PRODUCED FOR ANNA AT HAGRID’S CABIN, AN AIRBNB THAT WE’VE SERVED SINCE AUGUST 21, 2019.
“High on Larch Mt., overlooking The Columbia River that once brought the first invasive humans to Oregon, there stood a cabin so wild and beautiful it broke reality, beyond The Fourth Wall, to that magical place where Lamorians run through the trees looking for gold, wizards battle dragons with sticks, and Rubeus Hagrid the Gentle Gamekeeping Giant sometimes struggles to keep his mouse friends out of his beard…”
I am Wilderness Security Guide, the environmental control operator in charge of rodent services for Storysold: Pest Control. I feel like I should make some kind of apology or disclaimer for the service story you’re about to read, but I’m not. Instead I’m going to be a good teammate and say nice things about this story. I authorized Bookmaker Jake to ghost write it for me, and I hope you enjoy it!
For a few years the lovable star of the Harry Potter series, Rubeus Hagrid, was able to balance his wizardly duties and do his job as gamekeeper too.
He tried to run missions for Abus Dumbledore, help Harry and his friends when he got in trouble, and still have time to make his nightly rounds in the forest managing the populations of hippogriffs and flobberworms.
He tried, but his fellow wizards were needy. Villain after villain rose from the pages of their lives like roaches in a Vegas diner, and they all depended on their old buddy Hagrid to stand and fight The Good Fight with them.
Then one day it happened. The stress of his daily heroism found a name…
He returned to one of his favorite cabins overlooking The Columbia River Gorge after a long day of wizarding, plopped down in his cozy chair, and fell asleep. When he woke he rubbed his eyes and looked down, into his beard, for the first time in months. He couldn’t believe it. There was a small family of mice nesting right under his nose!
“What the..!?” Hagrid exclaimed. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Nesting,” they replied in unison.
“Not on my watch you’re not!” he thundered as he rose, shaking the mice from his beard. The family all jumped and ran, scattering in all directions.
As gamekeeper, it was his job to keep the populations of wild creatures in the forest from becoming a mysterious force few Muggles know anything about. The word Hagrid and his friends use to describe That Thing Creatures Become When They’re Not in Control of Themselves cannot be translated into Muggle, but the closest inaccurate English word is the word “infestation.” The Infestation is that unseen thing a herd, flock, band, pack, tribe, gaggle, or family can become when their population becomes too large to manage, or control, without outside help. The most obvious sign of The Infestation is a lack of conflict (and wildness) within the population, which inspires healthy doses of diversity and balance. Predator free shelter, abundant food, and the creation of a singular population control center, all are signs of the phenomena Hagrid and his wizard friends nicknamed, The Suck.
Hagrid understood the dangers of keeping dangerous pets more than anyone. It got him in trouble more than once. (Remember the dragon egg!) He was very aware that any creature caught in “an infestation spell” loses all control of themselves. Like a bad house cat (or a growing baby dragon), the infestation spell makes its host feel free, almost immortal, like they will never have to worry about food, shelter, or death ever again. They surrender their wildness, responsibility, and control of their actions to the singular, centralized control center of The Infestation. Once they do, they fall into The Suck like a zombie. They live to feed (and feed to live) like a pet, because The Suck has reduced the diverse range of actions the wild creatures were once capable of producing to One Scripted Routine. “More” is the only action The Suck knows, and all it’s energy is hyper-focused on making big, even bigger.
Deep down, Hagrid loved wild creatures: dragons, spiders, and monster dogs, so he didn’t try to trap the mice at first. He tried to cast protection spells on his cabin with his umbrella wand, but it didn’t work. As soon as he cast his first spell, Voldemort countered his spell by opening hidden portals in the walls, under the siding, under the doors, and underground for the mice to enter the cabin.
