At the end of Part One, I was crying on my kitchen floor, wearing a respirator mask and talking to an opossum with eyes as big as silver dollars who was under the house along with a family of dead rats:
A beautiful, warm day but all that means to me is that the stench of putrefaction will be ever more powerful. I cancel my students and spend the day in the garden.
Pete spends the morning setting traps and sealing the house. He tells me there is no evidence of an opossum and no possible way for it to get in unless I ushered it in the front door, but he’ll trap for it anyway. He is re-assuring, answering all my questions patiently even when I ask the same ones over and over at regular intervals. He pulls several bags of insulation and a rat body out of the vent under the kitchen but the stench remains.
Though I didn’t think it possible, the stench in the kitchen is worse. Another rat must have come home to die in the arms of its loved ones.
Wills’ piano lesson. Someone drops him and his mother off and speeds away. For the first time in eight years Esther is without a car and comes into the house.
Wills says, “You’ll have to blow out those candles because my mom is allergic to the smell.”
I start to sweat. Noticeably.
Esther says, “Never mind, I can wait in your sun-room.”
“You can’t,” I blurt out. “There’s. . . well, you see, I’ve had a teeny problem with a rat and there’s trap out there.”
“Oh that won’t bother me. He won’t come out while I’m there.”
“Okay, look, you can’t go back there. There are dead rats under the sink and it vents to the sun-room and the place stinks and you can’t go back there.” I burst into tears.
Pop corn and cook fish.
Pete checks the traps. The only animal—dead or alive—under the house is a small mouse who licked the bait off all the traps until the last one sprung.
“Here’s your opossum,” Pete says.
I’m confused. The dirt-dobber described something with eyes as big as silver dollars that hissed at him. Pete says the guy probably got claustrophobic and imagined the rest.
Pete grows a halo and stigmata appear on his hands.
Playboy and company show up three hours late. They mercilessly tease the fellow who looked at a mouse and saw an opossum with eyes as big as silver dollars. I give him a soda, thank him, and think the rest of them are better specimans for Becky of Neanderthals than those of us born at Maynard Hospital in the 1950s.
The guys resume work digging a tunnel to the kitchen.
In the middle of piano lesson with Sarah I hear the Playboy say, “What another one?” Sarah struggles to the end of “Frogs on Logs” and blood drains out of my face.
The guys pull six corpses out from under the kitchen sink bringing the total to eight and not counting the skeletons.
I leave For OK Chorale rehearsal. When I come home, I put my key in the lock and hallucinate that a six-foot rat is inside, lounging on the sofa with the TV remote and refrigerator left-overs, and entertaining an opossum with eyes the size of silver dollars. Inside it’s just Edith, fit to be tied that I won’t let her into the sun-room and feeling defrauded of the most engrossing fun she could have had in years.
The house feels like a mouth whose teeth haven’t been brushed in a month. Hire Lynette to help me clean. Turns out she can’t work with me. I “interfere with her energy.” I set a cassette to record “Car Talk” and spend the morning in the garden while Lynette pushes a rag around, smearing the dirt and insulation dust. She vacuums the entire house on the wrong vacuum setting with a bag that needed to be emptied and seems quite put out when I point out that the vacuum hasn’t picked anything up. She piles all the dirty rags in a heap on the oak table, forgets to do the bathroom, and leaves with Christian rock blaring out of the radio. Reminds me of a character in a book who turned out to be a psychopath.
Call Sunshine Carpet Cleaning. A female voice answers with a menu of options. I choose to schedule an appointment. All operators are busy and I’m put on hold. After several minutes, a male voice tells me to leave a message for Dirk, which I do.
Sarah’s mother calls to say that Sarah doesn’t want to take lessons any longer.
Drive to Bellevue to teach a class. Pop in my cassette of “Car Talk.” In the middle of a caller’s story about a car trip after her husband’s vasectomy, the tape vreeps into Christian rock. My hands lock onto the steering wheel and I almost crash into the bridge divider.
Hire Sharon to help me clean. She spends three hours on the kitchen and bathroom and gets all traces of insulation dust, dirt, and grime removed. Not wanting to interfere with her energy I spend the afternoon cleaning the sun-room and leveling the pile of bricks that the rats have used as a walk-up to the broken window. Neighborhood cats come expectantly with their lawn chairs and leave in disappointment.
One of Hitler’s youths shows up to clean the carpet. It’s not just the blue eyes, the blond hair and the German accent. It’s the lectures I have to endure about how I abuse my carpet. Dirk from Sunshine Carpet Cleaning is a one-man operation in a battered station wagon with ancient rug cleaning equipment. There are no employees, no secretary, no dispatcher, just a very complicated intake system. He energetically cleans the carpets and I cower in the garden.
I finally feel like I have my home back. The house smells sweet and clean.
There’s a skunk smell somewhere in the yard. There can’t be skunks in the city.