Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Made a Tactical Error and We Paid for It (Caution: Contains Graphic Descriptions of Unpleasant Things)

Late in the summer Raj decided that it was time for him to tackle The Barn. If one were looking at a spreadsheet showing a list of "Projects" here at The Fahm, "The Barn" represents, at the very least, Project #s 2, 14, 22, 25, 26, 40, 41, 42, 43, 45 - 332,  337, 432 - 602...x/0... Understanding the magnitude of his task is key to understanding my tactical blunder.  (see Hercules, The Fifth Labor of).

Each weekend and many afternoons after work Raj goes out to The Barn, turns on the shop-lights and the stereo, picks up the shop vac and deals with dung.  Unlike Hercules, this is not COW dung, and unlike Hercules, Raj does not have a river (or two) to divert herein.  Each and every item in The Bahn is covered, stained, and/or merely tainted by Bat guano (see Princeton Colony, The) and the Dirt of the Ages. It is also filled with all of the things that might accumulate in a barn over the course of sixty-some years: tools large and small, some known, some unknown; trash and recycling (from before Princeton implemented Town programs); planks, boards, lumber & timber; claw-footed bathtubs (2); chairs, doors, windows, and a desk; a dozen horse shoes; several license plates; chains; rope; silverware and candlesticks; innumerable small clay flower pots; lampshades; humane mouse traps; and jars & cans filled with unidentified - and we assume poisonous - liquids.

Raj lifted the tarps that cover each bay (there are three) before sorting through each and every item, compiling a mountain of trash, and then shop-vac-ing  each and every item left so that we can handle it with a minimum of the "ugh" factor before making final decisions as to tossing, selling, giving away, or keeping. The work is so unutterably filthy that Raj takes an allergy pill, wears coveralls and a mask, and still ends up covered in The Grime of The Ages.


The Barn work has been utterly exhausting but even when burned out on dung and dirt, Raj has pressed ever onward toward completion of the Task with the result that by the time he retires to bed for the night, he is tired, beat, and bushed.  I worry that he is pushing himself too hard and have become very protective of his sleep.  And it is into that chasm that I fell.  

In the very wee hours of Sunday morning I woke up per my usual habit, happily noted Raj slumbering deeply beside me, nudged a fat, sleepy Tricksy off my feet so I could feel them again, and picked up my book to read myself back to sleep.   I noted Lola's absence but assumed she was sleeping in The French Room, of which she is very fond. My illusions were shortly shattered.  I heard a sharp, quick Kitteh charge outside our bedroom door, at the (closed) Portal of The Pink Room, and then the frantic squealing of a rodent under attack.

I got up to verify my interpretation of the sounds coming from the hall; yes indeed, Lola had a mouse clamped in her jaws.  I looked down at Raj, Chief Mouse Wrangler, blissfully asleep after hours of nasty labor, and I made a split-second executive decision to leave him undisturbed rather than awaken him. I closed the door, deciding to let Nature take her course, which She has so many times before, in a neat and bloodless manner. The rodents are usually presented to us either neatly dead or, still alive though thoroughly traumatized.  Raj disposes of the former, and wrests the latter from The Jaws of Death before releasing them outside.

Not this time. 

I warned Raj to be on the look out for a Mouse Corpse as he got up Sunday morning and headed downstairs to make his morning tea and my morning coffee.  When he returned with my morning elixir, I inquired as to the disposition of the mouse; he responded that there was no mouse but there was a pile of cat barf near the top of the Front Stairs. "Hmm..." I mused, "Maybe I should examine it for evidence..." 


"Hm hm hm, Oh look! A Buffahfly!" 


And the cat barf slipped my mind, just like that.

I was puttering around upstairs a couple of hours later when it dawned on me that there was probably still a pile of cat barf at the top of the Front Stairs needing attention; we don't use the Front Stairs much, but still. I took one look at the pile and knew instantly that it wasn't cat barf - or if it was...well, I couldn't face it.  What I found was a dead rodent out of a horror film. I called down to Raj, "Uh...I found the mouse..." Raj said, "Do you want me to pick it up?" I said, "Uh...yes please" (my internal response was more along the lines of  "FUCK YEAH I WANT YOU TO PICK IT UP THERE IS NO FUCKING WAY I AM TOUCHING THAT THING GAWD I THINK I'M GONNA THROW UP I HATE CATS, CATS ARE DISGUSTING AAAAAGGGHHHHHH" although I think I disguised it remarkably well).  You see, this was not a regular dead rodent. This was a  dead rodent that Raj swears must have been consumed whole by one of The Kittehs before being regurgitated, still whole although now slimed with juices beyond the telling, and thereafter, probably gnawed upon by one or both animals.

It was truly the worst case of Mouseicide we've seen to date, and we fervantly hope never, EVER to see the likes of it again.  I suggested Raj bring a spatula with him to pick it up; he brought the shovel implement from the French Room fireplace set and a plastic bag.  Raj was as appalled and horrified as I was when he saw the corpse; it is, after all, the pile he had carefully stepped around earlier in the dim dawn light filtering into the hallway, mistaking it for a pile of cat puke. 

After taking a moment for his gorge to settle back down, he removed The Horror. As soon as he did, I furiously scrubbed the spot near the top of the Front Stairs, all the while contemplating the endless mystery of how and why I ended up with two cats, both apparently killers and torturers, living on The Fahm, cleaning up after their Crimes and Mousedemeanors. HOW did this HAPPEN? Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot??

Later I asked Raj for a family conference re: tactics and strategies in our battle against rodential infestation.  I told him how I had chosen to let him sleep rather than wake him up to the chaos and violence of Mouseicide playing out in our upstairs hallway, and then I asked him, moving forward, what he preferred: should I wake him up in such cases? Or should I, as I had this time, let him sleep through it and deal with consequences in the morning?  He shuddered, remembering The Horror of the maybe partially digested mouse resting wetly in the hall, and said firmly, "Wake me UP."  And so in light of a failed tactic, we will make adjustments to the plan to avoid such tragedies in the future.

The good news is, The Barn is amazing!  It has broad plank floors that thump in a very satisfying manner when one stomps; Raj and I broke into an impromptu dance across the wide barn floor.  "Let's have a HOOTENANNY!" Raj suggested; "A BARN dance!" I agreed breathlessly, twirling past, "Yes! Let's!"