October 24, 2006

A Pointless Letter for You

Dear Reader,

I've suspected I have a critter in and around my place for a little while now. Nothing overt, just an occasional little thing here or there. A couple of times I thought I heard rustling in the front room -- I go out and there's nothing.

Once after being gone for a week, there was a plastic screw top from a soda bottle that was shredded in the middle of the hallway. I looked closely at it, there were no teeth/claw marks of any kind, but the pieces weren't arranged in the pile out of a theoretical assembly order -- meaning it couldn't have been something I stepped on on the way out.

Another time I came into my place early in the morning and all the hair on my body just stood on end. It felt wrong. I thought, maybe maybe, that I could smell something just the tiniest bit "musty." I look around, nothing.

This brings us to last Saturday.

It's 01:00 and I've just drifted off to an early sleep. I'm exhausted and hit REM immediately. I'm dreaming I'm being held in a jail cell -- there's a person in the cell next to me that's trying to communicate by scratching on the wall. And somewhere, way back in the very most basal part of my brain, I realize this scratching sound isn't coming from my dream -- it's in my bedroom.

I wake up and sure enough there's a rustling on the far side of the room. I turn a light on, and sit up. It stops.

I wait. I wait. I look across the junkyard that is my bedroom floor. Nothing.

Then I think I see some movement out of the corner of my eye and when I look over, I see stopped and staring right at me, a rat.

A rat.

Not a mouse. A rat.

I'm shocked. Not only because, for the first time in my life I'm staring at a rat in a domicle that I live permanently in, but also because it doesn't look, "right." I expect a rat to be black and slimy and wet and repulsive. This one, however, is dark tan, with a white splotch on its chest. If rats could ever be considered "cuddly," this one would be top of the squeeze list.

We make eye contact for maybe a second tops and I make one of those subvocalizations like I do whenever I get dropped in a freefall from 500 feet and can feel my gonads retreating into my body cavity. "Hurhg."

That's when the unexpected happens: it leaps through the air, onto my bed, runs across it and rockets down the hall. It's doing this at a setting that is three notches above "fast." I've seen a lot of wildlife in my life and I have never seen anything move this fast. Not an antelope on the prairie, not a jackrabbit about to be mashed by a semi, not a mouse trying to make shelter before a hawk scoops it up. It's so fast in fact, that I find myself still physically looking at the spot where it was long after it's taken shelter in the front of my apartment.


Now what?

I was fortunate enough to have a scout master that had been a Green Beret in the Vietnam war. He was the lord-god-king of unshakeable. If I learned anything from that man, it was you can score super-hot chicks when you drive a GTO. If I learned anything else, it was the importance of having a cool head at times of extreme conflict -- it saved his life, it'll improve mine.

Calm. Calm. Calm.

Jesus. A rat. Right there.

Not only a rat, but some sort of genetic misfit that's both great looking and hideously fast. Probably a blood doper. Rats are capable of anything. Of all the rodents in the Silicon Valley (of which, at this very moment, I believe to be about 10 billion), I get the Flo-Jo of rats.

Calm. Calm. You're not being calm. Calm.

Right. Calm. Go go my happy place. My happy place, which by the way, has no rats.

What now?

It's a rat. We're actually even on the food chain. I'd gladly eat him (I assume it's a "he," because afterall, it's easier to hate male vermin) to be rid of 'im; he feels the same about me. I've got weight, height and reach advantage. He's got me on speed and agility. We've gotta be roughly the same in intelligence -- that's my penalty for watching The Brady Bunch during my formative years.

What now?

Lessee I know there's a rat in my apartment. I know I'm wearing only boxer briefs. I know that that verminous little bastard has just had a romp on my bed with me in it.

Gotta assess the situation. There may be a million of the little swine in my living room, just waiting to gang tackle me to the floor and then "have their way" with me.

One thing is clear: boxer briefs are not the right answer to this problem.

I throw on a robe that's thick enough that a wild elephant couldn't tusk through during a slow week of rutting season, put on a pair of neoprene shoes that would provide absolutely no protection of any kind, but look bitchin' (you've gotta look good to feel good), grab my Blackburn bicycle pump (with a lifetime guarantee against anything), and head to the living room.

There's an unbelievable gamey smell that's something close to a 10 hour old Big Mac that's been thrown back on the grill for reheating, only to be forgotten again. It takes a second before I realize that the smell isn't the rat, it's me. My body doing its best to find even footing with the little monster.

