No one could have given me a more precious birthday present. Sent from the insightful goddess in the clouds, I received my gift with open arms and a gigantuan smile. To hell with diamonds, donuts, dollars, and any other gift starting with a "d". This was a moment to cherish. My prize is sitting in the kitchen right now, and I pass by it every few minutes just to stop and stare--and to marvel.
Last night I had disrobed before taking my evening shower. Again this chirping noise was coming from the ceiling fan--for the second night. I stood, naked, underneath it, squinting at the grates but could detect nothing. I yelled, "Hey! Who's up there? You're not supposed to be in our attic." No answer. So, I turned to step in the shower. But, just as I opened the door, the sound twittered even louder. There was no mistake: a wild animal was up in the ceiling fan. I could not fathom how an animal could have gotten into the fan, but regardless of my perplexity, something was definitely up there.
"Edgar!" I yelled, stark-standing in the archway of the living room. "Some animal is caught in the ceiling fan! We have to save it." He rolled his eyes and dislodged himself from his comfy, over-sized chair.
He said, "How am I going to walk in the attic because of all the insulation we had blown in there?"
"Use boards," I said. "Place one board, crawl on it, place another, walk on it, and pick up the first one and lay that one down--like we did for Lowell when we took him to the TV station. (Lowell refused to walk on slippery tile, so we had to lay sections of carpeting down before him as he walked on stage).
While I got dressed again, Edgar drove to the farm, retrieved two boards, and with my help, hoisted himself and the boards into the attic. But when Edgar got to the guts of the ceiling fan, all he found was a closed metal box with a three-inch tube going from it to the wall of the house. Out of breath, Edgar backed out of the attic. We re-grouped in the bathroom, staring up at the ceiling fan from which issued the sounds of desperate chirping. "The poor thing," I said. "I've been hearing that noise yesterday and this evening, but I never thought that an animal could be trapped up there. Yeah, I thought a critter was in the attic, but I didn't think it was caught there. I'm certain it can't get out: why would it stay in that one place for two days--just chirping all the time?
We developed a new plan: get a ladder and remove the fan from the bathroom. I raced downstairs for a ladder while Edgar found the right-sized screwdriver. As he removed the facing of the fan, held on by two long screws, I stood ready with a cardboard box and Edgar's heavy work gloves. We didn't know if, when he took off the cover, what kind of animal--young or adult--would drop out of the ceiling. I held the box like a fireman with a net.
Carefully, Edgar drew away the cover. I held the box underneath it, but nothing fell out. I lowered the box. "What the hell? Where is it?" After dismantling the electric wires, Edgar poked his bare hand into the fan's guts, but he found nothing. Yet the chirping was louder.
He said, getting off the ladder, "I'm gonna have to get a wrench to pull off the fan gizmo. It's definitely in there somewhere, but I don't see it." Minutes later the fan was off. Still, no animal.
I took Edgar's place on the ladder, which I had repositioned, and there, in the exhaust pipe, I could see a body on the other side of the plastic flapper or valve that opens when the fan works. How in the world an animal got inside that three-inch pipe, we may never know. But it was there and had been there for at least two days, perhaps even more. "It's behind this thing!" I yelled. I can only push it a little--not enough room to get it out. You'll have to pull out that flapper-thingy."
So, Edgar crawled up the ladder, pulled the flap out of the tube In that instant, a little head appeared.
It was a raccoon kit!
Edgar laughed as he took it out of the pipe and handed it to me. "I can't believe it! Right around the same time as we rescued Rustle--this time in May of 2005. How's that for a birthday present! You've got another raccoon to raise."
I was speechless with joy. I don't remember who I was telling recently about the summer of 2005 when I raised a baby raccoon. I told them it was the best summer ever and explained how I and Rustle played games on the front porch, went for golf cart rides, and how he helped me do chores by riding around on the back of my neck all day--even in the stifling-hot weather. I had told the person that I'd give anything to be able to do it all over again.
And now I had my chance!