Nights were the hardest for Louise. During the day, she could pretend that she and Jake were still together. When she was at work there was hardly any difference at all. No one mentioned Jake's name. No one brought up the fact that Jake had left her for some girl he'd met on the internet. During the day, life was small town, Virginia normal. Louise liked it like that. Too bad she couldn't keep it that way.Louise wasn't bad looking. She sometimes overheard men commenting on "her rack" with approval. Her hair was medium brown and her eyes were hazel. People said she looked like her mother and she thought her mother was pretty. She wasn't hard to get along with . . . why had Jake left her? Jake and Louise Sample had been married for a little over 18 months. They'd bought this big monster of a house 7 months ago. It had been badly in need of repair and infested with fleas. Louise's father had said it was too big a house for them. Eight rooms , two floors and an attic, maybe he had been right. Bang! Something fell in the attic. Louise lay in bed and stared into the darkness. The house was alive with sounds that wouldn't bother a person if someone else was in the house with them. But at three a.m., alone, she heard every creak and bump. No wonder people believed in ghosts. Louise couldn't handle this house by herself. She couldn't even handle the flea infestation. Jake had bought the flea foggers: 8, one for each room. Then he had sent her to her parents for the day. "It's very dangerous," he said. "You can't go into the house for two hours and you have to turn the pilot light off in the kitchen stove and blah, blah, blah." She hadn't bothered to listen because she'd thought Jake would always be there for things like that. Now he was gone and she had 8 more cans of fogger under the bathroom sink and you were supposed to do that again after 6 months. It needed to be fogged again. Now she would have to get her father to help her. Bump! Something was alive in the attic. She knew it. Jake had said he found a dead raccoon under the house after they fogged the place. Maybe it had been living in the attic and they'd killed it with the foggers. What if there were a raccoon in the attic right now? Could that happen? Would a raccoon live that close to people? Creak. Creak. Thump! Sometimes she lay in bed at night, worrying about raccoons in the attic and thinking about her life in general. How can you give up on 18 months of marriage for a woman that might not even be real? Perhaps Jake would get to California and discover a group of college kids invented her as a cruel joke. What would happen then? Would Jake come back to her? Would she want him back? Her mother said she could do better. Louise had never thought of doing better. Louise had never really had a plan about anything. She just took life as it came. Her friend, Susan, said she had to reach outside of her comfort zone if she ever wanted to achieve her true potential. Louise didn't care about her "true potential", she just wanted to live in a house that didn't have unknown animals in the attic. Louise had thrown herself into her work down at the bank in hopes of getting over Jake. They were talking about promoting her. Apparently it wasn't all that hard to reach your full potential. Louise could do a lot of things if she put her mind to it and "putting her mind to it" helped her forget how lonely she was. Maybe it was good that Jake left her. Maybe her mother was right. Maybe Louise could do better. Just when she thought she was getting past the heartache, today happened. Today, she received a call from Benjy's Garage. "Tell Jake his truck is ready," Benjy said. "When is he going to pick it up?" "We're not together anymore," she said hollowly. "I think he's in California but I'm not sure." "How'd he get to California if I have his truck?" "I don't know. Call his mother. I'm sure he's still talking to her." "You'd think a man would care enough about his truck to call and see how it was doing." Benjy could understand how a man could leave his wife for a woman he'd never met but to abandon a perfectly good truck just didn't make sense. Louise may have hung up on the man. She didn't remember. Now at 3:00 a.m., she couldn't get the conversation off her mind. Why did he leave the truck? Maybe he flew. But he loved that truck. If he didn't want it anymore, he could have at least told someone what he wanted done with it. Where was the title and registration? Bang! Bumpity bumpity bump! Something was going on in the attic! Could it be a raccoon? How much damage could a raccoon do? Jake had always made light of the noises in the attic. He joked that just as other people had "bats in their belfry", Louise had critters in her attic. But Louise suspected Jake turned it into a joke because he was a little afraid of confronting a wild animal in a dark attic. It was not up to Jake anymore. She would decide whether or not to investigate. Wump! It was time. She had to take her life into her own hands. She was going to find out what kind of animal was