Another Year, Another Rat Tale

The timing of the events of my morning could not be more ironic. Last year, around this same time, I posted a humorous and true story on this website, and over the course of the past week or two, i’ve been drafting a followup entry that details ‘Part II’ of that event. Something happened a day or two later last year, which was a continuation of that event, and I thought it’d be fun to finally relate that story this year.

Fate, however, chose to throw ‘Part III’ into my path this morning. Part II will have to wait.

The morning started out relatively normal, with the modest exception of my being the one to take our son to preschool instead of my wife, who was taking our daughter elsewhere. She left at 8am, apparently without ‘exposure’ to what I encountered 45 minutes later, when I (fortunately) opted to ‘pre-load’ my car with my belongings instead of doing so once I had my son in the car. I instructed him to wait in the house while I walked to the car with my briefcase, a bag of some miscellaneous things I needed for the day, A CD of kids music for the drive, and some outgoing mail. Once I dropped everything else in the car ,I walked to the mailbox, but tripped slightly along the way.

We have a Magnolia tree in our front yard, and the ‘pods’ it drops litter our yard and driveway. They’re annoying as hell but my occasionally stepping on them and tripping over them is a part of a daily routine. When I tripped on the way to the mailbox I assumed, in that moment, I’d done just that. It was only when I glanced back over my shoulder, as I continued towards the mailbox, that I realize what I had stumbled over. It was enough of a shock to cause me to stop in my tracks, turn in disbelieve, and audibly but unconsciously utter ‘No Fucking Way!‘ It wasn’t a Magnolia pod I’d tripped on, it was a rat. A big, fat, dead, ugly rat.

As I’d mentioned earlier, if you’ve not already read my post from last year, now is the time to do it. So, go here, read the first post, and come back when you’re done. I’ll wait here… and this rat’s not going anywhere either :-/.

Standing in the driveway, outgoing mail in one hand and my mouth gaping open in surprise, the first thing that came to mind was ‘it must be seasonal’. Maybe every year the neighborhood cats get together and drop off a Christmas Rat to each of the houses. The next things that came to mind, and remains there, is

  • My wife must not have seen it, because I definitely would have heard the scream
  • Thank god I came out without my son, who’s fascination would have been a serious ‘containment issue’.
  • Last year, there were two. So where’s the other one?
  • What would have happened if this was in the backyard and the kids found it, not me?
  • WHY is it dead in the first place?
  • Given that we live near water and lots of open land, it’s certainly not surprising to know that there’s rats around. I can deal with that. And the kids are wise enough now that I’d not expect them to run after a live one or touch a dead one. Even last year, when my son found the ‘black bug’, he came to me without touching it. But stepping on and tripping over a dead one in the driveway is a bit disturbing.

    How I missed seeing it when I walked out is beyond me. Clearly, my attention was on the car and not on the driveway, but something about it’s having been grey and white, blending transparently into the grey and white asphalt, makes me suspect that nature has played it’s part in their adapting to their environment, much like the tree frogs of the rain forest. Either way, it was either beneath or blocked from my wife’s view, which explains the lack of shrieking earlier.

    As I stood there, the car running, my son waiting in the house, and the feet of a dead rat I’d just stumbled over pointing skyward in front of me, I had no time to do anything but act. I put the mail in the mailbox, walked around to the side of the house where a spade shovel was leaning against the garage, smoking a stogie and awaiting it’s ‘rat removal’ task. I took it to the driveway and started working it beneath the carcass.

    Not to give too much detail, but seeing as this seldom happens, I wanted to capture the experience in writing. It’s odd, but even when believing it was dead, it appeared ‘fresh’ and recent, so I had this inner dialog and visions in my head from numerous horror films and such, of finding out, just as I assume all is ‘calm’, that the thing suddenly jumps to life, squeals, and attacks. As I slid the edge of the shovel beneath it’s still body, it rocked momentarily from the force, and came to a teetering rest atop the flat blade of the shovel. Then, as I began to rise, the weight on the end of the handle shifted, the rat quickly turned over, it’s long yellow teeth visible, it’s limbs scrambling across the rusted metal, it’s eyes red and blazing with fury and terror! It launched itself from it’s air-borne elevation, it’s claws thrashing in the air as it bounded directly towards my chest!!!


