I heard him head down the hall, calling back that he was “going up.” The attic was next. He’d already checked traps in the garage. None of the spring traps had sprung, but the glue strips had mysteriously moved, nosed over by something. The attic stairs were squeaking on their hinges as the “Commercial Technician” lowered them. He had come the day before and set traps and glue strips in various locations of the attic and garage. Now he was back to check his success at trapping a rat.
There’s a noise a man makes when he’s tough enough not to scream like a girl but scared enough that he can’t completely control the reaction that lurches instinctively out of him. It’s not so much a yell but a yelp. That’s what I heard as the technician lowered the stairs: the manly scream, amplified by the wood floors and plaster walls of the hall. I froze at my desk in our home office, not sure if I had the gut for what I’d see. After all, this was a professional. Hadn’t he seen just about everything when it came to rats? The technician was exiting the hall hurriedly explaining, “He scared me! Whoo-eee! That woke me up this morning. I’m going to have to go get my gloves.” And with that, his well-over-six-foot frame was out the door. One of the spring traps must have had force enough to launch it and its catch from one spot on the attic floor to a new spot on the pull-down stairs. When the technician pulled open the stairs, down torpedoed an enormous, dead rat with a tail that looked like a small, grey snake. It must have been ten inches nose to nub, and if you include the tail, more like 24 inches of pure rat-ness.
We’ve been searching for holes, the technician and I, and finding an overwhelming amount of them. Trapping and killing rats won’t be enough, he counsels. We (the homeowners) will have to crawl under the house and close up every hole, gap and crack. We have to plug spaces around the gas line to the stove, block gaps around water pipes, replace wood that’s been chewed open and giving rodents access to the attic, and we need to remove tree limbs that allow squirrels easy access to the roof. The list is long, and the pest control company doesn’t do that kind of work. They just trap and dispose. So we’ve been referred.
Lord in heaven, why rats? My kids asked, “Are mosquitoes a result of The Fall?” Are rats? Perhaps at some future moment I will connect rats to my spiritual growth, but I honestly don’t want to go there now. I don’t want to write about how rats develop perseverance, and perseverance develops character, and character develops hope. I don’t want to give a rat credit for developing anything around here. What I’d like is to plug my ears and have the sounds of bumping, scratching, scurrying and manly men yelping all to go away.