The Shleppers' Loaf
My Beloved and I started the New Year with the discovery that Some Creature had been using our downstairs storage area, the part of the house we call Deep Storage, as a hotel room and a dunny.
Deep Storage is where we keep our spare dining room chairs, the extra leaves for our table, and a plethora of other stuff that we can't bear to part with, everything from Christmas decorations and empty luggage and hot tub cleaners to back issues of car racing magazines and memorabilia and books I have read and loved.
From time to time, we have had four-legged boarders in that area, usually shy ones that left behind fecal calling cards but were never actually seen. We would know they were there when either our cats or, more recently, Cora would be peering intently down the heater vents. Apparently they could hear or smell Some Creature down there. When we noticed this, we'd go around the base of the house looking for the entry points and blocking them up. Then peace would reign again for several more years.
One time about ten years ago, there was an entire family of possums down there; these were the only boarders we ever actually confronted. They huddled together in their improvised bed of our pink fiberglass insulation, three or four triangular grey heads with black, shoe button eyes, bare ratlike tails and sharp teeth, hissing and snarling when we turned on the light. Not wanting a confrontation, we carefully built out of boxes and spare chairs a constructed canyon that led from their location, out the door and down the steps to freedom. We left the light on and tiptoed away, hoping they would see the wisdom in using the escape route we had built for them. When we went back the next day, they had departed, so we cleaned up their mess, quickly closed the door, found their entry point and blocked it up.
So, when Cora was again seen doing her imitation of "His Master's Voice" over the heater vent, we knew there was work to be done. We donned our work gloves, pulled on our scruffiest pants and went to do battle in Deep Storage. It was the work of several days to clean out the remnants -including a very dead, dried husk of a rat - of the occupying force and nasty work it was, indeed. We threw away stuff that had been soiled and, while we were at it, organized the rest and covered it to keep it reasonably clean between uses.
We found a small truckload of items for donation to our local theater company, either to sell to raise money or to use as props in their productions, and set those aside for pickup (if you have miscellany that you don't want, try offering it to theatre companies - they love all kinds of odd things for their sets).
We called the pest control guy to do a better job of blocking entrances. He was wonderfully discreet and professional, arriving in an unmarked truck so our neighbors wouldn't know that Some Creature had visited us. He did a fine job of locating the entrance that I never would have found and securing it. It turns out that likely Some Creature was our neighbors cat.
Then, we bagged the trash for transport to the dump and schlepped it all upstairs to be metered out into the waste stream little by little. All in all, it was a solid week's work. Whew!
On the final day, while My Beloved drove the electronic stuff over to Best Buy (they will recycle electronic items safely, three at a time, for free), I made lunch. Before I even began, I changed clothes and had a shower, glad to wash off the dirt and sweat. It had to be a big lunch, as we were both starving, and it had to be a celebratory lunch for two weary workers who finally finished their nasty task.
We happened to have the remnants of four kinds of good bread in the house (challah, sourdough, pain au levain and herb slab), so I used them all, slicing them thinly using my mother's Slice-a-Slice before slathering them with mayo, mustard, horseradish or cranberry sauce and adding sliced cucumber, ham and Swiss, leftover steak and turkey respectively. A frill of lettuce for each and onto the growing stack it went. No sandwich was bigger than three bites and My Beloved devoured one or two in a single, cheek-filling chomp.
We have eaten the dainty Motor Loaf at Tal-y-Tara that features a variety of sandwich fillings and loved it, but this was anything but dainty. We christened it the Schleppers' Loaf and devoured it with relish.