65: Masked Bandit

65: Masked Bandit

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Masked Bandit

Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.

~Pema Chödrön

I rolled off our makeshift bed one Saturday morning and tiptoed around the two twin mattresses that lay side by side next to ours. We had just completed phase one of a planned three-phase renovation of our new home. The family was camping in what was to be our home office. The kids thought it was cool that the four of us, our eight-year-old Lab Sam, and the three black bear hamsters were camping in such a tight spot for a much longer-than-expected period of time. Truth be told, I loved it too.

Hoping to steal a few quiet moments, I silently crossed the room, opened the door and had just about left the room when Sam jumped up and nudged past me, running like the wind.

The promise of coffee and blueberry muffins guided me down the dark hallway. I was careful not to trip over the sixty feet of extension cords stretching from one level of the house to the next. That cord ran the refrigerator and coffeemaker and was the only power we had for the other side of the house. When I reached the empty space that was to be our new kitchen, I felt something was wrong. Then I saw it. The muffins that had been stored on top of the refrigerator were gone.

Muffin crumbs and the remnants of a cardboard box were scattered all over the floor. Instinctively I turned toward Sam and read him the riot act.

“How could you do that? Those were MY muffins!”

We kept such a small supply of food in the house that everything was rationed. I continued to rant at poor Sam until it occurred to me that Sam had been locked in the office with us all night.

After apologizing to my bewildered pup, I took him out for a walk and picked up the newspaper waiting for me at the end of the driveway. If I wasn’t going to have a muffin at least I could relax with my coffee and the paper.

The next night I was the last one to go to bed. I went up to our makeshift bedroom, shut the door and crawled onto our mattress. Immediately after I turned off the lights, I heard a light tapping sound in the hallway. It seemed to be pacing up and down.

My husband Jack and I grabbed a flashlight and crept down the hall to the kitchen area. Two glowing eyes peered back at us in the flashlight’s beam. Rocky the raccoon was dining on top of the refrigerator.

We both gasped as the raccoon stopped munching on our bread. I was at a loss. What do you do? Jack shouted for them to stay in the office, shut the door and keep Sam in there with them. We knew we could control the kids but not Sam if he got a whiff of the raccoon.

Jack told me to open the front door and go to the stair landing. He grabbed a broom and pushed at the raccoon, trying to coax it to leave. But it just snarled and screeched at us. I was terrified. Then it occurred to me to call my friend who was the director of the local nature center.

The phone rang and rang. The minute she answered I could tell we weren’t going to get much assistance from her. Loud music and people singing in the background clued me in to the fact that she was having a party. The second clue was her loud hey-come-over-and-have-a-drink voice.

I explained about the raccoon perched on our refrigerator. She listened, let a minute go by and then let out a loud roar, which was followed by her repeating the story to the entire party. In unison everyone howled!

Finally, she got control of herself and realized we were seriously frightened. She came up with a credible solution. Take bread and leave a trail from the fridge to the door and then throw the rest of the bread outside. Then, turn off the lights and go back upstairs.

We did as she said and then shut ourselves in the office with the kids, Sam, and the black bear hamsters. After twenty minutes we crept back downstairs, and to our surprise the raccoon was gone. Two minutes after we were back in the safety of our office the phone rang.

“Hello?” I answered, wondering who would be calling that late at night.

“Hello, this is Bambi. Rocky told us you were having a party and wanted to know if Thumper and I could come over.” You could hear the entire group laughing hysterically in the background.

“Very funny,” I replied. “You will be happy to know that Rocky has left the building.”

The next night I calmly tucked the kids in their beds and then climbed onto our mattress. I reached over to turn out the light and gave Jack a kiss goodnight, letting out a long sigh as I prepared for some much-needed sleep.

Within minutes, I heard it. That little bandit was back in the house. How was he getting in? I decided there was nothing I could do that night so I made sure the door was secure and went back to sleep.

The next night, after everyone had gone up to the office, I went downstairs with a Coleman lantern, my files and my computer. Sitting at a card table, I began to work on our taxes. Jack called down that he was going to sleep and turned out the light upstairs. Within a matter of minutes I heard it. The scratching of something trying to get into the house.

Then I saw him. A paw slowly appeared under our staircase. Then another paw. Rocky was back for an encore. He flexed his claws as if he were preparing to play the piano. Finally his face appeared.

I must have startled him as I let out a scream and he retreated back into the dark hole. Quickly I picked up a board and some nails that were lying around and covered the hole.

I wish I could say that was the last of our nighttime visitor but it wasn’t. Rocky kept returning. I tried to board up all the holes on the outside of the house with discarded shingles I found lying around the construction site, leaving the outside somewhat of an eyesore for our neighbors. Somehow, that midnight marauder kept finding his way back in anyway. The day our contractor finished the outside siding Jack and I let out a sigh of relief. I’m sure our neighbors were happy too!

~Jeanne Blandford

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