Garner: What falls from heaven
Sunday, May 20, 2018
I read recently about a mama raccoon and her four babies falling through the ceiling and onto the living room couch of a Michigan home.
The closest I ever came to that was a lone dead squirrel that wormed its way around the uncompleted mounting of a new ceiling light fixture, was apparently electrocuted and stiffened into rigor mortis after falling onto our guest bathroom floor, its four little legs sticking up like the legs of an overturned table.
Well, maybe I should say “…the closest I ever came to that at home.”
Because on a filming trip to Haiti many years ago, my cameraman, audio guy and I witnessed a dramatic, magnificent free-fall fight between two rats.
Epic, it was. Homeric … with humans drawn into the fray.
We were overnighting in the second-floor dormitory hall of a mission complex in the southern town of Gonaives. An adjacent flat-roof space was used as a sort of drying and husking floor for corn from the nearby fields.
An unscreened window provided entry to the open dormitory rafters for well-fed rats, who liked to scamper up and down the slender log rafters over rows of cots. Playing. Chattering. And, not infrequently, fighting.
Keyed up after a long, exhausting day of setting up, tearing down and driving terrible roads between several locations, we were joking and laughing as a way of blowing off steam.
Doctors, nurses and volunteers from around the world were trying to get a few restless hours of rest before a predawn call at the mission’s rudimentary medical clinic.
They didn’t find our rather grim humor amusing and told us brusquely to knock it off.
We had just settled into relative quiet, still stifling giggles, when two rats emerged from the corn stalks, chased each other through the window and down a rafter. They got into a frantic, after-dinner wrestling match directly over the inert body of our slumbering American driver.
Biting madly and locked in a death clinch worthy of the WWE, the two writhing, furry creatures scored a direct hit on the snoring missionary, who was, predictably, sleeping on his back.
Talk about rising from the “dead.”
Comparing notes afterward, we agreed that the victim had elevated at least 14 inches off his tangled bed coverings. His falsetto scream awakened every exhausted medico in the room, which was full to overflowing.
He caught up with and passed the fleet-footed rats as they all ran onto a galleried porch overlooking the parking lot — he through a door and the rodents through yet another unscreened window.
Hands clapped over our mouths, all three of us had to follow them all out of the sleeping hall in a vain effort to minimize further disruption. Thinking we were laughing at his misfortune, the offended driver glared furiously.
The rats, having forgotten their tussle, had disappeared. We three crew members returned to our beds after an hour of uproariously recollecting every morsel of detail. I’m sure all could still be heard through the dormitory walls and apertures.
The very last wisp of steam had been blown off.
The traumatized van jockey was just beginning his ordeal, though. All through the night, we could hear him getting into the vehicle, getting out of the vehicle, trudging up the stairs to the gallery, settling into a creaking rocker and creeping dispiritedly back to the van.
Every time the restless, wandering soul made a move, one or more of us would emit a nearly inaudible giggle.
What falls from heaven, even on the mission field, is not always manna.
Bob Garner is a UNC-TV restaurant reviewer, freelance food writer, author of four cookbooks, barbecue pit master and public speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.