2.10.2013

Rat Stories


My rat stories begin in Fourth? grade, when each person in the class was asked to write an essay on the animal one would most like to eradicate, and the environmental impacts of eliminating that animal.

Everybody else chose the mosquito.  [And. in high school, several of these friends worked for skeet abatement... more mosquitoes later.]

I chose the rat.  I had some help from #TomDaly.  << ok, Tom Daly doesn't have a hashtag yet, but he needs one.  Rats live in the lake, that's why we don't live there; rats live in trees... Have you heard about the Plague?  Look it up in the encyclopedia for your report.  All those people in the Monty Python "Bring Out Your Dead" sketch?  Plague.  Rats.

I continued my rat-free, but rat-aware, life through graduate school.  The Greybar building (NYC) awnings are supported by custom-made wrought iron depicting rats embarking.  Maybe to catch MetroNorth to New England, I no longer remember.

Then I found a wool carpet on the street.  I needed a carpet.  I hauled it to the roof of my building, and cleaned it.  Really, rented a machine, scrubbed and scrubbed.  There was a mouse-sized rat who managed to stay in the carpet, and magically transported to my apartment.  From this experience, I learned the smell of rat urine.  After that time, and until this day, I can walk around and say, "there are rats here."  Even if there are no fleas. Anyway, I rolled the tiny rat into the carpet, and dumped it back on the curb.

Later on, I was in the subway with my friend Michelle.  I was showing her the rats that ran along the third rail when the train was coming.  Then a big rat from a trash can charged us.  I might have left an important new purchase of Folkways LPs at the station then (maybe later).

After school, I had an apartment in NYC with mice and rats (mostly mice) -- ended up pulling a mattress onto the top of my dining room table (that's the way I roll -- crap apartment, Danish modern teak dining room table with leaves and a fifth leg that can host a twin mattress) and surrounding it with traps and boric acid, listening to the traps snap all night... young women like myself would tour the apartment, which #TomDaly had helped me fix (ceiling fan! window seat! wiring! paint and plaster!); I stripped the paint from the Victorian mantlepiece!  I leveled the bathroom floor!), and the nice ones I took aside, said, "look at the traps."

My husband and I moved to a nice house in a big city.  Some of our favorite times were hanging out on the porch after dark.  We're sitting there, and some small animals are running across the power lines, at our property line.  He correctly observes, "those are not the squirrels eating our new trees."

After that, the next nice house did have some rats in the ivy and in the basements until our vigilant attention forced the rats into retreat, or at least to someplace we didn't see or smell them.

It was then that I got a temporary teaching job, and rented another house, through the aegis of friends, that would have cost a million dollars or more in Los Angeles (really), but that the ladylady refused to seal (I know the sounds and smells of rats; I can do "palmetto bugs" -- different story).  A big rat -- about eight inches w/o tail -- I was doing dishes -- scampered across the counter -- the convenience of the oar was that I could then bear poor animal to garbage can on the oar without touching it after murdering it.

Guy across the street had a truck that advertised his pest control business... I knocked on the door late (well, after dinner -- 9 pm?) and just begged for his help after the oar incident.

but my fave "shaggy rat story" is from my friend Stan -- he corralled the animal into his bathtub, thinking to drown it (yell out at this point in Stan's story, "rats SWIM!") ; so the rat is swimming, and he's trying to poison it with his girlfriend's bath beads...

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