The summer of wild animals

I have never felt more like a refugee from nature as I did the other day when I walked into my kitchen to find a chipmunk standing in the middle of the room staring at me.

He and I both did a double-take–and he ran to the cabinets, and disappeared somehow into the bread drawer. (There are crevices and passageways that we homeowners have no idea about, I’ve realized.) I called a friend and said, “There’s a chipmunk in my bread drawer.” It seemed like something that another human being should know about.

She said, “We’re not afraid of chipmunks. They’re adorable.”

I said, “They are surprisingly less adorable inside than outside.”

“Just open the bread drawer, and he’ll run out and go back outside, and that will be that,” she said with a sigh, as if anyone would know to do that.

But of course that’s not what happened. True, he leapt in the air (we both did, actually), but instead of running outside to safety, he chose to go behind the shelf where I keep the cookbooks–and it was only an hour or so later that I noticed him making a mad dash for the screened porch, which is where he had come in. Once he was on the porch, I was able to scootch him over to the door, and out he went, back to the natural world.

I’d like to think he was relieved, but he came back the next day, and the day after that, though, paying a quick visit to the bread drawer each time, although he never ate anything, I noticed. (My husband said, “Would YOU eat anything if a giant was chasing you?”)

Ha! If only animals thought of me as a giant who was in the least bit menacing. This summer there has been a revolution by animals, and they don’t seem to fear us at all.

There was the mouse in the tub, who didn’t even look frightened when I discovered him and helped him, via shoe box, to resume his life in the woods.

And there was the  snake in the garden, who wasn’t the least bit impressed by all the snake-discouraging marigolds I’d planted, attempting to save myself some startled moments.  Not only did this snake NOT MIND these marigolds, as he was supposed to, he actually slithered around in them for a long time, draping himself across their leaves, burying his face in their blossoms. For hours. As though he were intent on making a point.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he came back the next day to do it again, too–and when he got startled by a passing cat, he vanished into a crack into the shingles of the house, where he no doubt has a large and loving family awaiting him.

Feeling faint, I staggered to the phone and put the house on the market.

Then there have been the hawks, who have taken up residence in our treetops–raising loud, hungry families that scream and wheel around our yard day and night, staging fights with other hawk gangs as necessary, conducting flight schools for the young–and swooping down to catch tiny animals (but not, apparently, snakes and chipmunks). They sound like a colony of pterodactyls, frankly.

Two bears were recently reported wandering on the elementary school properties less than a mile from here.

And my friends on the next block were awakened recently in the middle of the night to find that something kept landing in their hair while they slept. When they turned on the light, they discovered themselves face to face with a BAT. Fortunately they were able to come to their senses in time to trap the thing; otherwise, as the animal control people explained, they would have had to have rabies shots, because apparently vampires bats bite you so delicately, you often don’t know you’ve been chewed upon.

Clearly, we are under siege.

Monster on the screen

No wonder I was hardly startled when I looked up the other day to see THIS MONSTER looking in at me while I was writing my novel. It was just hanging on the screen, staring in at me. Perhaps it was the Novel Police.

“I’m working,” I said to it. “Please just keep your opinions to yourself, since this is just a first draft…and if you’re hungry, the bread drawer is right there in the kitchen, on your right.”

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10 Responses to The summer of wild animals

  1. Caryn Caldwell August 10, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    Ha! Great story. Your line, I said, “They are surprisingly less adorable inside than outside.” actually made me laugh out loud, which startled my husband. I wonder if the weather is driving all the animals into civilization? I’ve heard bears are a lot more prevalent in cities when the mountains are too dry for them to find food.

    • Maddie August 21, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

      I think you’re exactly right, Caryn. It’s all climate change stuff. Of course, nearly everything that goes on these days–the election, writer’s block, forgetfulness–I’m blaming on climate change.

  2. Pamela Beason August 17, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    I love this post, especially your conversation with the monster on the screen! I can totally identify–I’ve had a rat living under the dishwasher, raccoons running up my staircase, and chipmunks in the closet. One summer, my cat brought in the same poor broken-tailed lizard over and over again. I love wildlife and always put all sorts of animals, both wild and tame, in my books. However, I have to say that I do prefer most animals, especially the slithering and winged creatures, to stay outdoors. But if life were totally tame and predictable, we wouldn’t have any stories to tell, would we?

    • Maddie August 21, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

      Pamela, thank you! Your rat under the dishwasher reminded me of a story a friend of mine tells–about snakes who lived under the dishwasher in a restaurant her family once owned. They hung out there to keep warm, and were perfectly nice, she said, except for one adolescent snake who tended to be moody. WHAT?!?! I didn’t even know that moodiness was a category snakes possessed…or even that there was such a thing as adolescent snakes!

  3. Holly Robinson August 20, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Ha! This post made me laugh aloud as well, making my husband come over and peer over my shoulder at the computer screen. I love this post–especially the monster on the porch screen being the novel police!!

    • Maddie August 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

      Holly, don’t you find the novel police are anywhere and everywhere these days? Or are you perhaps sticking to your deadline and so not having to worry about them?

  4. Elvin D. Pena October 11, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    The door to Peeta’s home creaked shut as he walked inside, the smell of fresh bread still lingering throughout the house. His bare feet padded on the cool tile floor of the kitchen, the light raining in through the window creating a golden glow in the home. He plopped the pack down before heading to the sink and splashing his face with water. He had taken a long way home, a round about trail. Peeta considered staying the night outside. He didn’t want that thought, the thought that Katniss may never recover to take over his mind as he knew it would once he was home. It was like half of her would be missing forever. More than half. He pounded the counter as the inkling of what could happen began to grip him. No. She wouldn’t disappear within her mind like Annie. That won’t happen. It couldn’t happen… Peeta headed upstairs and out to his balcony where he had placed a ladder to reach his roof. It was the perfect place to watch the sunset. He hurried up the wooden steps and climbed up the rooftop, settling in on a peak. Pink and orange hues flooded the horizon.

  5. Kate Dircksen November 20, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    I’m accomplishing exploration on snakes, are you aware the biggest snake?

  6. Pero September 16, 2015 at 12:25 am #

    – Superb blog! Do you have any recommendations for asiirpng writers? I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally confused .. Any tips? Appreciate it!October 15, 2012 10:37 pm

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