer person. ...


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