To make matters worse, when Hagrid wasn’t in his cabin on Larch Mt., he allowed a few of his favorite Muggle friends to rest and relax there. Few Muggles know this, but he was the first to coin the term “Airbnb.” Hagrid could have asked for their help fighting The Infestation, but he knew Dumbledore would frown on the idea of teaching Muggles the gamekeepers’ magic.
Luckily, a half-wizard friend of his Anna heard about Hagrid’s troubles on Larch Mt. and flew in her magic van to help. The first thing she did was wait for Hagrid and his friends to leave, and then she had a heart-to-heart with the mice.
“You’re under Voldemort’s infestation spell,” she spoke in Mouseese.
“Say what?” the mice laughed.
“No seriously,” Anna explained. “You need to leave the cabin before you become so well fed and unafraid of predators you lose your wildness forever.”
“Ha, ha, ha!” the mice laughed louder. “Silly Muggle! We are mice! It’s scientifically impossible for wild mice to lose the wildness of our characters. Any real wizard knows that!”
Anna tried to warn the mice away from The Infestation a few more times, but her word spells had no lasting effect on them. She wasn’t a wild creature, but she was a half wizard…and she knew that most earth creatures are more likely to understand, respect, and respond to action spells.
So she dug deep and began to cast action spells…
She didn’t know the gamekeepers’ magic, but she knew the Muggle version of gamekeepers’ magic. Humans call the people do who that sort of Muggle magic “pest control operators,” and Anna decided to hire a new nearby company to trap the mice in the cabin and send a clearer message of action she hoped they would understand.
Roughly, translated into mousese, the message Anna wanted to send was “Stay out!”
The new company was calling itself “Storysold: Pest Control.” It was owned and operated by a human named Jake. Unlike other companies, Storysold: Pest Control wasn’t a normal business entity. It didn’t have its own immaterial governing body and or corporate character that hosts the actions of many humans. Storysold: Pest Control is a human: one organic, hand-shakable, flawed and fleshy governing body named Jake who hosts many live action, customer service characters. Hosting many characters helps him stay balanced, in control, wild, and free from the troubles caused by the self infesting, addictive, responsibility sucking super characters that rule most companies. Storysold was founded on the simple fact that a pest control company has to first be able to control itself before it can control anything else.
Day one on the job, Jake brought his whole team of “stage magic” customer service characters along to help Hagrid and Anna battle Voldemont’s infestation spell: Wilderness Security Guide, The Pest Predator, and Bookmaker Jake, but Jake chose Wilderness Security Guide to play the main character for our production of Hagrid’s Cabin. She usually leads all our rodent services with her sharp-eye for tracking The Action, but Predator sometimes takes the lead when she needs the help.
Guide cleared and reset the first company’s old traps, and then he added twice as many in places where he suspected Voldemort had cast his hidden entry portals. Guide doesn’t use anti-coagulant bait poisons like most rodent control operators, because she’s very aware that everything, including poisoned mice, will one day end up on her plate. Besides, it takes skill to use traps. And Guide the one of the best in the business of trapping creatures caught in The Infestation.
On our second service to Hagrid’s cabin, Guide cleared seven mice from her traps. Her end game wasn’t to kill mice. She didn’t didn’t see her role as a wild, live action human character to be the primary predator of mice. Like a good, all-American tycoon, she believe in delegation. She considered mice hunting (and digesting) the work of lesser predators like owls, weasels, fox, and hawks. Guide was hunting The Infestation—The Suck itself–and every tripped trap gave her more information about the size, strength, and movement of the unseen, immaterial, super villain she was tracking in The Action of the cabin like a Ghostbuster tracking an unwanted phantasm.
The second customer service character on Jake’s pest control team was The Pest Predator. Predator was much too alien to be a human character. He embraced his weaknesses–traits the humans called Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism, and Bi-Polar Disorder–and transformed them into strengths. Like Guide, he specialized in the finding of entry holes and infestation portals and shutting them down, but unlike his teammate, Predator was gifted with The 2nd Person Perspective, a fierce love/hate relationship with The Action that’s needed for tracking and hunting the mircoworld of insects. While Predator belly crawled every accessible inch of the cabin tracking the microworld for signs of The Dark Lord’s entry portals, Wilderness Guide flew high above The Action and cobbled a working description of The Infestation from her Bird’s Eye Perspective.
