“What’s that?” Michael said, putting his hand up to signal that I should stop cleaning. We waited. I heard nothing. “Wait,” he said a few minutes later. There it was. A scratching sound. Inside our chimney. As if we had nothing else to do the morning of our Pie Party.
“Call Animal Control,” Michael instructed. “You don’t call Animal Control for that,” I told him. Google instructed that the first thing I should do is cover the fireplace entrance so that the critter wouldn’t get into the house. I grabbed a large cardboard box out of our garage recycling bin and tried to tape it over the opening. “Remember I stuffed that foam up there,” Michael said, referring to some packaging he put up there when I wondered about all the cold air coming in after we removed the gas fireplace insert months ago. “Yeah — but eventually it might push the foam down and come down with it,” I said.
We propped a large Tupperware container, which formerly held the Christmas decor that now graced our house, against the cardboard, along with an electric heater and the heavy candleholders my mother had sent us the day before. Michael walked off and I heard him say, “Hey! Have you ever dealt with an animal in the chimney?” He came back into the living room. “John (our handyman) will be here in an hour.” And with that, Michael took off on errands.
Michael has this habit of leaving a few hours before we’re to host a party. Usually coming back with more food and drink than we’ll ever need, because he’s worried we won’t have enough. I used to argue with him about it. Then it became a joke. Now, I don’t even bother commenting. At least this time he left with a list of things we did actually need. I could only hope that was all he was going to buy.
Last year, an hour before hosting our first-ever Pie Party, Michael walked back into the house after said errands and made the grave mistake of saying, “Have you done anything since I left?”
“Are you serious?!” I asked, standing up from the recliner I’d just sat in minutes before he walked in. He noted the things that weren’t done, at which point I started a litany of all the things I had done. And then I stormed off into our bedroom.
This year, we planned ahead. A whole list of everything we were going to do each of the seven days before the party. And Michael was now smart enough to know that when he came back, he was not to say a word about what I had or hadn’t done. Especially since he now left me with a critter in our chimney.
I texted my family a picture of our fireplace coverings with the caption: New homeowner lesson: if there’s an animal threatening to come in via your chimney, you should block the opening so he doesn’t enter the rest of the house.
To which my sister Jessica, ever the optimist, wrote, Be careful b/c now it will die in there and the smell will be worse
My sister Meg asked what kind of animal it was. Ummm. . . Not sure how to see it without letting it in the house, I wrote.
From Jessica: Let him in. He’s prob cute.
From Meg: Well, what’s the guy gonna do? This was a very good question. I had no idea what our handyman John was going to do. But there was no way I was handling this alone. If anything, he’d offer suggestions, manpower, and moral support. You know. Like a husband would do
if I had one I f he hadn’t abandoned me if he was home.
And with that, I could hear the scratching against the cardboard. The animal had gotten past the foam. Shit. Then silence. Then, a small bird alighted to the top of the heater. As casually as if there’d been nothing covering the fireplace at all. Crap.
I texted: It’s a bird. Just made its way around our whole ensemble.
Jessica: Dad says you do not need a handyman to get rid of a little bird.
Me: Nope. Not anymore.
Jessica, Dad, and Meg, at this point, were out together getting their Christmas trees in Saratoga, New York. One hundred fifteen miles from my parents house. Why they drive 115 miles for a Christmas tree is a story for another day. But I could just hear Dad saying, “She doesn’t need a f’ing handyman to get a bird out of her house.” And I can see Jessica furiously typing this to me.
Mom: Throw a sheet over it. Well, that would have been a good idea if the bird, once it saw me, hadn’t flown straight across the room right into our front door, then underneath the buffet beside the door. I rushed over to open the front door. At which point our cat darted in from outside. Seriously?! I chased after the cat, grabbed her, and gently tossed her into Michael’s office before shutting the door and rushing back to the front hall. And I stood there. And waited. And waited.
Me: I kind of don’t wanna let it out of my sight to go get a sheet.
Jessica: He wants pies
Meg: Hope it doesn’t shit on any of your pies 😂😂
I rushed back down the hall to close the bedroom doors. Then back out to see if the bird had moved. And I waited. Then, thankfully, I remembered Michael’s parting words. “If he gets in the house, be sure to take a video.” So I dutifully pulled out my phone.
The bird hopped out from under the buffet. And flew straight into the floor-to-ceiling window beside our front door. “Yes, that’s outside, you’re almost there. Just go around,” I said, trying to encourage it. And a few seconds later, it hopped right out of our house.
Video concluded, I got back to work unloading the dishwasher, composing this blog post in my head, thinking, “I need to write this down.” But, remembering last year, I kept working until Michael got home.
“Wow, hon, look at all you got done!” he said as soon as he walked in. I laughed, knowing exactly what he was doing.
The next day, Michael said to me, “When I came home, I really wanted to say, as a joke, ‘How come nothing got done?'”
I started laughing.
Michael continued, “But I had this angel on one shoulder saying, ‘No, don’t say anything. Be nice.’ And this devil on the other shoulder saying, ‘Do it! Do it!’ and they were going back and forth.”
Now, I was laughing uncontrollably. “I’m so glad you didn’t say anything,” I told him.
“But I so wanted to. I really, really did. But the angel said, ‘No. Remember last year. She’ll get mad and close herself in the bedroom. Don’t do it.'”
Michael listened to the angel. And is still alive to tell the tale.