Once I spotted her up on our roofand brought in the news, I should have knownmy wife would want to see for herselfwithout wasting any more time talking,so I watched as she gingerly climbedten rungs of our aluminum ladderto where the porch roof started,then peered intently through the rungs,
and, as she told me minutes later,found those two deep brown saucers of eyesset above the black button of a nosestaring back at her (from well underneaththe slanting house-roof's overhang)with such an intensity it was no contest right awayfor Mrs. Raccoon, and all my wife could dowas whisper a parting word or two,climb down, as she said, feeling compassionateeven in her defeat.
Now as I remount the same ladderbefore the day's darkness falls,I rehearse one final timemy very well thought-out,very practical, humane plan.One: if she's not there I'll spreadthe moth-balls I clutch in a packageall around the corner where she likes to lie,then hope and pray she can't stand their lousy smell.Two: if she's still in her corner, won't budgewhen I poke my broom at her, I'll fetch the garden hose,struggle with it up the ladder, turn it onfull force at the stubborn animal.
But when I reach the roof's edge,peer over it as intently as my wife didnot four short hours ago, I see I've barged inwhere I'm definitely not wanted at all --because at least three baby raccoons(much smaller saucers of eyes,miniature black-button noses),lie across her belly, sucking hungrily at what I imagineare juicy, endlessly milk-flowing teats.
And the question comes immediately to mindfor which I haven't any answer --what power do wild animals haveto melt our strong, hard human heartsin the faintest stirring of an eyelid?Whatever the answerthere's no living doubtthat a fresh, new-born surge of understandinghas swept all my hostility away.
Next I back down the ladder slowly,shying openly awayfrom an encounter I never desired,with a creature struggling here and nowmuch the same as all of us creatures do --just trying to keep ourselves alivein a world forcing more and more peopleto leave the light, seek out the darkness,where they steal, deceive, survive by cunning,like the lady up on my roof,our own Mother Courage, Mrs. Raccoon.