Oddly, as we began to primp our house by tending to all those little odds and ends that we never seem to get to, things began to break. Lots of things:
- I tried to lower a blind in the family room, and a cord snapped, causing the blind to collapse on one side.
- The ice maker on our refrigerator stopped working (actually, it works really well if all you want is crushed ice).
- The battery on my roomba let out a plaintive beep, and died. My carpet began to grow dog hair.
- The water line under a sink sprang a leak. Fortunately, there was a pallet of toilet paper from Costco stored under said sink, to absorb the water for several days before said leak was discovered.
- The door handle on our front door jammed, forcing us to enter the house through the garage for several days until the problem could be fixed.
But all these problems are relatively minor compared to my terrifying discovery one stormy Sunday night. I had left my book in my car, so I wandered out into the garage in my jammies and bare feet to search for it and ... something moved.
I forgot about the book and went back inside to tell* my husband, "There's something in the garage."
He went out to check, aiming his flashlight under my car - and something bolted out from under the car and under the storage shelves. Smaller than a raccooon, bigger than a mouse.
You know: A rat.
And then it hit me: About two months ago, when my neighbor and I were instant messaging about our mail delivery (or lack thereof), she mentioned that they had just finished dealing with a rat problem at her house. As I recall, I said helpful things like "OMG" and "shudder" and "Rats utterly skeeve me."
And then another light bulb went on: Maybe she was letting me know they'd dealt with the problem at their house because, you know, the rats were probably going to go somewhere and we're such a nice, short trip.
So I called her at 10pm and explained in a slightly panicked voice that I thought we had a rat in our garage, and she said helpful things like, "OMG" and "I'm so sorry" and "I was kind of hoping you'd call pest control when I mentioned this to you two months ago."
As she looked up the number of her pest control service for me, she inquired, "I didn't know rats could chew through concrete, did you? That's how they got in to our house."
Who needs horror movies and scary books when you have this kind of useful information? Not me. Halloween, I'm ready.
I was not a fan of rats before this happened - in my world, Ratatouille was a horror movie and I still can't believe it was rated G. I went to bed and spent a restless night dreaming about that little animated nightmare chewing his way through concrete on his way up to the second floor to attack me, marshaling legions of attack bees from the hive under our eaves.**
At 9 a.m. precisely the following day, I called the pest control people and the woman who took the call offered to send someone over on Wednesday - which sounds great except that was Monday and that gave Ratatouile two full days to gnaw his way through the conrete in my garage, and wreak whatever other havoc he could come up with - which I have no doubt is considerable. But that was all she had so I took it, and spent the next two days wearing hiking boots*** whenever I went in the garage, which wasn't very often.
The Rat Man finally arrived, and took a walk around our garage. There was no sign of anything - no rats, no droppings, nothing. He explained what we'd typically see if there were rats actually inhabiting the house, and then explained that he was not seeing any of those things. Brave man that he is, he donned special protective gear and went into the crawl space under our house, and not only found no sign of any rats (or chewed concrete), he took photos to prove it and emailed them to me.
"So what was it?" I asked plaintively. "I saw something run when my husband shined the flashlight under my car."
"Probably a rat," he said. "You said you've had your garage door open a lot recently, he must have come in and then been trapped when it was closed."
"Where is it now?" I demanded.
"I'm sure it's long gone. Probably ran out the next time you opened your garage door. You don't have any food in there or anything that would induce it to stay."
I considered this, and although I admit it's possible, it's not evidence. I wanted a corpse or at least to see the tracks it left in the dirt as it fled, hopefully in terror.
"Ma'am, you do realize that rats are more afraid of you than you are of them, right?"
I'm not sure that's possible. "Well, let's just say they're not. What else can you do to, you know, protect me?"
He laid some traps in the crawl space and put out some poison - in a big black ugly pet-and-child-safe bait station right on the side of our house, where prospective buyers can admire it as they struggle to open the front door. Two weeks later, he came back to check all the traps, and let me know he'd found the source of my distress: a mouse.
I glared at my cat. Slacker.
He smiled politely and handed me the bill.
*I say "tell." He claims it was "shriek irrationally."
**Did I forget to mention the beehive?
***Suitable for hiking and fighting off angry rodents.