living in her attic. Louise kept a flashlight by her bed. It was long and slender about half the length of a baseball bat. She lived in fear of a power failure. Alone in the dark was so much worse than being in the dark with someone else. This flashlight carried 6 C batteries. It would also serve as a satisfactory weapon. She pulled her purple micro fleece robe over her pajamas. They were black pants with blue, yellow and red polka dots and a green top. She wore black socks with the separate toes and multi-colored peace signs. She always thought if anyone ever attempted to break in her house and rape her, this outfit would surely prove to the judge and jury that she had not been "asking for it". She turned on the bedroom light, then the hall light, then the upstairs bathroom light. When she was up at night, she liked to have as many lights on as possible. It would not do to get spooked at night. She certainly didn't want to have to call her parents at night because she was scared. Adults do not call people because they are scared to be alone in a house at night. The lights only served to remind her that she needed to dust up here. The overhead fan in the bedroom had a few cobwebs hanging on it. No need to worry about how the bedroom looked these days. No one else was seeing it. Of course, if her mother saw this she would think, "Aha! That's why he left. There's dust on the ceiling fan." If men thought the way her mother said they thought, there wouldn't be an unmarried home economics teacher anywhere in the world. Louise thought men might be put together a little differently than her mother supposed. Louise stood under the pull down ladder that led to the attic and debated. She was really scared of the attic at night but raccoons sleep during the day. The previous owners had lowered the upstairs ceiling in an attempt to save on heat. If raccoons were living in her house, they could crawl into the space between the attic floor and the new upstairs ceiling to sleep. Louise had been up in the attic during the day and she had seen no sign of them or anything else that could be making so much noise at night. No, she would have to go up there at night in order to catch sight of whatever this was. The upstairs hall was very cramped. There was hardly enough room for the pull down ladder to fit next to the stairwell. You could not pull it down if the bathroom door was open. What if she slipped on the ladder and fell over the banister and down the steps? No! She couldn't think like that. She had to "man up" and do this thing. She took a deep breath and pulled the ladder down. A 25 lb. Raccoon hit her in the head. It almost knocked her over the railing. Louise screamed and hit the raccoon as hard as she could with the flashlight. It hissed and jumped onto the ladder. Then it lunged at her, teeth barred, jaws snapping. In her softball days. Louise would have called it a perfect pitch. She caught it in the head with the flashlight. It would have been a home run, had the raccoon head been a softball. But it was a raccoon head. Blood and brain matter spurted across her hall. It was dead. Louise was bleeding. Perhaps she had been bitten. She stumbled into her bedroom, looking for the phone. Trembling, she dialed a familiar number. "Hello, Daddy?" she whimpered. "Honey, what's wrong?" That was all it took. Finally, someone she could lean on. She broke down and cried. She babbled about Jake, the raccoon, blood all over the hall . . . rabies? God, she hoped not. She drew a ragged breath and heard her father say, "Calm down honey. I'm coming right over. Wash the wound with warm soapy water. I'll be right there." Louise hung up the phone, feeling like crap. Her father would probably insist she go to the hospital. Then he would say, "Why don't you come back home? Just until the exterminators make sure it's safe?" What would she say to that? She walked through her empty hall and headed to the bathroom. What would she say to that? If she went home to her parents, it would be like admitting defeat. Daddy would suggest she sell the house. It would be like going back to being a kid again. If she went home again, she would surely divorce Jake and she might never get away from her parents again. Empty hall? She stepped back into the hall. It was indeed empty. Where had the raccoon gone? She had crushed its skull. It couldn't have crawled back up into the attic. It was dead, right? A trail of blood led up into the attic. Great. If the raccoon got away, she would definitely have to get rabies shots. She was more afraid of needles than she was of the dark attic. She climbed the ladder. A horrible stench flooded down from the attic . To her embarrassment, she realized she had caught a whiff of this from time to time in her yard but she thought it was the chicken houses down the street. How could she not smell this in the house? What was going on that could make her attic stink like this? It hadn't smelled like this last month. The flashlight worked fairly well considering she had been using it like a hammer. The