Select Page

Summer in SE Portland (4.12.2020) – “The Owl Project”

by | Apr 12, 2020 | Season 1 | 0 comments


Produced for Summer L. in Portland, OR

When I met Summer that day, I didn’t tell her the truth. 

Not too unlike an employee working for a company, I didn’t disclose my true identity. I am only the human host of Storysold: Pest Control. The business is run by my customer service characters: The Pest Predator, Bookmaker, and one of my oldest characters, Wilderness Security Guide. 

I’m not planning to introduce my characters until our Grand Opening, but Guide took a special interest in Summer’s service story. 

You see, Guide knows Summer lives in prime rodent hunting territory, and she never misses an opportunity to feed her wild creature friends. Like I tried to explain during the service, we could set poison around Summer’s home and do our best to kill off every rat and mouse in the neighborhood, or we could do like the wild creatures do…and mark our territory in such a way that rats understand what happens when they cross The Line

An owl has to make a living too! And Wilderness Guide was determined to help Summer push the rats and mice out of her home and force them back into the urban wilderness predators.  

To that end, I suited up, inspected Summer’s home, and I found: 

The vent along the back patio had a gap in front, but that wasn’t the entry point. Not really. It had a monster gap between the patio and the ground that offered the mice (and other creatures) easy access to the unfinished basement/crawl/wild home space. The only thing blocking their entry was a puzzle of non-load bearing, loosely stacked concrete blocks, which were held in place by a piece of wood wedged against the top sill. 

Here’s the front view with the marker I stuff in it > 

The most obvious Tom-and-Jerry hole (low hanging fruit) was in the front yard vent. “It’s too easy,” was Guide’s reply when we found it. I agreed, it’s an entry point, but I’m not convinced it’s the one. That’s why I set a half a dozen traps between it and Summer’s kitchen, where the activity is. 

Note the beautiful shot of your flower. I’m like a photographer! Someday Guide will be in the business of supplying mason bee homes. 

On the other side of that tiny crawl space in front of your home is another gap and possible entrypoint, which I marked > 

That I will need to be repaired from inside and out. It’s kind of a medley of parts that don’t quite fit together. 

Next up is the two vents to the left of the door. They’re not active, but the dry rot has almost completely destroyed their frames. 

“Something must be done about these vents!” cried Guide aloud when she saw the gaps leading from the driveway. 

Next, I found a possible runway in the unfinished basement/lair. That one runs to the bathroom. 

Also there’s a clear rodent runway (which I didn’t photo) leading from the corner next to the back patio vent into the secret/mystery kitchen crawl that also borders this strange monolith > 

And least I forget the two rodent holes in the kitchen (under cabinet and the side of stove), all of which I plan to exclude with foam, wood, metal, or a mouse hunting robot that shoots lasers from its eyes. 

Guide ended our first service with the ritual setting of “fishing traps” to determine the level and direction of activity. Guide never feels good about killing her wilderness creature friends, but she’s knows every creature that crawls, walks, and slithers on earth kills to eat, kills to make clothes and shelter, and kills to protect their home. 

As always, Guide is clear about which side of The Magic Line (between wilderness and civilization) she stands on. She had no qualms about killing the mice in Summer’s home who’d surrendered their wild for an easy roof over their heads, kitchen scraps, and late night dog food snacks.  

“The wilderness is vanishing before our eyes,” she said to her human Jake as he belly crawled through the dirt setting traps. “Humans and their pets can’t be blamed for their domestication. They’re dumbed down and tamed since birth, but I cannot abide traitors. The freeborn wild mice of Southeast Portland have a choice! They know what it means to be wild.” 

Chapter 2: Trapping vs. Exclusion

It was a few weeks before Guide returned to The Owl Project. She had me schedule a full four hours to do some exclusion work, believing that would be enough time to get the job done. 

The Second Service started smoothly enough. Guide read her traps and discovered that she was right. The two entrypoints in front and along the driveway weren’t active. All five (or so) of her kills were in the traps she set in front of The Monster Gap below the back patio. Her theory was, the would be civilized mice—traitors!—were running from that opening right around the corner into what she was calling the “mystery crawlspace.” 

The work fixing the four vents didn’t take too long, but fixing The Monster Gap was more challenging than Guide had imagined. 

“Argh!” I groaned as he twisted his body into place to face the jumble of concrete blocks. “This is going to be a good one.” 

After I played with the blocks for a while like a kid with Legos, a plan began to form in my mind. 

“Yeah, I know…” Guide replied after she heard my plan. 

“What do you mean, you know?” I shouted silently at my teammate as the sweat dripped around the sides of my respirator. “It’s my plan!” 

“Yeah, I know…I gave it to you,” she smiled. “Subliminally.” 

“That’s what I hate about working with characters,” I whined like I always whine when I’m tired. “You’re always trying to take credit for all the good stuff I do, when really it’s all me…me, me, me.” 

“Wrong,” Guide replied coolly. “We, the employed characters of Storysold: Pest Control are the work engines of your brain…your company. You just think it’s your plan because you can’t engage The Action that finally hits you like a boardroom presentation after all its work is done.” 

“Whatever you say Guide,” I huffed as I began to put the plan into action. “I don’t have time for this. We have to be in another crawlspace in a hour.” 

“You know there’s no law that says trapping and exclusion have to be done separately,” Guide offered slyly. “If you don’t finish today…and you saved some for next time…wouldn’t that mean more time, in general, to really get a good read on the trapping situation here?” 

