The thing in the crawlspace

By BEN R. WILLIAMS

I have a group of wonderful friends who come up to my house for dinner about once a week (until recently, of course, but I’m looking forward to resuming our hang-outs soon).

Two of these friends always bring their dog with them, and several months ago, their dog began acting strange. It would sit in my hallway next to the bathroom, staring intently at the door to the crawlspace, occasionally pawing at it. This behavior continued for months. 

I had hoped that their dog was just doing the thing that all pets like to do, which is fixate on a certain spot in the home in an effort to convince you that your house is haunted and only Scrapples the mutt is capable of seeing the ghost. 

Over time, however, I began to hear … noises.

It sounded like scratching, or maybe something shifting. These noises seemed to be coming from behind the crawlspace door that the dog had been so enamored with, so I did what anyone would do: I threw some rat poison in there and then nailed the door shut.

Whatever was living under my house didn’t eat the poison, however. Or if it did, the poison only made it grow stronger. The noises continued.

Fortunately, these scratching noises were pretty infrequent, so I was able to ignore them for the most part. This is my preferred coping strategy. 

And then, one lovely morning in early March, I awakened to one of the worst sounds I have ever heard in my life.

Imagine, if you will, that you are in possession of a very large, very angry wolverine. This wolverine has rabies, anthrax, and a drinking problem. Now imagine that you have thrown that wolverine into your clothes dryer and set it to “large load — permanent press.” The noises that would emanate from your dryer are remarkably similar to the screeching nightmare that was emanating from the crawl space under my bathtub. 

This was no rat. This was something significantly larger. I racked my brain to try and figure out what it could be.

Like the scene in a horror movie where the protagonist realizes that the killer has been inside the house the whole time, I began to realize what it was I was hearing.

My yard has been absolutely covered with small holes, like the kind a skunk digs when it’s looking for bugs. I actually saw a skunk in my side yard late one night. And whatever was thrashing around and screeching in my crawlspace was, at minimum, skunk-sized.

But if I did have a skunk living in my crawlspace, why was it making so much noise?

A horrible suspicion formed in my mind. I got on the internet and looked up “skunk mating season.”

Skunk mating season lasts from February through March.

My crawlspace was a skunk hotel, and it charged by the hour.

I began to think about what my next steps should be. I mentioned this dilemma to a friend.

“Easy,” he said. “Just set out one of those humane traps.”

“Capital idea, Old Top,” I said, or something to that effect. “But here’s the problem: after I get the skunk in the trap, WHAT DO I DO THEN?”

He immediately saw the flaw in the plan.

Since realizing that I have a skunk living under my bathroom, I have begun walking through the bathroom as though I live on the top floor of a duplex and my downstairs neighbor is a heavily-armed lunatic with crippling insomnia. I tiptoe through, careful not to drop anything or make too much noise, lest the skunk become startled and unleash its stinky fury. 

There’s not much I can do at this point, anyway. In all likelihood, the skunk will give birth to a litter in May. In these trying times, it would be criminal to evict a hard-working single mother with ten young children.

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