I hear him. He's moved back into my oh-so-stylish fake fireplace.

Go slow. Be careful. A cornered animal is nothing to fool with -- especially when its most noted ancestory managed to wipe out millions of mine with the plague.
I put my left hand on the fake spark arrestor of the fireplace and brandish the bike pump in my right. It occurs to me that if it wasn't for my shoes, I'd look pretty stupid right now.

I'll have to move quickly, because if I do this slow, I let him decide the next step at his own leisure.

I whip the curtain open.


No sound. No movement. No critter.

Okay, now the other side. My smell increases as I grab the curtain. This one's awkward because I have to open left-to-right with my left hand.

Pause. Pause. Be ready.



I turn off the lights in the living room and stand perfectly still for 15 minutes. Still nothing.

So ... what? Did it go up the fake chimney? Is that thing even open? And where did it come from? Did it sprint back past me as I went down the hall.


Oh great. Now what? It's 02:00 on a Saturday morning. Now what?

I go back to my bedroom in the too-telling silence. I'm going to lie down, go to sleep, and take care of this later in the morning.

I close my eyes for 15 seconds and realize there's no way I can sleep. No way. I've gotta do something now.

This is America. It's not like it's hopeless. You can get anything, any time of the day in America. It is the national strength. Maybe the only one, but it's there.

Think. Think think.

I know nothing about rats. I fire up the hiptop and browse the Web. I'm not even sure how you kill one, but I'm sure of this: that little bastard is going to die.

As I read I find my startled nature changing to raw hatred. Every bad thing that's ever happened to me in my life, every snotty thing a girlfriend ever said to me, every car that ever cut me off, every sales clerk that ever ignored me, every time I ordered a patty melt with cheddar cheese but they brought American -- they're all being focused between the eyes of that primitive little four legged bastard.

It becomes clear that the answer is rat traps. Like mouse traps with a glandular problem.

Okay, where?

24 hour shops. Where? Wal*mart. That's as low as common denominators get. And low common denominators will mean rat products. For sure.

I seem to remember Wal*mart having trouble with making profit from their 24 hour stores. No matter. There's six million people within a one hour drive from where my decay smelling carcass is sitting right this second.

Wal*mart Web site. They don't give store hours. Great. I'll call.

One. Nothing.

Two. Nothing.

Three. Nothing.

Four. Rings 10 times, "Hello, this is Wal*mart."

"Are you open?"

"No. We closed four hours ago."

"Is there a 24 hours store left in the Bay area?"

"Yeah. Union City."

Great. I'm not even going to call to see if they have rat traps because honestly I don't care. I need to get the hell out of this demonic Habitrail I live in. And even if they don't have rat traps, I'll come back here with a rubber tipped sledge or something and just start hammering the bejesus out of the place.

As I get out of my bed, I put my hand directly on top of my only pair of glasses -- I bend the frame severely enough that it pops a lens out.

And, mentally, I let go of that ledge some people call "sanity."


I grab my glasses, I force them crudely back into shape. All the while thinking about burning animals alive over a low flame.

Off goes the robe, on goes a sweat shirt and a pair of SWAT camoflague army fatigues. The bitchin' neoprene shoes stay.

What's that? You wanna know how a rat killer dresses? This is how they dress. I'm pissed. I'm way pissed. I grab my bicycle pump, stomp to the living room, and hammer on the fake fireplace and a few miscellaneous boxes a few times for good measure.

I'm beating a signal drum and this is what is says:

I'm leaving. I'll be gone for over an hour. When I come back, I will have things designed, very specifically, to kill you.

I drive to Union City Wal*mart. It's now 03:30 Saturday morning and the place is hoppin'. Three dozen clerks stocking items and maybe 150 customers. Mostly gangbangers, teenagers, and a class of citizen that thinks it's a good idea to have your kids at Wal*mart at this hour. Security here is armed and surly. The McDonald's in the store is 24 hours (and has customers in line).

I look spaced out, mildly retarded and suspiciously like the bridge I've been camping under has gone under re-construction. Which is to say, I fit right in.

I go up to a clerk, "Where are your ..." I can't say the word. I can't admit my shame to the public at large like this. Not when it's still this fresh. Especially when I look closer to "missing link" than to "human." "... mousetraps?"

