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Little House in the Woods

July 21, 2020

I’m in the middle of chopping garlic for dinner when Randy says, “I’m going to go do some extermination work in the hopes that we won’t hear those critters again.”

I nod.  It would be nice not to be woken by the sounds of something chewing through the insulation in our roof.

We’re in a tiny house for the summer.  Cozy and sweet, but when you hear critters in the roof, you know they’re not so far from your head.  I (nominally) helped my husband build the house, so I’ve seen the layers, and there aren’t many.  Not enough to make me feel secure when I hear gnawing in the night.

It’s not until the screen door has shut behind Randy and I’ve heard his footsteps fade away that it occurs to me that perhaps he wasn’t talking about spraying pesticide into the eaves.  Having grown up hunting, he’s a believer in what he calls “a high-speed lead delivery system” to dispatch unwanted animals.

I keep chopping, but wonder if I should have nodded.  Maybe I should have discouraged him.  I’m a vegetarian, and don’t even like to kill ants.  I’m not sure how I feel about killing chipmunks (or maybe squirrels?) just so I can sleep securely through the night.

Now I’m aware that in addition to the bird song I’ve been hearing, I can also hear the chittering of a squirrel.  Is that what Randy is going after?

As I slide the garlic into the pan and reach for the broccoli, the chittering stops.  I stop a moment, too, to wonder: Did Randy kill it?  But, I reason, I didn’t hear anything like a gun.  My mind asks back: Would I hear it?  This is the first time we’ve had a reason to hold a grudge against animals in the area.  The chittering starts again, and I breathe more deeply, though I also don’t want the squirrel in my ceiling. With each bite I hear at night, I imagine less insulation warming the house in the winter and wonder how close the animal is to hitting our plywood ceiling.  Would it gnaw through the plywood?  Will there come a night when it might fall through the ceiling onto our bed? It’s hard to sleep when I’m trying to detail an escape plan.

In the middle of chopping zucchini, suddenly, a boom.  I regret wanting to be rid of the critters, regret being complicit in their deaths.

More chittering; a brief reprieve.

And then another boom, and silence.

The bird song begins again, but no chittering.

A few minutes later, Randy returns to the house, saying, “I wish I had better aim.”

I eye him, trying to decide whether he really missed, or whether he’s saying that because he knows I’ll be happier thinking the squirrel got away.

I decide to believe him because really, I am happier thinking the squirrel got away.  Or at least I will be until I’m awakened again tonight.


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  1. jumpofffindwings permalink

    You beautifully capture the dilemma between being a vegetarian—respecting all life (and I can relate. I actually think about the life that’s ended before I sweep an ant from the countertop with a sponge)—and the feeling that the critter is disrupting your domain and your sleep. By the way, your little house in the woods that you built sounds pretty lovely.

  2. Hearing critters attack your house while you sleep is difficult. I know that I would not want an animal dropping down on me while I was sleeping.

  3. Your use of the word “critter” truly makes this post. A relative of mine uses the same term, and he challenged me when I was very young on my aversion to animals and my territoriality when I considered them pests. I soon learned that we humans cause far more inconvenience to critters than they do to us. The mood of this post truly lets the message come through.

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