Tuesday, October 23, 2018

You Have Rats

"You have rats," The Perfects informed me, standing on my driveway as I fumbled with some grocery sacks from the back seat of my car.

The only one who was happy with this news was Duncan, who is brave only in the "hold me back" kind of way.

He turns into a vicious and rabid dog, while in the comfort of his own home, every time he sees a cat cross by the living room window. But when he saw one up close at Skylar's parents' house last Christmas, he quickly devolved into a nervous breakdown.

You wouldn't believe the therapy bills.

As soon as he discovered the rat or rats a day or two after The Perfects's's disclosure, he was in heaven, primarily because the rat had no interest in confrontation, so Duncan could look like a badass without ever having to fight the creature.

I knew that The Perfects didn't mean for the news to sound like an accusation, but I'm accustomed to translating everything that comes from their benevolent mouths into a certain tone and context.

"I like what you've done with that bush" means "I don't like what you had been doing with that bush."

"Your lawn looks healthy this year" translates to "why are you being so inconsiderate about the drought?"

When they said "would you like some [magazine-worthy] tomatoes from our yard" I heard "you look like you should eat more fruit. Also, you probably think tomatoes are a vegetable."

Considering the above, you can only imagine what I heard when The Perfects uttered "you have rats."

To be fair, they may have said "we." I don't remember for sure. The rat they saw was crawling under the fence between our yards to get from one property to the other. But there was certainly an implication that its home base was the pile of rocks on my side.

Duncan confirmed that this was the case shortly thereafter when he started his morning ritual of barking at those rocks, apparently satisfied that there was absolutely no chance that they might bark back.

Introducing rats into The Perfectsess' lives was the absolute last thing I needed to happen in my neighborhood.

After four years of desperately trying to bring them zero drama, and mostly succeeding, I had only a month before decided that I was well on my way to being the kind of neighbor they deserved.

"Who? Our neighbor next door?" I imagined them saying at a dinner party with people dressed in turtlenecks and sipping homemade cider. "He's fine."

Perhaps it was an unreasonable fantasy. But a girl can dream.

"You have rats," they had told me, like a doctor diagnosing the kind of STD that only people in Miami get.

"You have rats," they whispered, a look on their faces like they never thought they would have the kind of lives where they would be required to say those words in that order to someone they unfortunately knew.

"You. have. rats." their eyes said to me every time I saw them over the next few weeks in their front yard doing the right things with their bushes, minding the drought, consuming the correct amount of fresh-produce in the form of home-made cider, and not having rats.

During the months that followed, I saw the rat come and go from the rock pile. Each sighting was a reminder that I had failed somehow.

I felt helpless, unable to put out poison for fear of accidentally killing the animal barking at that rock pile instead of the one sleeping in it.

This rat would live with me in perpetuity, each moment securing my spot in social purgatory.

I began to accept my fate.

And then one day, I saw the rat move across the back fence, and sneak into the yard of the neighbors to the other side of me.


The Renters's's yard.

"Excuse me," I said when I saw them later that day, louder than I needed to and with a hint of snobbery in my voice, "you have rats."

Vicious beast. 

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. Bait.Stations. Duncan won't be able to get in, but the rat will, then it will feel sick and crawl into it's hole under the rocks where it will die. Go to IFA and pick up one or two of them and put them flush along the fenceline near the rock pile. Put soft bait on the spikes (block bait doesn't work as well), try First Strike or Resolv. Refill the stations every 3-4 weeks. Protecta Evo Express are a good option https://www.amazon.com/Protecta-Express-Bait-Station-stations/dp/B00AWE1YUE/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1540389883&sr=8-9&keywords=Protecta+bait+station

  2. Is there a clear entry and exit to the rats rock pile? You can plug one exit and then shove dry ice into the other hole and seal it. They won't realize they are being suffocated by the gas emitted from the dry ice and won't run and in the end there is no poison left.

  3. Get a cat. Name her Donut so she matches Duncan.

    1. I never knew I needed this in my
      Life until RIGHT NOW.

  4. Don't you wish your friends would send you a facebook message that says, "Hi Eli, I just started my own business, out of my own home! To get the whole thing started, I'm hosting a rat extermination party. Come for food and fun, and we'll have neat party games - you could win a free rat extermination!" Why hasn't someone thought of this market yet?

  5. Sometimes your writing starts to sound like poetry. That's my favorite.

  6. If possible, don’t use poison. There are so many birds, squirrels and other wildlife that die from the use of rat poison. I know it sucks to have rats! We had them when we had chickens. But I just went to a wildlife museum where they spoke about how rat poison is really hurting the wildlife.

    1. This. And if the carcasses of the dead poisoned rats are found and eaten by a scavenger, then that animal sometimes also dies from the poison as well. It causes a lot of bird deaths—the eating of poisoned vermin.

      I agree with the cat comment if only Duncan could meet a cat he likes. Maybe if it started out as a kitten? Adopted street kittens grow into really good mousers and rat chasers in my experience.

  7. "You have rats," they had told me, like a doctor diagnosing the kind of STD that only people in Miami get.

    THIS. This is my most favorite sentence I have ever read.

    1. Same. I scream laughed.

    2. It reminded me of my new favorite show "The Good Place" which is fabulous in every single aspect. After devouring Season 1, 2 and the part of 3 that is released, my next feat is to start devouring "The Good Place:The Podcast."

  8. I'm not so sure about a cat being the solution to your rat. One of our cats once brought a baby rat inside our house. My teenaged children managed to chase the baby into the bathroom. They closed the door and put a sign on it warning there was a rat inside while they contemplated how to catch and release this small baby thing (apparently it was "cute"). We tried a live trap but it wouldn't trigger the door to close (although it did get to eat a lot of peanut butter because we certainly wouldn't want it to starve to death while we were hosting it at our house). I was cajoled into putting a bowl of water in the room for it in case it was thirsty. In the end, two of my children went into the bathroom wearing barn boots, gloves and carrying a shoe box and after about 20 minutes and some noises that sort of sounded like a Bugs Bunny episode, they emerged victorious with the rat in the box. Then they took it to a vacant field near our house (and across the street from the police station) and let it go.