Exterminating Angel
Written by
Cece Box
July 2011
Written by
Cece Box
July 2011

      Oh, the utter shame. 

      I am sure I am the only one among us who has ever had a rat in the house.

     This is surely a clear sign of some deep moral failing on my part, but this is my season for coming clean.  I refer you here to the previous post on turning 60.  A season for becoming well-seasoned.  And so, I admit it.  There has been a rodent in my house.

      In many ways, I am a brave person.  Fearless in the face of life upheavals, leaping into new jobs, relationships, new cities, road trips, projects, I take a deep breath and push forward.

      When I come face to face with rodents, or even the evidence of rodents, I stand very, very still.  Not stealthy, hunterly stillness.   Not meditative big-hearted we-are-all-one stillness.   No, it's a pure, freak-out stillness, accompanied by  breaking out in an instant and copious sweat.

      Panic and shame led the way.  Eventually I took the next step, the coward's way out.  I called the exterminators.  Where I live, these guys are regular visitors, keeping at bay the water bugs that are bad enough in themselves, but so ubiquitous they kind of lose their power to shock, not unlike Lindsay Lohan.

      The exterminator set out traps, and even volunteered to come back and deal with the anticipated "results", but the critter was obviously having none of that.

      Then came the bumps in the night, as my uninvited house guest navigated clumsily around the kitchen, knocking small items out of its way.   I lay in bed (my bedroom is next door to the kitchen, door closed, of course), in a now-familiar sweat, and vowed to take the battle to DefCon 2, otherwise known as Decon rat bait.

      Yes, I girded my loins and bought rat poison.  The challenge was to place the bait in locations that were attractive to the rat but inaccessible to my two dogs.  I carefully placed the little box of pellets behind and underneath a bookcase, carefully secured the dog gates to keep the pets in the other part of the house.

      Within half an hour, I came on Tino, my beloved cocker, nosing at one end of the book case, having been motivated enough to jump the gate, and little blue pellets spilled out on the other end, from where I was sure I had secured them beyond dog-reach.

      I had 15 minutes before the vet closed for the weekend.  Not knowing whether he'd actually gotten into the bait himself, I (rather rudely, in his opinion) hauled Tino over to the vet, where he was made to barf, and I was made to pay big bucks for the comfort of saving his life from poison he probably didn't even eat.

      The standoff continued.  The rat was at least one up on me.  Another night of rattling and scurrying and knocking items off the kitchen counter, another day of obsessively cleaning every crumb and spot to deny him (of course it was a him) of any target, another night of lying in more sweats, visions of foot-long sci-fi, mutant, radioactively enhanced rats assailing my imagination.  I unwrapped another Decon and slid it under the stove, where I had heard him knocking about, when I stormed into the kitchen at 4 a.m., scantily clad, ineffectually brandishing a mop, and, of course, sweating.

      Yesterday, my other dog, Maxie, the little white fluffball, spent much of her day camped out next to the dishwasher.  She must have picked up on something.  This morning, I arose to let the dogs out, and there, in the center of the kitchen floor, lay my nemesis.

      This was not how I choreographed it.  He was supposed to slink away and simply fade from our consciousness.  But no, there he was, even giving little final twitches as I pulled the dogs away (rather rudely, in their opinion), and hustled them outside. 

      Left alone, I stood, sweating, knowing what had to be done, but damned if I could make myself do it.   Rat he was, but in death, he was a small, furry creature, whose life I had caused to end.  We all do what we are compelled to do, but really, truly, I would have chosen to avoid facing the consequences of my actions.  Now tears rolled down my face, tenderness and regret and relief unnervingly present all at once.

      I wanted to have the courage to do the right thing, but in the end, I required the presence of my Loved One, whose sleepless habits keep him in another room most nights.  He did what real men do, bless his heart.  Took the dust pan while I held the trash bag - at arm's length, still sweating - and scooped the creature into it.  I tied up the small bundle and carried it out, reverently and still freaked.

      Later, over breakfast, he finally came up with the title of the movie we'd been talking about with a friend yesterday.  It was a Luis Bunuel movie, and the title was, Exterminating Angel.

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