The condo I rent is in the woods. It’s still in the city, just in the woods. I have a very picturesque view of a small and lively forest through my back windows. If that’s all you know about the place, it's lovely. But there's more. Built in 1974, the only thing that has been updated is the kitchen, which was rehabbed in 2009 to reflect the style of a blind family in the early 1990s. The people who live in the complex defy rational explanation and are perfect for an HBO dark comedy. As just one quick example, Next Door Nightmare Charlotte is about 4 feet tall and 90 pounds, I’m guessing around 300 years old, and wanders the parking lots through rain, snow, sleet, hail, famine, and locusts with her walking cane, special shoes, and mysterious pieces of paper. She’s always carrying one piece of paper. Always. But most of her time is spent wandering around inside and banging on things - cabinets, pots, pans, god knows what. While her not being able to sit is but one of this condo life’s little mysteries, what has occupied more of my time lately has been the onslaught of critters.
First, there was the raccoon. Or squirrel. Or groundhog. Or gopher. Or, and this one makes me squirm the most, big honkin’ army boot wearin' rat. I’ve no idea what it is, really. All I know is that it was loud and fast and mad and scared and couldn’t get out of the crawl space no matter how many things it crawled over, clawed through, or scratched on until the wee hours of one Saturday night. He's returned twice just to torment me.
Then, there was the cat. Also in the crawl space. I’m not a cat person. Translation: I hate freeking cats. I equate having one in the house to being in an abusive relationship. I didn’t feel bad not one bit about it howling. (Besides, I wasn’t totally convinced it was a cat. I really thought it was a Sasquatch type creature that wanted to eat me alive.) I did, however, worry about the smell, if it died. But, my friend, Pamela, damn near started crying when I told her about it on the phone one afternoon, so I walked AALLLLLL the way around the buildings and pried open the door to the crawl space to let it out. I stood there for 30 full minutes. I swear. Once, I even called him, “Come on you stupid freeking idiot cat!!” Nothing. I closed the door (the memory of the ratsquirrelcoon was still fresh) and went back inside. As soon as I put a movie in the machine to watch, the damn thing started howling again. So, I, a 47-year-old civilized woman, leaned out the back window, popped out the screen and worked on the door with a broom until it finally opened and idiot cat came moseyin' out. I guess because then it felt like it. It stopped for a minute to look up and give me the evil cat stink eye like he would get me back for what I had done to him. I saw said cat on top of a fence outside just the other day, and he stared me down as if to warn me to watch my back. I reminded it that I had saved its ugly stupid life. But it just kept staring.
Now there's a bird. It keeps hurling itself into my office window. Every day from sun-up to sundown. I read online that it could be seeing a reflection of the trees and such and thinking it’s going to hurl into some cool new vegetation, so I taped plastic garbage bags to the panes but it's obviously insane and doesn't understand. If only I could train it to hurl itself at Nightmare Neighbor Charlotte, I could enjoy some peace again.
The only positive is that I did get a moment's kick out of a mental picture of me as Snow Stinkin' White. I have a few years on her, of course, but the sentiment in the picture is the same. The dwarfs aren’t pictured, but that’s because they’re actually all rolled up into the one Dopey, Noisy, Gimpy, Loony, Wacko Next Door Nightmare Charlotte who I'm pretty sure can't be captured on film. (Just so's you know, I’m a pretty nice person. People even talk about it, they do. But this woman is the devil. So, if you don’t hear from me anymore, Charlotte turned out not to be the dwarfs but the wicked queen.)
Update: Mr. 5am Hooty Owl is back again this year and perched in his favorite tree. Guess where? Oh, and the woodpecker is drilling on the chimney box as I post this. Pamela tells me that's a symbol for opportunity, but she can't be trusted. Cat lover and all.