Friday, December 17, 2010

The Anteater Who Stole Fancy Night: A Christmas Eve Story

Part Two:       

        The next few minutes seemed like they were plucked from some surreal You Tube video.  I’m not sure how much time transpired.  I saw it and participated in it, but in my memory it is only accessible in slow motion.

“My God,” he screamed.  “Oh, my God!”  He and the armadillo remained perfectly still and stared at each other.  It was almost as though they both were frozen in some sort of animated state.  I wanted to move, in fact run, but my feet didn’t know what to do.  I just stood there.
While still holding the vent grate with his right hand, C used his left hand to quickly slide the pocket doors shut, closing off the media room from the hallway
“Get something”, C screamed at me. “Shut the doors! All of them!  We can’t let this thing loose in the house!” 
I leaped forward and slammed the kitchen pocket doors locking C and the monster in the hallway alone with the Christmas tree and all the presents. 
“What’s going on,” yelled DAR?  She had been resting in one of my white leather dining room chairs still sipping on the last of her Chianti Classico, but the last few seconds of ensuing panic had brought her to her feet and she was headed towards the kitchen. 
“Stay in there.  Don’t come in here.  And close the door to the foyer. Quick, before it runs in there,” I screamed.
“Before what runs in here,” she asked?
“Just close the Goddamn door.  There’s a f$#%&@g armadillo in the house,” I replied with a most urgent tone of voice.

Let me stop now and apologize for my language.  I realize it’s already rather sordid, and may get worse. But trust me ‘There’s a f$#%&@g armadillo in the house’ is just not a sentence you want to utter.  Ever.  Especially on Christmas Eve after God knows how many bottles of red wine, but there’s just no way to describe this situation without using rather ‘blue’ words. 

“Hurry up, get something,” C yelled from the next room.
I had no idea what to do, much less what to get.  I own a double barrel shot gun, but it was upstairs in my bedroom and it would take far too long to get up there and get it.  Besides, what was I going to do with that? There’s no doubt it would take care of the armadillo.  In fact, it would take care of everything within fifty feet of the armadillo, including the Christmas tree, C and the back of the house!  Even if I managed to not shot my partner and just hit the armadillo the mess would be unimaginable!  Jeeze, to this day I can’t think about it!  So instead I bolted around that corner and grabbed the first thing I saw, a broom.  Passing the microwave, I noticed the time.  It was .  It was Christmas Day! 
I charged back through the kitchen passing DAR standing in the middle of the dining room screaming.  “What is going on?  Is everybody alright,” she screamed?  Randolph, please tell me what’s happening?”  She was standing on her tip toes, staring horrified at the floor, jerking her head and body around the way ones does when trying to avoid a mouse. 
As I reached the doors, I slid one open just enough to stick my arm through and toss the broom to C.  He was now jumping hysterically around the center of the room. 

I really can't stay, I've got to go away,” sang Vanessa.

The unwanted beast was throwing himself wildly against the large wooden pocket doors opposite me.  Chuck grabbed the broom in mid air and started to pound the armadillo with the soft yellow plastic bristles.
Until that very moment in time, I have to omit that armadillos are not creatures I’ve spent a lot of time studying.  In fact, until recently I didn’t even realize we had armadillos in our area.  Thinking back on it I have seen them splattered on the road, but never actually rooming around. Much less next to my Christmas tree.  Trust me on this one, an armadillo is not something you ever want to see up close.  They are nasty animals.  Period, just nasty.  These things make a rat look sexy.  And they’re big too, they’re huge!  I heard someone once say that the only cute thing about an armadillo was its ears.  And you know, maybe that’s true, but the rest of the animal is so very disgusting, that the ears can never make up for all the other parts.  They are just nasty.  You have no idea how hard it was for me to write this.  It made my skin crawl.  I was constantly looking over my shoulder thinking one of them was watching me. 

