Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

“Someone touched my toe.”

I said it out loud, in the middle of the night, alone. I had just been awakened, and I could still feel the tingling of tiny claws making impact with my left big toe. Then, the creature jumped up on the windowsill, and I saw it silhouetted, splayed out, trying to cling to a flaw in the glass that wasn’t there. Goddamn squirrel/gerbil/exotic rodent number three was back.

You have to watch out for this when you’re remodeling a house–creatures in the walls. You knock down a wall and whatever has been living in there is now living all over your house. In this case, I assumed some former tenant clearly let his three rodent pets loose, they moved into the walls, and the rest is history.

Pets? Why pets? Because these particular creatures don’t seem to occur in nature, at least not in North America.

They’re not rats, nor mice, nor squirrels. Neither are they gerbils, nor hamsters, nor naked mole rats. What they are is beautiful. They’re the approximate size of chipmunks, but grey, with super-soft-looking fur like the most exotic coat on the market. They’re not tame in the sense of cuddling up with humans, but they’re definitely not afraid of me.

Now that these two nocturnal creatures have been liberated from the labyrinth of my walls, they literally play around on my furniture, cardboard boxes, and right on my bed, at night. I know that sounds weird. And it is weird, no doubt about it.

Truth is, for a week or two, I stayed up night after night trying to shoo them out of the house with a broom, leaving the doors and windows open, in January, in Maine, all night long, begging with the creatures to leave me in peace. But they’re no dummies. After all, inside, it’s warm and not covered with snow. They’re staying put.

I even set up hav-a-heart traps and tried baiting them with everything from peanut butter to bread to birdseed, but the creatures don’t seem to eat anything.

They’re not the least bit tempted. I think they live on a strict diet of 100-year-old house insulation.

Finally, I said uncle. They’re my roommates now, and their names are Boris and Natasha. Or Pinky and The Brain. I’m still working on that.

I finally got close enough to one of them to take a photo. See above. As you can see, they’re cute, but I don’t like the way they skitter around and leap.

All night, I hear them: skitter skitter skitter phump! skitter skitter skitter phump!

When they leap on something, they only weigh a couple ounces, and they’re balls of fur besides, so it’s the softest impact I’ve ever heard, but when I’m trying to sleep, it’s thunder.

On the plus side, they don’t bite or eat food scraps or explore the garbage; so, I finally decided they weren’t worth making any more of a fool of myself over.

No new home owner wants rodents attacking her in her sleep. I picture rats gnawing on fingers and cheeks like I’m living in a wretched Hitchcock film. But what you never expect is rodents that just want to …play?

Sleep assassin! It’s like having a toddler!


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