Friday, August 19, 2011

Our First (Unwanted) Houseguest

We heard a rustling in the plastic bags in the room adjacent to our bedroom. Since we're used to critters in our quarters, we dismissed this sound as most likely that of the geckos which traverse our walls and ceiling, but usually for a quick pass to see what kind of morsel, moth, “zancudo” (mosquito) or other bicho it might be able to capture with its flitting tongue.  We love the geckos because they help keep our room less infested and other than leaving little defecations that appear like rat droppings, they are completely harmless.  We’ve even taken to watching them, staring at the ceiling during the evening (remember, no TV) and placing bets on whether they’ll be able to catch such-and-such bicho.

The next evening Melinda happened to wake up at night to go to the bathroom and was startled to find a toad hopping diagonally across the floor.  She called me and even though we’d been in site for a couple of months at this time, I didn’t dare try to pick it up with my hands although I’ve since seen ticos do this.  I grabbed an empty ice cream container which I had saved to store “chunches” (various random things) and used it to trap the toad like a glass trapping a firefly against the floor, and gently slid the top underneath to seal it.  I then punched a couple of holes in the lid so that it could breath.

I let our host mother know of our unwanted house guest and she recommended that I take the toad far from the house or it was bound to return.  I figured this was nonsense, but followed her directions nonetheless and took the ice cream container with toad in tote next door and liberated it into the drainage ditch where I figured it would find more fitting to its domiciliary preference.

The next evening we heard another rustling in the corner of our room in the area where we store our plastic bags to re-use and low and behold when I moved our bike helmets, the little toad was huddled up in the corner again, appearing vulnerable yet shameless.  I repeated the steps I took to entrap the little nuisance the first time in the ice cream container and set out to take it further from the house, thinking it must know the neighborhood, but certainly wouldn’t be able to find its way back to our room from a little further down the street.  I deposited our little uninvited guest just inside the small “bananera" (banana plantation) down the road a little farther from where we lived, thinking we must have seen the last of him.

Low and behold the fifth morning we happened to hear a noise from the corner of our room and somehow the pest had found its way back inside.  I thought of the “dicho” (or saying) that declares  that “guests are like fish, after three days they start to stink” and this was indeed the case in our situation.  As it was the morning and we were busy getting ready to sit down to eat, I left the trapped frog in the ice cream container on the edge of the counter next to the sink, with a book on top, just in case the toad had enough force behind his little legs to force the lid off his pint-sized prison.  My thought is that after breakfast I would take him across town with me to where I work and let him off in the grounds there.  Surely he wouldn’t find his way back this time!

However, given my rush to eat, get through the shower and eat, I forgot to bring the toad with me.  It was a sweltering day both outside and inside our humble, two bedroom living space.  I passed the entire day at work without a single thought about the prisoner who was now facing cruel and unusual punishment baking inside a poorly ventilated ice cream chamber, inside a larger poorly ventilated room.  At 4 pm it was time to start our English class with several youngsters in our neighborhood when I recognized my error.  Was our poor toad lying dead, either baked to death by the sun, or suffocating from lack of oxygen?  When I opened the door, removed the book and opened the lid, the reality was that he was alive, but close to suffocating in its own waste as he had soiled himself several times over.  Was I now a torturer of defenseless animals I wondered?  What right did I have to entrap him, wasn’t the house built on what was probably the homes of his ancestors?  As a pacifist, I was having a hard time reconciling my negligence with the cruelty in which it was cast upon this poor creature.

I looked around the room to see if I could spot the hole from which this animal must have entered the room.  Searching diligently, I found a small hole below the sink where the pipes entered which must have been his point of entry.  I stuffed the entryway with a cloth shoe protector and headed off to unshackle our pitiable, prisoner of war walking nearly a quarter of a mile from our house and set it free well off the side of the road in an abandoned lot.  I tried hard to free my mind of the torture that I had bestowed upon our unsuspecting boarder.  Was it necessary to rendition and torture this little animal to keep it from pushing itself on us?  What were its motives for returning: was it greed, curiosity, spite or sense of belonging that it was searching for?

I’m not sure whether it was from the maltreatment or for the fact that we covered his tunnel of ingress, but we haven’t seen the toad in our room since.  In the days subsequently, I have found ways to sooth my troubled spirit and only occasionally have had dreams of the crazy, foaming mouthed toad wreaking horrible revenge on both Melinda and I.  I only now feel a soft sting of guilt every time we see a toad after a long, hard rain.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely. Pretty much reminds me of the stuff from my childhood back in India... the lizards, toads and all. Glad you two continue to enjoy your time there, Lanning. Cheers, Venkat