One of Guide’s first discoveries was a mouse-sized gap under the door leading up from the basement, which she believed accounted for the activity Hagrid’s guests reported in the kitchen and other places in the cabin. She also found a few large holes that looked like burrows leading from the outside down under the foundation. On her second service she filled them with gravel. On the
Predator and Guide have a lot of themes in common, but the one that polarizes them is the use of chemicals, poisons, and pesticides. Pest Predator is our chemical control operator. He believes in the targeted use of chemicals to control bugs and rodents, but Guide does not. She hates using blood thinning anti-coagulant poisons on her mice friends for two reasons: 1) slowly bleeding to death inside over the span of 24 to 48 hours is a cruel way to kill any earth creature, and 2) introducing poison baits to The Food Chain is bad. At best it spoils her owl friends’ meals; at worse it can kill them.
Normally, pest control companies put bait poisons in stations outside homes and businesses to thin rodent populations. It’s by far the most common method of rodent control. Clearly our team needed some way of thinning the rodent population outside Hagrid’s cabin, but how to do that, in the best of all possible ways, was far clear. That’s when, I (Bookmaker Jake) was asked to host an official team meeting for the purpose of writing a new service storyline. My teammates will deny this at every turn, but I’m the real leader here. I’m gifted with The First Person Perspective.
After a long jangled meeting, we finally agreed to put action to the storyline we called, The Volehalla Rodent System. It was already in existence. We used for “open field trapping” at Farmer Emily’s Full Cellar Farm, but our “shelter bait” rodent boxes had yet to be tested for use around home fronts and other human territories. Here’s a brief description of that storyline:
THE VOLEHALLA RODENT SYSTEM: All the voles, field mice, and rats living on your farm or garden know is, “game on.” Food is everywhere, and their natural predators are eating Science Diet for their urinary track infections. The Master Switch flips and their population explodes. Now, instead of facing predators, they begin to police themselves and form rank structures and hierarchies. No wild creature enjoys being policed by their own (it’s humiliating), so the brave ones—the missionaries, soldiers, and astronauts—explore in hope of a better world. “Oh utopia! Oh heaven! Oh shelter! Oh Portland!” The ratonauts see that dark, unexplored hole in our shelter-bait rodent box and snap! Their ancestors welcome them through the gates of Volehalla.
It was the first time since Jake began to host Storysold: Pest Control that all three of his customer service characters worked As One Flesh on a single storyline: Predator picked likely rodent runways, Guide trained her owl-like eyes on the foundation searching for portals, Jake followed their advice and installed the Volehalla boxes around the cabin, and I (Bookmaker Jake) inspired the team by stealing glances at the cabin’s beautiful view of The Columbia River Gorge.
The Volehalla Rodent System was an immediate success. The numbers of mice we caught inside dropped as the numbers caught outside increased. In some cases, one box would catch as many as four mice in the five traps set in a row between the holes. We had no way to measure its success against a classic poison bait station system, because the bait stations have no way of tracking how many mice, rats, or small squirrels it kills. Only how much poison has been consumed from the station by some earth creature, which often included ants and slugs.
Based on the advise of Hagrid’s friendly neighbor, we set a few for rats around an unused shed. We only had 4 traps set, and the boxes caught 2 rats in a month.
It was that service, when we cleared the 2nd rat from our trap, the smell of death triggered the presence of a familiar character: Voldemort!
“Looks like you’re really winning Guide!” Voldemort laughed. “No doubt, Anna and Hagrid will be proud of the work your little band of rebel characters are doing here.”
“Band of rebels?” Guide laughed back. “We’re not rebelling against anything. We’re the new norm in pest control, so you better get used to it.”
