The pitter patter of what the hell is on the roof

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 24, 2016 8:14 AM

It was just after 5 am. I woke up startled. At first I thought that something was wrong with the humidifier. Tap, tap. As the fog lifted from my brain, I realized that it wasn’t the humidifier and decided it was obviously raining, never mind that there is no rain in the forecast for weeks, and that we haven’t really had any clouds. Tap, tap, tap. Faster and faster. I raised up in bed because of course that would allow me to hear better. As I did, Kevin woke up, too. “What’s up?”

“Is it raining?” I asked, understanding the sheer stupidity of that question. But the sound, the tapping, was very reminiscent of the pitter patter of rain on the skylight.

“No,” he muttered and put his head back down.

I got up to investigate. The nearly full moon was low in the western sky, intertwined with some haze. It made the sky both darker and lighter, almost ghostly. Hauntingly beautiful. I went into the bathroom and stood under the skylight. Whatever was tapping wasn’t tapping from there. In the bedroom, Riley yawned. The humidifier bubbled.

I moved back toward the bedroom, tap tap tap tap tap scratch.Taptaptaptaptaptaptap scratchscratchtap. I stepped up to the window and looked out, half expecting something to be crawling either up or down the side of the house. The two electric control panels are there, one for Tucson Electric Power, the other for Solar City.

But there was nothing there. No critters. No giant lizards. I was relieved. The tapping went away temporarily, but soon, it was back, tapping and scratching across the ceiling in the bedroom. Something was on the roof, something not small but not big. Something that was probably a ring-tailed cat. 

Ring tailed cats are tiny nocturnal creatures. They’re usually between 24 and 32 inches long with a tail that adds an additional 12 to 17 inches. They weigh about 2 pounds. Sleek and dusty brown in color, they also sport an elongated, pointed nose and a mask. The tail is often black and ringed white, hence the name. They can climb anything including the side of a house, using the tail for balance. They also eat just about anything they can find, and it’s not unusual for them to get inside a house via the ventilation system. The famous hotel on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is known to have ring tailed cats walk across the beams of the dining room ceiling in the evening.

Fun fact: ring tails are not members of the cat family but rather of the raccoon family. 

It’s the State Mammal of Arizona, since August 13, 1986. It’s evidently also the creature most likely to take up residence on our roof, amongst the solar panels, in the wee small hours of the morning.  

Last night, the pitter patter and tap tap tap tap scratch of its little paws was enough to wake me up. Enough for me to actually think it was raining. I almost wish it had been raining because the thought of a critter in the walls, or the ventilation system, creeps me out a bit. I can just imagine looking up and seeing a small pointy face looking back at me through the HVAC vent above the door. Blink blink.

I think he was on the roof though. I’m pretty sure. I hope he was. In fact, I’d stake tonight’s sleep on it. And if he’s back and the taptaptaptaptaptaptap scratchscratchtap returns, I’m going to just roll over and pull the covers up, and pretend that there isn’t a critter perhaps watching me. Once the tapscratching stops, I’ll peer up and by the light of the moon, make sure a little ring tailed cat isn’t looking back at me as he taps it out loud.

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