beam of light cut through the darkness revealing her Christmas decorations, her wedding dress, some old coats she really should take to the good will? Jake? He was scrunched down among some Christmas bows and gift boxes, staring at her with a cold reptilian expression. "I see you, Jake! You think you're hiding or something? What? You got trained raccoons? What kind of sick . . . " Something hit her in the back of her knees and something else jumped on her head at the same time. Louise and the two somethings tumbled down the attic steps. Two raccoons. She knew she had killed one so there had been at least three. One flipped over the railing, crashing down to the first floor. The other chased her into her bedroom. She slammed the door before it could follow her. One of them had scratched her face. Louise wiped the blood away with a tissue. She was crying. Nothing made sense. What was Jake trying to do? It was one thing to decide he didn't love her anymore. But to be so cruel and evil as to train animals to scare her! That was just mean! No, no! Louise was not going to let such an evil and really downright twisted plan work. She opened the closet door, hoping to find a good weapon. Perhaps Jake left a baseball bat behind. He'd only took the things he'd thought he'd need in California. Obviously, he had not gone to California. He was up in the attic. She had been living her life in a fog of self pity. Only now did she take a good look in Jake's closet. Most of his clothes were still in his closet. She rifled through his things and found the bat. Really, it had been her bat from her days in the softball league. But, like so many things in her life, Jake had taken it over and made it his own. Truth be told, Louise's life had been fading away until it seemed she was not so much Jake's wife as she was his shadow. Her eyes fell on his favorite jersey. She had watched him pack that, when she was on her knees begging him not to go. She had watched him throw all his belongings into the back of his beloved truck. Now it appeared that Jake had moved his stuff back into the house. What was he doing? Why? Why was he back? Why was he upstairs hiding in the attic? What was going on? What was tugging on her hair? She swatted above her head, expecting to brush away some extension cord or strap that Jake might have stuffed on the shelving over her head. Instead she bopped a wet nose and heard a hiss. The ceiling above her head was gone. Several pairs of cold beady eyes were staring down at her. An equal amount of little paws were reaching for her hair. They were stronger than she thought. One larger raccoon, braver than the rest, reached down and grabbed a large portion of her hair. The others followed. To Louise's horror, she found herself lifted off the floor. She screamed for all the good that it did. Someone in the attic giggled. She threw her arms out and caught the rack of clothes. It was not secure to the wall. Clothes and rack came up with her. She pushed them ahead of her. Some of the raccoons grabbed the clothes instead of her. In the confusion, they dropped her. "Daddy! Daddy! Oh, God! Daddy, help me!!" she cried to the empty room. Louise was not the stuff movie heroes were made of. She hid under her covers, crying, "Where are you Daddy? Hurry up and get here!" Perhaps she was losing her mind but it sounded like the raccoons were laughing. They came down from the attic and jumped on the bed with her. They seemed to relish tormenting her. Up and down they jumped like children playing. Each time she screamed, they giggled more. From time to time, needle like teeth bit through the comforter and nipped her skin, all the time laughing. Or was it Jake laughing? Louise didn't like being terrorized but more than that, she didn't like being laughed at. She thought of Jake up in the attic. Laughing himself silly while his trained raccoons scared her half to death. For what purpose? To get the house, silly. Anger is a more powerful emotion than fear. At least to Louise. She screamed, "Damn you, Jake! . . . and threw the bedclothes on the floor. The covers acted like a net. The raccoons thrashed underneath them trapped. One glimmer of common sense told her to lock the closet door. She didn't know how many trained raccoons Jake had. She had her baseball bat and she probably had three trapped raccoons. Now what? The anger exploded in Louise like a bomb. She grabbed the bat and swung down on the squirming covers. The screams did not invoke any mercy. She remembered the laughter. She remembered her terror. Blood began oozing up to the surface of the comforter. She beat the writhing mass until it stopped screaming. She beat it until it stopped moving. She beat it until the comforter was red and soggy and until no part of it seemed lumpy enough to be covering an animal. Then she dragged the soggy, dripping mess out into the hall. Jake was going to buy her new carpets too. The little monster that had been scratching at her door was gone. It probably ran when it heard the screaming. No more little miss scared