A raccoon tried to break through my skylight above my bed last night.
No wait. Let me back up.
It was a hot day in the summer of my childhood.
The Metro Toronto Zoo, a heavy, hazy day by the lion’s den, the lions more lifeless than bored. But I had already turned away from their prone and insensible bodies.
To peer into the contents of the garbage can, tipped toward me for my benefit. Two brilliant eyes stares back, up at me.
“Hey, girl!” the Groundskeeper had said, “want to see these things close up?”
The raccoon was terrified. In to grab a snack, then suddenly caught and on display like every other damn thing.
His arms were braced against the inside of the can.
An arm flashed rigid and grasping against the pane of the skylight, illuminated by the light of the moon. 3:00AM, alone and terrified, I stared up.
Just as the tiny fingers pushed through, digging into the wire mesh beneath, curling up under the frame of the skylight.
But the groundskeeper was a kind-hearted soul, who said to me, “OK. Step away now,” as he tipped the garbage can all the way down, slowly, gently, to the ground.
Beside us the lions stirred, and were still again.
Her babies. The landlord had called the exterminator, and he had taken away her babies from the old broken down chimney. She was here now, looking for them.
Trying to get in.
For long moments, nothing.
Then one tentative hand. Pause, back in the can again.
Out, out, out!
An explosion of grey and black and teeth and fur and tail and ring, ring, rings!
An explosion of glass and wire; of wood and rot and rodent fury had I not.
Had I not.
Hit the lights, jumped on the bed with the only thing at hand – a long cardboard tube of old Christmas wrap – and thrust it into the skylight, the heavens, the mother raccoon.
Those clever little raccoon hands.
The trapped raccoon, mad for his freedom, scattered gravel and garbage in his wake as he ran blindly from his little prison and jumped up, hitting the fence, climbing hand over hand.
Straight into the lions’ den.
Trying to get out.
And I remembered.
I remembered the lion coming to life. I remember her flat then lithe and ready and liquid and pouncing onto the raccoon, with grace, with ease, front claws out then in, embedded deeply into raccoon flesh and then the lion breaking the raccoon’s neck with audible “pop” and then devouring the raccoon in great gulps as the Groundskeeper turned to me and said, “My god, good Lord!“
And then in that space between shock and awe, it occurred to me.
As much as I resent raccoons, even hate them, I might as well respect them.
They do what they can.
I jabbed again at the skylight, nearly losing my balance on the bed.
The mother raccoon hissed once, and was gone.