When I was up on Whidbey, one of the wildlife issues was field mice. In the city we deal with rats. I know they are everywhere and lord knows I’ve had my adventures with them but I hated those adventures.
On Sunday I went up to my local Fed-Ex to do some printing. I like to go when Vince is there because he is a sweet, helpful guy with a charming smile who does a beautiful job with my cards and never gets impatient when I ask him to fix punctuation or tighten a crop.
One of the doors was propped open on Sunday but I think (I hope) I came through the other one. Vince was at the front desk looking his usual calm self but before I could get in a word he asked me, “Do you want to see something gross?”
“Sure,” I said. I thought it was going to be something funny.
“Look over at the door,” he said. “There’s a rat caught in it.”
I walked towards the door and immediately reeled back. There was indeed an animal caught in the hinge side of the door.
“Are you sure it’s not a squirrel?”
I walked all the way to the far wall to come around to the other side of the door just to look out the window and see from that vantage point a rat’s tail. The rat had tried to slip in when the door opened and was almost but not quite bisected.
“When did it happen?” I asked.
“Just now,” Vince said.
“Damn,” I thought. “I meant to come an hour ago.”
“What are you going to do,” I asked Vince.
“I’m not sure. They don’t pay me enough to touch a dead rat,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get a hold of the store manager and Animal Control.” He took a deep breath and folded his hands on the counter.
“What can I do for you?” he asked politely.
“Oh no,” I said. “I’ll help you figure this out first. Animal Control is not going to do anything. Did you try a pest control service?”
Someone came in wanting help using the copy machine at the same time Vince’s manager called back.
“I’ve got to take this,” he said.
“That’s okay,” I said. “I’ll help her.”
It was a woman with two small girls in tow. “Hi,” I said. “I live here.” Sometimes I think I do.
I got the woman with the two girls set up in time to help the next customer who came in. The third person to walk in was none other than my good friend Kay. She, like me, comes to this Fed-Ex when she knows Vince is working.
Kay did a thorough inspection of the rat, complete with appreciative comments about his size. “We’ll help you get it out,” she said.
I didn’t like the sound of that “we.” Still I volunteered to hold the door open if I didn’t have to look down.
Vince got off the phone and reported that someone would be there in the next four hours.
“Never mind your facilities person,” Kay said. “Do you have something we can poke it out with? When the door is open, there’s room to push it through.”
A man marched in, his arms full of a project and immediately began to tell Vince what he wanted done. Kay and I looked at him speculatively.
When he finally noticed us, he said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I interrupted.”
“We were waiting for you,” I said. “We were waiting for a nice man to come in and help us with something.”
He grinned. “What do you need?”
We introduced him to the dead rat and I will say this for him: he was a good sport about it. Vince tied some discard-able paper around a yardstick and the man held the door. Kay pushed the rat out with the yardstick and then kicked it into the street next to where her car was parked while I stood in the store and shrieked.
She came back in, smiling. “Sissies,” she remarked.
That was Sunday.
Tuesday morning I found Artemis in the cabin off my sunroom, presiding over a rat. She and I stood and looked at each other for a long time. I don’t know what she was thinking, but I was thinking, “Oh no. It’s started.”
I got close enough to see that the rat was twitching a little bit. It was also quite small. A baby. That squeezed a little compassion out of me.
It was still breathing when I popped a box over it and weighted the box with a flowerpot. When my friend Madelaine showed up for Tuesday morning watercolors, I said I had a huge favor to ask.
All I wanted was for her to be with me while I did whatever it was I decided to do. The little guy was in distress and it would have been merciful to kill it but I can only deal with rats if I don’t have to look at them. And I don’t like to do things that put in my mind images that will disturb my sleep. The world has enough on its plate without me serving it a sleep-deprived self.
In the end I slid a piece of cardboard under the box the way I would slide a piece of paper behind a glass in which I had trapped a bee. I took it outside and managed to toss the whole thing on a pile of garden refuse without actually looking at it.
Sigh. There are so many beautiful aspects of the fall. My apple tree is leaning low. The apples are growing in bunches like grapes. Even though I didn’t thin them this year, they are larger than they have ever been with less scab and fewer worms. It’s a great time to be alive. It’s always a good time of year to be a cat in my household. A rat not so much.