Return of Willard

If you remember, when we moved to the suburbs, we were greeted with open paws by the local rat population, whom we immediately started to kill – with varying degrees of success.  By August, after several high profile rat rubouts, most of their rat peeps had fled the premises, never to return.  Or so we thought.

We were settling into suburban life and experiencing the bucolic beauty of the changing seasons, and the staggering costs associated with each.  The lovely falling fall leaves and crisp autumn air translated into princely sums to the landscaper and oil company.  Nonetheless, we were starting to feel a little bit like lords of our domain and a little less like hopeless citybred naifs, prey to all contractors and salesmen within 20 miles.

It being close to Christmas, the house was starting to fill up with signs of the season, including Christmas cards, red and green bows, and sweets and treats.  In particular, somebody had given us two Toblerone chocolate oranges, a delectation we had never had before.  Essentially it’s a baseball-sized chocolate ball, divided into segments which are conveniently separated from each other by whacking it on the nearest horizontal surface or family member. They were delicious and we opened the first one and finished it off in an evening, nestled in front of a fire to combat the suddenly colder temperatures.  We were looking forward to enjoying the second chocolate orange until one morning I noticed that somebody had opened it and eaten the whole thing, leaving the empty box and foil wrapping on the counter.  Thinking black thoughts about the piggy family member who ate the whole thing without sharing filled my head as I left for work.

It was soon forgotten however and the next day as I was in the 6am kitchen getting breakfast ready for me and my wife, I got the feeling that something was going on – I wasn’t sure what it was, but had a strange feeling.  Perhaps it was a ghost.  Perhaps not.

A few minutes later, we were eating our breakfast in the pre-dawn silence when something rolled out from behind the stove and stopped directly in front of us on the floor.

Now I’ll pause the narrative to say that I am in most ways a doting husband, eager to please, polite and affectionate.  However at that precise moment, when my wife quite reasonably asked “What is that?” I uncharacteristically responded by saying “Shut up!”  Shocked by my rudeness she did, which allowed me to hear some kind of pernicious scampering going on behind the stove.

I stooped down and picked up the object, which looked like a shrunken head to me.  Upon closer inspection and much to my horror, I soon realized that it was the purloined chocolate orange, which had been reduced to something that resembled  a large raisin by the enthusiastic gnawing of a pair of rat teeth.

Imagine my feeling of overwhelming terror as I realized that there were rats in the house.  The house wherein resided my infant daughter.  Resisting the very strong urge to burst into tears, I vowed to stop off at home depot and reinforce my supply of anti-rat paraphernalia and –  metaphorically at least – girding up my loins for a fight.

So that night after everybody was safely abed, I set to work laying some of the gigundo snap traps around the kitchen in the vicinity of the stove from whence came the chocolate orange-cum-shrunken head.  I retired that night with fingers crossed that my nimrodian efforts would be rewarded.

Which they were with a huge dead rat, stuck in the snap trap the next morning.  I am generally very brave when it comes to stuff like this, happy to pick up snakes, squish spiders or even stare down the snarliest racoon but this pet-sized dead rat made my knees weak.  My scalp is sweating right now just thinking about it.  But I was victorious.  Resisting the urge to decapitate it and stick its little rat head on a pike as a warning to all the rest of the rats, I disposed of it and headed off to work, thinking Me, 1 – Rats, 0.

So all seemed well, until that evening when I was reading to my infant daughter upstairs and heard a frantic scrambling under the floor and then up into an adjacent wall.  The baby was thankfully oblivious to my trembling recognition that there was more than one rat at our house.  Puzzling though was the fact that it had abandoned all pretense of stealth.  No sneaking around quietly pinching goodies anymore.  This was full-out thrashing around (I could have sworn I heard a thump or two as well, stirring fears of a 10-pound rat).

So that evening, I put out the traps again and hoped for another kill – which is what we got.

However – and this part is not for the squeamish (well neither is this entire post if you ask me) but here we go.  You know how those snap traps work, right?  The target vermin places its nasty head near the bait (in this case Peter Pan Crunchy Peanut Butter) and as it devours it, moves the plate-thingy, triggering the snap-of-death, which comes down on the verminous neck and snaps it cleanly in two, providing for a hasty punt across the Vermin River Styx and into Rat Hades – quickly and cleanly dispatched.  At least that’s the theory.

What awaited me the next morning wasn’t a “clean kill.”  In this case, the rat got stuck in the trap and judging by the decoration on the floor and adjacent cabinets, bled to death a la Sam Peckinpah.  Lacking the handy-dandy yellow crime scene tape, I had to act quickly before anybody else came down and scarred themselves for life by viewing the crime scene.  In retrospect, I should have drawn a chalk outline on the floor in the shape of a dead rat. 

In any event, several quarts of Clorox bleach later, the kitchen was returned to its previously pristine state and Mr and Mrs Rat (for in our fantasy we had married them and attributed the loud behavior the night before to spousal grief) were reunited in Hades, and we were safely on the 7:06 into the city, firmly hoping all our rattine encounters were a thing of the past.


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