There are a few nights a year when it’s hot enough on the island to sleep outside. I love those nights. I pull the old futon mattress out from under the bed, pitch it from the loft onto the couch downstairs then drag it outside to the far end of the deck. I lay out a blanket, pillow, sleeping bag, and nestle in. It’s always cool out there in the evening unlike the loft where all the heat of the day collects and waits.
A few weeks ago, I had one of these delicious nights. Sortly after my head hit the pillow my friend the brown bat came to visit, flitting overhead in the fading light. In the middle of the night I got up to use the bathroom and when I came back I startled a heron from a nearby Douglas fir, sending him into an awkward, squawky flight. Then I fell back to sleep to the sound of the water shuffling the rocks on the beach. I slept soundly until I woke to a screech.
It sounded like cats or rats fighting on the beach. There was a sound that was kind of a rattle and kind of a growl. It was a little like purring only mad – really mad – and then more screeching and the sounds of nocturnal animal bodies crashing into the rocks. This went on and on. I tried to picture them; at least one was a river otter. Maybe they were both otters. One could also have been a raccoon or maybe some kind of rat. I wondered what they were fighting over. Turf? Dominance? The remote? Who would do the dishes or fold the last load of laundry? Did someone forget to take the garbage out again? (Perhaps I over-react.)
Turf. It was probably turf. Maybe one of the otters had a totally swank den, a totally private little haven on a point with views of three other islands, where the beach transitioned from rock to pebbles to sand, next to the cove where the crabbing was best. Maybe someone else wanted their little piece of paradise. I hoped they’d work it out, for the sake of my sleep and for them, but I could hardly blame them. It was worth fighting for. When it continued on and on I finally got up, dragged my sleeping bag inside and climbed the stairs to my perfect, cooled-off den.