We invited my sister-in-law over and dined alfresco for the first time in weeks. Chartreuse crepe myrtle blooms, light pink Buddleia florets and feathery, purple-blue Caryopteris flowers decorated the shrubs forming a botanical privacy fence around the deck. I cut fresh chives for baked potatoes, inhaling their sweet, mild onion scent and the KC strips sizzling on the grill. An Eastern Swallowtail drank from the morning glory vine and a fruit fly swam in drunken splendor in my Chardonnay.
Dinner was simple but delicious, courtesy of RJ. I was loading dishes in the dishwasher when he grabbed a bowl of salad remnants and the small plate holding the steak scraps.
“Hey,” I yelled out the back door. “You can’t put meat in the compost pile. We don’t want the coyotes coming closer.”
“I’m not!” RJ yelled back.
“Well, bring them back and I’ll put them in a Ziploc so they don’t stink up the garage.”
RJ poked his head in the back door and gave me his look— a blank, Buddhist, schooled expression that encourages me to try anything to wipe it off his face.
“I’m going to use the steak scraps for bait.”
“That,” I said emphatically, “is the most absurd idea you’ve had yet. Armadillos do not eat steak.”
“Sure they do.”
“They do not,” I said, in a frequency bats could hear; one that prompted my sister-in-law to look for China at the bottom of her purse.
RJ shrugged. “I’m going to try it.”
I escorted my sister-in-law to her car when she was ready to leave. Her anxiety over armadillos had increased and she wanted to check her garden for damage. I barely waved goodbye as she pulled out of the driveway. I hurried to the armadillo trap site to harangue her brother in peace.
“What’s going on?” I demanded. “You know we can’t put meat in the compost pile. Did you forget about the fun times we had with raccoons when we lived at Austin Place or the pregnant wolf that escaped from Predator World? She probably bore her pups in the Mark Twain National Forest—our back yard, and taught them to follow the scent of fat dripping off a grill.”
“No, I think this will get the armadillo’s attention,” RJ said calmly. “He’ll smell the scraps and follow his nose into the cage.”
We watched two episodes of The Killing before he walked to the bay window and pressed his face to the glass, cupping his hands around his eyes.
“See anything?” I asked.
“No, I’m blinded by Ruth’s solar lights.” Our neighbor to the east has expensive solar lights lining the top of her large deck; another reason creatures prefer our yard at night.
“Maybe you should check the trap before we go to bed,” I said.
“Not a bad idea,” RJ replied. He grabbed his powerful flashlight; one advertised for mining and spelunking, and headed outside. He was back before I found out if the lamp stored in a horse stall for a hundred and three years was a Louise Comfort Tiffany.
“Any luck?” I asked politely.
“I caught something.”
“You caught our neighbor’s cat?”
“She’s fine. She loved her surprise treat.”
“Thank God we bought a catch and release trap.”
RJ sighed and stretched out in a chair on the deck. Miss Daisy sat in the chair beside him washing her greasy face with her delicate white paws. She was in no hurry to go home to her Meow Mix.
“I think I know what I’m going to try next,” RJ said.
“La, la, la,” I sang, covering my ears. “Wah, wah, wah,” I said as I walked away.