My family is forever imagining that someone or something is living in the basement. My kids used to insist a homeless man had moved in. I assured them that, if this were true, he was no longer homeless. Last Sunday morning, my wife told me there was a critter in the cellar, as evidenced by an overturned wastebasket. We walked down and I showed her there were no varmints.

When we got home from church and saw pictures upset and papers knocked to the floor, her look of concern was replaced by panic. I reasoned that if there really was a critter, our almost-useless beagle would be barking. Besides, it was time for the Sunday nap.

When I woke up, I heard a noise in my son Mark’s room. I saw something move in the shirts hanging on the back of his door. I closed it to contain the beast. When my wife came down, she mentioned going into Mark’s room to pick up some towels. It was my turn to panic. Did she close the door? Being a coward at heart, I insisted she go up and shut it.

Suspecting a bird in the bedroom, I called a Forest Park stalwart who had previously disposed of a dead sparrow but he was deeply involved in a pool tournament. Instead, my son-in-law Josh Molnar volunteered to come to the rescue.

Josh and I are opposites in many ways. He’s a scratch golfer, I’m a 30 handicap. We’re poles apart politically, though we discuss our differences without rancor. Most importantly, he’s an outdoorsman, while I’m a confirmed indoorsman. He boldly went upstairs with a flashlight and entered the bedroom, like Hitchcock’s ill-fated character in The Birds.

I remained safely downstairs, listening to all kinds of ruckus. I could hear Josh running around the room. I was worried about his safety until my daughter told me he had a large life insurance policy. After a half hour, he came down huffing and sweating. It wasn’t a bird, he gasped but a large grey squirrel. He needed a receptacle and found a perfect one: the beagle’s old cage.

Josh rarely drinks but requested a beer before resuming the battle. I was happy to oblige. I felt like I had my own personal Navy Seal to capture the domestic terrorist that had invaded my house. The commotion was even greater this time. There was banging and running for another half hour.

When Josh came down, he was sweating and puffing again. He gasped that the squirrel was secured. He had arranged the clothes covering my son’s floor into a corridor and driven the squirrel down it into the cage.

They say that when your daughter marries, you gain a son. If Josh would just let me win at golf, he’d be perfect.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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