I had been troubled for some time with rats. Not those cuddly, disease-free, pink-eyed ones with the delicate whiskers and digits that you find in the pet store.
Mine were some sort of mutant beings, probably from the planet Xenon and likely an advance team come to reconnoitre our planet’s value as a source of fuel.
Let me tell you, dear reader, how it all started, which was with a garbage strike. Now, given the amount of legislated recycling that takes place around here, I wouldn’t have thought this possible, especially the speed with which it happened, but it did. However, the people thusly employed knew that it would, and had decided that the entire populace would exert tremendous pressure on city hall after only a few days of exposure to the most eye-watering, pungent odour the second you stepped out your front door and tried to negotiate your way down the public thoroughfares. The shimmer from the mounds of refuse lead to such mirages that the citizenry had to double-check with each other just to make sure that they were going in the right direction.
Drastic it was, and gag-inducing, but highly effective.
The mayor had to hire an armoured car just to go for groceries and in order to protect himself from the angry crowds encamped in front of his office. He eventually succumbed and dragged his weakened carcass in front of the press cameras and announced his defeat. He may have expended a lot of hot air getting into office, but it was the methane that finally did him in.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Did I mention that this occurred during the height of summer? There was a run on gas masks from the military surplus stores. Birds were keeling over, well, songbirds were, but not the crows and gulls, who in huge numbers and voice announced their immediate ownership of this nirvana, although that didn’t stop the infighting. And flies! Bluebottles that I’m sure escaped from Jurassic Park and should have been asking for clearance to land.
Trying to cook a steak at the old back yard barbecue meant suiting up in a hazmat outfit to avoid all manner of airborne assaults, especially from those aforementioned crows and gulls, but if the heat in there didn’t get you, the raccoons surely would. Brazen, and in great crowds and mobs, they engaged in hand-to-hand combat with any living thing that dared to enter their domain. The neighbours’ rottweiler entered a state of anxious fear and needed therapy just to go outside for a pee and a poo after the whole ordeal was over. Some people see raccoons as cute, with their little bandit faces and ringed tails. I do not. I have a lot of respect for raccoons. Bandits?? That’s like saying that George Clooney has nice features. They’re smarter than the average politician and with a little more training, could tell Tony Soprano exactly where to go and what to do with himself when he got there.
Just when I thought that the whole thing couldn’t get any worse, it did. As the old saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn. I had my feet up after a long day at work and an even longer day of battling to get home through the corvids, raccoons, flies, surly populace and olfactory assaults. I was done in. I was getting all mellow from a nice glass of wine when I heard it – a distinctive rustling sound emanating from the basement.
Now, having been raised on Hollywood movies, I decided that instead of immediately calling the constabulary and leaving the premises, I should grab a kitchen knife and decend slowly into the basement, with blade raised and lights off. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, there it was again – that rustling sound! Actually, it was very much like the crinkling sound a garbage bag makes when it’s being moved around. Hah! I clicked on the light, hoping to surprise the intruder, and was startled to see the equivalent of a small beaver nonchalantly poking his head out of one of the garbage bags that I’d stored in the basement for safe-keeping. Rats!
Now, at this point I should probably explain why my garbage was in the basement. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time – keep it inside in the cool basement instead of letting it percolate in the hot garage. Do my bit to keep down the raccoons, gulls, crows and flies, and all that. What I didn’t count on was the wily prowess of the rodent squad, which up until that moment hadn’t even crossed my mind.
Now what was I going to do? I stared at the rat and the rat stared back. Then he was joined by his buddy – his much larger buddy, and it dawned on me that these two were probably father and son. Another sound, like air leaking from a tire, and I realized that the daddy rat was hissing at me through his big yellow teeth. Hissing? Rats hiss? And then I thought, what do you know about rats other than that you might get the bubonic plague?
That was enough. In a state of panic and revulsion, I leapt at the bag and quickly turned it upsidedown so that pa and son were trapped inside and I ran that bag up the stairs and dumped it on the back lawn. Let them fight it out with the raccoons, I thought; they’re certainly big enough to stand up for themselves. Then I stuck the rest of the garbage in the garage, went to a hardware store and got a couple of the biggest humane traps that I could find – I think the guy behind the counter thought I was on crack when I tried, through my shuddering and quaking, to explain how big these rats were – and set them up in the basement in case some family members were left behind.
Then there was the clean-up – bleach was my best friend. Those rats had been down there for a while and I hadn’t realized it, and I’d had a nasty experience, but I was on the mend.
Like narcissists, wild rats belong outside with the crows and raccoons, not in your home. Too bad the narcissists are not as recognizable.