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The Rats or Mice or Voles or Squirrels in the Walls
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There's nothing worse than being awakened in the middle of the night by rodents rampaging in the walls or the ceiling.

Well, okay, being awakened by smoke and flames as the house burned would be somewhat worse. And, yeah, it would be much worse if zombies were breaking down the doors or a meteor slammed through the roof. Although in the latter case there would probably not be time for vexation prior to vaporization.

But nevertheless, you don't want to have vermin crashing around a couple inches from your head when you're trying to sleep, and Mary and I get a lot of that out here in the country. Mostly it's mice, or voles, or squirrels (or perhaps small fairies with lead boots). Its remarkable how much noise tiny creatures can generate.

The racket squirrels make is one of the great mysteries of nature. For a few months, between marriages, I was living on my own, with just my with my cat, and several hundred Percheron-sized squirrels. Or so it seemed.

The noises they made in the walls all night long were unbelievable. If they weren't galloping, they were dropping bowling balls from the second floor to the first and on the way down the bowling balls were ricocheting from stud to stud. Or maybe it wasn't bowling balls. Where would Percheron-sized squirrels find bowling balls? Maybe they'd removed their horseshoes and were tossing for ringers. The cat would race around, staring bug-eyed at the walls. I would sit in bed, bug-eyed from lack of sleep. It was enough to drive you squirrely.

How did they make such a commotion? A squirrel weighs almost nothing -- unlike a bowling ball or a horseshoe. Nor are squirrels particularly hard. If I were to take hold of a squirrel...wait, the squirrel would need to be drugged because they have sharp teeth...if I were to take hold of a drugged squirrel, and then flung it against the wall with all my might -- which would really have been satisfying by 4 am -- I don't think it would sound like a bowling ball or horseshoe crashing into the wall. (This is only a mental experiment, more's the pity....) I imagine there would be a sort of soft, squishy thud and then blessed, blessed silence.

At this house the nocturnal critters don't generally bowl and play horseshoes. They chitter, or scratch, or stampede, or roll marbles around from one end of the place to the other. From the sound of it. What is that? We do have oak trees nearby but have you ever tried rolling an acorn for six hours in a row? And acorns are not heavy enough to account for the noise. Or are they heavy in the vicinity of rodents? Are rodents surrounded by small gravity wells that makes them and everything around them heavier? Or do they control gravity? I know I wouldn't jump from the top of one tree to another or scamper along power lines unless I could control gravity. The fact I've never seen a squirrel dead from a fall suggests that they must be able to turn on the anti-gravity when they miss their footing.

But at any rate, if they are rolling acorns I want to ask, why? What are you doing, playing marbles? You're vermin for cripes sake. Stop playing with your food and eat it!

Then there is the most mysterious noise of all. A sound that's weird enough to make your blood run cold, even apart from the fact that you know its going to continue incessantly until dawn. A ratcheting, clicking, whirring, like the scary noise made by one of those thimble and string rattlers kids used to hold against window panes on Halloween. What is it? Are the beasties gnawing on the joists, or window sills, or acorns (having finished their game of marbles) or the electric or phone lines? Are they scratching themselves? Verminous vermin that they are. Or are they merely shaking with laughter at keeping the humans awake?

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