Monday, July 29, 2013

I didn't check for bodies

Over the weekend, my home phone started to act funny. I noticed on Saturday evening that it rang a half ring twice, then would stop. I answered one of these calls, and it was a friend to say that she had tried calling a few times, but the line would disconnect. Another friend called me on my cell phone (which i rarely switch on) to say the same thing.

I called the phone company, expecting to take to a computer-generated voice prompting me to push a thousand buttons, when a man's voice came on the line. I explained the problem i was having, and he told me how i could check my line to determine if the problem were inside or outside the house (inside the house, i pay, outside the house, it's a free service call). He ran a check on his end and said it looked as if it were an outside problem.

He scheduled me for Monday, which was fine by me. He wasn't sure there was room in the schedule on Sunday, and i said i'd be out for part of the day, so just as well to have the repairman come Monday. He said that the repairs would take place outside so i wouldn't need to be there. But, Monday was fine, and someone would arrive between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Right after he told me how to check for myself, he said i may not want to go out this time of night to do it (which i didn't, as it was past 9 pm and dark), but i could try it Sunday. About 10 minutes after the phone call, i was checking my email, and a sudden, overwhelming odor of skunk spray pervaded. Damn. Skunk near the house. I'd had one spray the back door a couple years earlier. My eyes were nearly watering, my sense of smell was pretty much gone, and then i remembered that Jim and JoJo were outside. I had a sinking feeling about Jim. He would probably be curious about the little black and white creature ambling around and would want to go up to her and say hello.

He came in and i think he reeked of skunk, but the smell still lingered inside the house, so it was hard to say. Jo also came in. Both had something to eat and drink, and wanted to go back outside. I let them out.

Sunday morning, i let them back in. Jim reeked of skunk spray, and i had the opportunity to try and wash a cat. He did NOT want to be put in the bucket to be washed, so i got my hands good and wet of the concoction in the bucket and rubbed it on him. It was supposed to stay on for five minutes before rinsing, but he started licking himself almost immediately. I rinsed him off wetting my hands and then a small towel. He smelled less skunky, but i couldn't tell if it were lingering skunk smell in the air or on him.

Turned out to be him. I hadn't washed his face at all, not wanting to get near his eyes, but his head smelled of skunk, so i did a second hands-on rub.

He was actually very good, and i sensed that he was uncomfortable having this odor on him, so perhaps that added to his willingness. This morning, i found a few spots that still had a stronger skunk smell, so once again rubbed the stuff on, then rinsed with the wet towel. I didn’t wash his cheeks, and they still reek of skunk, but the rest of him is mostly deskunkified. The strongest smelling spots have gone from watering-eye stench to old rubber smell, so i’m going to call it good.

I enjoyed a hike with a friend yesterday, wasn’t expecting any really important calls to come in, and the two half rings weren't enough to let a caller get to leave a message on the answering machine, so spent my Sunday hiking, running an errand, and doing a little housework after Jim’s first washdown. Last night, both Jo and Jim wanted to stay outside all night.

This morning, after letting Jo and Jim in and feeding the cats breakfast, i remembered that the phone guy said 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the phone repair probably meant someone would come five minutes before six because that's usually the way these things work. I settled down to work after washing up the breakfast dishes and giving Jim his third washdown, when to my great surprise, the phone repairman showed up by 11:00 a.m. He was lanky with biceps, and long, curly hair that was starting to grey. He sported a beard and wore a friendly expression. I met him as he alighted from his truck, told him where the outside box was for the phone, and he asked which door he needed to use should he need to provide an update.

About 10 minutes later, he knocked on my door. Wondered which plug i had used for my check. I couldn’t remember. There were two, but i hadn’t thought to check both. Turns out that the problem was likely inside my house after all. He was going to do one more check, where he was going to call me on my home phone. I didn’t hear a ring, but i did hear a faint, very high pitched noise three times. It sounded like a dentist’s drill miles away, and i don’t know that i’d have heard it had i not cocked an ear expecting the phone to ring. I told him what i did/didn’t hear.

He wanted to know where the old jacks were. I knew this and could show him instantly. He thought they might be a problem but he’d need to look down cellar. He glanced at the Bilco hatch and asked if that were the way down cellar. Well, yes and no. If the hatch were unlocked, he could go down there easily enough, but the door at the base of the steps was latched so wouldn’t open from the outside.

