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1:43 a.m. I wake up. My dog is pacing, wants out. She's standing with her head cocked, listening at the open window. I listen too. There is splashing coming from the back yard.

I feel in the dark for my flip-flops with my bare feet, connect. Rush downstairs, careful to lock my dog in the bedroom behind me. Hurry into the laundry room, flick on the light (ouch, bright), and search for the flashlight. Find it behind an old coffee cup full of writing utensils and screwdrivers. Test it. Dim, but will suffice.

I step outside into the warm summer night. The splashing is louder, and there is a smell of wet earth. I tread cautiously toward the sound, dim flashlight leading the way. Shine across wisteria and ferns, catch a pair of eyes looking back at me. I grab the hose, turn it on full blast. Spray the eyes. They move to the left. (My left.) I move the hose to the left, adjust the nozzle from Shower to Jet. Spray the eyes. They are unwavering.

I move closer, light grows stronger. Body revealed. Plump, healthy, 35-40 pounds. Striped fur, long bushy tale. Unafraid. I step closer. It stays. More splashing. Move flashlight further left. Another pair of eyes, watching me, but ever working those tiny black hands, moving rocks, pulling water lilies, eating my beloved goldfish, eyes never leaving mine. I aim the hose, pulling the trigger as far back as it will go. Masked bandit shifts position, but stays in the pond, feasting, taunting, looking curiously at this human offering it a good strong shower.

This isn't going to work.

I shut off the hose, retreat, head to the tool shed. Eye shovels, hand clippers, rakes, an axe. Could I? No. I choose the heavy rake. One of those used for tilling soil, not for raking leaves. Turn heel, head back to the pond. Still there. Slightly nervous now. I direct rake in front of me, like a knight going to battle. They retreat. Scurry over the 6-foot fence.

I've won.

I turn on flip-flopped heel to return rake to shed. Halfway there, I hear something. Splashing. What the...?!? Spin around, back to the pond. Flashlight again catches eyes. I grab a rock, throw, miss by a longshot. Grab another. Miss again. This one hits the wooden fence, cracks loudly, just below my neighbor's bedroom window. Oops. No more rocks. I raise rake again, move forward. Raccoon scurries again to top of the fence. Sits. Stares. I move closer, waving the rake. Unwavering. I close the gap. It stares, defiantly. Where's your friend? I fear being attacked from behind. Just about to connect rake to raccoon, it jumps, into neighbor's yard.

Triumph. I retreat towards house again. Ten steps. Fence noise. Whip around. There it sits, watching. Anger builds. I wave the rake again. It disappears. I wait in the dark. Half a minute. Quiet. Helicopter somewhere in the neighborhood. I feel safe. Shine light on pond. Decimated. Muddy, stinking water. Water plants shredded and floating, torn and strewn. I wonder how many casualties. Wonder if they got Blaine, the four-year-old bullfrog we got as a tadpole. Wonder how many fish.

Walk away. Sad, angry. Sympathetic. Raccoons need to eat too.

Get back in the house. Pet anxious dog. Wonder if I should let her out. Remember the time she fought one until she bled. That one was big. 60 pounds. As big as she was. And stubborn. Neither one was backing down. Pet her one last time, kick off flip-flops, settle back into bed. Stare at ceiling, recap.

Noise in the back yard. Splash.

Sigh. I think about the netting we use to cover the apple tree to protect our crop from squirrels.

Get back up, head to garage. Move bikes and golf clubs and gallons of paint. Discover roll of netting hiding by the camping equipment. Grab it, hurry to the back yard. Reclaim rake and flashlight. Head to the pond, repeat knight method. Unroll netting, clumsily try to cover the 4x5 foot pond with rake and flashlight still in hand. Glance up. Raccoons sit on fence, watching. I curse. Search for rocks to secure netting. Step in dog poop. Curse again. Find a rock. Glance up. There they sit, curious, patient.

Netting looks good. I scare off head raccoon again. Could have whacked it pretty good this time, but I don't. Damn sympathy.

Head back inside. Repeat process of staring at ceiling, processing experience. Close eyes, start to drift. I hear voices, tiny little curious raccoon voices. Ruckus. Then splashing. Get up and close the window, lay back down, pillow over head.

I give.

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