Goddammit. A killer doesn't talk like this. A killer says, "Where're your fuckin' rat traps you bitch? What do you say me and you hit it over in a booth at the Mickey D's before I go back and get blood on my hands and chin?"

She points me toward the back of the store and I try walking like a killer, but I suspect it's coming off a bit more like slinking. I poke around, ask a few people, and get to the right spot (funnily enough, the next row over has fake mice and rats for your cats to play with).

Not good news. Mouse traps, mouse deterrents, mouse glue traps (think: "fly paper for small mammals"). Only one thing has the word "rat" on it: poison.

By this time I've read enough to know that rat poison is not at the top of the Tree of Good Ideas. Rats may or may not eat it, and if they do, and die in situ, I've got a stink problem.


I'm not going home empty handed. I am doing something and let me think. Which would I rather have: foul odor for two months or rats running across my bed every day for the rest of my life?

I get an extra large box.

"How're you doing today?" the clerk asks.

I just glare and point at what I'm buyin'. She shudders as the dopey smile leaves her face.


For the first time this morning, I find myself thinking with clarity on the drive home. You see, this small problem is actually a tip of a bigger problem.

I could just go to the landlords and say, "Rats!" but that's going to have a bad knock-on effect. I live in a place that is so junked up that they may well come in, take one look, and do something on the order of evict me. Seriously. And this is compounded by the fact that nothing says, "rat wins," like getting my ass kicked out of my own over-priced apartment.

I've got poison in the car. A new day dawns in three hours. What kinds of places will have rat killing machinery on a Saturday? I want to kill a rat. Where do I go? "Manly." Think manly.

Hardware store. Yes.

Okay, thinking back to the apartment now. I can see the answer. I know what to do. Clean it. Front to back. Side to side. Top to bottom.

Trash doesn't spontaneously generate rat flesh, but there are so many possible spots to hide. Safe harbor could be anywhere.

But the apartment is a daunting prospect. I got divorced a decade ago, this was followed by a girlfriend of five years whose place I essentially lived at, intersected by six years of jobs where I worked 90 hours a week. Weirdly, when you never go home, it actually gets messier.

I've got mail everywhere. Packing boxes. CD's. Junk. But I don't eat at home. Not ever. Never as in my refrigerator has been *completely* broken for over a week. All I did was throw everything away that was in it and put the frost in the planter of my lemon tree. I don't even have a trash can in the kitchen. Why bother?

So if I clean it all. I mean like spic-and-span clean, I can:

* Get my dishwasher fixed. Now big deal since I don't use it anyway, but it's been down for about six years.

* Replace that refrigerator.

* Get the shower fixed in my first bathroom.

* Re-claim my dining room table.

* Discover I have a living room table.

* Get the second bedroom re-calked.

* Actually be able to have people spend the night. Or for that matter, walk through the front door.

* Rat out the son-of-a-bitchin' rats.

But it's a huge task. Huge. Huge huge. It's taken 10 years of decay to get here. It'll take a least a fortnight of constant work to get out. At least. And I've got a million writing projects I'm supposed to be doing. And I just quit my own company, so it's not like I have income.

But I have rats. And I live in a boar's nest.

This is a sign. A sign from God. This is a do-better talk writ with vermin.

I will do it.

But I need to move off this mark I'm on right now.

I open the poison and, as if my set of nightmares in this Twilight Zone of a night are not enough, they're infested with termites. I'm so far gone down the one-way slide of destruction that I don't even care. I don't even flinch. Shake 'em out of the box, wash 'em down the drain, set the poison out, go to bed about 05:00 with the lights on.

I'm wide awake four hours later to some sound.

It's the fountain outside.

I put on the same clothes I wore last night, I don't shower or even comb what's left of my hair. I check the poison, it appears untouched, and beat on the fireplace anyway. I'm saying:

You have made a mistake. You're assuming that I won't "get it." You assume that just because I'm a bachelor, and pathetic, that I am therefore also defenseless in a sick-until-he-dies-or-goes-to-jail way. You're wrong. I'm going to hardware stores. I'm getting items to kill you. I'm finding things that are designed, specifically, to kill you. I am ignoring any killing mechanism or device that says "painless" or "humane." If I kill you, I will skin you, I will put your little ratty head on my fake mantelpiece and I will clip your toenails, grind them up and then smoke them. You're a pestilence carrying, beady eyed, wall hugging, rat bastard. People demonize their enemies to make them less-than-human. That's easy with you, you goddamn son of a bitch, because you're a rat. You're not even human. I will kill you every way possible. And then I will kill you again.

