Monday, December 11, 2006

Grounds for Divorce

(A true story)

Think suburbia.
Neatly lined houses with manicured lawns. Picket fences. Carpools.
Think Stepford Wives. June Cleaver. Backyard barbeques.
Things like this are not supposed to happen in such places. I have come to realize, once again, that (sigh) it could only happen to me.
And it did.

It all started with the fast, furry beady-eyed creature in my closet. He was sitting on the wooden clothes hanger rod my dad had made, staring at me when I opened the door, as if his afternoon nap had been disturbed.

I screamed.
He ran.

I chose clothes to wear to school the next day that didn't have to be retrieved from the closet. What an indignant mouse, I thought.
After all, it was MY closet. But I must admit for a few days his presence dictated my wardrobe. I often slept next door with my Granny when this happened. She had a very tall four-poster bed whose quilts and covers didn't even reach the floor and my 12-year-old mind knew that no mouse could possibly climb that high. I spent a lot of time with Granny that fall. My friend in the closet had brothers and sisters.

Through the years I made mental notes of all those unlikely places my parents told me were strictly off-limits for mice and watched every one of their well-chosen words crumble. I heard about the neighbor who crushed one putting her shoes on in the dark, the man at the furniture plant where my grandfather worked who tore his pants off trying to catch the one that ran up his pants leg, the couple who rolled over in bed one night and suffocated their little intruder, and last but not least - that daytime television drama scene where a girl was tied up in a shanty and covered with rats from head to toe before they found her.

To this day I look inside shoes before I put them on, stay away from rodent-infected factories, and I've devised a plan that if I'm ever kidnapped and tied up in an old building somewhere, I'll tell my captors I'm deathly afraid of snakes and spiders (I'm not) and beg them not to put me in a place with them in hopes that this reverse psychology will steer them away from torturing me with rats. You may be wondering. How can a person be so phobic about mice and not be afraid of snakes?
Good question.
I have no answer.

I grew up. Got married. My then-husband unfortunately inherited the eye-rolling attitude of my father where my phobia was concerned. Lots of sighing. Patronizing. That is, until the summer of 1992.

Let me just say that if you're teetering along in life thinking that surely your greatest fear won't come upon you: think again. You can hex it out, cross your fingers, play mind games about the familiar and not-so-familiar places your fears might hide; but someday, somewhere, somehow - all that superstitious warding-off won't mean a thing.

I know because it happened to me.

I had just finished an exhausting session of summer school. That sweltering night my body was tired but my mind wouldn't rest. I tossed and turned, wondering how my soon-to-be-divorced husband could be sleeping so soundly. I tried to bore myself to sleep by reciting German translations I'd learned for my class.

It was four am.

The moon was bright, shining through the window on my insomnia. I turned over and felt something tumble across my hips. I thought it was a throw pillow that had fallen when I moved, so I reached outside the cover to pick it up. When I touched the furry pillow......

it moved.

That alone should have put a fire under me but for some reason it didn't.

I opened my eyes.
There, sitting in the moonlight, was the largest rat I'd ever seen - staring at me - on top of my covers.

I screamed.
He ran.

He didn't run away.
He ran toward me.

Rule Number One: Don't sleep in a long flowing nightgown if you need to run.

He scampered across my chest, up my neck (which was bare because of the scooping neckline) and into my long, thick hair.

My husband was still sleeping.

Rule Number Two: Don't sleep in a water bed unless you can get out of it or know how to swim.

I weighed 105 pounds and every time I moved to try and escape, my husband, a much larger version of this equation, would move - which caused my body to keep sinking in the waves. And that blasted nightgown kept getting wrapped tighter and tighter around me in the struggle.
Never mind the fact that, on, and around my head was an animal that kept burrowing around for a new nest.

It was like those dreams you have where you're doing everything in slow motion and you can't run away fast enough. Time slowed down.
I had stopped screaming - for the moment - for fear he was on my face.

My husband slept.

I was trying to get out from under the covers, untangled from my nightgown, out of the dipping of the water and swatting at my head all at the same time.
Can you picture this?

Finally, my body just sort of landed on the floor somehow.
Free at last!
Except that the phone was there by the bed.

I stepped in the loop of the cord and tripped. The covers, the sheets, the rat, the phone - all fell on top of me there in the dark and I wondered, "Where is this man when I need him?"

Well. He finally awoke when he heard the alarm clock smash into the wall. At the very instant I managed to escape from my horrors and run, he got up on the opposite side of the bed and met me at the footboard!
You guessed it.
He stopped me.

Why he picked that moment in our doomed relationship to start being sensitive I'll never know.

He put both hands on my shoulders, holding me firm to the place where I stood and and shook me. "Mimi! Wake up! You're dreaming. You're having a nightmare! (you can say that again) Stop it! Calm down......You're going to have a heart attack!"

I just looked at him.
Then resumed my screaming.

I felt like a trapped animal. Pun intended.

By this time I was crying. Clawing at my hair and nightgown, I pleaded with him to let me go (uhh.....I believe I used two or three extremely strong expletive phrases) but he persisted in barricading my escape - and the exit.
By this time I had thrown both arms and legs around his body so that no bare feet would have to touch the floor.

