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Underlaid to Rest

Claim:   Carpet installer pounds a bump flat, then discovers that the family pet is missing.

LEGEND

Examples:

[Cerf, 1970]

A carpet layer had just put the finishing touches to a big wall-to-wall job. It had taken all day. Now, as he stepped back to admire his handiwork, he was horrified to notice a small lump right in the middle of the room. In a flash, he realized what had happened. His pack of cigarettes was in none of his pockets. Not one to panic, he made sure nobody was watching, then picked up his hammer and pounded on the lump until the carpet was level. Pleased with himself, he went into the kitchen for his tool kit — and there on the table was his pack of cigarettes.

Just then a little boy's voice was heard upstairs: "Mommy, where's the cat?"
 

[Brunvand, 1987]

A few years ago, one of my students told me that a co-worker of his father's, who sells and installs carpeting, supposedly had just finished a big wall-to-wall carpet installation. He was gathering up his tools to go to the next job when he spotted a small but obvious lump right in the center of the new carpet.

Not wanting to tear up the finished job for such a minor defect, the man took a hammer and pounded the lump down flat, finishing the job by stepping on it a few times. The next day, however, the lady for whom he did the job called him and asked if he had happened to see her pet canary while he was working in her house.
 

[Collected on the Internet, 1999]

I've heard the story about the handyman that came to lay carpet in a house. The family let him in and he worked all day with the carpet and was done before the family returned. When he was done he reached for his cigarettes only to see that his pocket was empty. He searched everywhere and finally noticed a bulge under the carpet. Thinking that the bulge was his pack of cigarettes he immediately took a hammer and pounded the bulge flat. That evening the family called the handyman and complimented him on a job well done. They told him that they found his cigarettes on the table, no other family member smoked, and asked him he had seen the family's hamster that had escaped from its cage that very same day.

 

Variations:
  • The flattened animal can be any of a number of common household pets, with cats, hamsters, mice, gerbils, parrots, budgies, and canaries being the critters most usually mistaken for a package of cigarettes.
  • Sometimes the workman has no idea what the mysterious lump might be, but in most tellings the installer figures the bump to be his smokes. In either case, he taps down the rise in the carpet without thinking.
Origins:   The Cartoon of the legend earliest known print version of this tale about a flattened furry friend appeared in a 1964 Reader's Digest. Since those early beginnings, pounded-out pets have turned up under newly-laid carpets with surprising regularity, at least according to joke books, urban legend collections, and e-mail circulated through the Internet.

We might think of this legend as a humorous updating of the "look before you leap" maxim, sharing a common ending with The Pocket(ed) Watch and The Jogger's Billfold, wherein the perpetrator realizes his mistake upon finding a "lost" object in a perfectly ordinary place.

Barbara "marl burrowed" Mikkelson

Last updated:   1 August 2011

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Sources:

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Choking Doberman.
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1984.   ISBN 0-393-30321-7   (pp. 93-94).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   "Urban Legends."
    The San Diego Union-Tribune.   2 July 1987   (p. D2).

    Cerf, Bennett.   The Sound of Laughter.
    New York: Doubleday and Company, 1970   (pp. 19-20).

    Dale, Rodney.   The Tumour in the Whale.
    London: Duckworth, 1978.   ISBN 0-7156-1314-6   (pp. 61-62).

    Smith, Paul.   The Book of Nasty Legends.
    London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.   ISBN 0-00-636856-5   (p. 66).

    Reader's Digest.   "Laughter, the Best Medicine."
    May 1964.

Also told in:

    Healey, Phil and Rick Glanvill.   Now! That's What I Call Urban Myths.
    London: Virgin Books, 1996.   ISBN 0-86369-969-3   (pp. 130-131).

    Holt, David and Bill Mooney.   Spiders in the Hairdo.
    Little Rock: August House, 1999.   ISBN 0-87483-525-9   (p. 21).

    The Big Book of Urban Legends.
    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 55).