wife. "Your pets are dead, Jake," she yelled up the attic steps. "Just like I killed that one you carried back up there with you." The attic was chillingly quiet. Killing his pets would not play well in the divorce court. To be honest, Louise didn't like how it sounded coming out of her mouth now. "Wait until Daddy gets here. I called him, you know. He is going to kick your ass!" Silence. "Be- because I- I know what you're trying to do with these trained raccoons. You want people to think I'm crazy. Did your California tramp want to move back to the East coast? Do you want to get this house? I will burn it down before I let you get it." Nothing. "You want me to think I'm losing my mind? Then you can put me in a mental institution and you wouldn't even have to get a divorce. What was the plan? The raccoons would run all through the house but, when somebody comes, there'd be no signs of them? Have you got some hiding place in the attic I don't know about? Between the floor and ceiling maybe? Have you been hiding up there all day with your stinkin' raccoons?" Nada. "I call Daddy. He gets here. Everybody hides and even Daddy thinks I'm crazy. Not a bad plan. Except I got three dead raccoons here and they ain't no damned hallucinations! When Daddy gets here, we will go through every inch of this attic. We'll get you and your stupid raccoons." Something fell at her feet. It was dark and nasty. She examined it with disgust and said, "Real mature, Jake! Now you're throwing raccoon turds at me?" But it wasn't really brown like poop. It was grayish and smeared with deep red stuff. It looked dead. Ewww! Was it a dead mouse? She didn't want to pick it up but her curiosity compelled her. Besides, this was more fodder for the divorce court. She envisioned herself on the stand and her lawyer saying, "Tell us, Mrs. Sample, what was that disgusting thing your husband threw at you?" It was dried up but it seemed to be flesh and bone. It smelled like rotten chicken. It had- It had Jake's wedding ring on it. She dropped the finger and screamed. And screamed. And screamed. She ran down the stairs screaming. Her purse and car keys, as usual, were sitting on the table in the downstairs hall. She grabbed them, her screams had by now turned to uncontrollable sobbing, and headed out the door. She looked over her shoulder to see if they were chasing her. The raccoon that had fallen down the steps was sitting on the dining room table eating potato chips. Potato chips. How many fights had she had with Jake over potato chips? "I don't care if you eat all the potato chips, Jake, just tell me when we're out of them." "I didn't eat the potato chips." Or else it was cookies or crackers. All the tasty snacks you could get to without having to open the refrigerator. Cupboards they could open but not locked doors or refrigerators. How long had they been in her house? They weren't coming after her. They probably counted this as a win. She had killed four of them. They had killed Jake and stuffed him up into the attic. Jake who had moved back home. Jake who had put his wedding ring back on. Now this one was casually eating potato chips, watching her flee from her home. "Perhaps you have won," she said, tears flowing down her face. "No one will believe you all killed Jake. Even if your teeth marks are all over him, they'll think he was killed and put up in the attic and you started eating him after he was dead." The thing watched her with mild interest and continued munching on the chips. "Hell, they'll probably think I did it. My only hope is they won't be able to explain how I pulled that dead weight up that hole in the closet. Yep, I do believe you have won. But it's a hollow victory. My Daddy will shoot every damn one of you. This may be the end of me but it's also going to be the end of you. Just you wait! When my Daddy gets here . . . " End of Daddy too? It was as if reality had left her and, with it, any reasonable sense of fear. She glared at the anomaly before her. It reached deeper into the bag of chips, chuckling to itself. "Get Daddy too, heh, heh." She slammed the creature further into the bag until only its back feet and tail was exposed. She was on top of the table with her knee on its back. It bit her hand but her other hand found its scrawny little neck. "Not my Daddy!" she screamed. "You will not hurt my Daddy!" The jaws clamped around her right hand and she knew if she didn't end this fight soon, she could loose a couple of fingers. Screaming helped her forget the pain. With her good hand she twisted the neck and pulled up as her knee pushed down. There was a sickening pop and the animal fell limp. The dead raccoon had been right. If they had killed Jake, they certainly could kill her father. He would never believe her story and he would expect them to run. Because she had already killed some, he would think they were sick and slow moving. He certainly wouldn't expect them to be capable of setting a trap. Hadn't the closet been a trap? They knew a small hole would not be noticed there. They knew a lot