Sunday, November 07, 2004

My First Rat

    pest control vignette

The first rat I had to kill as part of my new job as pest exterminator for the university was a little intimidating. Up until then I'd only sprayed for insects or placed poison bait for the rodents, but I hadn't had to chase a rodent or corner a live one with teeth! In private life, I had perhaps killed a few with snap traps, but that's not anything you might call face-to-face combat requiring a steady nerve—this was.

They'd reported a live rat to me via my beeper, a rat trapped in a large file cabinet. I wondered who the brave soul was who had trapped it, left the job unfinished, and called for Cowardly Me? It was bound to happen sometime, I guess, I just hadn't planned it out. Jeez! I drove slowly, trying to figure out a plan and what to whack him with before I got there. Finally I remembered the little souvenir baseball bat I'd found somewhere on campus a couple of weeks earlier. I guess I'd thought that I'd give it to some young kid, but it's destiny turned out to be very different.

When I got to that office suite I found all the workers, male and female, as far away as possible from the Records Room where the rodent was ostensibly still trapped. They were uncertain that there might not be an exit hole underneath or behind the cabinet and they were so nervous about that, I think they actually failed to notice that the pest control man was a novice and nearly as nervous as they were! I entered the room and closed the door behind me. I was thinking, half-hoping, that maybe the rat had managed to escape. I considered it more likely that I'd open a drawer and he'd leap out straight at me!

Aaagh, Wild Rats Gnawed My Face!

I didn't know if rats would really do that under such circumstances. I found out later by experience that they will leap at you, but this one didn't. However, he was scared shitless and in fourth gear! He made constant high-speed whirling circles from left to right and top to bottom of that file cabinet as I banged away at him with the baseball bat. With every swing the rat got more frenzied, but not more sensible. Finally I bopped him on the side of the head and stunned him. He fell to the bottom of the four-drawer cabinet. I yanked open the bottom drawer and he was trying to play dead, but breathing too hard to fool anybody. I smacked him two or three more times in the skull and that was that, he wasn't playing any more.

All things considered, I felt that this reckless bloodletting would be overlooked by the office residents, but not letting the damn rat get loose again! That turned out to be about right. When he was demonstrably dead (tap, tap, little Ricky Rat, on your back and on your head), I wrapped him in some rags I'd brought so that I wouldn't freak out everyone as I left the building with him hanging limp and bloody.

This was the day I found out that the small souvenir baseball bat worked great for beaning rats. I kept it for quite a few years for the same purpose. Inevitably it became known as the Rat Bat.

Ole Rickey Rat and I had led one another quite a chase up and down the drawers. I did what I could to remove the blood from the file cabinet and the papers, but you know how blood and paper are. Well, even if you don't, you can imagine how upset the people in that office were already without seeing too much of those telltale signs of bloody murder left behind. For all I know, they may never have touched that file cabinet or anything in it ever again. But I'd done my part and I was through!

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