Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dormice from H-E-double hockey sticks

Personally I'm not really surprised that in animist societies, various birds and animals are attributed with spiritual powers. In Ik society, some creatures are called badiam, which translates loosely as 'wizard', 'sorcerer', or something having 'dark' or 'weird'  powers. Included in this group are the owl, the hyena, and of course, the snake. The reason I say I'm not surprised is because at times during my life in Africa, in Tanzania before and in Uganda these past four years, I've been the victim of the strange ability of a creature to (seemingly) know what irritates me and to hone in on that very irritation. It's so uncanny and seemingly intentional that I've often just described it as 'demonic'. 

In Tanzania, it was the rooster who would come right under my window every morning and crow its little head off. Of all the other places in our entire big backyard, it chose the worst, most annoying spot possible. Here in Uganda it's been the red-winged blackbirds who built their nest in the air vent in the ceiling right above...you guessed it, our bedroom window. Their syrupy-sweet slurry whistles at 6:00 am and the loud, grating cries of their young sent me to new heights of irritation. No matter how many times I shot one with the BB-gun, the other would quickly find another mate. No matter how many times I pulled their nest out, they would build another one. Finally after being dive-bombed and pecked on the head (after that I wore a helmet), I bested them by wrapping enough barbed wire around the air-vent opening. 

Second only to the blackbirds have been the evil dormice. Dormice are little mouse-like critters with long bushy tails. They look like a tiny cross between a mouse and squirrel. They are noisy, energetic, and downright exasperating. And our ceiling is their playground.

Last night something fun(ny) happened, which is the whole reason I'm writing this post. Two dormice were really going at it, starting at about 9:30, while we were still watching The Fellowship of the Rings. They were chittering, chattering, squeaking, running, jumping, fighting, mating---whatever they were doing---with total impunity. At 11 pm, exhausted from the day, we put in our earplugs and hit the sack, thinking we'd be asleep in no time. Wrong! Those little &%$@!s came right over, directly above our bed, and carried on with their nonsense within seven feet of our heads. I started having fantasies about taking a broom and whacking at them with all my might, but I knew Amber would disapprove of the shower of dust that would fall on our bed. My irritation quickly became murderous. I got up and started pacing, knowing I could never sleep like this and not knowing what I could possibly do. 

My inner hunter could take no more of this rodential pestilence. Wearing nothing but a loosely fitting pair of trousers, I got a light and reached for the BB-gun hanging above our closet door. I climbed the closet shelves, pushed up one of the ceiling tiles, and rather clumsily hoisted myself into the rank, dust-caked attic. There began a nice game of man-and-mouse. For twenty minutes or so (by now it was midnight), I hunted one of the dormice who was clearly not afraid of me at the beginning. After four narrowly missed shots, s/he got the idea that my goal was to inflict harm, permanent harm. That one eventually escaped. The second one was on the other end of the house chittering and chattering, not having learned his lesson. I turned the light out for ten minutes and then stalked toward it. When the light came back on, I saw him, raised my gun, and let fly a small nickel sphere, putting an abrupt end to his rowdy night out. I climbed down out of the attic, took a sponge bath, and crawled back into bed.

Rarely have I felt such satisfaction as I did over the utter silence that lasted the rest of the night.


Lynn said...

That is absolutely hilarious, and you are such a great writer. I love your and Amber's blog posts!! It has to be a male hunter thing because Steve was able to find and eradicate 3 mice who came to live in our truck camper last summer. He would lay awake at night, waiting to see where they would appear next and how he would get rid of them. Pretty funny, I must say, AFTER the fact! You earned your good night's sleep after that!

ChadandRachel said...

Looking for the "like" button on this one.

Notinthewild said...

Well-told drama! At least you didn't have to put an end to a rowdy night of snake mating.