Well folks, how about we take a break from cutesy ballerina stories and try something a little more, shall we say, distasteful? If you are squeamish about rodents, I advise you to stop reading now. And full disclosure, there is a rather disgusting picture at the end of this post. But if you don’t mind dead animals, and want to be impressed by the perseverance of one of God’s most hated creatures, keep on going.
During homeschool, I have been working on writing stories with my oldest boy, and have told him that is easiest to write from life. So he decided to write about our family adventure with a rat. Yes, you heard me. A rat. And as I was helping him lay out the characters, the plot and the details, I came to realize that it was such an interesting story- so full of intrigue, daring and suspense- that I needed to write my own version of it.
I have hesitated to post this, for obvious reasons. Having vermin in your home is nothing to be proud of, and I imagine most people would not want to admit that they have had a rat as a house guest. I myself tried to deny the fact for a while.
“Oh, it’s just a cute little mouse,” I told myself when I first saw the tell-tale nibbles on a box of crackers.
“Oh, it’s just a playful, rambunctious little mouse,” I assured myself when awoken in the night by loud scurryings and scratchings.
“Oh, it’s just a huge, lumbering mouse with a really long, nasty tail,” I flat out lied to myself when I caught sight of it in my side yard one day.
It’s pretty sad when you are trying to convince yourself that what you have is a mere mouse problem. But I would rather deal with a few mice than a single rat any day. Especially since the signs began appearing right after the hubby had left for France for a month. There I was, a single mother with my new baby girl, and three boys who would rather keep a rat than get rid of it. And I knew I would never have the guts to take on a large rodent by myself.
It wasn’t difficult to deduce how the thing was getting in. There was a small hole in the corner of my living room floor that the hubby had long ago filled in with some tasteful, yellow spray-foam. Every morning, I noticed there were more bits of foam scattered about the floor, and the hole was perceptibly larger. Just to verify things, I taped a thick piece of paper over the hole one night. In the morning, there was a rat shaped hole busted through the paper. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but the paper had been shredded by something.
The next thing I did was to take a thick piece of wood and hammer it tightly into the hole. Problem solved. I went to bed that night, congratulating myself that I had conquered the rat, sans hubby. In the morning, the wood had been popped right out. Impressed but undaunted, I went out to the backyard and found myself a nice sized brick, and fitted it snuggly over the hole. Problem solved again.
But as I sat sewing in my quiet living room that night, I heard an ominous thumping noise. I looked up quickly and saw, to my horror, that the brick was being slowly nudged out of the way. Heart racing and wanting desperately to avoid a Ratatouille-like encounter, I ran back outside and grabbed another brick, and then another, for good measure. I piled them on top of the first one. I kept an ear open all night, but the three-brick stack remained unmoved. I had successfully blocked the hole.
Fast forward a few weeks. The hubby had come home, and life had returned to normal. I had forgotten all about the rat until one morning, when I found an apple on my pantry floor. Sad to say, finding an apple half-eaten on my floor is not an unusual occurrence around here. But the teeth marks in it were definitely not from my three year old who is the usual suspect. With a groan, I showed the apple to my hubby. Our rodent guest had found another way in.
He was untroubled by the news. He simply got one of those old fashioned, spring loaded rat traps and set it out before we went to bed. Feeling thankful that he was there to deal with the carcass in the morning, I closed my eyes. But before we had even fallen asleep, there was a loud SNAP from the kitchen. Mr. Rat had wasted no time. We both leapt out of bed, and ran to survey the scene. But all we saw was an empty trap, and the cheese absconded with.
We left the trap out on several subsequent evenings, but it was never again disturbed. We still weren’t sure what new hole he was emerging from, but as there were no further sightings, we dropped our guard. Then one morning at breakfast, my oldest boy told us that upon returning from a midnight trip to the bathroom the night before, he had observed a shadowy something scurrying into the corner where our dishwasher resides. Sure enough, we found a crack that might just be big enough to admit a rat. I wanted to block the crack, but the hubby wanted to catch it once and for all. So he went back to the store and this time came back with jumbo glue traps.
That night, he set four of the traps in various locations around the kitchen, including one by the dishwasher. We settled into bed, and that night I had a terrible dream. It was one of those dreams where you can only move in slow motion, and I could see a strange man climbing over my gate as I tried to reach my front door. As I reached the door and began turning the lock, the man pulled a gun out. I had just managed to lock the door when the man raised the gun. Then there was a terrific BANG! I sat bolt upright in bed, trying to shake off the dream, but the banging continued. It took me a minute to sort out dreams from reality, but I finally realized that the banging was coming from the kitchen and could only be one thing.