He carried me into the bathroom where I promptly climbed up on the sink.

It was the highest place I could find.
Had he carried me to the kitchen I would have climbed the refrigerator.

Extremely agitated that I had disturbed his slumber, he asked, "What's wrong?!" All I could do was point. How could he possibly just stand there and gawk at me? I managed to a stammering voice that hasn't been heard since Godzilla carried off that blond girl in the movies. "Rat.........go......rat.......kill.....rat........"
The thing was getting away for heaven's sake! And he might come in HERE. With heavy sighs and a severe rolling of the eyeballs he said,
"You are dreaming." 
He slowly, sleepily, walked back into the bedroom, banged around for a minute using a few explosive expletives of his own and insisted that I come back to bed.

He went back to sleep.

Thirty minutes later I was still on top of the sink, trying to collect myself and what was left of my dignity, praying that the rat would miss me, go back to bed to try and find me so that my husband could know the joys of fighting long-tailed woolly nightmares. About that time, our twelve-year-old son stumbled into the bathroom, looked up at me in my disheveled state of disarray and calmly said (as if this happens everyday),
"Mom. Get down. Go back to bed."

I was not happy with the male population.

Around 5am I mustered enough nerve to step down and run to the top of my son's bunk bed, grabbing towels as I went to stuff under the door of his bedroom. I wanted to take a shower but that was out of the question. Who, after all, would protect me?
I stared at the ceiling until daybreak.

For three days and nights, nobody of the male species believed there had been an animal in my bed, even though my hands still shook and my vocal cords were raw from screaming. We were all still in separate rooms: me in the bunk bed (the top, of course), my son on the living room couch, my patronizing husband in our slushy bed - which ebbed and flowed with the memories of that exciting night - and the rat who had the best seat in the house.

And then.....

I heard a piercing scream.

Our smirky adolescent - who had teased me the most - reveling in the safe sanctity of his new found macho position of authority, pitted against all weak wailing women who run in silly fear from their silly dreams and fall helplessly at the feet of their strong muscle-bound men - sat proudly at his place of rest in front of the television.

He was content to rule and reign..........until this brave boy reached behind the set to plug up the VCR.

I was waiting for that scream.

I heard it.
I smiled.


"Yes?" I calmly and blandly asked.

Grinning comfortably in his male-infested harborage of hospitality -
sat a possum. (Thank goodness. I thought it was something scary.)

"A possum, son?......REEEEEaally?"


My husband once again rose from his bed of torments and promptly threw him out.

The possum.
Not my son.

And just when I thought it was safe to turn off the lights (I'd been sleeping with them on for three days) and retire to my room, my on-the-fast-track-to-divorce-husband found another one behind the washing machine.
Up until that point, we figured this had to be some wild once-in-a-lifetime fluke. Not so.
So I said, "Baby, it's either me or the possums."

I went to my sister's house that night and slept on my six-year-old nephew's bunk bed (the top of course) whose sheets happened to be covered with little purple varmints (the California Raisin variety)-
it was fitting. And disturbing.

The next morning I called every pest control establishment I could find in the Yellow Pages. By the time I would finish telling this story most of the exterminators were laughing hysterically and no one knew what to do. Except laugh.

I called the Wildlife Resources Office and the lady in charge was a member of the local Humane Society. She was more concerned with removing them safely from my home than reuniting my family. She suggested and I quote, "Why don't you try feeding them OUTSIDE dear?"
I hung up and prayed she'd find a four-legged surprise in her bed one night.

The Animal Control Squad in my little town came out and set a trap under the crawl space of the house. The possums ate the cat food and escaped. We plugged up the hole behind the washer.
Now, we were in separate houses.
The Napoleon and Josephine in our little metropolis. Oh, the gossip.

After twenty phone calls I finally found a pest control firm who would come out and find them for me. I called the police department, the humane society, the animal control center and the wildlife resources organization in my county. The wildlife man, whose life definitely hadn't been as wild as mine had lately, said that in twenty years he'd never heard of such a thing. The police department offered to put me in touch with a guy they called "THE SNAKE MAN" well known for removing slimy critters from unusual places such as chimneys - but didn't deal specifically in possums.

Who did?!

I think he used to work for the circus.

I have never been put on hold so much in life. "Hey guys.
We've got a lady here with a wild animal in her bed."
Sorry for that accidental cut-off!
One place once knew of a man who once knew of a man who once knew a man who could find squirrels in attics but we never got a name.
Stinkman, bugman, insectman or spiderman.....I didn't care.
Just get me SOMEbody.
And how do you kill a possum anyway? And what do you do with it once you kill it?

The zoo didn't want them.
I called.
"We can find them any day on the side of the road, ma'am. We really don't need yours."

Our visitors had been in every room of the house and who knows how many there were?! I went to the library and checked out books on possums.
Fact: They are night creatures.

I knew that already.