The Dark Lord flew a few feet higher than Guide’s bird’s eye perch, robbing her of her usual perspective high ground. “Oh sorry about that crack about rebels,” he snickered. “I’ve never read any of The Harry Potter books, so I have to imagine what this Voldemort guy sounds like to you humans. Darth Vader is always a favorite. In my humble opinion, he’s the classic figurehead for the classic human infestation called ’empire.’ Oh how I love to hear those empires grow and go pop!”
“Yeah sure,” Guide said as she panned her perspective out, a few feet further than The Infested Head, like a cat struggling with its human to stay atop its pride. “Whatever you say, wacko.”
“Yes,” he snickered again. “I have to say I love watching you try to battle my infestation with you’re primitive control techniques. You’re no match for the power of my magic.”
“What magic?” Guide replied. “I can track any action on earth, even magic ones.”
“This has been so much fun!” he roared with laughter. “I hate to ruin it by telling you the truth.”
Guide eyed her prey as he once again took The High Ground from her.
“Ok you win. Tell me the truth about what?”
“I’ll make you a deal,” The Dark Lord said, tapping his fingertips together. “If you acknowledge the fact that most heroes are repressives who struggle to share their feelings and emotions with others, and generally fear any real relationship that forces them to break out of their righteous, little, indivisible Truth Castles, I will do my villain thing and share my diabolical plan with you…”
Guide took a quick survey of her teammates. Predator was busy tracking a nearby ant trail, obviously unimpressed by Guide’s banter with The Dark Lord. Bookmaker, on the other hand, was loving every moment of it. He was grinning big like a proud parent, giving Guide two thumbs up.
“Sharing is what grown adults do,” was all Bookmaker had to say on the subject.
“Yeah,” Guide sighed. “I see your point. Villains can be better at communicating than heroes.”
“Not good enough,” he beamed infectiously. “I want you to admit that villains, as a whole, are a lot better at sharing their feelings than heroes. That’s why they always lose. Heroes take the sharing as a sign of weakness, and use it against them. Happens in every Hollywood action movie featuring Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Mel Gibson, and The Rock.”
“Leave The Rock out of this!” Guide shot back, suddenly very angry. “I love The Rock.”
Voldemort was cool as a cucumber. “Whatever you say Hero.”
Guide took a long, deep breath and said, “You’re right. Villains as a whole are a lot better at sharing their feelings than heroes.”
When Voldemort heard that he cupped his hands to his mouth and announced, “Did you hear that one Hagrid? How about you Anna? You hired a real villain sympathizer here…next thing you know she’ll be filling your fridge with free-range chicken eggs and organic vegetables!”
“Good one…” Guide said unenthusiastically. “Now it’s your turn.”
“Sorry, I couldn’t help myself…I just wanted to show you how I could spin the drama and use your sharing of feelings against you…you know if I wanted to do so.”
“Get on with it! We have a bedbug hunt in an hour!”
“Ok, ok, keep your feathers on,” he smiled. “I hate to ruin my diabolical plan by sharing it with you, but that’s what we villains do. We self-destruct. Like an infestation that runs out of control.”
“You’re still stalling…” Guide said as she folded her arms and flew higher than before.
“I call my plan, Systemic Death Production Disorder,” Voldemort said, settling into his perspective a few feet below Guide. “I have you all so EXCITED about sending all your wilderness creature friends to Volehalla, you’ve forgotten all about ending my infestation.
Guide was speechless. Truth hurt.
“Keep this up,” The Dark Lord continued, “you’ll be no better than my immortal generic character The Orkin Man. You’ll get rich, one reoccurring monthly service at a time. Embrace it. It’ll be easy. And besides, why would you ever want to end your service to such a beautiful story?”
He had us there. Hagrid’s cabin was a beautiful place to work, but we’d made Hagrid and Anna a promise to hunt and end The Infestation.
