The other night I woke up about 5 a.m.I was a little disoriented because I’m not normally awake then and I lay there wondering what woke me.
I didn’t hear anything, but my cat suddenly jumped up on the bed and sat on my head, his signal for an empty food bowl. I tried to reason with him—mostly me saying, “No, go away” and him saying “Merow”—before heading to the laundry room where his food is.
As I rounded the kitchen door and flipped on the light, a large brown-gray animal streaked past me and headed through the cat door. I stood there in a tee shirt, without my contacts, my glasses on the bedside table, and screamed.
My first thought was “skunk”. I have a multigenerational family of them living under my house and for sure I didn’t want to get sprayed in my own kitchen. The screaming woke me up enough to see the mask, as a probably 30-pound raccoon headed out the door.
I live in a city with almost half a million population, in a county of 1.5 million in California, with close to 38,000,000 people. We have just over 239 people per square mile compared to the country as a whole that averages 87 people per square mile. So generally speaking, it’s a pretty urban neighborhood and a settled one—my house is 60 years old.
But I forget sometimes that we’re newcomers. There was the Thanksgiving morning I saw the wild turkeys in my front yard. There are flocks of them that live near the rivers in the area and it’s not uncommon now days to see a group of ten to twenty patrolling the lawns of small office complexes. And I met the skunks, and their pal the opossum, when in a lapse of judgment I fed the cats on the porch.
This isn’t my first run-in with the wild. As a kid, I used to visit an aunt and uncle who lived on Twin Peaks in San Francisco and fed their neighborhood raccoons on the front deck, overlooking the whole bay.
One night, in a different house and a different city, my daughter and I came home from the movies and found a baby opossum frozen in terror on the inside sill of the front door. We never figured out how it got there and managed to avoid the cats. We swept him off and carried him to the overgrown jasmine in the side yard, where I figured his family lived because of the nocturnal rustling.
Pretty much, the wildlife and I have reached detente. They’re welcome to the whole outdoors, but I draw the line at in the house. The cat suffered most in this episode. He didn’t lie to me, his food bowl was empty, but now the cat door is closed at night and he has to use his litter box.
I’ve lived in rural areas of the state, including the Sierra Nevada foothills and the far North Coast so animals don’t frighten me, but there are some people who are much more urban than me.
One of them is the mother of a friend. The friend lives further up in the foothills and her mother is from downtown Oakland. On a recent visit, she yelled at my friend, “There’s a big animal in your yard!”
My friend looked out the window and said, “Mother, that’s just a deer,” at which point her mother said, “Well do something! Call it’s owner!”
In addition to writing, Michele is in the running for the President of the Guppies, a subgroup of the National Sisters in Crime. These Guppies aren’t fish—the name stems from The Great Unpublished, a mixture of unpublished and recently published mystery writers.
Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home. During her career in journalism — as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers – she won awards for producing investigative series.
Her mystery Edited for Death, called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review is available at Amazon. She’s working on the second book in the Amy Hobbes Newspaper mysteries, Labeled for Death, out in spring 2013.
Her paranormal romance series, SNAP: The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, is available in ebook, paperback and audible at ebook retailers. All have received “must read” reviews from the Paranormal Romance Guild. SNAP: The World Unfolds, SNAP: New Talent, Plague: A Love Story and Danube: A Tale of Murder are available singly and in a boxed set at Amazon, B&N and Kobo. The fifth book, SNAP: Love for Blood rated 5 stars, is now out. She’s writing SNAP: Happily Ever After? for release in summer 2013 and a seventh book in late fall 2013.