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I recently had a near-death experience as I was getting ready for bed.
I was in the bathroom when I heard my cat coming in the back door, which I had left open for him. "Hey, Oscar," I said, as the creature rounded the corner.
It wasn't Oscar.
I scrambled to barricade the door while this hideous creature, this modern-day velociraptor, charged at me, its claws gleaming in the light of the moon.
Okay, so it was a raccoon. And it didn't charge so much as look at me.
But, you see, I am terrified of raccoons. They are exceedingly creepy, with their bank-robber faces and their dexterous little hands. They can open jars, zippers and probably my jugular as well.
This particular one had me trapped in the bathroom. I couldn't hear anything outside the door any more, but I couldn't tell if it had retreated to the wilderness (read: alley) or skulked further into my apartment to eat all the pizza crusts I leave lying around before moving to lie in wait for me under my bed, polishing its claws on my dust ruffle.
Not a near-death experience, you say? Rabies can be fatal, and mange will certainly kill your social life. Besides, they're like junkies, these things, and I was going to deny this one its fix? No way.
And, when you live alone, everything from showering to eating a sandwich is a potentially life-threatening situation. One must be prepared.
I thought of the putter I keep next to my bed. I call it my bodyguard, Ping. He stands on alert night and day, like a ninja, his thin build helping him blend in with the wallpaper. He has a calming presence, presumably because when I look at him I think not of intruders and violence, but of watching golf on television, and all of a sudden I am very sleepy.
Ping, however, being in the other room, could offer no assistance as I was being stalked by a pizza-hungry animal.
Besides sporting equipment next to the bed, another one of my lackadaisical security measures against rapists, serial killers, raccoons and other nefarious creatures is that my apartment building is so poorly insulated for sound that I can practically hear when a beer can is being cracked open by my young hipster neighbours upstairs. This means they could undoubtedly hear me scream should I be confronted with any of the aforementioned attackers.
There's also the apartment door. Years ago, doors in the building were so flimsy that the tenants requested they be changed. My English-challenged landlady deciphered what she could of the request and took a stroll over to the nearest Mediterranean men's club to hire the septuagenarian who'd consumed the least wine that morning to install new, much flimsier doors. (I don't even know what these sheets of pressboard are designed for: maybe the bathroom in a motor home.)
On the positive side, if ever I am being mauled by a mountain lion on my own couch (it happens), provided my neighbours are home, I won't have to wait for the fire department to drive over and take an axe to my door. A child – or a drunk hipster – could kick it down.
Unfortunately, this night, the apartment above mine was silent as a tomb.
I had to take action. Was I going to let this little pear-shaped intruder defeat me? Hell, no! I was going to do something! And so I called my friend Mike.
You could call the fact that I bring my cellphone with me to brush my teeth an overdependence on technology. I prefer finely tuned survival skills.
I pleaded with Mike to come over and help me wrangle this critter. Or, to be accurate, to deal with the varmint alone while I cowered on the toilet seat.
As I waited, hugging my knees (I didn't dare put my feet on the ground for fear of miniature-grizzly paws swiping under the door and severing my Achilles tendons), I thought about how silly I was to let myself be defeated by a small, fat-bottomed mammal. Where was my courage?
Mike finally arrived, charging into my apartment as if going into battle, clanging and banging his way from room to room. Why didn't I have his fearlessness? When he gave me the all-clear, I gingerly got off my perch and opened the door. There in front of me stood my knight in shining … hockey gear.
The stick was for banging the floor and walls as a means of intimidation, I presume, but I'm not sure about the intended purpose of the gloves. Perhaps he thought he'd have to physically remove the furry burglar from the depths of my garbage can. Or maybe he thought a raccoon would simply scoff at his inferior human hands and continue pilfering my pantry after flipping him the bird.
I realized I had been unprepared for an animal ambush in my bathroom. Mike was no more courageous than me. His belief that he could better handle a wild animal if he was dressed like Guy Lafleur made him brave.
Now, after I brush my teeth in my skivvies, I say good night to Guy, the hockey uniform I keep next to the tub, before heading off to sleep soundly under the watchful eye of Ping.
Kerri Flanagan lives in Montreal.