It was the perfect storm — three elemental components that came together at one point and place in time to collectively yield an unforgettable event of domestic destruction. One component was a ferret named Caff-Pow. He functions as a low spot, just like a traveling low spot in the weather forecast around which storms whip and lightning crackles. He merely looks at a thermometer, and the mercury drops. Havoc travels in his wake.
The second component was a green plastic tumbler of water left on my kitchen island. Not a lot of water, only 1 or 2 inches, but it was enough. Everyone in my immediate acquaintance knows that you don’t leave tumblers, glasses or mugs full of liquid on the island. The ferrets can get up and onto it with no trouble. They simply scamper up the dogs’ velvety green armchair that rests its back up against the island. It isn’t even a challenge for a ferret to get up there. One or both of the my ferret boys goes up there every time they are out of their cage, rompin’ and stompin’ their way through the house from one end to the other.
The third component was a 5-pound bag of white flour left on the kitchen island. What, you might reasonably ask, was that doing there? In normal practice I keep the flour in the pantry. This time of year, though, mice sense that winter is coming and they check out the possibility of moving into my house to ride it out in warmth and safety. The pantry is a great place to do that as it comes stocked with food, such as a 5-pound bag of white flour.
The Stage Is Set
I noticed a pale tracing of flour on one pantry shelf, looked up, and saw the hole nibbled by little teeth from the paper corner of the flour bag. Grumbling beneath my breath I lifted the flour bag from its place and saw that a mouse had indeed been busy. I walked the bag over to the kitchen island, put it down there and returned to the pantry to clean up. I forgot all about the bag.
Active, inquisitive ferret. Water. Flour. Add two of those ingredients and you are all set to decoupage. Add the third, and you reap the whirlwind.
I never heard the tumbler go over on its side. Was the TV very loud at that moment with a commercial? (Probably for a guaranteed decoupage remover, just pay shipping and handling and get a second bottle of decoupage remover if you act now.) Was I outside attending to my beloved little flock of chickens? I will never know. I suspect Caff-Pow knows, but he isn’t telling. We’ll just stipulate that a ferret left a puddle on the surface of my kitchen island, a lovely sheet of red and white marbled linoleum from the 1950s.
I was present for the most harrowing moments of the event. I remember I had sat down to read my paperback and I heard a strange “skritch skritch skritch” noise coming from atop the island. I popped up from my spot on the sofa like a piece of hot toast and ran, but it was too late. There was a white cloud atop my kitchen island. Inside the cloud was the 5-pound bag of flour, now on its side and half full of a ferret digging with both front paws. “Skritch skritch skritch.” A now distinctly paler Caff-Pow was emptying the bag as fast as he could, which was very fast indeed. Emptying the flour right into the puddle of water atop the lovely slab of red and white marbled linoleum from the 1950s.
Caff-Pow heard me coming, heard my anguished wail of protest, and he decided to run for it. All four paws ran through the rapidly congealing puddle of flour and water paste and then continued on down the upholstery of the dogs’ velvety green arm chair and across the hardwood floor and beneath the first really big piece of furniture that he could find. He hunkered there in the dark, eyes shining while I lost my mind for a little while.
Actually, cleaning the upholstery was not as bad as cleaning the linoleum, where the puddle of decoupage glue had dried to a rock-like consistency while I was dabbing at the upholstery. And cleaning the ferret? He attended to that himself, munching at one crunchy paw at a time until all four were clean again.
Are you laughing? Are you laughing at me? Don’t think I don’t hear you.
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Alexandra Sargent-Colburn lives in Massachusetts with fish, ferrets, a cat, a husband and a neurotic dog. The ferrets are in charge.