“By gnawing through a dike, even a rat may drown a nation.” — Edmund Burke
Act III: The Final Rat-tier
Ah yes, the last installment of my ter-rat-fying experience living with vermin from the deepest, darkest pits of hell. It has been a while since my last post because, honestly, now that we are rat free, I am trying to live each day to the fullest. I sleep without fear and with all of the lights off. I leave open containers of food out in the kitchen. I’ve stopped hearing noises in the walls.
It’s as though I’ve blocked out any bad memories of the past academic year. You wouldn’t believe that not even two months ago I was calling my mother every day in tears, desperate for something, anything, to alleviate this situation.
This episode begins as I return to Range View Ave at the end of January after a relaxing Winter Break in my childhood home that felt like a luxury hotel after the semester I had. The landlord had promised to fix the “doors” under the house over winter break, so I foolishly believed that there would be minimal rodent signs when I returned.
So, so foolish.
I walk through the door to find Sarah patiently waiting my arrival. She had come back a few days prior.
“How are our furry little guests?” I ask.
Wordlessly, she walks to the kitchen. I follow and she picks up my bottle of soy sauce that I kept on the pantry shelf. The bottle itself is glass, what damage could have been done? But upon closer inspection, I see the plastic cap has been chewed completely off.
“Dear god…” I whisper as Sarah points me to other condiments and containers around the kitchen. Nutella jars gnawed straight through. Oatmeal containers with their oats spilled out like guts. Teeth marks visible on everything that I once touched with my own hands.
Nothing was safe. Everything had to be disposed of. We started keeping everything in the fridge. As long as the rats did not develop opposable thumbs, we were safe. But every time I reached for a cold, soggy rice cake, I was reminded of what my life had become. Living in fear in my own home.
The exterminator returned the next week. He re-baited the traps, filled more holes and inspected the doors under the house.
“Your landlord did a real nice job there. I don’t know what to tell you girls. I want to help you, but they’re just not going for the bait.” The exterminator wiped a dirty rag across his forehead. It was exceptionally warm for the beginning of February and the sun beat down brutally on the earth.
For the next few weeks, I racked my brain for any reason we were not catching any rats.
Was the exterminator intentionally sabotaging our eradication efforts because he had taken such a liking to us, he never wanted to say goodbye?
Had the landlord been so successful at boarding the house that the rats were now trapped inside the walls?
Did the rats fall in love with me? (The most likely explanation.)
Towards the end of February, Leah’s parents came to visit. They took us to dinner on Saturday and we returned to a dark house. I walked into the kitchen to turn on a light and immediately screamed.
In the middle of the floor was a rat. Dead as can be, stuck in a trap.
I started crying tears of joy! Also tears a sheer terror because the rat was so much bigger than I had ever imagined.
Cristina, Leah and I abruptly stop our celebrating when we realize that we now have to dispose of the rat.
“Call Jorge*” I yell at Cristina who starts fumbling with her phone, hands shaking. But Jorge doesn’t answer.
We thought maybe we could wait until morning to call the exterminator who had said we were close enough that he wouldn’t mind coming by to get rip of any caught rats. But the rat is blocking the path to my bedroom and I can’t even look at the creature without feeling a mixture of nausea and sadness.
Eventually Cristina volunteers to take care of the rat. Leah has since fled to her room in the back house so it’s me and Cristina. Two women taking on the biggest rat of their lives. I fetch her the rubber gloves I had bought for just this occasion. She takes out a new trash bag. I go to open the back door so she has a clear shot to the big trash cans. First, there is some hesitation but then in once quick motion she picks up the trap, tosses it into the trash bag and hurries to the garbage can. It is done.
Meanwhile I’ve been screaming at the top of my lungs. Shrieks, really.
Cristina is forever my hero and I owe her my first born son. We rejoice in the kitchen. Finally! After all these months, we’ve done something!
Leah returns after we give her the all clear. She is not as cheerful as Cristina and I. She is solemn as she sits at the kitchen table.
“That’s not the rat I saw.” Leah takes a long drag of her cigarette. She is referring to an earlier incident when she saw a rat flee under the oven.
“The one I saw was bigger, meaner. It was as black as the blackest night. A night with no stars. And no moon.”
A thick silence falls over the room. What if this was not a sign that the tide was shifting in our favor? What if this was only the beginning of an even greater war?
But it wasn’t! After we caught that big ‘ole smelly rat we stopped seeing any signs of rodent activity. Occasionally we would find more poopies but decided they were older poopies left by that mouse that we just hadn’t found before. After a couple of weeks of rat-free, poop-free life, we officially declared the rat invasion over! Or more appropriately, e-rat-icated.
The exterminator stopped by around this time.
“I hadn’t heard from you girls in a while so I thought I’d just stop by and re-bait the traps for you.”
We quickly gave him the good news and told him he won’t be needing to stop by anymore.
“Well that’s just great! I’m glad everything worked out. Well, take care girls.”
We stood in the doorway as we watched him walk back towards his truck. Before climbing in, he gave one last sorrowful look at our house and then quickly drove off into the sunset.
To celebrate our new freedom, we held a party, a Rat Party. We had cheese-flavored snacks, yellow construction paper cut into wedges of cheese for decorations and funfetti cupcakes which I painstakingly tried to decorate to look like they were topped with rat droppings. Unfortunately, I got bored of this very quickly and only managed to complete a few.
As we were getting ready for people to arrive, we realized we still had one big decor issue. We had yet to get rid of the other rat traps around the house and now it seemed very unsafe (and a liability) to let people into our home with such dangerous contraptions around.
So with the end of a Swiffer handle, we carefully set off all of the rat traps. Each time one snapped, we all shrieked because, honestly, it’s pretty shocking and loud.
When our house was finally rid of all the traps, I felt a calmness I hadn’t felt in a while. I finally felt free. Free to begin the rest of my life.