So things have been pretty uneventful for the last 24 hours.
HAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAA! I am funny!
When we last left off, we were busy packing up to head to South Carolina, gosh darnit, sickness and goopy eyes be damned. There was just one thing we had to take care of before we left, and that was an exterminator visit. It took a few days to schedule, but Licorice continued to be haunted by the mystery creature under the house even though Otto thought he’d sealed up all access to the crawlspace, and I remained convinced that there was a very crafty possum, and possibly crafty possum offspring, down there. So we waited for the Proper Authorities to come and say, “Yes ma’am, we’ll just set this humane live trap and get your visitor out of here.”
It was such a good plan, too.
The good news is that the nice young exterminator man was friendly and polite and extremely apologetic.
See, it turns out not to be a possum.
According to the exterminator man, he’s seen this hundreds of times before. And he doesn’t want me to be alarmed, see, because it’s very common here in the south and there’s nothing we could’ve done (other than have all access to the crawl space and eaves sealed up with galvinized steel mesh, which is what they would now do), but, Mrs. Otto, I’m very sorry, but what you have here is rats.
Roof rats, to be precise, and although he’s seen them in crawlspaces before, they really do prefer the roof and attic spaces—hence the name—and he just wanted to check up top as well, just to make sure they hadn’t migrated upwards yet.
I revived myself with smelling salts while he tromped through the attic, and declared it free of rats (oh thank God). But did we know we had squirrels up there?
I was starting to hate the exterminator.
He wrote me out an estimate, complete with a breakdown of what all they would do, and their guarantee, and a diagram of all the places on the house perimeter where RATS RATS OHMYDEARLORDRATS can access the house, and then he told me what it would all cost, and I began to mentally calculate whether it might just be cheaper to burn the house down. But then he said that they could come back first thing Tuesday morning to get it all done and my decision was made for me.
“Listen, buddy,” I said, grabbing him by the front of his shirt. “We’re leaving town this afternoon and I am NEVER COMING BACK AGAIN if I know rats are chewing away all weekend while we’re gone. You find a crew to do it today or I’m putting you down in the crawlspace with them!” Suddenly he had a crew that could come out in an hour.
[Note: I didn't really grab him, or threaten him. I just looked really pitiful, and maybe begged a little. And gave him my credit card number.]
And so it came to pass that before we left, a couple of sturdy young men arrived at my house with fistsful of rat traps (like mouse traps, only much more ginormous) and rolls and rolls of impenetrable mesh. I fully expect that after we left they broke in and stole our television, because I’d already made it clear I was only coming home to set fire to the place, anyway.
So there was that.
Then we drove to South Carolina and set up camp and started to relax. Because… fresh air! And camping! And NO RATS! We would enjoy the weekend, dammit!
Part of the reason we came to this particular spot is because Otto has a friend who camps here regularly, who is here with his son (who is just a little younger than Monkey). And Boatguy also has… a boat! (I know, you totally did not see that coming!) So we got all set up and Boatguy swung by to report that his son had gone home with his mom, so it was just him, but we could still hang out, and he’d come by later. Fine, good. After dinner he showed up to ask if we wanted to go on a “sunset cruise.”
So we walked down to his site, where his motorboat was tied up on the water’s edge, and we all loaded up and got all the small creatures into life jackets, and began motoring around the lake. The children were positively GIDDY with it all; I sat with them up on benches right along the nose of the boat, and they both did their best Titanic impressions off the front (their love will go oooooooooooooon!) and begged Boatguy to drive faster, faster! Licorice sat in my lap with her ears streaming out behind her, silently asking why we hate her so much. She does not have a need for speed, apparently.
Boatguy and Otto sat in the two captain’s chairs behind us, chatting and trying to engage the kids in a bit of learning as we sped along. (“What do you notice about those osprey nests?” quizzed Boatguy. “They are filled with ospreys?” Chickadee helpfully offered. “No, no!” said Monkey. “They are made of STICKS!” My gifted children make me SO PROUD.)
At one point we slowed to a crawl to go under a bridge that had signage indicating that you had to go under at idle speed. There were many ropes hanging from its underside, and Boatguy explained to the kids that many folks will come out to fish at night and use one of those ropes to tie up while they do so. The kids half-listened and then started their own what-ifs. What if they grabbed the ropes? What if they each grabbed two ropes and pulled, could they lift the boat out of the water? What if someone used ALL the ropes? Etc.
And then we were back out on the open water, at full-throttle, and it was forgotten.
We stopped at a small island where we let Licorice off the leash and she picked around for a couple of minutes before realizing that HEY, she was off the leash, and then she merrily romped through the mud until Otto scooped her up when it was time to go. Know what’s more fun than a speed boat? A speed boat with a muddy, wet dog in it!
So then it was getting dark and it was time to head back, and as we approached the bridge again, the kids again began speculating about WHAT IF WE GRABBED THE ROPES, and as Boatguy cut the motor he leaned in towards them and said, very seriously, “Okay, guys. I want you to grab a rope as we go under, and hold on tight.”
I… I don’t know what the hell he was thinking. Otto says he thinks Boatguy thought he could stop the boat under the bridge, or that maybe he just didn’t realize Chickadee was tall enough to actually reach one. I say Boatguy was maybe just not thinking at all. Either way, I know he didn’t mean any harm, which is why I didn’t kill him with my bare hands when it was all over.
The boat began to glide under the bridge, and both kids stood to grab a rope. Monkey missed, because he’s short.
Chickadee did not miss. She grabbed a rope… and became airborne, swinging towards the back of the boat.
I didn’t even have time to think; was on my feet, arm shot around her, and as she and I crashed into the corner of the windshield behind my seat, both Otto and Boatguy were on their feet, grabbing her as she was fairly flung out of my arms and dragged behind me. They stopped her, and then we were on the other side of the bridge, and my 12-year-old had not managed to swing out of the boat, Tarzan-style, although she was fairly shaken up.
Boatguy was apologetic, and Otto tried to laugh it off, but once I confirmed that Chickadee was, you know, still with us, I had to just sit there and breathe very deeply and try not to scream for a few minutes.
I would like to tell you that it was because the whole thing was so upsetting, but actually it was because when we crashed into the windshield, I took her entire body weight on my forearm. So I was now cradling my throbbing arm in my lap, afraid to move it, because I was seriously concerned that it might be broken.
But, hey! Happy ending! Chickadee didn’t fall out of the boat and I just look like I was in a bad bar brawl. There’s a four-inch long black lump by my elbow, but the bones appear to be intact. Thankfully. That would’ve been a pretty sucky way to break in (get it? get it??) our first camping trip of the season, otherwise.
We came back to our site and the kids had a snack and went to bed, and Otto and I read a little bit and then went to bed, and then there was a big thunderstorm and it turns out that the dog is afraid of storms. So after listening to Licorice whine in her crate for an hour, we let her get in our bed, whereupon we spent the next few hours listening to the storm and being nervously licked.
This morning I am very, very tired. And bruised. And well-licked.
And still, curiously, having kind of a great time. Possibly because the alternative is, you know, RATS.