In Which We Encounter the Creature

Actually, I encountered the Creature alone. I used “we” in the header as I’m bringing everyone who reads this into the mystery. No one else in the family ever saw it, and they all doubted my sanity first for a lack of evidence and, second, because I could only ever describe it as a creature. I have not identified it to this day.

I think of it as a lemonkoati. I guess that’s better than having to face down some kind of simisaur.

I am a night owl–less so now than in earlier years, but it is still not uncommon for me to be the only one awake in the house. I say I’m wired this way, but the Chief denies it.

“You’re just a big baby,” she says. Regularly.

Still, I remain the sole witness. To be honest, though, I never really faced it down. The closest I came to that was when I had the Creature cornered behind a set of wicker shelves. For about a quarter of a second.

All this occurred–as did the episode of the Dreaded Chicken Foot and my crack shooting of a tarantula wasp–not in the house you see circled but in the middle house on the hill overlooking Santa Maria Bay. I’m tempted to think the place had its own ecosystem; we did, for instance, eventually move to the house in the circle–and there was no comparison regarding the abundance of wildlife.

The Creature itself, I’m fairly certain, was some kind of coati. But it had the face of a lemur and was lithe as a monkey.

Thus, a lemonkoati. Not lemon-koati. Le-MONK-oati.

I fully realize this is all very silly; at first, however, it was almost terrifying. Picture yourself reading by a single light at, say, midnight. Now imagine slowly perceiving you’re not alone in the room. You can isolate the sound of nibbling, maybe, or the scrabbling of tiny nails over tile. Suddenly there’s a blur in the corner of your eye–and before you’ve formed a coherent thought as to what it might be, something has furtively vaulted up the chimney.

Not very sporting–at least, not for the human in this scenario. The Creature, I’m sure, was grinning.

It was not a thing I could let slide. What was this nocturnal invader that stealthily chewed up our counter-top fruit before making a mockery of my visual acuity and rocketing so outrageously away? Was it dangerous, or merely irritating?

Over the next several nights I developed an ear for the Creature, and kept a flashlight at the ready. All I wanted was to identify it and shoo it along. Maybe stop it from munching the mangoes.

Naturally, though, the Creature adapted itself to my efforts. I would hear the telltale noise, creep into the kitchen, and before I could get the flashlight on it there would be a repeat performance of the blur and disappearance.

Until the night I cornered it. It finally occurred to me to turn the house lights on, and, in what I can only ascribe its sudden blindness to, the Creature made a wrong turn. It hunkered–literally in a corner–behind some wicker shelves. I knew it was there. It knew I was there. And there was a pause. I pulled one end of the shelving away from the wall.

I thought: What a cute little thing!

Then it was gone, never to return, before my brain could even formulate the word “cute.”

Joseph Oldenbourg

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