    I pulled my mind back into reality, and after several failed attempts, I managed to position the lifeless body of the rodent formally known as BEN onto the shovel. I walked back towards the garbage can, one eye fixated on the rodent in order to ensure no surprise attack really awaited me, and the other eye wildly scanning the surrounding grounds for the any others waiting to jump me from the sidelines.

    Once I made it to the garbage can, I started to realize that, being Friday, the next garbage pickup was still 4 days away, and the last thing I wanted to have was this thing, lying out in the open, decaying, smelling and possibly drawing other carnivorous animals to it’s scent. I had to bag ’em and tag ’em. I had to put him into something sealed.

    I set the shovel down, sternly stated “STAY” while pointing at ratty, and went inside. I checked on my son, who was still waiting patiently, grabbed a zip-lock bag, and returned to the shovel. Once there, I found the shovel empty!! The rat had departed!! Above me, along the fence, I caught sight of a small procession of family members carrying him away, taking slow pauses between steps, one feminine looking rat trailing behind them, wearing a black arm band and sniffling occasionally.


    Snapping back into the moment, I found the rat still in it’s place. I put the bag over the shovel and slid him into it, then zipped the cover closed, bypassing my usual habit of inhaling the air from the bag in order to ensure a longer duration of freshness, I placed him into a bag within the garbage, closed it, put the shovel back, washed my hands, got my son in the car.

    By then, the ‘shock’ had worn off, the ‘dirty work’ had been done, and this entry had started to form in my mind. And unlike the last time around, this time I had my phone on me, which happens to have a camera. As ‘gross’ as it might seem, I wanted evidence of this whole fiasco. Now, I’m far from the creepy neighbor who practices taxidermy in his shed on the weekends, i just figured I’d snap a quick photo for the record books. Not wanting to upset any reader, I won’t embedded it as a photo on this post but if you want to see the proof, click here.

    I’ve since called and warned my wife, who understandably fears for the kids having any unexpected encounters. I remain convinced they’d respond properly if they’d found it, far more then, say, a pet dog or cat would. But in our upcoming search for a new home, I’m sure the distance from water and open fields will play into the decision process!


    Written by gsm

    12/08/2006 at 5:03 pm

    Posted in  Journal 

    6 Responses

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    1. Very well-done post – but you’ve GOTTA warn those of us who are reading each pre-“SHUDDER” passage with certain amount of naïveté (i.e ya had me going! ;-)

      And: What the heck perspective is apparent in the picture? That’s definitely a rather large specimen (“Awww, he’s cute – but just a bit too early for Ratatouille“) – but I can’t figure out the context…


      12/08/2006 at 6:25 pm

    2. Nevermind, got it: It’s already in the bag, which you’re dangling in front of you for the picture.

      I just read this with PL, and she just kept repeating “That’s gross!” over and over… ;-)

      Wow – quite an … eventful time for you, huh?


      12/08/2006 at 8:05 pm

    3. Thanks BL! I have to say that the subtle plug for the Pixar flick was actually a title contender.. I was seriously consdering titling this ‘Rat-year-twoie’ :-). Oh, and the ‘shudder’ moments were directly inspired by JD’s momentarly mental digressions on Scrubs!


      12/08/2006 at 9:21 pm

    4. I want to know where I can get one of them there “space shovels” ;-)
      Great post – LOL at “bypassing my usual habit of inhaling the air from the bag in order to ensure a longer duration of freshness”


      12/08/2006 at 10:35 pm

    5. “space” was meant to be “spade”. Fixed it. Thanks JG!


      12/08/2006 at 11:58 pm

    6. You are aware that 2006 is the Year of the Rat, right?
      I’d be very careful next December … 2007 is the Year of the Pig.


      12/10/2006 at 7:24 pm

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