“Honey! Honey! The rat! I think we caught the rat,” I said in a fierce whisper.
Honey snored on.
“The rat!” I said a bit louder. “You need to go take care of it!”
He didn’t budge.
But I was not about to do battle with anything that could make that much noise in my kitchen, so after shaking his shoulder several times and repeating the word ‘rat’, he finally got the message and stumbled out of bed. He was only gone a moment or two when the noise ceased, and he came back.
“What happened?” I asked, feeling queasy. “What did you do with it?”
“It got away,” he replied and climbed back under the covers.
“What!?” I asked incredulously. But he had already fallen back asleep.
The next morning, the hubby explained that he had only gotten there in time to see the rat disappearing through the crack, with just it’s tail still stuck and flailing wildly. As he watched, the rat had made one final effort, unglued its tail and made good its escape, leaving behind what looked like half of it’s fur.
I was so disgusted by this point, that I just prayed it would go away for good, or be so wounded, it might never recover. And it seemed my prayer might be answered. We continued to put out the traps for several days, but no more midnight drama. Until, of course, the night we neglected to put anything out.
I was again awakened by a loud banging, but this time it sounded ten times louder, as if something was clambering around in one of my pots. Turns out, that was exactly what was happening. I was so mad at this creature that I got myself out of bed and went to investigate. As I crept towards my pantry, I realized that it must have been standing on the lid of my big stock pot that I keep on the floor in there, and fallen in. But as I got closer, a board creaked and there was suddenly dead silence. I knew it was still in there, and that there was no way out except through the door, so I grabbed the first thing to hand- a dish towel. Then I heard snorting behind me. The hubby had arrived on the scene.
“What do you think you are going to do with a towel?” he laughed.
Realizing how futile it would be to try and chase down such a creature in the small confines of my pantry, (with a towel) he wisely gathered together all the glue traps and laid them end to end across the doorway. There was no way it would be able to get out without getting stuck again. We headed back to bed, confident that we would be up again soon, taking care of it once and for all.
But in the morning, there were the glue traps, untouched, unmoved. We could only wonderingly surmise that the animal had jumped the traps. I couldn’t quite believe that a rat could be so clever, so we tried the same trick again that night, thinking it might get stuck heading into the pantry.
The next morning, the hubby found me standing and staring at the door way. The rat had not jumped the traps. It had calmly and deliberately moved the traps aside and walked straight in. I was beginning to feel a little bit in awe of this beast. I began to think that maybe it was a raccoon. Or magic elves. The hubby went back to the store.
He came back with a box as long as my arm. It was time to bring out the big guns. A baited cage, to trap the rat in a more humane way. I had no idea what we would do with it if we actually caught it- bring it out to the country and let it run free? I somehow knew that this particular rat, no matter how far it roamed, would always find its way back to my pantry. So the hubby put out the cage, and I continued to place the glue traps. Four nights passed without incident.
And then came the fifth. I was not awaked by a bang this night, but with a scream. This time, the hubby was out of bed in a flash. I thought maybe one of the kids was screaming, but then I realized it was the rat, caught again in a glue trap. I didn’t know a rat could produce a sound like that. It was very much like a nightmare.
I peeked my head out of the bedroom door, squinting in the glare of the kitchen lights. The noise was so loud that all the kiddos stumbled out of their room too, rubbing their eyes, looking confused.
“What is that, mom?”
“Did we finally get the rat?
“What’s dad going to do with it?”
“Is it morning?”
“What’s for breakfast? Can you make pancakes?”
I herded them back to their room, trying to ignore the struggle in the kitchen. I just felt sick. I got the boys back in bed, and went and buried my head under my pillow. Finally, there was silence. As much as I hate rats, I was glad to think the creature was out of its misery.
“What did you do with it?” I asked the hubby as he came back to bed.
“I drowned it,” was his short reply, but I could tell he felt sicker than I did.
The next morning, the boys were up early and chatting excitedly about the great battle of the night before. They wanted more details- they wanted to see the rat, to hear my side of the story. And what about the cage? Could we keep the cage? It would make a perfect jail for lego bad guys.
I ignored them all and went straight to my pantry with a mop, rubber gloves, a pile of rags, and a bucket of lysol. While I was scrubbing everything furiously, I heard a tap at the window and looked up. The hubby was holding up the dead rat for the boys to see. They all scrambled around the window, chattering with excitement, asking for the camera.
As for me, I almost passed out.
And worthy adversary though he was, I’m just glad the battle is over.
Now please reassure me that we are not the only people who have ever had a rat.