The Wild

by Steve Karas

I examined the dropping. Even put my nose to it for a sniff.

"Oh yeah, that's feces all right."

"Are you sure?" Stella said.

"Honey, I know shit when I see it. And that's shit."

We'd moved from a downtown condo to our house in the 'burbs a year ago. Our son, Mather, popped out a month later. I was a city guy. Maybe not quite a city slicker, but more city than country. Now here I was, inspecting wild shit on my living room carpet.   

The dropping was three-quarters inch long, just under a half inch wide. I prodded it with a Q-tip. It was soft, I assumed fresh. Our little friend couldn't have gotten far.

"That damn chipmunk must've gotten into the house when we were bringing in the groceries," I said. "What else could it be?"

There was a chipmunk my wife and I often spotted darting through our garage or across the front porch. Stella always reminded me to keep the doors closed. I knew he'd sneak in eventually. We thought it was one chipmunk. Maybe there were more. Maybe there was a pack of them. Or was "colony" the appropriate term?      

I googled "chipmunk droppings." "They're supposed to look like black beans, honey," I said. "Isn't that what that looks like? I told you it was from a chipmunk."

"It can't be. It wouldn't really run into the house, would it?"

"Well, it's either from a chipmunk or from Mather." I looked at the little man. "Did you poop on the carpet?"

He laughed. He liked the word "poop."

"I'm kidding, sweetheart. Of course it's the chipmunk's. If only Mather's poops were that tiny. Can you trust me on this?" 

The dropping was too big to be from a mouse, I read. Perhaps a rat's? But in the 'burbs – doubtful. A squirrel was a possibility. "Wow, awfully similar to squirrel droppings," I said. I was beginning to feel like an outdoorsman. "Oh boy, read this."

"'Bacteria and diseases can be transmitted through chipmunk droppings,'" Stella read, peering over my shoulder, "'and several diseases are transmitted through inhalation of spores and particles in the air surrounding the feces.'"

"Great," I said. "Just great. You don't think I picked up some disease from sniffing the thing, do you?"

"You're fine."

"Just wonderful. I'm going to die from some rare chipmunk disease. My only child won't even remember me."

"Don't be dramatic."

I researched ways to catch a chipmunk. I could get a trap and bait it with peanut butter. It could take some time to lure him though. Maybe a couple weeks. Stella was afraid to let the little man sleep in his crib with a wild animal on the loose. Not that I blamed her.

"This is ridiculous," she said. "Call Animal Control. We shouldn't be prisoners in our own home."

She was right. This was my house, my family. It was my duty to protect them. "I can take care of this, honey," I said. "I'll catch that little son of a bitch. Watch."

"Just call Animal Control already, will you?"

"Yes, dear."

I described the dropping to our local trapper over the phone. "Three quarters inch long," I said.

"Wow, that's gotta be from a fairly large animal."

"You don't think a chipmunk could leave that?"

"Maybe – a bigger one. Possibly a squirrel. Although you'd likely hear it. It'd be skittish, knocking things over. Could be from a rat."

"Dear God," I said. "A rat wouldn't be in the suburbs though, would it?"

"I've seen crazier things."

"Ask him if we should sleep in here tonight?" Stella said.

"Would you sleep in here tonight?"

"Yeah. But then again, I'm a trapper. I'm on my way to lasso a raccoon once I get off the phone with you."

"Right, but if you were us."

"Hard to say. Let me come over and take a look."

Stella began packing our bags for the Hampton Inn. The trapper showed up soon after. He reeked of skunk. He was strange. Guess that could be expected from a trapper. He was old, but had long hair you'd imagine on a young rocker. His gaze alternated between pictures on our walls and Stella's breasts. "Let's see what we're working with," he said.

I led him to the dropping. He shined his flashlight on it. He picked it up, studied it. He touched it. Smelled it. I feared that even a veteran trapper like him wasn't aware of the bacteria such feces emitted. "Careful," I said. "You can get pretty sick just taking a whiff of that stuff." He didn't respond. He'd probably grown immune to the germs over the years. 

"Well…" he said.

"What's the verdict? Chipmunk? Squirrel? 'Coon?"

"Folks, I'm afraid that's no animal dropping."

"What do you mean?" I said. "Are you positive?"

"One-hundred percent." The trapper pointed to Mather. "He knows who did it." The little man giggled.

"C'mon. You're shittin' me, right?"

"I'm not."

"Don't know how I could've missed that. Boy, am I embarrassed."

"How do you want to pay?"

The trapper never actually came out and said it was Mather's poop, seemingly to spare me embarrassment in front of my family. Guy code. I appreciated that.

Stella wasn't happy. She ignored me the rest of the night. Admittedly, she'd warned me about letting the little man run around in only his diapey. Okay, and sometimes even without that. "He's a boy!" I would say and she would shake her head. Well, at least our son isn't in any danger, I told her. That was the important thing, right? At least the family was safe. That was my job, after all. To protect them now that we lived out here in the wild.

BIO: Steve Karas lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter. His short stories have previously appeared or are forthcoming in Bartleby Snopes, Little Fiction, Whiskeypaper and elsewhere. He also writes reviews for The Review Review. You can visit his website at stevekaras.wordpress.com and follow him on Twitter at Steve_Karas.