I invited him inside the house, and pointed to the cellar door in the kitchen. At the same moment, i realized Phoebe had gone hunting down there every night for the last three nights, and she meowed loudly last night, which is her cry to let me know she’s got something. I usually call out to her, thanking her, and she either leaves it for me as a prize or eats it. I hadn’t checked down cellar, but when Phoebe was ready for bed last night, i hadn’t seen anything at the base of the steps, which is her usual display spot.

“I didn’t check for bodies,” i said, and seeing his eyebrows rise in alarm, i quickly explained about Phoebe’s hunting. “Old house, stone foundation,” i explain.

He nodded and laughed. “I have the same thing and know exactly what you mean. Funny when you mentioned about ‘the bodies.’”

I warned him about the low beams as he’s tall. He was down cellar for five minutes or so, then came back up to check the jack at the hall phone. I told him i hoped it wasn’t too scary down there. He laughed again, showing perfect teeth and said, “No, it wasn’t scary at all.”

Five minutes more, and he went outside to the outside box to do a phone check. If it rang all right, we were in business.

It rang all right, so i answered thanking him. Yes, we were cooking with gas.

He drove away, and during his service call, the mail lady had delivered my mail. I walked out to the mailbox to collect it. At the back door, as i was ready to step out, my eye was drawn to half a dozen feathers and one bird’s foot on the welcome mat. Two of the feathers were a dull green warbler color. At the base of the steps and to the left, i saw a mouse’s head in the gravel. As i passed by the barn, a strong skunk smell still pervaded and hung in the driveway, too. I got my mail, and upon walking back on the walkway, just before the skunk smell at the barn, looked down and right to see a good sized dead mouse.

What a welcome for the repairman, eh? Well, as i said, i didn’t check for bodies.


  1. wildlife hotel at your place!!! So what had happened, had the mice chewed the line?


  2. We're down to one indoor/outdoor cat (he wails if he believes he's shut in!) who leaves daily bodies. For some time the chipmunk population was decimated, but either the cat is much older or a hardier species has moved in. I love watching these big fellows scurry, tails up. They disappear in a flash, behind a rock, into the wall.

    1. Most chipmunks here have learned to stay away from the house. One got in down cellar earlier in the month, and Phoebe brought him up for me. He was still very much alive, and she killed him before day's end. She's mostly indoors these days (her choice) and loves comfort, so highly approves of this indoor hunting option.

      The other two hunt outside. Jo leaves gifts, Jim thinks of his quarry as snacks, toys, or both, and never thinks to show me, which is fine by me.

  3. You should have murdered the repairman.

    1. He was actually quite nice, and he did fix the phone. He might warn others they need to mind their p's and q's.

  4. Lol... If you could describe skunk smell
    What's it like?

  5. Like John, I've always been fascinated by the smell of Skunk (it only appears in comics over here); I need to add it to my 'bucket list', although I'd probably wish I hadn't.

  6. I don't know that there's a way to describe it. Once experienced, never forgotten, but we haven't an odorama button yet.

    I can't describe it at its worst, other than to say one's eyes can literally water at the overwhelming stench. It's sharp and penetrating like an invisible fog. Once it calms down, it smells like old, burned rubber, and one can sense the oiliness.

    As for the phone line, i'm unsure if anyone chewed it, Gill. I know the repairman checked it down cellar, and then he took apart the old one in the hallway here. I'm guessing that one was installed probably in the 1920's and updated to the clip for a modern phone in the 70's, so i think it simply wore out. Since my arrival here, i've had to unplug and replug the phone in that jack from time to time, as i'd get a clicking sound that made it hard to hear the person on the line.

  7. I have dealt with a skunk smell only once when we were walking in the park and our dog, Socks, came running up to us reeking of it. I called Bing, who had a friend who had had the same problem. She recommended that we go to a local hardware store and buy some product called something like Skunk Be Gone or whatever. It worked like a charm. We washed him outside with the hose. though. He was not allowed into the house until he smelled like lemons....

    1. Good to know about Skunk Be Gone. I used a combination of hydrogen peroxide (a pint) 1/8 cup baking soda, and 1-2 tsp Joy dishwashing liquid. This formula worked wonders on the door when a skunk sprayed that a few years ago, although the door didn't squirm, and i didn't have to worry about getting any of the stuff in eyeballs.

      Ideally, you leave the mixture on five minutes, then rinse. Repeat if needed.

      Oh, and there's still a faint smell of skunk on Jim. Strongest about his face, which again, i didn't bother to wash, fearful of getting it in his eyes.