But, back to the situation at hand.  Since C seemed to have no real plan except to swat at the beast, things were not progressing.  The situation appeared to be going down hill and fast! I’ve since learned that armadillo’s are nocturnal creatures and are all but blind.  Once they run into something they will generally follow it where ever it leads them.  And even though they have short legs, they can jump high and run very fast.  So the armadillo, which apparently had tired of being beaten senseless with the broom, was now running wildly along the baseboard circling the room with C hot on his heels.  Every few feet the animal would leap up and claw against the wall or windows, I assumed hoping something would give way and it would be free.  Instead all I could see was its huge sharp claws mauling my brand new floor to ceiling drapes and Farrow and Ball painted walls. 

”My mother will start to worry, my father will be pacing the floor, so really I'd better scurry,” continued Vanessa.

        More alarming than having an armadillo in my house or that it was trying to ruin my furnishings was the condition of C himself.  I swear he was about to have a heart attack.  The man was not able to walk across the room without gasping for breath, much less beat a twenty pound armor clad beast to death. 
        All three of us were shouting. I can’t remember any specific dialog.  It was mostly four letter words coming from me and C and DAR’s was screaming hysterical questions not sure what was actually happening.
All of a sudden it occurred to me that I needed to take control of this situation or that armadillo was going to make me a widower.  Sweat was pouring from every pore of C’s body.  His breathing was deep and hollow. 
“You stay in there and don’t come out,” I screamed to DAR as I stepped into the hallway and closed the doors to the kitchen behind me. 

I simply must go, the answer is no, this welcome has been, so nice and warm,” sang Vanessa.

The rear hall opens onto our courtyard and pool with a set of wide French doors.  Since we were rarely used those exterior doors in the winter, I had placed the Christmas tree there blocking access to the backyard.  Also, the house is old and has high ceilings and C doesn’t believe a tree does its job unless it touches those ceilings.  So the tree took up much of the hallway and the only way out was a side door in the media room, which meant a possible conflict with The Gold Sofa and a white rug or through the kitchen, meant we would have to past DAR; there was only one option, out the front door.    “Give me that broom and open the front doors.”
        I took the broom from C as he ran down the entrance hall towards the front of the house.  
        By the time I grabbed the broom, the armadillo was in the corner of the hall.  I assume he realized it was not a good idea to go back the way he came, so he made a left turn and headed along the wall of French doors and behind the Christmas tree. 
Although, in recent years I have not made a big deal of decorating I do take pride in the tree.  I guess it’s my years working in visual merchandising.  Years ago we once had a progressive Christmas party with a bunch of friends.  The primary event of the evening was a contest to decide who had the best tree.  Which in it’s self was odd, since half these people were Jewish.  Considering my profession, I was convinced I would win and spent an ungodly amount of time decorating a tree that year.  I lost!  The judges, and yes we had official judges, deemed my tree too ‘retail’.  Bitches. 
Because of that loss, I changed my approached to my own Christmas décor.  There would be no more glittery shiny retail Christmas trees in my house.  Oh, no.  From now on my tree would be authentic.  So for years, I’ve been collecting tree ornaments, each unique and different.
        The safety of my ornaments was now the primary concern as I watched the armadillo rooting around under my tree!  Our eyes locked. He was on the backside of the tree, I was in front. For one split second we knew what the other was thinking. 
        The thought going through his ugly little head was, “the only way out of these mess is through this tree!”  He looked as if he was poised to jump up in the tree at any moment.  All I could imagine was the tree tumbling over.  The sound of glass smashing as the holiday bobbles hit the floor and the many presents being ripped to shreds as the beast and I fought through the wreckage.

        ”I've got to go home, you've really been grand, I really can't stay. Baby, its cold outside,” sang Vanessa.