I tried to process that thought as I tried to free my twisted body enough to bend a large piece of hardware cloth in position. “I like that,” I said when I finally caught up. “Checking traps isn’t much of a service anyway, and I bet in time we could get really good at closing off entrypoints one by one, and creating runways that make our traps more effective…” 

“You’re welcome,” Guide beamed proudly.

“For what?!” 

“Giving you another idea.” 

With that, I called it a day and climbed from the darkness. 

As Summer and I talked about Guide’s new action plan to trap and exclude in the same service, I remembered the last text she sent me. Summer said she discovered a new hole in the corner of her kitchen. It was then that I saw it: droppings in corner next to dog door, droppings around the corner from dog door, and the answer to the mysterious crawl space. The mice weren’t coming up, through the pipes like usual…

“Oh my god!” I cried aloud. “It was the dog door all along!” 

“Yeah,” Guide said coolly. “I knew that all along…” 

Then Summer weighed in. “Oh, and I was wondering if they could also be coming in, up through this vent?” 

Then she took a wood panel off the step into her kitchen and we saw the end of the same vent we’d already been trapping below. 

“How did you miss this?” I shouted silently at Guide. “I thought you were supposed to have the supereconomic power of the bird’s eye third person perspective?” 

While I was busy talking to myself, Summer added, “Oh, and my sister also noticed a lot of burrows along the walkway…” 

“Shit sticks!” I cried again—immediately realizing that was likely the spot where the mice were tunneling to The Monster Gap

I had a sudden urge to do the classic pest control guy thing and lie, saying something like, “Yea ma’am, we saw that. We’re leaving that runway open to make our trapping more effective.” 

Lie wrapped in truth. Trapping is more effective if it’s left open, but we did not see the holes. We’d been so hyper focused on the broken vent screens and The Monster Gap we’d completely missed The Big Picture.  

Chapter 3: The Action

Humiliated and humbled, my third service was all action. I planned out the new frame and screen combination for The Monster Gap, drank a lot of coffee, and fashioned it into being. I was surprised how well it went together. 

I only used one small piece of concrete block! 

I don’t have a before photo of the Monster Gap, but try to imagine 2 concrete blocks holding up a 2×4 and a highway of entry holes running from the gap under the back patio into Summer’s home.

Next I foamed the gaps around the kitchen vent from the crawlspace, a few feet from The Monster Gap. I also foamed the strange monolith (not shown here) around the corner. 

Then I added store bought screens to the two vents along the driveway to reinforce the work I’d already done in crawl space. 

By that time, Summer was gone. She had a meeting, so she told me to lock up before I left. I remember talking to her. I was in The Action zone, and it felt like everything I said to her was jangled and awkward. Sometimes it’s hard for me—and the rest of my team—to make what I call The Leap, or The Leap of Leaps. Basically, The Leap is that transition we humans make all the time from introspection/focus/deep thought or action to relating in real time with other characters on The World Stage. It’s like staring at a movie screen for hours, then trying to speak intelligently to your friends.  

The work in the kitchen went smoothly. I don’t like using foam, so I used metal and hardware cloth to exclude most of the inside entry points:

And how could I forget the dog door!

“Feel the cold steel of exclusion rodents!”

Chapter 4: Ranger Jane to The Rescue

I imagine there’s a scene that played in a parallel dimension where a cop pulled me over in our farm truck, Ranger Jane, and asked, “So what’s all this…gravel for?” 

And I answer, “Pest control.” 

“Yeah sure, bub,” He’d laugh. “Tell me another one!” 

“No really,” I’d plead. “I’m going to drop this on a bunch of burrows.” 

Then he’d laugh again, wave me on, and call all his buddies that night and tell them the story of the idiot pest control operator who hauled a truck full of gravel to his customer’s home for “pest control.” 

“All you have to do is kill them,” he’d laugh. “Drop a five dollar pack of bait in their burrows and they’ll be dead by dawn!” 

That’s when my New Other Self in another parallel dimension other than the first parallel dimension I introduced would ask the cop, “Wouldn’t it be ‘smarter’ to just kill criminals? Bullets are cheap and prisons are a multi-million dollar industry. Why don’t you do that?” 

Meanwhile, back in reality, Guide and I cleared the weeds and built a wall to keep the gravel in, and then hung the CLOSED FOR TUNNELLING sign along her walkway.  

Before our team left that day, we foamed the entry point at the bottom of Summer’s stairs, reset the traps in the basement crawl, set a few “fishing trap” outside near hot tub, and promised our patron to return to make sure all the would-be civilized house mice died a merciful death under the yoke of our traps and exclusion. 

Chapter 5 (or so): That’s a Wrap

Our service story here ended many months later. I returned to patch an entry hole in my Monster Gap exclusion work, clear 3 dead rats from the outside Volehalla boxes I set, and confirm that a new uprising of activity in the upstairs room was the result of leaving the doggie door open at night.

I like to think that the owls of the neighborhood would now be a little fatter, but that might be one of those classic over-the-top romanticism of nature we Oregon born granola crunchers are known for. I do know, however, it’s not a romanticism to say I’m going to miss my chats with Summer.

She’s one of the good guys for sure.


The Dialogue


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Living City: Origin of Storysold on sale now!

$25 bucks gets you a handcrafted, 500 page, fully illustrated reading adventure to the city that started it all!