I posted this back in 2010. Yesterday, a small cat crossed in front of the car. She had short little legs that made her almost slink. If it weren’t for the slight calico markings on her dark coat, I might have thought she was a weasel. Mom and the weasel popped into my head and I started to laugh.
When I was a little girl, I lived in a big house full of mysteries. The windows had shutters operated by ropes inside the house, except paint made the ropes stick and there was one window which had shutters that never opened. I could only see the shuttered window from the outside, so sometimes on rainy days, I searched the inside, looking for the secret window. The basement floor was dirt, and sometimes animals like moles would make their way into the house. Once a skunk got in there and got scared, and woke us all up in the middle of the night to a dreadful smell. There always seemed to be places to explore and mysteries to contemplate in that house.
The bottom corner of each bedroom door had a half-circle of wood missing. Maybe a hungry wood-eating monster took a bite out of each door. Mom said squirrels lived in the house before we moved there because the house was empty for a while. I tried hard to imagine that house empty, no one there at all, and it seemed impossible, my house was a house that needed noise. I never saw a squirrel anywhere in our yard, or the neighbors’ yard. The only place I ever saw squirrels was in town, so I was suspicious of Mom’s explanation. Maybe she told me a white lie, ’cause she knew I thought there might be monsters in my closet, the mind-reading kind that knew that I knew that it’s in there.
Mom told me if I didn’t keep my room clean, rats would live there and bite my toes or my nose at night. I never saw a rat anywhere near the house; once in a blue moon I did see a rat in the barn, then Dad put poison out, mixed with peanut butter, and the rats were gone in not time flat. Well, I did find some baby rats in a barrel once; they were so cute, Bonita and I took them to the house to show Mom. I never saw her scream like that before, except maybe that time I took her a big long worm that I found in the garden and she jumped and screamed and said “Get that snake out of this house!” I was such a little girl then, that I hardly remember it, except that she danced around about the big worm I found. The rest she told me later.
Still when I went to bed at night I was a tinsy bit afraid of the idea of rats crawling around on me, so just in case, I kept my toes under the covers, and only one nostril sticking out so I could breathe. I was careful how much I cleaned my room, ’cause that monster could be in the closet during the day, too, and I didn’t want to run into him; he was a whole lot scarier than a rat, ’cause I was pretty sure, the monster was bigger than me, monsters usually are big.
Sometimes I found secret hiding places in the loose floor boards. Bonita and I liked to hide things we didn’t want the little kids to find out about, like my Presto Paints, and jacks and our B·Bs for our guns; we got B·B guns for Christmas one year, that was “the berries”, until Bonita shot a bird and tried to give it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation; she was so sad when the bird died.
Once an animal got in the house somehow, and Mom covered up all the cold-air registers with boards and told us not to touch them. She kept it a secret that something sneaked in, probably through the basement, and was roaming around in the vents, until later after the big battle was over. She kept it a secret that she put traps in the registers, too, probably ’cause Bonita would get upset and cry if she knew Mom was trying to kill something. Bonita would probably want to make a pet out of whatever was in there.
One day, Mom grabbed my cat, Davie, and threw her in the register with whatever That Thing was. The cats belonged in the barn, and Mom was always giving ’em the boot if they tried to get in the house. No one even bothered to name most of the cats, they were just there to work. Davie was my cat, so lots of times she came up by the house to see me. Dad said cats make bad pets, but Davie was good to talk to and never complained when I hugged her; her fur was so soft and she smelled like a soft blanket, just off the clothesline; sometimes she even licked me with her sandpaper tongue. That tickled.
Oh my goodness, after Mom threw Davie in the register and Davie got a hold of That Thing, you should have seen the fur fly. Davie let out a Screeeeech that ‘could wake the dead’, as Mom always said whenever one of us screamed. Davie was way louder than any kid could even think about, even if it was a screeching contest and the prize was a family-sized Hershey bar. I just saw a ball of fur whirling around in the register, like angry Tasmanian Devils: growling and hissing and screeching. Now that was scary.
Out came Davie all delicate-stepping, just like it was all in a days work for a barn cat. She walked over by the door, licked one paw, and looked up at me as if to say, “I don’t think I belong in here,” and I let her out, ’cause I didn’t think she belonged in there either. We sat outside on the picnic table for a good long time, me just petting Davie, and she just purring and acting like nothing out of the ordinary happened.
It turned out That Thing was a weasel in the cold air register. My Davie was one mighty barn cat to fight and win a battle with a weasel. Everyone knows you don’t mess with a weasel. There’s even a book, Never Tease a Weasel, just in case nobody told you.
Most monsters are less like the one in my closet and more like That Thing, the weasel. I prefer collaboration over fighting any day, but sometimes it seems like I’m just thrown into the fray, with what seems like no warning at all. The best I can do is just hold on and keep fighting. With strength, skill, and a little faith, l get through the battle. I’m just happy that once the fur has settled, there is someone nearby who will help me mend my wounds and tell me the battle was worth the effort.