        “Think again, Motherf$#%er. Get away from my Christmas tree” was the thought racing through my head.  Before I realized it I twirled the broom around and found an opening in the tree branches between two oversized Neiman Marcus ornaments.  I had clear shot at the monster.  I stabbed at him with the handle end of the broom, hitting him straight between his beady little eyes.  He jumped back away from the base of the tree and ran back along the wall.  He made a right turn at the corner and headed away from the tree.  He came sliding into the center of the room, not three feet from my Gucci clad feet.  I twirled the broom around again and smashed him square on the head.  His nasty claws sounded like an army of miniature stilettos on my new hardwood floors.  As he tried to figure out what to do next, he turned in circles trying to get some traction.  I smashed him again and then started sweeping him towards the doorway of the entrance hall.  After about the third or fourth whack, I had him headed in the right direction.  He clawed down; got the traction he needed and took off like a rocket.  C had both the double doors open and was plastered against the wall.  The armadillo flew past him, through the foyer and out the front door, clearing the five steps leading up to the house, all but taking flight.  He landed in the grass on the other side of the front porch, and without looking back made tracks across the yard. 
        We slammed the doors and locked them as quickly as we could.  My heart was about to pound out of my chest.  C was breathing so hard I though he would fall over at any moment. 
The next morning I woke to the smell of biscuits baking.  C was already out of bed and downstairs.  I had not slept well.  It had taken about an hour and a couple shots of bourbon to calm the three of us down before we could go upstairs for the night. I don’t even like brown liquor, so you can imagine how shot my nerves were!  All night long I had dreams of sharp claw animals attacking me. 
        As I entered the kitchen C was taking a baking tray from the oven.  We looked at each other but either of us said a word.  I poured a cup of coffee and walked back through the kitchen and stood in the doorway glazing into the rear hall.  My first thought was, ‘did it really happen?’  The lights on the Christmas tree were on.  Its ornaments hung undisturbed.  The presents were still nestled under it branches.  There were no torn hems in my drapes.  The room was exactly as it had been.  It didn’t look like a scene from Gladiator.  The only thing out of place was a large black leather basket.  It holds stacks of magazines and must weight 75 pounds.  Before going to bed I had pulled it on top of the vent grate.  It would have taken an armadillo of super human strength to move it.  No, nothing looked disturbed.  Maybe I had dreamed it.  I took a sip of coffee and relaxed for a moment until my eyes wondered to the center of the room and I noticed the several two inch long gashes in the hardwood floors.  My stomach knotted up.  It was real alright. 
        A few minutes later DAR ascended from her room.  “Good morning!  It’s time to open presents,” she announced!  “Something smells great.  Are those Martha’s or Ina’s biscuits?”
        After a couple of morning niceties and Merry Christmases, she looked at me and asked, “About last night…”
        “No,” I interrupted.  “We are not going to talk about it.”
        “But, I don’t…”
        “No, I’m serious.  Don’t even bring up the subject.  I mean it.” I said forcefully.  “I really can’t talk about it.  It really freaked me out. 
        Through out the day she continued to ask questions, but every time we did our best to either ignore her, change the subject or just be rude and tell her to stop.

About a week later the phone rang.  It was DAR.  After sharing our New Year’s Eve plans, or lack of them, she can’t help herself and brought up the forbidden subject.  We had told her she couldn’t tell anyone.  I felt violated, embarrassed, frightened and I didn’t want this tale shared!  Of course DAR had told everyone she knew. 
“John say’s it was impossible,” she said as she started off the conversation.  John is a mutual friend who just happens to be a high school science teacher. 
        “What do you mean he says it’s impossible,” I asked.  “You were here.  You saw it.”
        “Well to his point, actually I didn’t see it,” she explained.  “I heard it, but never saw it.  He thinks you two were just making the whole thing up to play with me.” 
        “Are you kidding,” I was shocked.  “Of course it happened.  I wish it hadn’t.”
        “But he says there are no anteaters in Georgia.”
        “I think he’d be right about that,” I added.  “I don’t believe there are any anteaters in Georgia.  It was an armadillo.

        A couple of days later she called again.  “John still thinks you are lying to me,” she announced as I answered the phone.  “He says there are no aardvarks in Georgia either.” 
        “It was an armadillo.’

I still don’t know if John or anyone DAR told the story to believed it or not.  I’ve never really discussed it with anyone.  In fact, C and I don’t even talk about it.  We did only what we had to do.  We found out how the thing got in the duct work in the first place, had the problem fixed and tried to move on with our lives. 
And this year, the Christmas tree is back in one of the front rooms making sure nothing blocks the back doors in the rear hall.  Just in case a quick escape is required. 

Merry Christmas, or at least I hope so!

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