of things. They knew people did not look up when they entered a closet. Perhaps it had started as a very small hole. Like a mouse would make? Like the mice holes she had seen in other rooms. Jake had repaired them but not the hole in the closet. How long had they been in the house? How much did they understand? Louise stood alone in her house. Her awful haunted house and wondered why they had grabbed Jake first. Because they heard him say he was leaving. Nobody would miss him. Maybe when he was moving back in he finally looked up at the hole in the closet and saw them. Maybe he had heard them speak. A cool and calculating chill crept over Louise. These things were not just wild animals. They hadn't followed her because they were sure she would run off. Probably whatever was left of the group (Just how many were there?) was up in the attic figuring out what they should do about Daddy. Slowly, stealthily, she crept upstairs again. The bodies were gone. The attic steps were drawn up. They couldn't do anything about the blood stained carpet. At least that would help Daddy believe her. The bed clothes were back in the bedroom. She picked up the bat. It would appear all of them were in the attic. That was where she wanted them to stay. She opened the bathroom door. She needed to fix her hand. It hurt like hell but she found the pain was not that important. Her father was coming any minute and she had to do something about this mess before he got there. She bandaged her hand as best she could, ever listening for any movement in the attic. They had not chewed a hole in the bathroom ceiling, there was no need to chew a hole in there, it was right next to the attic steps. In fact, if the bathroom door was open, you could not open the attic steps. Hmmmm? Well then? Quietly, carefully, she opened the bathroom door and braced it with her bedroom chair. Then she stuffed towels in the space between the top of the door and the ceiling so the attic ladder could not come down at all. That was not enough for her. She duct taped the attic door shut. Now. If they were going to call her crazy, she might as well do it up right. She looked at the cans of flea bomb under the sink. Eight flea bombs. When they had moved into the house, it had been infested with fleas. Oh. Now she knew why it had had fleas. The can said only use one can per room and make sure everyone was out of the house when you did it. Be careful using it around pets blah, blah, blah . . . She tiptoed into her bedroom and quietly cleared away the clothes and blankets that were thrown all over the bedroom floor. She put a pillow over each can as she pulled the tab, hoping to muffle the sound. How smart were these raccoons? Did they realize her car had not left the yard? Did they wonder what had happened to potato chip raccoon? An acrid smell was collecting in her room. She shoved the box of smoking flea bombs into the closet and locked the door. Ordinarily she would have asked Jake or her Dad to move her dresser but she somehow found the strength to shove it against the closet door. The door rattled and it almost sounded like cussing coming from the other side but the lock held. Screams came from the attic but the duct tape stayed in place. Louise ran outside with a flash light and her bat. She knew where Jake had found the dead raccoon. Surely that was their way outside. She parked a lawn chair in that spot and waited. Her father showed up an hour later. She was too tired to be mad at him. "I'm sorry, honey, the car wouldn't start. I need a new battery. Why are you out here?" He noticed the pile of dead raccoons. She was sitting in a lawn chair, a red stained bat in one hand and a lite beer in the other. "What's going on?" "This is where they get in the house. I got them as they tried to get out. I set off eight flea bombs. That might be a fire hazard. Be careful going in," she said. "Why didn't you call me and tell me your battery died?" "I did. You didn't answer your phone." "Oh," she said. "I was probably killing a raccoon." She pointed to a female raccoon. "The mother came out with the babies. I didn't think I'd have the heart to kill them but turns out I did. I think I got them all. I think." Her father looked around at the gruesome scene and said, "Good God, Louise, they're just animals. We could have just patched the hole they made. Did you have to do-all this?" She smiled and said, "I love you, Daddy." The look on her face was one her father had never seen before. At least- not on someone who had never been to war. She had changed a lot since that no-count Jake Sample left her. Although the change might be for the better, he knew his daughter was never coming home again.
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Adrienne Ray again graces our website with her polished, fascinating prose. Hey, Adrienne! How come no Gideon’s Bible references? You got the raccoons! Just kidding. We liked this strange tale so much we gave it the "place of honor" in our line-up--our Halloween story! Tell her how much you liked it on our BBS.