Depending on your preference, there could be many things which you wouldn’t mind awakening you at 4:00 am. Someone may not mind being woken up by their cat, or their dog, the diligent paper boy on his route, or Tom Waits 30 years ago. However, I can assure you, that not too many people – almost no one I know – would like to awaken to a rat sauntering across their bedroom floor.
I was awoken at 4:00 am this morning – and it wasn’t by Tom Waits.
Obviously, when you wake to something like this and it’s dark, you think you’re eyes are playing tricks. So, you do the customary series of blinks (the kind you’re familiar with from comedy television) and somehow, that improves your eyesight dramatically. When your guest’s gait comes a bit more into focus, though, you almost have no choice but to emit some sound. In my case, it was a whispered gasp – the kind that simultaneously says:
“What the f…?” and “I don’t want to wake up the kids.”
At this, the visitor became alarmed and stepped up his pace…but he didn’t really ‘run,’ per se. I would barely call it a scamper. After all, he had just hopped down off the bookshelf in my bedroom and had correctly assumed me to be the pacifistic, non-threatening, literary-wanna-be type (purely judging books by covers). Rats are smart and this one realized he was in no particular danger. Had he emerged so nonchalantly at the neighbors, he’d have already been met with a cat, or a shovel, or an empty vodka bottle, or a cat with a shovel and an empty vodka bottle. You get what I’m saying.
See, I had left the door ajar to the balcony earlier in the evening. It was not my intention to to allow a serial killer easy access (as my son had predicted). Rather, my naiveté had simply wanted to invite in some fresh air and, evidently, this dude.
The last time I’d actually had a rat greet me in my place of residence was in Jinju, South Korea. I opened the door to the bathroom to find one peeking his way up and out through the drain in the floor. That time, I yelled and he scrambled back down the drain. I never saw him again. I assumed it was probably because he was offended by either my weak Korean, or by the pathetic amount of kimchi I kept around (I couldn’t stop eating the stuff).
Then there were the ones who strutted like John Travolta alongside you at night in New York City (same Saturday Night Fever hairdos too, as I recall). You couldn’t really call them “rats,” – at least not to their faces. Those city rodents are to rats what Godzilla is to geckos. Don’t antagonize them, unless you want to witness them take down the Empire State Building. They can, and they will. If after a night out with Bey and J, you want to drunkenly throw them a slice of pizza, you do so at your own risk. Keep in mind, you may never be seen again.
My friend once told me how, as a child, she reached under a parked car to pet what she thought was a large cat and it turned out to be Master Splinter. She retreated quickly with all of her hand intact, but she was never the same. She’s never, ever wanted to reach under a parked car again. I try to get her to do it, because I am her friend, and all…but she just won’t. I assure her that Master Splinter stays in the sewers. She won’t listen.
I can only assume that this visitor is Polish and so we could probably talk. I mean, if he’d come in properly and introduced himself, like:
“Hi, I’m Templeton. Got any magazines?”
But no. He had to sneak around. Maybe if these animals didn’t sneak around so much, we could all just get along. I find sneaky people to be pretty unpopular. So, why would we like sneaky rodents? Never mind all those nicey-nicey Disney portrayals like, The Secret of Nimh, (I read the book as a kid and those rats were awesome!), Ratatouille (hey, wait, can this dude cook?). Then there was, The Great Mouse Detective (wait, they are evil in that story, I think), or The Tale of Despereaux (um, also evil there), or An American Tail (also evil, and xenophobic towards Russian mouse immigrants), or Flushed Away (only evil frogs there. Whew.).
I suddenly find myself wondering why the mice are portrayed as the cute, fluffy, innocent and oppressed individuals in these films. Let’s strategically promote ol’ Mickey while we’re at it. Hmmm. You can ponder that today if you want to. You know you want to.
So, now you’re saying to yourself: Enough with the rodent references! Dammit, woman! What did you do?“
I did what anyone would do. I followed him.
People: I did not want this guy to eat my entire family. It’s that simple. Plus, I’ve nothing to fear. I have all of my vaccinations. D’uh.
Since he was aware I was in pursuit, he sauntered, more quickly now, down the hallway and straight into my husband’s closet. I closed the door on him, leaving him trapped like a … well, you know.
Had I been able to redirect him towards the ajar balcony door with cheese, fish scales, or whatever they use in cartoons, I would have definitely done so. It seemed as though he was heading in the direction of fresh air and freedom when I thwarted his plans with my gasp. I regret the fact that he is now trapped in my husband’s closet – while, at the same time, I am pleased he is not trapped in mine.
Steps are now being taken to make Templeton fully aware that he is not welcome here. I wish we didn’t have to necessarily exterminate him from the planet, but I am concerned he might take off in my car any minute now. (I can’t find the keys.)
Please note, it’s not that I am so against hurting Templeton, as I am against having to clean him up afterwards.
My son woke up and asked: “What’s going on? Is there a mouse in the house?”
I replied, hesitantly, “Ummmmm…sort of…”
Having read recently about how rats outnumber people in his hometown of New York City, he said,
“Phew! At least it’s not a rat.”
I sighed in a way I barely recognized, and said, “Go back to sleep now, please. Goodnight.”
(Goodnight to the street sweepers, the night watchmen flame keepers, and goodnight to Templeton, too.)