The Mystery of the Ketchup Bandit

About a month ago, we were all loading up in the car to head to church when I discovered something odd: some ketchup packets were open in the driver’s seat with a bit of ketchup on the seat itself.  That was strange.  No one had used any ketchup inside the car for quite a while.  The packets had been in a little storage area between the seats.

My first thought was that one of the kids was trying to play a trick on us, but they eventually convinced me that wasn’t true.  Gradually, we believed that one of the neighbor kids had done it as a prank – a ketchup bandit!  The garage door was able to be opened by simply pulling up on it, so it would have been easy for someone to do.  That thought was a little unnerving nonetheless, so my husband fixed the door so it wouldn’t open from the outside, and we were sure to keep the garage door that enters the house locked at all times.

Several days later, we noticed some bits of paper in the floorboard that hadn’t been there before.  Our car has never been exactly immaculate, but this debris definitely wasn’t in that spot previously.  That morning, Megan told me about a dream she had the night before.  In the dream, she had opened the refrigerator and gotten some strawberry milk (which was extra-unusual since we hadn’t ever bought any strawberry milk to have in the house).  One of the bits of paper in the floorboard of the car was off of a bottle of strawberry Nesquik milk that my husband had bought on a recent road trip.

This led to a new theory: Megan was the ketchup bandit and had been in the garage in her sleep!  Nathan had several incidences of sleep-walking when he was about 4 or 5 years old, so it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility for Megan to do the same thing, even though I’d never witnessed it.  I started locking the car doors, even when it was in the garage, to keep Megan from possibly entering and getting into some sort of danger.

Nothing else happened for several days until one morning when we discovered a big, big mess.  There were lots of bits of white stuff all over the back seat.  We had taken a bowl of rice to a party at a neighbor’s house the day before, so my first thought was that a bunch had spilled out on the way back home.  It did look a lot like rice.  But then Nathan touched it.  It wasn’t hard like you would expect dried-out rice to be.  It was soft and fluffy.  It was mostly white with bits of brown.  It was part of the back seat!!  A hole about 2 inches wide and about 2 inches deep had been chewed into the cushion near the seat belt attachment.  On further investigation, I also found that a hole had been chewed into the small bottle of hand sanitizer that I kept in the front of the car.  Yikes!

The ketchup bandit certainly wasn’t Megan.  She might do some unusual things sometimes, but she wouldn’t chew out part of a car seat.  It was some sort of critter!  Eek!

We’ve been trying to trap the thing(s) ever since, to no avail.  It likes peanut butter and somehow manages to clean it right off of the traps without getting caught.  After finding that the papers in our glove compartment had been chewed, along with other … evidence …, my husband put a trap in there.  The next morning – the trap was snapped, the peanut butter was completely gone, and there was no sign of the mouse.

We kept wondering – was it really a mouse?  was it a rat?  could it be a squirrel?  What was it?

The kids and I were discussing these possibilities out running errands today when Megan said, “I think I just saw it.”  Since suggestion is a powerful force, I thought/hoped she was imagining it.  Was she sure?  Yes, she was sure.

Then Nathan saw it.  They were hollering.  I was hollering.  Where was it?  Where was it?  All the while, I’m driving down the road.  And then, just as I pulled into a turn lane, it ran up between my feet!!  I screamed.  The kids screamed.  All pandemonium broke loose.

I had to somehow come to a stop while keeping my feet off the floorboard.  As soon as I stopped, I put the car in park, and opened my door, hoping it would run out.  But it didn’t.  I didn’t know where it had gone, and I was stopped at a traffic light in the very center of town.  Finally, the light turned green for me to turn left, I sped through the intersection, pulled off at the very first available place, and we all got out of the car.

Oh my goodness!!

We spent the next almost two hours at the Bojangle’s next to where I had parked.  I refused to get back in the car.  It took quite a while for me to calm back down.  I was as shaken up as if I’d been in a wreck.  Thankfully, I hadn’t!  In fact, as soon as we got out of the car, we stopped to thank God for protecting us and not letting it happen somewhere much more dangerous.

[On a positive note, we discovered that Bojangle’s sweet potato pies are AWESOME!  Nathan declared them to be his second-favorite food in all the world (the first still being Krispy Kreme donuts).]

Eventually, David was able to leave work and come get us.  A coworker helped him go back to retrieve the car.  And it looks like we’re now in the market for another vehicle.  (That may sound extreme, but it/they appear to be behind the firewall of the engine, so we can’t get to the nest.)  Would you want to risk that happening again??

So, how was your day?