When thief knocks, buy tighter lids

February 15, 1996|By KEVIN COWHERD

IT WAS 2 a.m. and I was having this weird dream in which Sammy Davis Jr. returned from the dead and was having breakfast at my house. ("Hey, man, could you pass the pancakes? Man, you cats are the most, man! I mean it, man, this is a primo spread. This is Numero Uno, man, this is . . ." )

I was telling Sammy to knock it off, that it was too early for that stuff, and then all of a sudden my wife was shaking me awake.

"I heard a noise downstairs!" she whispered.

My wife, she hears noises all the time in our house.

Just once I'd like to see her throw off the covers, grab a baseball bat and say: "Lemme handle this."

But she never does that. What she does is wake me up. Then she goes back to sleep while I go downstairs to face the psycho killer who broke in.

To tell you the truth, I don't worry too much about robbers breaking into my house. Because about the only thing a robber would get is maybe $500 worth of Fisher-Price toys.

I don't know the street value of a "Hungry, Hungry Hippo" game, but it can't be much.

If you have a drug habit and you're breaking into my house to support it, you're in big trouble, Jack. Unless your dealer's the type who's willing to give up a gram of coke for a Malibu Barbie.

Anyway, I went downstairs to investigate and discovered the noise was coming from outside by the garbage cans.

So I opened the door and snapped on the lights, which made the place look like Stalag 17 during a breakout.

And there he was: a raccoon.

Only this wasn't just any old raccoon. This raccoon was the size of an Audi.

Let me tell you something about raccoons. People think they're friendly, cuddly creatures with that cute little mask around their eyes and the bushy tail, but they're not. They're thugs.

Believe me, I've gotten into it with a lot of raccoons that were pillaging my garbage.

And I can tell you this: They're the most brazen animals you'll ever come across.

You can catch a raccoon climbing out of your garbage can with the remains of a fish dinner, and he won't bat an eyelash.

Instead he'll look at you as if to say: "You got any tartar sauce for this?"

Anyway, this raccoon the other night was pretty much like all the rest of his pals, which is to say surly and short-tempered.

As soon as the lights snapped on, he glanced at me for a second in a bored, disinterested way.

Then he went back to what he was doing, which was attempting to pry the top off the garbage can with his thuggish little arms, or paws, or whatever you call them.

He wasn't having too much luck, though.

We've been hassled so much by raccoons that we went out and bought these heavy-duty rubber garbage cans with seal-tight lids. You practically need 10 ounces of plastic explosive to open these babies.

At this point, I tried banging on the door with my fist, hoping the noise would scare him away.

Hah! Fat chance. Raccoons these days, they have nerves of steel. I don't know whether it's the proximity to man or something in their diet or what, but they don't even flinch. This raccoon just kept gnawing and clawing at the lid like I wasn't even there.

Well. There comes a time in any stand-off with a thug when an eerie calm descends on the innocent party and he knows what has to be done.

I had to get a weapon.

So I went back inside and got a broom. Then I began advancing slowly on the raccoon.

This is it, I thought. It's him or me. One of us is going down.

Finally, when I was about 15 feet away, he turned and sauntered away, but not before shooting me a look that said: "OK, pal. You win this time. But I'll be back. And when I do, I'll be bench-pressing both those garbage cans and dragging 'em back in the woods."

The incident left me badly shaken and I didn't get back to sleep until 3:30, lapsing quickly into another dream.

In this dream, Sammy Davis Jr. was still eating breakfast with us, only this time he was saying: "Hey, man, you got any Cap'n Crunch? You do?! Oh, man, you cats are terrific! No, I mean that, man, I really do! You cats are just outta sight, man, just . . ."

Dreams like that, you pray to be woken up.

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