So - - my brother Curt stops by a few weeks ago.
“Hey!” says he, “You’re a psychopath. Do you have any bottle rockets?”
“I resent that!” I protested, “Why would you assume that I’m a psychopath who would have dangerous and illegal (in the state of Ohio) explosives just lying around the house?!? I have kids, for chissakes!”
He arched an eyebrow at me.
“All right,” I said, “I’ve got the better part of a gross left over from the Fourth of July. I may also have a Roman candle or two. What do you need them for?”
Well, it turns out my brother had been having some trouble at his new house. He has a nice addition off of the back that has a big fireplace in it. Apparently he had a family of raccoons living in it and he was looking for a way to get rid of them.
Now, you’ve read of my previous battle against the raccoons, so you know I and the furry interlopers have history. That said, though, I had to ask, “So why don’t you light a fire and smoke ‘em out?”
“Well,” replies Curt, “I can’t light a fire because the chimney needs to be cleaned, and the chimney sweeps won’t come clean it with a family of raccoons lurking inside. Also, lighting a fire seems somehow… cruel. That, and I’m sure it’d cook them and it’d smell bad. You know?”
I nodded, not relishing the image of cooked baby raccoons. I added, “Besides, how would you get their charred furry bodies out once they’d died?”
“Exactly!” my brother said, “So, I thought I’d just, you know, get some firecrackers and scare them out. Besides, the Raccoon Removal Guy is REALLY expensive.”
I frowned, thinking through his plan. Although the idea of submitting the raccoons to an artillery barrage not unlike the German Blitz on World War II London seemed somehow less humane, there WAS the opportunity of playing with explosives. Also, it would save my brother some money. And I'd get to play with firecrackers.
The eight year old part of my brain won the argument and fell firmly on the side of firecrackers.
“Cool,” I said, “Let’s go.”
So we retrieved my bag of thunderous doom from the laboratory. (That’s how I 've labeled the waterproof container I keep my firecrackers in. It is emblazoned in big letters “DR. Z’S THUNDEROUS BAG OF DOOM!!!”. That’s so it’s not confused with, say, the Christmas ornaments.) and we headed over to Curt’s, after a short stop at the store for a couple of 8 packs of Guinness.
We arrived and proceeded to set up. His wife peaked her head in and asked what we were planning. We only got as far as “Firecrackers” and “Big Ba-Da-Booms!” and "Han's team is on Endor and they should have turned off the shield generator..." when she shook her head in disgust.
“I’m going to my sister's because one of you two idiots is going to lose a hand or an eye and I’ll be damned if I’m going to drive you to the hospital,” she said.
Why is it women never recognize a good plan when they hear it?
Anyway. We set up and, as we drank a few beers, came up with the finer points of our plan. We retrieved a piece of plywood and a cinder block from the garage. After setting a ladder against the house, we lugged these to the roof. Our intention was to, once the raccoons were extricated from the chimney, run up and put the board over the top. We would, after a few days, replace it with a screeen when we could afford it. (We’d blown any available cash we’d had on us on Guinness and beef jerky at the local Quick Stop. Plus, Curt’s wife had refused to give us any more money because of some nonsense about “not contributing to our stupid, drunken, Irish shenanigans.”)
So, after placing the wood and brick, we scurried back down and ran to the family room, where we proceeded to have a few more frothy Irish adult bevarages. After locating a box of Blue Tip matches, we let loose with the barrage.
I’m sure the neighbors must have thought we were insane as, for the next 40 minutes, it looked like hellfire was spewing from my brother’s chimney. After we had drank the rest of the beer and shot through several hundred bottle rockets and a dozen or so Roman candles, we called off the assault. (This was roughly about the time we were drunk enough that it sounded like a good idea to get some duct tape and make a super bottle rocket by taping 50 or so of them together. Remarkably, and defying the expectations of either of our wives, we showed rare good judgement and decided that the raccoons had most likely had enough.)
So we staggered drunkenly outside, up the ladder, and placed the board over the top of the chimney, securing it with the cinder block. I'm not sure, but I think this is the point at which I fell off of the roof. In an act of brotherly love, Curt left me unconscious and snoring in the fallen leaves in his flower beds, assuming in his drunkeness that I'd planned to stay there in the first place.
I woke up some hours later and staggered home.
“Jackass,” my wife said, seeing my drunken state. She rolled her eyes at my disheveled appearance. (My clothes were muddy and torn, I smelled of gunpowder and Guinness, and I was well and truly blotto.) I staggered off to bed without so much as a good night kiss. I'm not sure why.
I was awoken the next morning by my wife, who woke me by throwing the phone at me where I lay on our bed; snoring, farty, naked, and in the grips of a horrible hangover.
“It’s Curt’s wife,” she said, “You two idiots have done it now.”
It turns out that there were some inherent flaws in our initial plan. Curt had left me asleep in the planter and went inside to find that, now that we’d capped the top of the chimney, all of the bluish smoke and haze from the metric fuckton of bottle rockets we’d sent up the chimney was now backing up into the house. So, in his drunken state, he’d gone back to the garage and placed another piece of plywood against the bottom of the fireplace - - holding it in place with several straegically placed pillows. He too, then staggered off to bed.
That’s were the flaws of our plan became apparent. In retrospect, it would probably have been a good idea to post a lookout outside to see if the raccoons actually CAME OUT of the chimney. Although a seemingly simple idea to any Monday morning quarterback, I have to admit that it wasn’t so apparent when you’ve got a hand full of fireworks just dying to be blown off.
Remember my World War II analogy from earlier? Well, while we were bombing Oxford Street and Picadilly Circus like Germans in Messerschmidts, the raccoons were holed up like Londoners in the Underground. They apparently waited out our artillery, like the furry balls of evil that raccoons are, and waited until the house had grown quiet later that night.
It was then that they crawled out of the chimney like ninjas - - furry, spiteful, angry ninjas.
They knocked over the plywood in the family room and in an act of wanton rage and disrespect, proceeded to shit all over the room; tear up the pillows and couch; and defile my poor brother’s almost priceless collection of Dragon Magazines.
He and I spent several long, hungover hours cleaning it up the next day. We then called the Raccoon Removal Guy - -who charged us an arm and a leg to remove the furry interlopers.
So - - what’s the aftermath? Well, it didn’t turn out too well for me. I’m now required to check with Mrs. Zombie every time I think about any unauthorized uses of DR. Z’S THUNDEROUS BAG OF DOOM!!!; all harebrained, money saving schemes Curt and I come up with must be submitted to a panel that includes at least three wives; and – worst of all – I’m not allowed to participate in anything that involves the word ‘raccoon’ in it anymore. Uncool.
I swear, the furry bastards are out to get me…