My basement is a bit funky. There’s the usual cellar stuff: bags of potatoes; shelves of canned tomatoes, jam and such; two freezers; woodworking tools, extra plumbing and electrical supplies; an old mini-port-a-potty; a retired foozball game; the water pump; clay pots and potting soil; a washer and dryer and – this time of year – about six inches of water in the low end that was created by pouring a level concrete floor across the cellar’s higher parts.
I don’t give the water situation down there much thought. Usually I pump it out, but if ignored, eventually the water seeps back through the cracks in the bedrock from whence it came, and things dry up. This is an owner-built-home, and we owners are pretty tolerant of its idiosyncrasies.
Last week I went down there to fetch a few potatoes for supper and was startled by the kerploosh of some fairly sizable critter doing a running swan dive into the deep end. “Holy shit. What the hell was that?!?” I wondered aloud. The red squirrel that’s been coming to the bird feeders crossed my mind, but as much as I scanned the water for waves or movement, nothing further happened. There is a sort of platform above much of this low area, and the mystery diver must have quickly found a good hiding place (or maybe – I hoped – an exit), so I took my potatoes upstairs and started dinner.
For the next several days, whenever I needed something from the depths of the cellar, I would quietly sneak down the stairs, hoping to get a glimpse of the invading creature, but no sightings rewarded my stealth. The furry Greg Louganis had apparently moved on, and I forgot about him.
Last night, tired and hoping for a good night’s sleep, I worked a crossword puzzle until my eyelids drooped, and then turned out the light. At that moment, all was peaceful and quiet.
Some little time later, I was startled wide-awake: there was an animal – a fairly large, gray animal – walking along the edge of my mattress!
Now you who read here often know that I like animals; I respect animals, but I don’t fear them. Even so, let me tell you that the unexpected presence of a critter about the size of a small beagle strolling along the edge of your mattress in the middle of the night is a pretty unsettling sight!
I grabbed the sheet with both hands, creating a sort of barrier between the critter and my bare hide. “Omigod!! Bob!! Turn on the light!! There’s an animal in the bed!!” I screamed.
Bob (never at his best upon awakening) eventually noted that something was amiss and mumbled, “Can’t you turn the lamp on?” to which I answered with the obvious – and high volume – reply: “I’ve got both hands on the goddam sheet!!!” Finally he managed to turn on a flashlight and then eventually an electric light, but by then there was nothing four-legged in sight. It was as gone as last week’s diver.
I reiterated that there WAS an animal “right there on the mattress beside me!” to which Bob asked (with a measure of concern appropriate to such a dire situation), “What kind of animal was it?” and I say (still a bit wide-eyed), “An armadillo!… then realizing how nuts this sounds, “…or something that LOOKED LIKE an armadillo. My husband, reasonable to a fault, asks, “You saw it in the dark?”
“Uh, hmmm, uh, gee, I don’t know… uh… good point…” and suddenly it dawned on me that I must have dreamed the whole thing. Nevertheless, remembering the basement diver, we did a thorough search under the bed, finding nothing.
Eventually the whole episode began to strike us very funny and soon we were laughing hysterically. It took another crossword puzzle and at least an hour before I was sleepy again.
All this “wholesome living” sometimes gets under your skin, I guess, but this is the life we chose…
Say goodnight, Gracie.
Scottish Prayer (traditional)
From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!