That bitch Dolores is back again. She’s outside my bedroom window, lurking in the bushes. I only hope she doesn’t find a way in this time.
I blink sleep out of my eyes. My dog stands sentinel at the curtain. He’s growling, low and threatening, and his hackles are up. Outside, branches snap and something thumps against the garage door. I peek around the curtain’s edge. She’s ripping up a newly-planted holly bush.
‘What’s happening?’ my husband mumbles.
He groans. ‘I hate that damn raccoon.’
The first time I saw Dolores, I thought she was cute. She’d climbed onto our deck to drink out of the birdbath. Snow-white rings encircled her tail. Captivated, I abandoned the dinner dishes to watch her through the patio door. Moonlight painted her with playful grace as she dipped shiny black hands into the water and scrubbed luxuriously at her long whiskers. My husband tiptoed over to join me, and we held our breath so we wouldn’t scare her.
‘Her bandit mask is adorable,’ I whispered.
As if offended, she whirled toward us, reared up and hissed. My husband and I lurched backward, and one of us (I’m not saying if it was him or me) let out a yelp, as the raccoon launched herself at the patio door. She landed just shy of the glass, while the birdbath toppled in the other direction. The bowl broke off the pedestal and shattered. Wet pottery shards clattered across the deck and into the yard. She snarled and raced up the rain gutter onto the roof.
The thump-thumping of her feet reverberated through the ceiling. We heard a crunch and then the outside light blinked off. The bulb crashed in an explosion of tinkling glass, and the plastic housing of the security light bounced down the gutter. It landed with a clank on our former birdbath.
We stood frozen for several heartbeats. ‘I take it back,’ I breathed. ‘She’s not cute at all.’
Sleep deprivation and frustration marred the following weeks. Dolores visited nightly, destroying some new part of our house each time. Her hostile intrusions drove our dog into barking fits, and her aggressive 3 a.m. gibbering terrorized our son.
We had the ‘raccoon removal specialist’ on speed dial, but Dolores was too smart for his traps. She broke into our attic, ripped up our shingles, mangled the drain pipes, and peed in our chimney. Repair bills piled up. We soon realized she was blowing through a significant chunk of our kid’s college savings.
The raccoon specialist reassured us she’d probably leave on her own, after her spring babies were born.
‘Maybe you’ll get to see them,’ he said. ‘They’re cute!’
‘Uh huh,’ we said.
We had a few weeks of peace. Then, one night in early summer, we woke to a hellish symphony of hisses and grunts. The piercing shrill of wrenching metal echoed through the house. Our son huddled in bed with us while Dolores yowled and bounded back and forth across the roof with a disjointed bumpity-thrump rhythm.
At dawn, my husband donned his protective gear (dishwashing gloves and ski goggles) and climbed onto the roof to inspect the damage. The chimney cap had been shredded, its ‘raccoon proof’ stainless steel mesh and reinforced corners mauled beyond recognition. A couple of bricks had been pulled from crumbling mortar. Ravaged shingles hung from the eaves, spilling into the backyard.
He fixed what he could, then came inside to check the fireplace. The flue was stuck, but he finally wrenched it open. A darling baby raccoon plopped onto the hearth.
At first glance, the kit projected an aura of fragility, soft and delicate and vulnerable. Not much bigger than a tennis ball, he hummed a gentle trill. The iconic mask wasn’t yet dark, just a gray smudge across half-open eyes laced with fine black lashes. Dainty whiskers quivered as he rubbed a diminutive hand over his face.
I crouched to study his sweet little stripes. My husband still wore the yellow dish gloves, so I let him reach for the baby.
‘Aw, come here, cutie,’ he murmured, edging closer.
Without warning, the baby’s head snapped toward the yellow latex. Placid trills increased to a wailing crescendo. It charged out of the fireplace.
I screamed and leaped for the imagined safety of the couch. My husband had the same idea, but he was faster. We crashed into each other, mid-air, then fell into a tangled heap. He scrambled and pulled me up with him, and then we realized we’d lost sight of the hellspawn.
‘Where is it?’ I scream-whispered.
The baby answered with a guttural rawr. It leered at us from under the armchair.
‘He’s definitely not cute.’
I seized a large book to use as a shield, while my husband minced around the perimeter to grab the fireplace broom. Jittery with adrenalin, we flushed the beast out of hiding and into a shoebox.
We placed the box outside, where the birdbath used to sit. The baby spewed vicious noises until Dolores stormed over the deck rail to retrieve him. We hid, spying through the curtains while she hauled him into the old oak tree at the edge of our yard.
She’s still out there, tearing up my new holly bushes. It’s hard to be sure in the moonlight, but she appears pudgier than normal. My heart plummets. Another batch of springtime babies must be on their way.
‘We have to sell the house.’
‘No one will buy it,’ my husband grumbles, ‘once they find out about Dolores.’
I sigh. ‘Maybe they’ll think she’s cute.’
Baby raccoon image by Myna Chang
Myna Chang spent too many years writing about turbine lubricants, energy derivatives, and shareholder value. She escaped that nightmare, and now focuses on dinosaurs, spaceships, and kung fu. Her flash and short stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Writers Resist, Dead Housekeeping, Defenestration, and others. Read more at mynachang.com or find her on Twitter @MynaChang.