You Dirty Rat

Guess what?!

I was brushing my teeth in the downstairs bathroom when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Fortunately I am not overly superstitious, as I’d been watching a cable show about alleged hauntings (I find these shows hilarious). This particular “haunting” was short, dark,and furry. It came bounding happily down the stairs, probably from the kitchen. Apparently Murphy the Ferret has begun to invite friends over to the crib to party down without asking permission first.

Now, I’d like to say it was a squirrel. But, in my heart of hearts, I’m fairly certain it wasn’t. Two years ago, my grandmother had a run-in with a wild rat in her kitchen and brained it with a hot frying pan full of sunny-side-up eggs. It raced off, and the score was tallied at Rat: 1, Grandmother: 0. Then, being a genteel Southern lady, she sat down and had a mild attack of the vapours.

The next day, she was ready to curl up with a nice scotch and Virginia Slim and ogle that handsome Jack McCoy on “Law & Order” and a very deceased rat fell out of her afghan onto her lap. Score revised: Rat: 0, Grandmother: 1. My grandmother gets extra cojones points since she was 90 at the time.

Last year, my neighbors began complaining that a family of rats had taken up residence in their bathroom’s air conditioner unit. This was unacceptable, but they are dog nuts, with three voracious hounds that will eat whatever isn’t nailed to the floor, so rat poison was out. They have had to just live with the occasional rat sighting.

A month ago, I heard scritching noises in the ceiling. I had hoped it was squirrels. In Atlanta, you can rest assured it is probably just squirrels. It’s always squirrels. Not so Savannah. No, in Savannah, the squirrels live off the fat of the land and little old ladies’ bird feeders. Living indoors is too cushy for their tastes. The squirrels don’t do pampering. But rats? No problemo. They dig invading houses.

So it’s my turn to deal with rats. Hoo fucking rah. I’m so excited.

The problem is that they clear-cut the woods surrounding our neighborhood for a totally useless parkway. No woods, no habitat. This is why we get snakes, opossums, bugs, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, etcetera, invading the ‘hood. Their homes were stolen, so they’re out for payback.

Now, I’m not anal-retentively clean, but neither am I a fucking slob. I take my trash out and put dirty dishes in the dishwasher and so forth. My ferret, however, is less tidy. He manages to push half his food out of his cage on a daily basis. I sweep it up, he makes another mess. It’s a buffet. I’ve tried to feed him less, and he sulks and acts like he’s dying of starvation. I’ve tried feeding him in smaller increments more often, and he stops pushing his food out, but he gains massive amounts of weight and lolls around like a beachball. I haven’t figured out a way to balance the two scenarios. Either I have a happy, healthy ferret and a big daily mess, or I have a surly, fat ferret and a smaller daily mess.

So I’m standing there with a toothbrush handle hanging off my lip like a street hood sporting a cigarillo, and this rat streaks across the floor like a frat boy doing a rush prank across the quad clad in only a lampshade. I see a blur of fur and a very non-squirrel-like tail vanish into the utility closet, which is dark and scary and full of tools and boxes and a furnace and a maze of vents and pipes and vacuum cleaners and electrical wires and electronics that are incompatible with 1940s-era electrical outlets and fuses. No hot frying pan. No shoes, even. I’m in a slip and some lovely white crew socks. Very sexxay. Me versus a possibly rabid wild street rat. Rat: 1, Me: 0.

So now I have to call the exterminator, and I hate the idea. I like pet rats just fine. If Ratty was not in my house, I’d have no quarrel with it. I also fear having a dead, stinky, smelly rat carcass in my ceiling. Or an angry, half-dead rat stalking me. Or rat relatives seeking sweet, sweet vengeance: “My name is Inigo Rattoya, and you killed mah fadda. Prepare to die.” Some yellow-jumpsuited rat will hop out of the ceiling waving a plastic cocktail sword and everything will go all black and white and we’ll both shout stuff in bad Japanese and the rat will make a pop culture reference or two and then lots of grey ketchup will spray all over the place. I’ll wake up one morning and find a toy Breyer horse head in my bed looking at me.

The Bone solution–you know, the comic book guy?–would involve leaving out several tempting quiches laced with Drano. The stupid, stupid rat creatures would then eat the quiches and die. Horribly. Sure, they’d have all that quiche-y goodness, but Drano is a motherfucker. I can’t bring myself to clean out these rats’ pipes like that. I just want them out of the house.

Damn it. Every week, it’s some new infestation in this house! I still have a ribbon snake living somewhere behind the water heater. Too bad they don’t eat rats.

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