About a year after meeting, the wife and I decided we would be happier going to school and living up in the mountains. My brother had lived out there for years and we really enjoyed all our visits. Getting away from the scene in Raleigh seemed like a good idea. It was also our first chance to get an apartment together, sans roommates, and play house for a while.
Even though this was 8 or 9 years ago, we did our property search almost completely online, only driving out to the mountains to do a walk-through and confirm our choice was a good one. And what a choice it was.
We found a two bedroom place in the Manor Inn, an old hotel that oozed charm. Rich people stayed there. Famous people stayed there. Grace Kelly stayed there. It was a very upscale hotel back in the day. And now it had been converted to apartments, getting all new systems throughout, but retaining the classic look.
Our place was a two bedroom shotgun layout. It was essentially four hotel rooms made into one long apartment, with bedrooms on the end and a living room and kitchen in the middle. Small, but very cool. The master bedroom was on the corner of the building, with big windows on two sides making it a great room to for sleeping in. Especially with the windows open.
The master bathroom wasn’t a master, it was actually a really, really tiny half bath – the bathroom with the shower was between the kitchen and living room. Hey, its an old building, we dealt with it. The first time I sat in the tiny master bathroom, however, I noticed something interesting. I didn’t fit. I’m 6’1″…and my knees were pressed against the wall in front of me. It was then that I noticed a very tiny message written on the wall. In teeny-tiny font, someone had carefully printed: “Are your knees hitting?” Yes. Yes they were.
I suppose this a good time to introduce Lurch, the animal who lived above us. We had no idea what he was, but we knew he liked to walk around after dark. We’d sit in bed and listen to his tiny paw-steps move around above us. We mentioned this to the building owners.
The place was pretty good for a while. We loved the style of the building, the original dining room and lobby, which was used as a set in “Last of the Mohicans”. Yeah, those were the days. Then the ceiling turned brown.
Okay, it was just a spot, about 12 inches in diameter in the corner of the living room, over the couch. The roof was obviously a little leaky. We mentioned it to the building owners, but they said it wasn’t worth fixing unless they replaced the entire ceiling, which they didn’t want to do. Fair enough.
We came home from school one day to find the spot had grown…vertically. It now looked like an upside down volcano, as if a bowling ball had been dropped on it from above. We mentioned this to the building owners.
A few weeks later, I was home alone watching tv when I heard Lurch come scurrying across the ceiling above me. And he was headed for the spot. Hmm. I looked up and saw, to my horror, the spot being pushed down, and it was being pushed hard. I figured it was a matter of seconds before Lurch, and all his mystery, crashed into my couch and ruined my night. I herded the cats into the bathroom and went looking for my tennis racquet and hammer, my favorite tools for fighting intrusive animals. After pushing for a good five minutes, Lurch gave up and retreated. I was freaked out. We mentioned this to the building owners.
Not long after, we returned from a night of work to find bones. That’s right, bones. Directly beneath what was now a small hole in the ceiling. And a bunch of plaster adorned the edge of our couch. The bones were from some manner of animal, though I couldn’t tell you what the hell it had been. We bagged the bones and took them down to the leasing office the next day.
This is where it gets really fun. The building owners listened to our story and immediately blamed it on our cats. I was…confused. I asked him to explain how our two house-cats had created the handful of bones in our ziploc baggie. He said an animal got in and our cats killed it. I informed him that our 10lb housecats were not jaguars, and couldn’t skeletize an animal while we were at work. And what happened to the blood? And other bones? He changed his theory to say they had gotten a chicken out of our fridge or garbage. More problems with this theory: 1.) cats simply cannot open a fridge door and 2.) we didn’t have any chicken or chicken bones in the house. The leasing people promised to send a maintenance guy to look, but they were sure it was our cats.
The coup de grace was still to come.
A week or so later, we heard a noise. It was 3am, and something was banging and screaming in our bathroom. Armed with my trusty tennis racquet, I swung open the bathroom door and flipped on the light. Nothing. Thump, bang, scream. This is when I noticed the shower wall flexing inward, repeatedly. Something was trying to break the wall. And it was pissed. Completely unsure what to do, I turned off the light and closed the door. The noises continued. We hit the phone, trying to reach the building owners, the maintenance guy, anyone. Then we got the bright idea to call animal control, as this was most likely an animal since we were on the third floor.
Apparently Animal Control worked business hours and animals who needed controlling after 5pm would simply have to wait. The noises got louder, the screaming more pronounced. We called 911 to get some help. The 911 operator said they could send someone to take care of it but they would need to know what kind of animal it was. We explained how we couldn’t see through walls, but something was trying to get through. Shockingly, the operator insisted that they couldn’t dispatch anyone if they didn’t know what it was. WTF? I said it was a deer, definitely a deer, please come help us. She didn’t buy this, and repeated her line. We asked if she could hang on the line, as it would probably be through the wall soon and we could get a positive ID on it.
