Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Rat's Tale

This is the tale of two rats.

Over the last several months, the Sachs' backyard has been blessed with the presence of not one but two uninvited rodents.

We live in a very urban neighborhood, so rodents are not things we generally see much of in our yards. At least not until recently.

The first of the vermin appeared a couple months ago, at dinnertime of all things. My mom was out of town, so Jeff, Evie, and I were all eating a quiet family meal together. At meals, Jeff pulls his chair up to the side of the table, and he and I sit next to one another so I can feed him. We always sit on the side of the table that faces the backyard. It was a lovely evening, and we had the blinds open to enjoy the splendor.

Mid-way through the spaghetti with meat sauce, Jeff abruptly says, "Oh my god there's a rat in our backyard."

Me: "What?"
Evie: "WHERE?"

In unison, Evie and I leaned to the left to get a better view.

There he was, slowly making his way across the concrete toward the brick fire ring.

His lack of speed signaled he was either sick or injured.

He found the side of the fire ring, and apparently he was quite comfy there. So he snuggled up against it, put his nose to the ground, and stopped to rest - or perhaps to die.

My appetite was immediately thrown out the window. I sank down in my chair, and stared at the little beady-eyed booger, with a look of absolute loathing on my face.

Jeff said what I already knew. "You're gonna have to take care of it."

I knew the truth of the matter, and I turned to him slowly and said in a low, dry voice, "You've got to be f***ing kidding me."

Evie was on her feet at the door jibbering about the rat, regaling us with tales of where he came from, how he's probably sick, maybe he ate something that made his tummy upset, I wonder what his name is, look at him he's sooo cuuuuuute!!

Jeff's appetite was unaffected by the appearance of the rodent, and he spurred me to keep feeding him. I mechanically shoveled the food in his mouth, my thoughts bouncing from one scenario to the next on how I was going to confront this rat.

Offhandedly, Jeff asked, "Do we have a shovel?" to which I answered, "I am NOT smashing the rat."

After 30 minutes, we figured the rat was pretty close to dead, so the plan was for me to pick it up with the pool skimmer, put it in a bag, and dispose of it in the outdoor trash can.

I went back to the bedroom to put on my sneakers. As I tied my shoes, I was wishing I had a good pair of work gloves and lamenting the fact that the only pair of gloves I actually owned were made of soft chenille with fuzzy poufs at the wrist.

Evie's shrill voice broke into my thoughts, "IT'S MOVING!"

Apparently the rat wasn't as dead as we all thought. I scurried down the hall and joined the rat in the backyard as he lumbered across the concrete into the thick plants along the side of the house. As he disappeared into the brush, my relief overflowed. I turned to Jeff and shrugged an "Oh Well."

"Let him go," he said. Like I was really going to go into the bushes after the darn thing.

Fast forward a couple months, and once again, during a family meal - this time with Nana present - Jeff exclaims, "Oh my god there's a rat on our pool cover."

Evie, Nana, and I all darted to the back door. Sure enough, there's a rat - doing an awkward lurch/crawl/side shimmy down the middle of our pool cover.

This time, I knew I had to act fast. You see, our pool cover is two separate pieces - cut that way for ease of taking it off and putting it on. And the rat was fast approaching the break in the two pieces. It's unlikely he would successfully make the journey to the second piece. The more likely scenario is he would fall through the split and meet his demise at the bottom of the deep end.

I ran back to the bedroom, fumbled to put my shoes on amidst the shouts from the kitchen ("Hurry, he's getting closer to the split!"), raced back down the hall, flew out the back door, flung open the pool gate, grabbed the pool skimmer (from my first plan), and scooped up the rat before he touched the water.

Here's where I went wrong. For as Jeff so delicately pointed out to me after everything was said and done, I did not have a plan. What was my purpose in scooping up the rat? To save it from drowning? To simply get it out of the pool? To kill it? I had no idea. And so I froze.

I guess I expected the rat to just lie there all waterlogged in the pool skimmer. I could NOT have been more wrong. As soon as I lifted it into the air, that little guy sprung to life. He dug his sharp claws into the net and began to CLIMB OUT!

I yelled out and swiftly swung the skimmer over to the small grassy area as the rat flopped onto the ground. I snapped the skimmer down around him and trapped him underneath. As soon as the skimmer hit the ground, I realized that I now have a live rodent trapped by a flimsy pool net. I was beginning to think a dead rodent at the bottom of the pool might have been better. I think it's safe to say that both the rat and I were now in a precarious position.

I could hear yells from the peanut gallery stationed just inside the back door. Jeff's voice isn't as strong as it used to be, so I couldn't make out his words. But luckily, Evie was repeating everything he said at the top of her lungs.

"Scoop it up and throw it over the fence!!!"

Even if I was able to scoop it up from my current position, I wasn't about to possibly subject an innocent passerby to a rat to the head, so the fence idea was no good.

My mother's bright idea was to introduce two plastic terra cotta planters to the scene. She came up behind me carrying them.

"What are those for?"

"I dunno. Maybe to trap it underneath. Then we can go get the neighbor and ask him to take care of it."

She crept around the other side of the pool toward the already trapped rodent armed with her trusty plastic planters. As she got in closer, the slimy rodent tail slid out from under the skimmer toward her. She flinched and let out a mortified yelp.

I told her to go back in the house.

As I tried and tried to scoop the rat back up into the net, it became increasingly apparent that the effort was futile. My only option was to a) let it go, or b) smash it. And as I'd already made clear in the encounter with the first rat, I was not about to smash it.

My mom was now shouting that Jeff wanted me to come to the back door so he could talk to me. I guess he expected that the rat and I would just call a 30-second time out so I could go talk to my coach before once again resuming our veritable tug of war.

I explained that once I let go of the skimmer pole, the war would be over. So unless someone wanted to come out and relieve me of my position, I wouldn't be able to chat right now.

The peanut gallery was oddly silent.

So I took a deep breath. I stared down the pole at the rat, made up my mind, and said, "All right, buddy." I pushed the skimmer slowly toward the edge of the backyard where two rows of bushes meet. The rat was scurrying beneath, sometimes losing his footing and simply rolling along. We made it to the bushes, I ensured the rat was facing away from me and had a clear view of his new oasis, and I lifted the net.

He rocked back and forth a few times, then he slowly made his way into the bushes.

I turned around, hosed off the skimmer, and went inside to pour myself a glass (or two) of wine. I said a cheers to the rat and our mutual stand down.


So why, exactly, am I sharing this story other than to highlight my pathetically hopeless exterminator skills?

Because this is the stuff Jeff should be doing. This is the stuff he wants to be doing.

As wild and humorous as the night was, it's still hard to face these scenarios. To accept that these types of jobs - the yucky ones that guys are generally just better at than girls - are no longer Jeff's to handle. They will always be mine to physically accomplish.

And that just sucks.

But hey, at least I still have Jeff to advise me on stuff like this. Granted, given the situation that insight can range from the indispensable (remember the BBQ post?) to the idiotic ("Throw it over the fence!"). Still, I couldn't ask for a better sidekick.

Who knows, one day I might actually be able to add "accomplished exterminator" to my bag of tricks. :)

God, I hope not!


In 2015, we moved to a new home in a new state. And in 2016, a mouse had taken up residence in our BBQ. Here's a video of me and Evie setting - and checking - mouse traps. If nothing else, Evie's narration is hilarious. Enjoy!

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