I get to the hardware store. "Rat traps." I can't even ask, I just say.

I get pointed to the lawn and garden department. Now we're talkin'. About half a dozen different ways to kill rats including some that are remarkably industrial strength. I want to buy 'em all, set 'em by my front door, and napalm the place.

Instead I buy 4 glue traps and 3 snap traps. The best 15 bucks I've ever spent in my life. I put glue in the fireplace and my room.

I bait the snap traps without setting them in my second bathroom. I'm treating this exactly the way you treat smart fish -- chum them, then kill them.

I'm a lifetime member of both the World and National Wildlife Federations, but this event has put me on an ecological rampage. I put the poison out on my porch. No, I don't care if I kill squirrels, or feral cats that eat mice that I've poisoned, or raptors that eat the rats that ate the grasshoppers that ate the termites that were living in my rat poison box, thanks for asking. In fact, if I can find a little DDT, I'll dump it directly into a drain going into the Bay.

I am fed up.

I am changing my lifestyle. I will not live with rats. I hate them. I hate the position I've put myself in. I've been a slovenly fat bastard and I'm ashamed of it. I've been ashamed of it and I've done nothing to correct it.

And now I've got rats.

I've brought myself to this point. I'm going to bring myself out. And I am never returning.

This is ridiculous.

And I have hatred and anger and violence and vitriol in my soul. And I've kept it penned up. And it's coming out. And it's coming out now. Just like a boil that needs to be popped to release the pain, the very pus of my being will ooze out. And it will be ugly and nasty and gross.

I will pray, every day, that rats die as a direct result of me. I am fighting a war that I will ultimately lose because the idiotic and stupid b1 series have seen fit in their comfortable little lives to not have genetic children. This means that, 100 years from now, there will be no more of us, but there will rats.

And this will only make me fight harder.

There is no enemy in the world more dangerous than that who has nothing to gain by winning because it means they are either: heartless, cruel, stupid, or self-righteous. I'm all these things.

Rats, if you're smart enough to read, consider yourself warned. And if you're not, then you'd better pray to Ganesh inside your temple that something the Hindus say is right.

I believe that sometimes lives are divided into two parts -- things that happen before an event, and things that happen after. You're essentially forcing me through a horizon that I need to cross, but don't want to. In the future I will thank you for it, but for now I hope I burn your very being with the temperature of my hatred.

You, dear reader, will find that I'm now moderating my comments. If they have nothing to do with rats, or cleaning, I'm not interested in them for the time being. Devotion to a cause requires focus. And for the short term, this is my life.

Hope you're well,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Knights Tail

head to head haiku--
this is me message to YOU
The Force dictates this.

(are thee a man or a mouse?
be there a ghost in your house?)

DO YOU WANT TO DANCE? (or are you a..) proseaiku:

Dear Sir/Madam, I enjoy your writing (and well selected pix)--up to a point--you see M. sometimes, 'the maiden protesteth tooo much man?'. Anywise, it was the longest haiku I ever dipped my toe in babe :)

Dear Prudence..

Thursday, October 26, 2006 5:39:00 AM  
Blogger kingfeddy said...

I laughed so hard I cried.

If you want to do it yourself:

But I'd be happy to pay for professional work. My gift to you. How about something like the "open-mouth rat head mount" like on the bottom of this page:


Oh holy crap, check this out:


Thursday, October 26, 2006 9:26:00 AM  
Blogger Mikkel said...

If it's the Rattus Norvegicus, you're in trouble.

Thursday, October 26, 2006 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Jon said...

We had a similar incident, where our pile of Amazon.com boxes threatened to push the cars out of the garage. Rat footprints on my windshield were the instigator of great amounts of change.

However, at my soft hearted family's request, the rats were mere separated as caught and relocated to places where they could be eaten by assailants unknown. Presumably they found new families and live happily to this day.


Friday, October 27, 2006 3:24:00 PM  
Blogger FARfetched said...

Take heart, oh B-1!
Rats are not that hard to kill —
Let me demonstrate…

Friday, October 27, 2006 7:31:00 PM  

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