It was a dark and stormy night. Well, sort of. It was getting dark and storms were in the forecast. I was at the cottage and had just finished putting the new coverlet on the bed in the back room. I checked the bathroom to make sure there was enough soap and shampoo. It was then that I first heard it.
It was a mournful cry….muffled and sort of distant….like something in distress or pain…something that needed help. Oh no, my mind raced, the poor thing – how long had it been crying? What was wrong? Could I help it? Where was it trapped? And….most importantly, what was it?
Could it be a bird trapped in the gutter outside? – I opened the windows and looked, listened in the other rooms, went outside and looked up at the roof, ….no it seemed to be in the bathroom….odd.
Having read too many Nancy Drew books in my childhood, I knew I had to investigate and find this “creature” before the guests checked in the next day. (It seems these things always happen when Bruce is out of town – he left early that morning for an art show in Maryland.) Being the (not so) brave innkeeper, I quickly sought the help of my friendly neighbors, Kathy and Bob. They are, after all, used to our antics as innkeepers – it’s part of the price of knowing the Garrabrandts - and sharing the adventures of running an inn and two houses. Surely they would know what to do.
I found Kathy with Michael at the kitchen table going through the spelling list for school – equivalent and beverage were the hard words for the night. Kathy suggested that it might be a bird stuck in the attic. The attic – a look of horror must have come over my face because she quickly volunteered Bob to investigate. By law we must keep the door to the attic locked (no second means of egress from that floor). So the first order of business was to find the key.
A call to Bruce bought forth the following: “it’s a small silver key next to the kitchen door”. We live in an old house – 160 years old. In that time lots of keys have collected on the key rack behind the kitchen door – in fact some would say there’s a convention taking place. Where these keys belong is anyone’s guess, but we are hesitant to throw any away because surely we will need that very key the next day, even if we never used it. It’s just the law of keys. So as I’m looking for the small silver key, there are no less than a dozen that would fit that description. Half of these fall off the little hooks and onto the floor, where the cats are quick to “help” me, as they become the latest soccer toy.
With my keys in hand, I set off for the cottage – thinking that if none of these fit the lock, I won’t bother Kathy and Bob and the poor creature will have to wither away in the attic. Maybe it won’t smell too bad and when Bruce comes home he can smash the lock off the door. My mind was racing. Did I mention that it is now dark? Luckily, Bob and Kathy see the lights on at the cottage and are brave enough to both come over. Michael also shows up at the door, but Kathy tells him to go home, fearing that whatever is in the attic will come flying after the three of us….
And so we start up the stairs to the second floor. Step by step we climb higher…and enter the bathroom. All is quiet. And then it starts. Low and mournful, we all hear it and a silent look passes between us. What the heck is that noise?
There is no choice but to try to get into the attic…and so we go to the back bedroom toward the lock…..luck is with us as the third key fits, the lock unsnaps and we slowly open the door and listen…….all is quiet…the creature is probably just up the steps waiting for someone. Kathy and I manage to step back in unison as Bob, (hey, he’s the guy), bravely reaches behind the door, turns on the light and starts the long walk up the attic steps…alone.
Kathy and I look at each other – surely there will be a yelp or a scream any second as the creature comes flying around the corner. Visions from "The Birds" flood my mind from some dark recess.
But all is quiet. We hear a few footsteps…..and then, when Kathy and I can’t stand it any longer, we tentatively yell out….Bob? A muffled voice from the back of the house says “there’s nothing up here, I can’t hear the noise”.
Confused, the three of us now head back to the bathroom. Bob is listening to the wall, Kathy is inside the shower listening to the drain and she determines that it’s too rhythmic a sound to be an animal – perhaps it’s a child’s toy or some kind of alarm. I center on the area around the toilet. With one brave move I lift off the tank cover and there it is.
We all stare in amazement.
I will pause here to explain that almost everything in the cottage was replaced, removed or repaired when we remodeled. Everything, that is, except the toilet. Being an innkeeper I qualify as a semi-expert on toilets. (And having had eight old ones and one new one, that darn new one gave us so many problems that we tore it out and swapped it with an old one – there is no sight quite so terrifying for an innkeeper than a guest with a plunger in their hands morning after morning.) So no matter how much the plumber wanted to sell us a new toilet for the cottage, I held firm and kept this old one.
The noise is coming from inside the tank. The three of us watch in amazement as a mixture of air and water move rhythmically back and forth in the tube connected to the round bowl connected to the flapper.
And then Bob flushes the toilet.
All is quiet.
And so, the mystery of the noise at the cottage is solved and life in Terre Hill is once again peaceful.