The magnetically locked cat door was our attempt to block his nightly visits. Once he’d pried off all the magnets and entered anyway, we foiled him for awhile with an uninstalled door propped up like a fort against the opening at the top of the stairwell. The night he knocked down the seven-foot-high door and the sculpture which held it in place, toppling my jewelry display cabinets that stood next to it like dominoes, he frightened himself into a rapid retreat down the stairs, leaving the trail of feces he’d scared out of himself.
Having propped the door up with heavier reinforcements, we have been deprived of his company for weeks. Our cat food has gone unmolested. No muddy footprints mar the pedestals. No trails of cat food crisscross the kitchen floor. Imagine my surprise, then, when I awoke this morning and, believing myself to be walking into the kitchen, walked instead into chaos: Red chilies strewn across the counter like dead soldiers, one of them with its head bitten off. My Chinese porcelain teapot shattered in the sink. His muddy handprints all over the tiles and sink corners.
I move around the kitchen, finding further devastation: all of the baskets pulled down from their window hooks, my cookbooks spilled like shuffled cards. And, the final indignity: on top of my Cuisine of Colorado Cookbook, the pile of excrement––his revenge for the head of that red chili he ate?
In the living room, he has cleared the windowsills of the black Egyptian fish from the Louvre gift shop, of the Ethiopian wooden coffee jar, of the Lombok wooden and coconut shell implements, of the four yarn spool candlesticks. The steel-tipped African arrows and the wooden-tipped bamboo New Guinean arrows are spilled like pick-up-sticks on the floor, except for one rammed point first into the wood surrounding the hearth. This is raccoon terrorism of the worst sort: devastation, feces, and barely veiled threats.
In the den, the four-foot-high West African Spirit carving lies toppled over onto its face, feather epaulets now horizontal, horned forehead still blessedly intact. Now I remember finding the Kalimantan dragon lying on the bed in the guest bedroom when, coughing, I’d moved to the guest room half way through the night. I’d blamed the cats for knocking it off the window ledge, thankful for the bed beneath to cushion it. Now I know it was Monsieur bandit, moving out into new territory. Now I know that already he had been here and gone.
I move to the computer room, not expecting the devastation I find: the cover spilled off the printer, poetry spilled like leaves over the floor, a basket of family pictures distributed randomly in front of the file cabinet, the aluminum blinds tilted at crazy angles at the windows, the phone knocked off the hook. Then, finally, I hear the front door open––Bob home from his early Friday morning foray to the flea market. Together we examine the evidence, find more feces on the kitchen window frame, far up next to a perfect raccoon handprint on the glass. In the hall, we see the impossible: the door still in place with only a ten-inch opening at the top. The only possibility is that Monsieur raccoon has climbed the vertical batts of the redwood wall of the stairwell up to the door top and jumped over the door to wreak his revenge––to display his superiority over our greatest security measures. Then, when he sought to leave, there being no walls rough enough to climb on this side of the door, he tried each window in the house before climbing the large iron sculpture to the hanging lighting track, walking the track like a tightrope walker across the room to the huge Bobo butterfly mask which now hangs crookedly high up in the hall, then onto the top of the door and down the stairs again, through the cat door now flapping easily, devoid of magnets that formerly kept it closed to all but our own cats with their magnetic collars.
Again, Monsieur raccoon, you have bested us. Thus this ode to you––for all the clay flowerpots you’ve sent careening off our porch railings to shatter on the railroad ties below; for all the bushels of cat food you’ve managed to purloin from their storage place in the locked garbage can by wrestling it sideways and reaching one small black hand up to pull the plastic bag out by the hem, spilling cat food by the handful until you’d emptied the whole can; for all the leftover wet cat food you have licked from the cat dish and the kitchen floor; for all of the cat doors we’ve replaced, only to have you find a new way to circumvent them; for all of the handprints we’ve 409’d from our pedestals after one of your midnight art tours; for all of the leavings of yourself you have left for me to clean up, I construct this ode:
To his Rudeness, Monsieur the Raccoon,
Winner of Last Night’s Battle,
This Ode to Mark the Resumption of our Warfare.
Bob has brought the sheet of plywood to measure.
I have marked off the proper size and shape,
sawed it on the band saw.
Now, Bob brings the wire and the hand drill.
We are boarding up l’avenue de chat,
more recently l’avenue de Monsieur Coon.
No more will you dine in our bistro.
No longer will our cat door be your Arche De Triomphe
No longer will our studio gallery be your Louvre.
You, masked traveler, will need to find fresh boulevards to roam
at midnight when our household rests.
We have scrubbed your hand prints from the face of our house,
boarded over your only hopes of entry,
cut you off from your free meal ticket.
Had you have been a polite guest,
we might not have been driven to these extreme measures,
but Frenchmen will be Frenchmen and coons will be coons––
neither one of them with the manners to survive in polite company.
And so adieu, Monsieur Coon and bon voyage
into new avenues.
I leave you to the night owls
and the cougars
and the other dark prowlers
that we close our doors against each night.
May you dwell with each other more sociably
than you have lived with us.
May you find a tree hollow for the winter
and sleep peaceably throughout the rains.
May you have the best of coon lives without ever again
darkening our doorstep.
May you defecate in the woods and eat in the woods and sleep in the woods.
May a mantle of trees be your gallery, the bottom of a rotten log your table.
May your hand prints remain on your fingers,
may my flowerpots remain on my railings
and may never the twain meet.
Adieu, Monsieur the Coon. Adieu.
(Note: Less than a week after boarding and wiring up the door, we found the four boards and wire with which we had closed it removed and piled in a neat pile outside the door. The cat door swung freely, but there was no evidence that the raccoon had entered the house.)