So we were on our own. We collected anything of value from the bathroom and shut the door, tight. Whatever got through the wall could have the bathroom, just not our stuff. We spent a long night listening to the angry screams of an animal which may or may not have made it into our bathroom. Good times.
The next morning, our calls for help to the building owners were returned. They immediately sent Roger, the maintenance man up to remedy the situation. Roger was a very nice guy, big and burly, but wouldn’t be mistaken for a doctor anytime soon. His work truck had a bright yellow bumper sticker: Where The Hell Is Easy Street? Being a pious fella, Roger had crossed out the L’s in Hell and replaced them with “ck”.
Anyways, Roger and his droopy jeans headed into our bathroom to solve the mystery. He tore down the plastic shower surround and cut a small hole in the drywall. I waited for the mystery animal to spring through and attach itself to Roger’s face. What he found, however, was babies. Curled up into the insulation was a pair of baby…somethings, about eight hours old. They looked like hairless rats, their little umbilical cords still hanging from their stomach. And they cried.
Being a country fella, Roger said the babies was opossums. He put them in a cardboard box and started to leave, promising to come back and fix the shower the next day. As he left, he mentioned that he loved animals, in fact, he had a big python at home. Hmmm. Did he love feeding animals, or feeding animals? I ran down the hall and retrieved the babies, because we are not the type to let baby animals get swallowed up by a monster snake. Not that we know of, at least.
I brought the babies back to the apartment, proud of myself for saving an animal from certain death. But they were still crying. And only a few hours old. How the hell were we going to keep these things alive? We started calling small animal rescues, wildlife centers, vet offices. No luck.
A quick trip to the pet store and we had eye-droppers, small animal milk substitute, and another $30 in assorted crap. We set up the electric blanket to keep them warm, hand fed them with eye droppers, rubbed their little noses…we were Florence-Fucking-Nightingale of the possum world.
And they still cried, loudly, through the night. The next day we finally got a call back from a possum-savior-lady who might be able to take them. Hoo-rah! We described them in detail over the phone, right down to their cute little umbilical cords. That’s when the possum lady grew quiet for a moment, then told us that possums, being marsupials, aren’t born with umbilical cords. I could have been knocked over with a feather. Because that meant we had…dum dum dum…raccoons.
This was a problem, as our area of the mountains had a really, really bad summer of rabid raccoons. Possibly rabid enough to break into a residential building, scurry along the walls, and give birth behind someone’s shower. Fuck fuck fuck.
Another vet called us back, afraid we had picked up raccoons. We had. She advised us that the nature center would accept wild animals, but not raccoons. Being lay-people, we could take them over and drop them off, as long as we didn’t know what they were. Kind of a don’t ask, don’t tell kind of thing. We packed ’em up and drove over to the nature center, handing them to a nice woodsy gentleman who didn’t say much. It was all very shady.
We went home and started reading about rabies. We debated the pros and cons of getting the rabies treatment, finally deciding to bite the bullet and go to the emergency room. The doctors were absolutely adamant that we get the shots after hearing we had handled and fed them, getting their saliva on our hands at some point.
Rabies shots. Four in the rear, then come back for boosters in 3, 6, 12, and 28 days. The first shot went into my ass. At first I thought, “Hey, this isn’t so bad,” and then I felt it. It was like Mike Tyson (from when he was a good boxer) had given me a roundhouse punch to the buttcheek. Holy shit did that hurt. And three more of those shots later, I got to watch my wife bend over the table and get her treatment. It wasn’t fun, she nearly broke my hand.
I got a handful of literature on the rabies vaccine and I eagerly scanned the side effects. I laughed when I read the first: malaise. Oh sure, I bet I’ll get a wicked case of jealousy too. Wrong again!
What followed were the most miserable three months of our lives. Malaise is no joke – we were like heroin addicts, sitting on the couch with blank looks on our faces, watching TV and eating take out. I don’t remember doing anything remotely productive during that semester.
The building owner agreed to cover our co-pays, since the gaping hole in the eave outside our apartment had let all manner of animals into the attic space. We had paid about $550 out of pocket each, but the vaccine was upwards of $6,000 each, meaning our insurance had done quite well. Long story short, the bastard owner reneged on his promise, saying we chose to touch the baby animals and that the vaccine had been elective (not what the infectious disease doctor said). If we had let them be fed to Roger’s python, we’d have been more active with $1,100 in our pocket. I still think we made the right choice.
Holy crap that was a long story.