Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two Cases from the Mystery Pile

Case no. 1: Who keeps leaving bags of dog crap in my trash can?

It might be a dog. Eager to please. All twisted up because he's got to go, and there isn't time to get home. Someone has left one of those newspaper bags, the plastic ones they stick over the newspaper even when it's not raining, left by a pile of leaves. The poor dog looks left, right, discreetly excretes in the little bag, ties it in a knot, and drops it in the trash can.

I put on one of those deerstalker caps, grab a magnifying glass, and canvass the neighborhood.

"I'm investigating a case of illegal dumping," I say to the dog.

He puts his head down, looks up at me from under his dog eyebrows, says, "Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry." Tries to lick my hand. Rolls over and exposes his vulnerable belly.

I think he was framed. Sure, there's the the knot thing, I see that. And how did he get the lid off the trash can? I don't buy it. There's a deeper mystery here.

I'm afraid to put a note on the trash can. "Take your dog crap home," it would say.

"No thanks," the perpetrator would say. "I'll just leave it here on your doorstep if you don't want it in the trash can. I think I'll put it in a paper bag and set fire to it."

So now it's a case of illegal dumping and arson.

But I can be pretty sure it wasn't the dog that did it. Maybe fire ants. Or a small dragon.

I'm going to leave this case for someone else. Recuse myself. I'm too close to it. There's a conflict of interest.

Case no. 2: What are those dark, skittering shapes I keep seeing out of the corners of my eyes?

Here's what I think. I think they're dust mice. All the little balls of dust and cobwebs from the corners, all piled up under the bed.

There was a power outage last week. A surge when the power came back on, and a little spark went rocketing around the room. Passed from corner to corner, and all the little dust mice came to life.

I can tell they're there. There's a smell of dust and ozone. Something's been chewing through the vacuum cleaner bags.

But you can never catch them. Out of the corner of your eye—zip! Gone when you look. Only detectable by the rod cells in your retina, the light-gathering, low-resolution ones, so when you look straight at them with all the cones in the center, you don't see anything. Only a disturbance in the air, like a golf-ball-sized patch of heat shimmer over a hot sidewalk.

You have to catch them with a trap. Put out little piece of wheat, grains of rice. The dust mice will come. Start nibbling. You can't see them straight on, so use a reflective surface. Look at them reflected in an old VW hubcap, Perseus style, then suck them up in the vacuum cleaner. Take the bag out immediately. Go over to the neighbors' and leave it in the trash can with that newspaper bag full of dog crap.

Case closed.

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