I remember the first time I heard them scratching – just above my head, actually, while I typed away on my little laptop in the dark basement office with chalky white walls and popcorn ceilings. I sat in our still new first home, and listened carefully. Nothing. “Maybe I’m hearing things.” Tap, tap, tap, I continued on the keyboard. And then there it was again, and this time I was pretty sure something was about to scratch right through those popcorn ceilings onto my desk.
This continued for a few months. We’d hear them in our room at night, in particular, apparently hosting a dance party that we were not invited to. And then the squeaking began, and I nearly put a For Sale sign in the yard. There’s nothing quite so unnerving as waking up in the middle of the night to repeated sqeaks in the walls behind you.
Josh is more rational than I, thank goodness, and so he decided to hold off on selling and call an exterminator instead. A nice gentleman in a grey shirt with “Todd” monogrammed on the pocket in red, came and crawled though our attic for long enough to emerge red-faced, his shirt soaked through, and with the declaration that we did, indeed, have roof rats. Naturally, I sprinted to my laptop and Googledthe little suckers while Josh performed the polite duty of seeing the man out. They looked like field mice but with rat tails – the thick pink kind. I threw up a little in my mouth and told Josh we needed to pay the man all the dollars to get rid of the things! Mr. CheapSkate – I mean money-saver – declared that he would handle it himself. And that, my friends, is where our story begins.
After sealing up the spot where they were getting in and out of our attic and walls and insulation – he strategically placed some of those snappy mouse traps slathered with peanut butter throughout our attic. Over the course of the following weeks, every few days we would hear a loud “whap”. We would look at each other with eyebrows lifted, half pumped, half disgusted and say, “Got another one.” Josh would climb up into our low ceilinged attic and emerge with a Target bag sagging in the middle, at which point I promptly cussed under my breath and ran far, far away.
Then, one fateful evening toward the end of our rat-capades, after we settled our two little girls into bed, we began the nightly work of dishes and counter cleaning in our tiny little drop-ceiling kitchen – oh, the blessed 70’s era of making rooms feel smaller just for the heck of it – and as though it was happening on my shoulder, I heard it: Whap! Josh and I both jerked our heads toward one another and stared wide eyed in fear and shock as we listened to the follow up: scrape, squeal, scrape, squeal. My heartbeat quickened and I grabbed Josh’s arm, “What is happening?!” He chuckled, as he always does in nerve-racking and/or inappropriate situations, and said, “It sounds like one got stuck in a trap and is dragging it around.”
I could have died right there. Was this really what our life had come to?! Why did we have to buy a stupid house?! Why didn’t we have a landlord to come and get rid of the vermin? Why, oh why, were they OUR vermin to deal with?! And why couldn’t we just have paid nice, sweaty Todd to get rid of them FOR us?!
Josh climbed into the closet, turned pantry in the hallway and hoisted himself into the attic to get a better look. Sure enough. Ole’ Stuck-leg was dragging a trap all over my dad-gum ceiling! I finished cleaning up the kitchen, whilst humming loudly in an effort not to hear the torture that was happening above my head. Josh went to gear up.
Here’s what you should know about Josh. He’s a gentle fellow, a lover, not a fighter, but also he will do what needs to be done to take care of business without making much of a fuss. This is one of the things I love the very most about him. So, when he appeared from the garage wearing his headlamp and carrying his BB gun – let’s just say the situation went from disgustingly tragic to hilarious very quickly.
I settled into the armchair in the living room to peruse the newest Southern Living magazine while I listened to him tromp around above me. Nothing is quite so humbling as waiting for your man to bring out the dead rat in the middle of your brand new cherry wood floors. After a few minutes there was a pause, then the pumping of that precious BB gun, and pop – squeeeeaaaallll. Scrape. Squeal. Scrape. Squeal.
At this point, Josh began talking to Ole Stuck-leg: “Yeah. That’s right. Come over this way a little.”
Then more pumping of the BB gun, and pop – squeeeeeaaaaallll. Scrape. Squeal. Scrape. Squeal.
This continued for a few more pump and pops until finally I heard, “Seriously?! I got you in the head that time!”
By now, I was honestly feeling sorry for Dear Stuck-leg. He probably wanted to die but neither him nor Josh could quite figure out how to make that happen. And also, I was laughing hysterically – giggling to the point of tears imagining my lover-not-a-fighter BB gunning that poor field mouse turned rat into an oblivion! After a few more minutes of scuffling and another very loud, Snap, there was silence. Down came my sweaty, head-lamp wearing hero with the sagging Target bag. He’d finally coaxed the little guy into another trap and put him out of his misery once and for all.
Rest in peace, Dear Stuck-leg. You gave us a story for the ages.