At the beginning of Spring, my neighbour notified me she saw several rats scurrying down into my crawl space from where she sits on her porch. ‘What???’ I said, ‘Rats?? Nonchalantly she said ‘Yes’. And then gave me instructions how to keep the offenders at bay. ‘Soak an old cloth in ammonia and stuff it down there’. That’ll get rid of them. So I did. About a month later I noticed an ‘odd’ smell in the bathroom/laundry area. It grew over the next days until I thought a decomposing body had been stuffed into the walls. Really vile. I ran to Dr. Google and the majority of links said ‘probably a dead mouse’ or some such. Not a lot of mention about rats. I called the Pest Control. Pete came over, went back to the ‘caution/danger’ area of the house and also said, ‘It’s probably a dead mouse. Once it decomposes the smell will go away’. It did not. For weeks. Fast forward to mid-August. My usual morning ritual is: put the coffee on and grab a banana for breakfast while I wait for the brew, give Sunshine a treat and then go about my ablutions, get the day started. As I pick up the banana I’m thinking, ‘Hmm, that was one hungry mouse’. It looked like remnants of a tree after a beaver’s been at it for dam wood. It was crazy. And gross. The next day it was the avocadoes. So I called Pete again. ‘So much for the dead mouse. I think they’ve moved in. And by the way, how big are mice teeth?’ He laughed. ‘Perhaps you have rats?’ My mind suddenly remembers Jenny’s (my neighbour) sighting. ‘Yep, perhaps but I’ve never had rats’. He explains with all the construction going on in the east end, they’ve become fairly prevalent. ‘An epidemic’ he actually says. He sells me the same traps that Aetna is no longer legally allowed to (too many parents/people didn’t package them properly resulting in sick kids/pets so they took them off the market) for 4 times the price. Supply and demand! They don’t work. I now have to hide all my skinned food in the fridge.
Even lemons! Now that’s a hungry rat. As I hadn’t seen any, I felt like I was in a cheesy made-for-TV mystery. One night shortly after, I hear a CRASH! The medicine cabinet (the one I sprained my foot on) doubles as the empty beer bottle stash on the 2nd shelf. I wake up, thinking something has landed on Sunshine but see she’s snoozing by the front door. It’s dark, I go back to bed and will deal with it in the morning. Yep, green glass all over the kitchen floor. I sweep up, go and buy some steel wool and find every hole I can that has even a sniff of being a potential ‘entry’ and stuff it. Stuff it good. I’m pleased thinking this is the end of my adventures with Willard. Wrong. Several days later, I’m on the toilet. Looking at my emails on my phone. As ya do. From the corner of my eye, I see a MONSTER creature scurrying past me, behind the pedestal sink and poof! He’s gone. I swear this thing was bigger than the ROUS (Rodents of Unusual Size) from The Princess Bride. Finally, I’d seen it. Much to my horror. It was h-u-g-e. I had stuffed the back of the pedestal sink. How!? Do these things have those collapsible skeletons? I look it up. No, but they can slink into long, cylindrical shapes and squeeze through anything. Ugh. Until I call Mr. Pest Control again and do something more major, I’m still just putting my food (that shouldn’t be in the fridge) in the fridge and hoping for the best ie; I don’t see any more rats or remnants of his/their visits. But it continues. One morning I came out to find black nubs all over the floor only to look up at my purse hanging on the chair and noticed the little bastard had eaten right through it. And there was nothing edible in it. Dumb rats. They’d have a field day on garbage night – outside! I can’t figure out what they’re doing inside in late summer. The last straw was the other morning. I came out, put the coffee on, took a banana from the fridge and came out to the living room. I noticed under the dining table these small scraps of black and silver. I thought it was the remnants of a dog treat bag. I bend down and pick up the pieces. They were the antique cup my mom had given me, that her mom had given her. The cup that I carried on my lap on the plane back to Australia in the 1990s sometime and back again on my lap when I came back here to live. The cup that is 5 feet up on a shelf! The most precious, sentimental thing I own. I wasn’t even angry. I stared, my spirit broken, at the precious pieces, collected them, cleaned them off and put them in a container. Somewhere, someone will know how to put it back together. Until then, I have declared WAR!! Despite my innate desire not to kill/hurt animals, sometimes we have to make exceptions. As I write, the smell in the back area is gone, but rearranging my house to be rat-proof is no longer an option. Sing along with me: “Ben, you’re always running here and there (here and there), You feel you’re not wanted anywhere (anywhere), If you ever look behind, And don’t like what you find, There’s something you should know, You’ve got a place to go, (You’ve got a place to go). And that place is…OUTSIDE.