The possums were the gateway animals, then came the raccoons. The raccoons evicted the possums and moved into the attic. The possums were no great squatters either, but they are only about the size of a double-rat, the animal they most resemble. Coons are big, bigger than some cats, and they look so cute in their bandit mask you just wanna pat them on the head and go to their parties. They sleep all day like beatniks or students on vacation, and go out in the evening. They don't get back to the attic until three in the morning, and they are drunk by then so they make a huge racket fighting and body-slamming until they pass out. I used to be like that, but no more. I need my sleep and I don't like waking up to the sound of large animals grooving only inches from my head. The attic floor is pretty thin there and it wouldn't take much for one of them to tumble through into bed with us. That's where Laura drew the line. Something had to be done. We called the city's animal agencies, but they wouldn't come take the raccoons. One "pest control" agency offered to litter the attic with poison hamburgers and pick up the corpses shortly after the agonizing death. A plumber who worked on a sink offered to trap them and eat them. His family'd been eating them for centuries. One outfit offered traps, but they didn't have any in stock. I suggested other choices: we could adjust to the coons' lifestyle and keep the same schedule, or we can move out and let them have the house. Laura wasn't happy with any of these, even though she's a big fan of Animal Planet and has deep empathy and a frightening knowledge of animals of every kind, including spiders and Gilas. She braved the Christmas mobs at the malls and found a steel trap that she baited with cat food, broccoli and carrots, and put it up there. Sure enough! Drunk raccoon comes home after party, smells more buffet and SLAM!, he's in. Now what? I thought that we should call Homeland Security to pick him up, but they don't have an office yet. Happily, Laura's son Will and his friend Dudley, home from college and keeping a schedule the raccoons would understand, offered to take the beast to the river and free it to its ancestral home. (Raccoons lived in the Wild before they found the Attic.) When they brought the trap down, the huge beast was sad, he sat on his folded paws like a resigned sage, and his big tail hung despondently through the wire mesh, resembling, as Ben, Laura's other son, put it, a "mullet," the hairstyle that has its origins in the "coon-skin cap." Ben is a meat-eating observer of popular culture, Will is a vegetarian hunter. Their mother is a woman of action. She had the boys take the coon to the river as far as possible from the house, and then she set the trap for the next beast, kind of an IQ test, really. Is the power of cat food and carrots greater than wisdom? Then she sat contentedly down to watch Animals of the Nativity on TV. Good thing we don't have camels.