Four missed calls turned into five, then six. The joy of being on-call was overshadowed by the joy of being on-call with an absent supervisor. However, I was a dutiful worker and answered the seventh missed call that came shortly after the sixth. It was still early in the day; the sky was already filled with light and waiting for the sun to break through the morning clouds.
“Puney, we have a real emergency,” a man exclaimed.
Finally, I thought, a real emergency. Not just that someone left their window open and a swarm of bees moved in or that smoke was filtering up through the floorboards from the boiler room. It was a real live emergency, possibly something to make this on-call business worth-while.
“What’s going on?” I asked skeptical of his claim.
“We caught the big one last night,” the man rushed on excitedly. “He been in there since about one this morning, he fought real hard at first. We all heard him shaking the cage and hissing and slamming around trying to get out. Then it rained and now he’s just shivering. You got to call the pest guy to pick him up, he’s really shaking.”
This did qualify as an emergency, Mr. Big was finally in captivity. We were to meet face to snout, at last. I grabbed my bag, slipped into a pair of boots and headed out on a rescue/removal mission.
Imagining the creature cold and wet all night, frantically trying to escape from his wire prison filled me with an irrational guilt. We were at war, I shouldn’t have any feelings for the enemy. Mr. Big knocked over the trash cans and dragged litter across the lawn almost every night, he taunted the neighbor’s cat and most recently had jumped out of a trashcan at a child. Although provoked, Mr. Big scared the parents enough to get the neighborhood riled up and on the hunt for a raccoon of monstrous proportions and a luxurious coat. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time but that didn’t matter, his fate was decided by the fear mongering crowd that day.
Parking outside of the building, I ran around the back to the dumpster where half of a trap stuck out from underneath of a sheet of plywood. A motionless, wet lump of dark fur was curled up in the back of the cage, like a pile of old grease rags.
“He’s dead,” I declared with no small amount of sadness and disappointment. We had been at odds for so long, dealing with his mayhem was a part of the job. For it to come to this cruel end, I felt responsible and regretted my part in hiring Gary, the self proclaimed answer to all pest problems.
One shiny black eye was open but unblinking and there was no sign of breathing. I pulled up my sleeves, pushed the fear of rabies out of mind, and prepared to start CPR. You’re not going to die on my watch, Mr. Big. Not after all this time.
Then the eye blinked, saving me from the life saving measures I was prepared to undergo to bring the creature back into the world. The pile of fur began to inhale and exhale as it righted itself and shuffled to the end of the cage to greet its prison warden with a friendly wave.
To my shock, the animal was surprisingly small with thin fur, more of a miss than a mister, and almost certainly an imposter!
We caught the wrong one. Mr. Big outsmarted the world that conspired against him, yet again. I gave a little cheer under my breath, forever a fan of the underdog.
In the words of Paul Harvey, “and now you know the rest of the story.”