I was seated comfortably in my recliner in our living room reading the newspaper that morning in our ranch-style home in Burlington, when what should I hear? Definitely not the sound of Santa and eight tiny reindeer.
There was a loud scratching sound on the roof. The next thing I heard came from our securely closed, purely decorative fireplace, and taught me that raccoons are not mutes, as I had thought.
Of course, at that moment I did not know it was raccoon barking and shrieking. I was too busy producing goosebumps all over my body. I sprang into action.
“Amy! Amy! Amy!’’
My wife locked the door to the bedroom before I could get in and calmly told me to take care of this right now.
I called the Burlington Police Department.
“It’s raccoons,’’ the officer told me.
“So can you come over and help me?’’
“You’ll have to call the animal control officer.’’
I hung up and dialed the number the officer gave me.
“I can’t deal with that, sorry. But there’s a guy in Canton who can take care of it.’’
Two hours later, after the noise in the fireplace had died completely that Sunday afternoon, and after agreeing to pay him double-time, a giant appeared upon our front door step. He was about 6-foot-4, and had the girth of Shrek.
He gently, as giants often do in Disney movies, brushed this homeowner aside and went right for the fireplace. He opened the glass doors and, without benefit of the kind of gloves all the animal handlers on the Leno or Letterman shows use, stuck his right arm into the fireplace.
I assumed my standard “Waiting for the auto mechanic to tell me about the $2,000 job my car needed immediately’’ pose.
“It’s an abandoned raccoon nest . . . abandoned for now,’’ he said. “The mother has taken out her young and that racket you heard was the male trying to kill the young ones.’’
He proceeded to clean out the nest of leaves and twigs, looked up the chimney with a mirror at the end of an extender, and then shut the flue so there would be no return visit down the chimney.
He quoted me a hefty price, which included his return to put a “cap’’ on our chimney. That is a metal cage that firmly covers the opening on the roof.
Unfortunately, I had another close encounter during the night before the guy returned to install the cap.
Once again, I was in my recliner when I heard a metallic squeaking sound coming from the fireplace.
Just like in the movies, where a doorknob is shown to be ever so slowly turning by the hand of someone or something horrible on the other side, the brass knob of the flue handle was slowly turning to the open position.
“Amy! Amy! Amy!’’
I barely heard the sound of her locking the bedroom door again.
So there I was, kneeling before the fireplace turning the knob in the opposite direction from the way it was leaning.
I felt a fairly strong opponent on the other side of the flue. It was scary, but finally the thing gave up. I slept fitfully, looking every hour on the hour at the numbers on my alarm clock.
Next morning, my hired giant made our home safe from critters, at least the ones who would use the chimney entrance.
George Weinstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.