My home is across the road from a lagoon, it’s an old house with million-dollar views of the water and bush. It has a rusty tin roof, it there’s a large hole in the ceiling and it rains in my kitchen. I even have vines growing through my bedroom wall, and I kind of like that, but what I don’t like unwanted house guests. They always arrive with the first autumn cold snap. That’s when they move across the road seeking the warmth of a family home, my family home.
Unwanted House Guest
I knew I had a rat in the house, I read it in the runes-his little black dropping on the kitchen bench. This particular rat was sneaking in at night, right under the sleepy noses of our two dogs Patch and Pixie. Rat would help himself to a midnight snack, making sure always to leave his little black calling cards on the kitchen bench for me to find in the morning. Even then, I had noble intentions, I didn’t want to kill him merely remove and release him back into the wild.
At the local hardware store, I approached the expert handyman and asked for a humane rat trap. When his raucous laughter died down, he explained. “No such thing luv, just kill the nasty buggers, funniest thing I ever heard being humane rat trap”. He handed me a very ugly instrument of death.
That night after the kids had gone to bed, I sat with the trap….To kill or not to kill Would it kill cleanly and swiftly? What if it didn’t kill cleanly, would rat suffer? What if he was still alive but incapacitated, would I have the guts to finish him off…. Would there be blood and guts?
Late that night, instead of setting the trap, I decided to give rat three warnings, verbal not written. “Rat, you have three days to leave the house or I will set the trap.” The next morning, I found his little black runes once more. The second night “Rat you have two days to leave the house or I will set the trap” Again he mocked me with his droppings. The third night “Rat, please, please, please leave the house or tomorrow I set the trap”.
Alas, the third morning dawned with sun shining on those little vile black bullets scattered with such disdain over my kitchen bench. As with all unwanted house guests and relatives who outstay their welcome, drastic action was called for……
I baited the trap with organic peanut butter, my conscious smoothed with the thought, rat would enjoy a wholesome last meal of crunchy peanut buttery goodness. I pulled back on the spring, set the trap... then to sleep perchance to dream.
SNAP! 3am, a scream and the scrambling of paws. I raced to the kitchen and beheld the grisly scene…one bloodied rat running in circles dragging the trap, trailing bright red blood on the white kitchen floor. The two dogs stood in the corner of the kitchen, they looked at rat then each other “Wouldst thou put an end to this foul deed? Nay I shall not sully myself”. Their eyes turned to mine. The burden was mine and mine alone.
Clad only in knickers, I stood wondering what the hell I was going to do…when rat ran drunkenly out of the kitchen still trailing blood and headed for the lounge. Spurred into action, I grabbed my trusty broom and nudged rat towards the back door, but with every touch of the broom rat screamed, screamed! I didn’t know rats could scream! Nudge scream, nudge scream. Every scream cut like a knife. Eventually I pushed rat to the back door where I putted him out into the yard. He flew in one direction and the trap in another. I slammed the door shut. Then I returned to mop up the grizzly crime scene in the kitchen under the accusing glare of the dogs. “Yet Who would have thought the old rat to have had so much blood in him.”
"Out Damn Spot"
I washed my hands over and over again, “Out damn spot! Will these hands ne’er be clean? No more my lord no more”
Well the next year another cold snap brought more unwelcome guests. I couldn’t face the trauma of madam guillotine again and so I after three verbal warnings I put out rat bait. I felt awful, I didn’t want anything to suffer, not even rat, but I had a family to protect. Consumed with guilt I laid out the poison…
Now it says on the poison packet that after consuming rat bait, rats will go outside to look for water. Perhaps my rat was illiterate,or a lateral thinker, perhaps a vertical thinker, because my rat decided to die in the bathroom ceiling. At first there was just a whiff of something not quite right…and then after an unseasonably hot day with the sun on the rusty tin roof, the smell of death and decay, “all the perfumes of Arabia would not sweeten this little bathroom”. On that first day, you could hold your breath long enough to use the toilet but then came the flies! The room turned black overnight. A black seething mass covered every surface in the room, maggots dripped from the ceiling vent. We couldn’t use the bathroom for 10 days, and the smell lingered even longer than Lady Macbeth’s damn spot. It seemed a fitting punishment for my heinous crime. “Will these hands ne’er be clean? No more o that my lord no more o that”
The next year a new mega hardware store opened…I asked the young handyman What do you have to have to kill rats?” “We have large range of humane rat traps, mam” he admonished and he showed me a whole aisle with a dazzling bright selection. They looked very modern indeed, lovely steel and glass apartments for rats and mice. I perused the shelf, reading all the information, gauging each humanitarian ranking. This wasn’t an instrument of rat torture this was a rat condominium. My nobility restored, I hurried to catch my rat and return him to the wild.
That night I placed the organic chocolate in the condo, I rushed out in the morning eager to find my house guest but he was a no show. The next night I tempted him with the pungent aroma of Italian Parmesan cheese… but still no rat. The third night I went all out wooing rat, with Parmesan cheese, dark chocolate and a bottle top filled with hunter valley’s finest chardonnay. I drifted off to sleep confident rat would fall for my gastronomic charms…
Five Star Restaurant
The next morning, I peered through the glass window of the rat condo, no rat! The chocolate, cheese and wine were all gone to! It wasn’t a rat trap! It was a 5-star rat restaurant.
And so now with the end of another summer looming, we catch glimpses of pointy noses and long tails running around the outside of the house knowing the first cold spell will send them in to share in our food and the warmth of our cozy home once again. Again, I will be faced with the question to kill or not to kill. And if to kill, what manner of death should I deal? I know there is a lesson for me here, is it about guilt? Perhaps it’s about taking responsibility for my actions, but what if it’s bigger than that? For the life of me I don’t know, maybe I should consult a priest, or a fortune teller… or perhaps just ask rat, and he can spell it out for me on the kitchen bench in little black runes.
A heart to heart blog on life, spirituality, storytelling & stories.