August 31, 2010

Rodent Incident Report 2

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This story involves two rodents if you count opossums as rodents which they aren’t; they’re marsupials.   That they are related to kangaroos doesn’t make me love them.  They still look like giant rats.

I found the aforementioned opossum, dead, under my apple tree on the morning I was leaving for a long weekend at a friend’s ranch in Montana.   My friend Joan was coming to cat sit.  All I wanted was to get out of town.  I decided to pretend that Joan wouldn’t be bothered by a dead marsupial in plain view out the big picture window of my front room.  I went to Montana, and didn’t think about home for four days.   But in the Billings airport, I started to have conscience nibbles.   Joan is my friend with Theological Chops; she could have told me that I was nibbling a sin of omission.

Back home, Seattle was sweating out a string of days in the 90’s.   There’s a joke that when the sun shines in Seattle, we all wonder what we’ve done to be punished like this.  It’s an old, stupid joke but it has some relevance to my story.  Joan had left a note saying that she had disposed of a dead opossum she had found under the apple tree.  She had scooped it into a plastic bag and put it in the garbage in time for that same day’s collection.  I smiled.  Good old Joan, what a great friend.

Then Freud came in with a welcome home gift for me. With such heat, it was unusual for one of my cats to have found the energy to bring a rat into the house; unusual for him to have found a rat at all at high noon.  Freud was still a young cat and up til then he had only brought in moles which he also manages to find in broad daylight.  I don’t mind the moles because they don’t have icky long tails.  Plus they are singers: little vocalists with jazz hands.  In any case, this was Freud’s first rat and he wasn’t quite sure what to do with it so he let it loose to crawl under the LazyBoy chair while I was sitting in it. I jumped up, flipped the chair over and watched the rat scurry into the kitchen and wriggle behind the oven.  Freud was delighted.  His little friend was entertaining.  What would he do next?

Here’s what his little friend did next: he spent the next five days eluding me and my three cats.  The evidence suggests that he scuttled back and forth from behind the oven to behind the bathroom sink, helping himself to the bits of peanut butter in the traps I had set, but without springing the traps.

On the fifth night as I was getting ready for bed, I saw Artemis agitating in the bathroom, frantically trying to get under the sink.   Artemis lives up to her name, the goddess of the hunt.  When she’s on the hunt, she’s relentless, and she always gets her man.  I went to sleep that night with confidence that the rat would be dead in the morning.

So I knew instantly what my bare feet had stepped on when I got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.  There was the obligatory shriek, but truly, I was mostly relieved that the rat was no longer operative.  I picked it up with double plastic bags, and took it to the outdoor cans.

There was a breathtakingly foul odor by the cans.  I thought it might have to do with the evolution of normal garbage in the abnormal heat, but a bit of exploration revealed a decomposing opossum in the yard waste container.

My thoughts came in no particular order:  Oh my god.  She put it in the wrong can. The garbage isn’t collected again for three days.  Oh god.  It’s 4 in the morning.  We’re having a heat wave. I’ll have to tip it into the right can.  Ah geez.

In reviewing all these events and thinking about my sin of omission, I came up with a penance:  Do ten “Hail Marys” with jazz hands and write 100 times: “When I leave my home to house-sitters,  I will label my garbage cans.”

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