Friday, December 17, 2004

Not a Creature was Stirring

The rat is gone. It brought excitement, it brought excrement, it brought us together in a special way for nearly two weeks, and now it’s over. I think.
Fade to a Sunday afternoon not long ago. Each member of the nuclear family is doing their own thing, which for me was a nearly engaging football game, which actually means a nap. My focus shifted quickly to the sound of hurried steps down the hallway. “There’s a Rat in the cupboard above the microwave,” she said, with all the certainty of one who’s security has been shattered in an instant. “It looked me in the eye,” she shuddered at me. The message was clear. I now had to offer, at minimum, sound advice, or, more to the point, DO SOMETHING. This was not the last time that this creature would interfere with my favorite pastime.
After a measured period of strategizing ways to safely encourage our rodent raider from his elevated position to the great outdoors, it became a matter of holding a large box in one hand while poking a broom handle into the cupboard, while balancing on a stepladder. It became obvious that I would not be able to balance both myself and a box filled with cookbooks, chip bags, chewed-empty peanut shells and rat poop; it became a matter of taking what I could hold, backing out, tying the doors shut, sorting the box empty (outside!), and repeating until the cupboard was bare. Guess what. No rat.
The plausible and popular theory was that El Vermin had escaped the way he’d gotten in, which had to be the gap between the vent pipe going through the cupboard roof and the top itself, leading to the attic. It was quickly sealed with foam, the mess was cleaned up, and our apprehension was tempered by a sense of security. Until the next morning,
as two fresh “presents” appeared on the kitchen counter. A call to an exterminator, fulfilled several uneventful days later, revealed no evidence in the attic of our freeloader or his extended family, and his expert opinion was that we had successfully withdrawn our invitation to this opportunistic drifter. All was well again.
Wednesday night. Children all snug in their beds, and “The West Wing” engages us as we recline. Suddenly, what I’ve come to recognize as the “heebie-jeebie” sound from my beloved severs my reverie. She calmly informs me that she’s just seen a rat run from the cat food dish to what has to be under the oven. While she says this, she sees it repeat this trip. The next hour is spent, kitchen door open, other doorway blocked, removing the boards from under the cabinets, moving the stove, finding the smelly calling cards of our guest, but no rattus rattus. This guy is good. Possible pathways are temporarily blocked, and a commitment is made to solve the problem in the morning.
Morning comes, and the day is spent rooting around, adding barriers, foaming the smallest possible ports of entry at pipe openings and outlets throughout the house. Aside from the original vent, I don’t see where this relative of the gopher in “Caddyshack” is getting in – or out. It’s not anywhere in the kitchen, if it ever was, now.
I go to bed, shortly after the children do, with the satisfaction of a day’s work done well.
My dreams are shattered to reveal my mate standing over my side of the bed – I’ve come to recognize this, over our time together, as - not a good thing. She’s just had the nerve shattering experience of sending a rat – the rat – from under her desk into the Living Room. I believe the word “peeved” comes to mind.
Peeved, I groggily make my way to the Living Room, festooned with the furnishings and decorations of the Christmas Season. Grabbing a broom, and enabling the only possible means of exit to the front door, which now stands open at 11 p.m., I begin disturbing furniture. One, two trips around the room produce nothing. I shake the lit Christmas tree, momentarily wondering if I’m going to have a rat jump me like the raccoon in “Christmas Vacation.” “Joy to the World” as sung by Clark W. Griswald, rings in my ears.
We have a few cats that grace our lives. Cleo has been summoned, and she wanders around the room, contributing absolutely nothing. Olie (no I don’t remember why he’s named “Olie”, he just is, o.k?) has been banned from the house for reasons relating to his need to mark territory within what is clearly ours, not his. He now watches this late-night show with interest from the front porch. At this point, he is a welcome addition to the hunting party. Pee all you want, buddy, just GET THAT RAT!
Third trip. It’s time to start dismantling the furniture. The next – to – last cushion from the couch reveals a tail, which quickly disappears into the superstructure of the couch.
Man of courage, I pick Cleo up off the floor and toss her onto the couch. She stands up, looks at us, and walks back under the table and sits down. Thank you so very much.
I grab the handle to unfold the sofa bed-works, and it runs out from underneath, heading for the door and Olie, accompanied by the aforementioned encouragement from my helpmate, behind the barrier to the Family Room like a picador waiting in the wings of an arena. Seeing Olie, our perpetrator dives under the stack of guitar cases behind the piano. I can see him trying to be small. The good news is, now Olie is interested.
I encourage the rat out into the open, whereupon he heads back to the couch. I’m tired, and I’m tired of this. I go to the couch, give it a yank, and the meteor streaks out, past Clio lounging, toward the door, and BAM! Olie fulfills his destiny. Taking the prey within his jaws, he trots out the front door. Picking up, putting away, we make it to bed about 1 or so.
I want so badly to think that this is over. I guess we’ll find out tonight.