So this morning, as I'm sitting here beavering away in front of the machine, I notice a weird metallic clanging from the heating vent behind me just as the heater kicks on. Odd, I thought, then (mostly) forgot about it.
Until the dining room smoke detector started shrieking, that is, and the house filled with a strange smokey smell. No actual smoke, far as I could tell, just the smell, which was reminiscent of a bug slowly charring in a halogen lamp. I leap from my chair. Then the basement smoke alarm goes off. Still, no smoke just that smell.
After a minute of running around, I figure out that it would be a good idea to turn off the heat, which I do. I go into the basement, where I open up what I could of the furnace, which seems fine to me. (A note, here: I'm a writer, not an HVAC technician. This is a good thing.)
So I call the spouse. After a brief round of furnace Jeopardy, he decides to come home.
It dawns on me, suddenly, that Mooch had been acting strangely (that is--more strange than usual) all morning. He spent his a.m. lounging on the office heating vent while staring down it, something that he never, ever has done before. Like the weird clanging noise, I filed it away and (mostly) forgot about it.
Scott comes home. I tell him about Mooch's (relative) weirdness. We come to the conclusion that he's probably dropped a toy down the vent, hence the clanging, then the smell. Still, it would be better to remove it, just in case it should catch on fire or emit toxic fumes or something.
You might be able to see where this is going.
Scott descends into the basement. (Another note: our basement is best enjoyed by folks under 4'11". Scott and I are both taller than that. By a lot.) More clanging ensues.
"It's a toy mouse," he calls from the basement. "Wait, no, it smells too organic for that." "Organic" is his word. But he's right.
Problem is, he can't see into the heat exchanger very well, given the ductwork and the low clearance. We try to remember where we have a small mirror. I lament that this is one of the few times that it would be great if I wore make-up regularly enough that I carried a compact. The Diva's room is searched and a book with an attached mirror is found.
It turns out to not be needed. I follow Scott back into the basement, bash my head on a duct corner and contort myself in front of the tiny hatchway into the belly of the furnace. I'm just enough shorter than Scott that I can get a better angle on what is stuck in there. It is a nicely charred mouse.
Old salad tongs are located. I try to remove said barbecued vermin, but just push it deeper, past the point where we can reach it with the tongs. Scott dashes up the stairs and returns with a pointed stick (at this point, imagine reading that with a Monty Python cant to the words, which is exactly how Scott said it. Giggling occurs.)
The mouse is jabbed at with the pointed stick. No luck. It can be speared, but we just seem to be pushing it further into a spot we can't get to without taking the entire furnace apart. It is, at least, no longer on the parts of the thing that get very, very hot, which should end the burning meat odor. Which is something.
During the mouse-poking, I have the brilliant idea of pulling the filter out to see if I could get to the crispy critter that way. The answer would be no. However, I did find the fairly fresh remains, uncooked, of yet another mouse, one who had clearly chewed through the filter and had been decapitated by a turbine or something. You don't want to know what it looked like.
Through all of this, Mooch sat at the top of the basement steps and watched us with rapt (for a cat) enthusiasm. Near as we can figure, he injured a mouse, which either scampered or was dropped down the office vent. If something more sinister happened, I'd prefer to be kept in the dark.
So--for those keeping score, Mooch is no longer useless. Not all that helpful, granted, but not useless.