They generally breed up to thirteen in a litter! In the meantime, we found the mother-possum quietly deceased on the front suburban lawn in the middle of petunias. Apparently, the young ones had marched single-file into the washing machine pipes and into their new home - searching for food.

In MY bed?!

When I finally found a man who would come and search every inch of my house, he found nothing. They had disappeared. But I made sure he earned his money looking. He was the only male who hadn't laughed, hadn't made jokes, hadn't hung up on me. It was so nice to finally be taken seriously.

Well. Almost.

I paid him, walked him to the car and thanked him. Just as he turned to leave I asked, "Sir. Just for my own peace of mind, tell me. Could they be in a sealed off place somewhere in the wall waiting to reappear at the smell of bacon frying?"

With a straight face and a fast exit, he muttered,

"Possibly, ma'am. Possibly."
Very funny, wiseguy.


Michael C said...

Wow, I don't think my weak heart could have endured that ordeal. Your ending will have me sleeping with a light on all night!!

Irene said...


This is definitely one of your most riveting pieces yet, BlogQueen.

Loved every wonderfully written word of it, my friend! =)

Nikki Neurotic said...

If it makes you feel better, I once killed a possum while driving home from classes one night. Damn thing dove right under my tires.

Anonymous said...

Rodents suck. I live in the city and you see all manner of them in alleys and other spots.

Dean aka Sgt Dub said...

Mimi, Ok, I'll take the possums and you take the snakes, I could handle snakes better if they came attached with a cow bell, that way you knew when they were coming. Thank you for the nomination for bestest blog.

Vinny "Bond" Marini said...


OH Mimi... This was brilliant.. I am not laughing at your prediciment, but at your amazing power to put me right there next to you, trying to get out of the waterbed, taggling in the phone cord, sitting on top of the sink.
Absolutely brilliant.. 'you own version of the Monday matinee! LOL

Anonymous said...


What a great, creepy story!!

**shivers again**

Frank Sirianni said...

Hi Mimi,
Just stoppin in for I just finished day one of my Twelve Blogging days of Christmas at the ol Honk'n'Holl'r. Hope you stop in, you're day 2 ggg

Note: It's hard for me to sleep with a light on when I do all my sleeping during the day! Now what's a fella to do?

See ya

Bud Weiser, WTIT said...

Selling the drama. It is well done. But I dare to ponder, is this but part of a dream as well? Am I like the rodent? Am I live or Memorex? Ooops. A tape joke. Comes with the territory. I think Bond's review is on the money.

Mimi Lenox said...

Michael...I didn't sleep for quite some time after that, as you can imagine. Thanks for stopping in.

Mimi Lenox said...

Irene...Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. It was quite an experience!

Mimi Lenox said...

Silver....Yes, that made me feel better. I hate those things.

Mimi Lenox said...

Silver....Yes, that made me feel better. I hate those things.

Mimi Lenox said...

Rhea...Yes, they are the worst!

SGT...You've got a deal. I'll protect you from snakes if you'll get rid of the rodents. YUK.

Bond....Thanks for your encouragement. Your comments always make me smile.

Travis....Creepy is an understatement!

Mimi Lenox said...

Frank....I can't wait to read your post. Keep that light on!!

Mimi Lenox said...

Bud - Hmmm........interesting comment, my friend. One I am pondering as well. Mims may need further explanation. You know sometimes I'm clueless.

Unknown said...

That's the scariest thing I've heard/read in months (and I'm a horror fan). I hate mice/rats, etc. more than anything else. said...

Wow...I deal with mice every year, and I swear I didn't know they would get in bed with me! I am afraid they'll bite me if they get on me and I make any sudden moves.

I think they are so cute, but really don't want them running around my house, you know?

I used to live in an old house where critters played in the attic at night. It had mice, too, and a snake came in after the mice. (That also happened here, in my much newer home, earlier this year) At the older house, we also had a possum, but it only came as far as my front porch.

How do those mice climb so high?

Crazy Working Mom said...

Oh my gosh, Mimi that was a horrible tragedy you endured! I am so glad you survived. Where would the world be without you!?!?

Thanks for the carnival entry. It was fabulous. : ) I hung on every word to find out your fate!

desert rat said...

Amazing! Possums! Who would have guessed?! I've had the outside, but never, (knock on wood), inside! Whew!

Enjoy the Carnival!

Barb said...

Oh lordy.. just reading this gave me shivers up my spine!!!

Happy Carnival!

Desert Songbird said...

Eww, eww, eww, eww, eww.

Did I mention - eww?

That creeps me out.

Here via the Carnival.

Vinny "Bond" Marini said...

OK, so I had read this when you first wrote it and laughed so hard... well i just read it again and once again, I was sitting on the sink with you and tumbling out of the waterbed! WOOOO

Linda said...

Priceless - just priceless! But from the sounds of it, you'd been sleeping with a very large rat all along!

Cinnamon Girl said...

Oh I so would have moved!

Don said...

Worst infestation I've ever had to deal with was a sleeping bag with earwigs. I think you have me beat by a mile!

Fantastic story telling. If only it wasn't a true story - ew! You have my sympathies, even if they are two years late.

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