Guide sat at the edge of our van, looking glumly into The Wilderness with the smell of the dead rat sill in her nose. She didn’t know what to do. She’d poured gravel in all the holes around the foundation she could find, installed a fancy foam door sweep on the basement door, and excluded all the entry holes she could find around the exterior. Even Predator agreed they’d run out of ideas.
While all this drama was happening outside, Anna and Hagrid were hanging out inside quietly watching The Action. Until now, neither of them had used any magic to help the Muggle owned pest control company they hired to battle The Infestation.
“Do you suppose we should help her?” Hagrid asked as he picked through his beard, looking for signs of mice that were no longer there.
“We should,” she smiled, “but it feels so nice to relax…you know…let the Muggles figure it out for themselves. Like big kids.”
“I hear that!” Hagrid chuckled joyfully. “It has been nice to relax…and stop rushing off to fix every crisis that Harry and his friends get themselves into…”
The two wizards didn’t talk for a nice long while. They shared a few homemade newt head cookies dunked in purple dragon’s milk, and pretended to be like humans and watch a TV show.
“I’m going to do it,” Hagrid said out of The Blue.
“I already did,” Anna grinned and dunked another newt head cookie in her dragon’s milk.
Hagrid looked around, trying to spot Anna’s sly act of magic. Finding nothing out of the ordinary, he looked over at his old friend and asked, “I give up. What did you do?”
“I cast a winter spell,” Anna chuckled. “Guide should discover it anytime now.”
“A winter spell!” Hagrid boomed with joy. “Brilliant!”
Right on cue, when Guide was done falling into The Suck of defeat, she and Predator took another lap around the foundation and saw it. It was a clear rodent tunnel along the edge of the foundation they’d missed the month before, because of a bush had blocked their view.
Anna’s Winter Spell had made all the leaves wither and fall, reveling an entry tunnel leading directly under the foundation!
“Ha!” Guide cried aloud when we found it. “Take that Voldemort!”
The Dark Lord watched at a distance as our team dug out the tunnel, plugged the entry point with foam, and covered the trail with gravel. The portal that had fed The Infestation for so long was now officially CLOSED.
“Drat!” Voldemort cried, feigning defeat. “I should have never shared my diabolical plan with you characters! Alack, alack! Now I shall never win!”
While Predator and Guide worked, basking in the glow of their victory, Bookmaker Jake wondered how a villain could lose with so much flare and intention and still be The Villain. There has to be something we’re missing here, Bookmaker thought to himself. I think that Asshole’s letting us win…but I don’t know why. Is he somehow still winning…and quietly robbing us of our victory?
I can’t be sure. Maybe I imagined it. But I thought I saw The Infestation flicker, fade, and suck back into the immaterial form of Voldemort. Ones and zeroes, The Suck had simply changed vectors. The mice were now no longer the agents of infestation, The Dark Lord had taken the all power of The Infestation into himself like a dragon sucking in oxygen for another fireball.
We felt that The End was near, but we still hadn’t had a service were no mice were caught inside. For a true victory, we needed to clear Hagrid’s beard for good…
Two months later, we were checking the Volehalla boxes behind the shed. It must have just happened. The snake, a beautiful fat red racer, was writhing with its head caught in a rat trap.
Bookmaker was convinced it was Voldemort in the flesh. “Kill it!” he cried in fear.
As usual, I didn’t listen to my teammate. But I too had become convinced that we needed to kill the snake. Not for fear, but for mercy. I was sure the snake wouldn’t survive…
Shovel in hand, I was about to do The Right Thing and “put it out of its misery” when I felt the weight of a familiar giant’s hand rest on our head. Hagrid didn’t say anything. He simply laughed like he was watching a child trying to tie their own shoes for the first time.
I put down the shovel, opened the box, and lifted the bar from the snake’s neck. Then I went about my business.
When we returned at The End of our service, the snake was nowhere to be seen.
It had vanished back into The Wilderness to live another day.