Taylor Swift, Ammonia, and Bright Light

firescreenThe random trio of words isn’t an improvisational acting prompt from my drama teacher days. It’s the recipe for removing a raccoon from a chimney.

We didn’t know how long the freeloader had been sleeping on the bricked-in smoke shelf above our roof. We only discovered him yesterday. I’d been jonesing for a gas log since forever. The kitchen remodel was complete. It’s been cold outside. I’ve been stuck inside. Boredom and my wish for a crackling fire left me contemplating an extreme makeover on the family room.

I found this amazing metal fire screen online at Cost-Plus World Market. I had coupons. It was payday. I hit buy. Impulsive. Yes, but I’ve learned if I really want something, no amount of talking will make it happen. Nothing motivated Bacon off the couch like an expenditure of precious cash.

In the name of cabin fever, I coerced him into a fancy hearth store where we found a set of logs deeply discounted—a floor model with radiant heat—but, I knew I couldn’t bite the bullet until someone checked out the fireplace. The salesman referred us to Javier, a winter time chimney sweep slash summertime pest control dude.

We knew our fireplace had issues. Ten years ago, I pulled the damper out of its bracket and couldn’t put it back. I closed  the 1970s era glass doors, and walked away. I couldn’t remember the last time we built a fire, but it was probably fueled by one of those chemical logs sold at the supermarket. After that, I embraced the candle-in-the-fireplace fad popularized by over a million shelter blogs. On a cold day a candle is a poor substitute.

When Bacon called, Javier happened to be in the neighborhood. The chimney sweep shook my hand. In retrospect, I should have recognized a predator going for our bank account’s jugular. He ticked off every possible service he planned to perform—mortaring the cracks, painting the inside black, replacing the damper, rebuilding crown, placing a chimney cap, sweeping the flue. It’s only been what, twenty years? Bacon started shuffling his feet as he added the cost in his head like Rainman. Money talk unnerved him to the point he couldn’t stand still. He resembled a kindergartener in need of toilet. Except for his eyes. His baby browns rolled back in his head like the fruity icons of a slot machine, eventually landing on dollar signs.

I mitigated by insisting Javier provide an itemized list. He agreed and hoisted his ladder to have a top-down look-see. A few minutes later he climbed down from the roof with shots of our ring-tailed tenant on his smart phone.

The price doubled.

I told Bacon. “It’s your call.” But what choice did he have? Javier agreed to come back the next day pending another ice storm.

I felt guilty. If I hadn’t bought the damn screen, the raccoon might have lived out his life in the blissful solitude of our chimney, and we wouldn’t be looking at a bet on a long-shot to pay the bill. Self-condemnation rode me like a pony.

Here’s a bit of self-disclosure. I’m very bad at doing nothing. If I have a red spot on my knee, I google “red spot on my knee” and read all the medical websites explaining  how to cure it. Raccoon removal is the no different. I googled “raccoon in my chimney.”

That led me to Taylor Swift.

To Be Continued.

babyracoon
He was so cute on my front porch last summer.
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