Wednesday, October 05, 2011


Yeah that's right, Rats.  Not like Oh Rats, as in "Drat! Shoot!  Darn!", but as in disease ridden vermin. 


I have such a major rat/rodent phobia that when I started writing this blog post and thought about trying to find a photo to accompany it I had to actually look away from the screen after I googled the word "rats" looking for images.  Because even just looking at photos of those little creeps gives me heart palpitations. 

Banksy graffiti because I couldn't bear to look at the real thing...

Look, I know it's a slightly irrational phobia.  (though if you want me to give you some good arguments on why it's a more logical phobia than most, I've got plenty of thoughts for you).  BUT, you gotta admit they are gross.  And creepy.  And disgusting. 

I heard them in my attic a couple of weeks ago and sometimes when I am trying to fall asleep at night the very thought of those beady eyed little sickos making their way across my crawl space is enough to keep me awake thinking about why I might have to sell the house if they don't go away.

And I naively fantasized that I didn't hear them for a few days and I thought "maybe since there's obviously no food up there, maybe they got in and starved to death and now their bones are going to rot.  And that's gross, but I can live with it if it means I don't have to deal with them ever again.  And any other disgusting little rats that think about making it their home will see the skeletons of their brethren and think twice...right?"

Yeah right.  Totally logical. 

So yesterday I had to own up to the fact that semi-quiet rat number one who I initially heard had at least turned into rat number one plus his girlfriend.  And possible someone else.  All I knew is that there was definitely a game of chase going on in that attic. 

It GROSSES me out just to think about that.  You have no idea. 

One of the images I saw on google was rat babies.  Are you fricking kidding me?  This person took a photo of rat babies as though they were adorable and cute.  This is a disturbed individual obviously. 

Seriously I can freak out just thinking about ONE rat, let alone a mass of them all mewling and spoodging around in a pile. 

A few years ago I ran across a short story in a collection of British authors. There was one called "The Slave" by Roddy Doyle.  It is about a man who ends up with a rat in his house and his inability to get rid of becomes a metaphor for everything that is wrong in his life. 

Some excerpts from the story:

"When I got my breathing together, I went back in.  I braved it.  I went in and I had another look, to make sure I'd actually seen what I'd seen.  I was half sure there'd be nothing there.  It was a bit of brown paper, a wrapper or something, one of the baby's furry toys.  Or even nothing at all.  A shadow...

I was scared, yeah, fine.  I'm not going to not admit that.  But that wasn't just it.  I wanted to see, to be absolutely sure.  To be absolutely positive.  And yeah, it was there. 

Of course it was.  In under the pull-out larder.  A rat.  A dead rat.  Huge.  Like a like a teenage cat, d'you know what I mean?

And I still couldn't accept it.  I couldn't --couldn't comprehend it.  There was nothing else, in my head, in the world, just that thing lying there, under my pull out larder that I installed myself - and I couldn't get to grips with the situation.  I couldn't say to myself  'That's a rat there Terry, and you'd want to think about getting rid of it.'  No I couldn't organize myself.  I couldn't think.  I walked out and shut the door again.  And I was going to go back in and go through it all over again gawk at it and hope to hell it would be gone or was never there in the first place...

(and here Terry goes into an aside about hearing his baby stirring in the other room, and what that means, and that it means that he has to deal with this rat.  For reals.)

Anyway, and that's when I get really upset.  I'm nearly crying, I don't mind admitting it.  But I'm also thinking for the first time.  And I'm straight back in there, back into the kitchen.  And I'm thinking, deciding 'Terry, ' I'm saying - out loud for all I know - action stations.  Let's get rid of the sucker.  Gloves.  Bag.  Gloves and bag. And I shut the door behind me to make sure little himself doesn't come in and see it on the floor or me with it in my hand.  And I go over to the press where she puts the plastic bags.  She's mad into the environment.  Dead keen.  We've got a whole house full of plastic bags.  Anyway.  So far so good.  I'm doing something.  I'm in control.  Kind of. "

It's an excellent story.  And too long to completely give it any kind of justice here.  Get a hold of a copy of "Speaking with the Angel" and read "The Slave" to really give it's due. 

But basically what happens is that this rat completely un-nerves this guy.  He thinks about what would have happened if his baby would have found it instead.  It makes him question a whole lot about his life.

All because of




It's an ominous thing. 

More by Doyle from the story:

"But that's not the point.  The point is -- I don't know exactly.  What I used to take for granted, the feel of the floor on my feet, that kind of thing, I can't take that for granted anymore.  The rat's gone, on a dump somewhere, eaten by other rats, and I've been up to the attic a few times since -- the poison's still there, untouched -- and I lifted the manhole outside-- the poison's there too, not touched...

Anyway, I'm straying of the point again.  Which is, I don't know what.  It's hard to find the words that FILL the thing.

Right.  Used to be able to walk across the floor here without giving it a moments thought.  It was my floor.  My kettle.  My morning.  And now I can't.  I have to think about it.  I have to prepare myself.  I have to causally search the floor every step of the way.  I have to check. 

My mornings are ruined. 

It's as simple as that. 

And it goes way way beyond that."

And later.  To Terry's horror...

A rat appears.  Or at least evidence of one. 

"We got up on Saturday morning and the kitchen was flooded.  An inch of water all over the place.  We couldn't figure ou how it was happening.  We couldn't see where the water was coming from.  And then we found it.  The source of the leak...

teeth marks in a rubber pipe"

And it almost drives Terry nuts


"I'm taking the house back.  I'm repossessing it.  I'm staying here like this now and in the mornings and I'm doing it until it it becomes natural again...

The only reason life can go on in this house is because we manage to keep nature out.  And it's the same with every house.  And nature, now, isn't lambs and bunnies and David Attenborough.  And it isn't bird watching saving the whale.  Fair enough, but that's not what it is.  It's a lot rougher than that.  Life is a fight between us - the humans - and nature.  We've been winning, but we haven't won.  And we never will.  Nature will never, ever surrender.  The rats for instance.

They will always be under us

Under the floor.  Lurking.   A bit more a bit less.  They are down there.  They haven't lost and they never will..."

Well today I kind of relate with Terry. 

I love that Doyle story for how true it does feel. 

No, not even for how true it feels.  For how true it IS.

Life is a battle all the time. And we're always trying to keep things at bay. Things we're afraid of, and things we don't want to look at. 

Rats are just a big fat metaphor for a lot of other unpleasant things we have to deal with. 

Fortunately, hopefully, in my case, the exterminator is going to help me get rid of these disgusting little creatures who are not invited to be in my attic.

Some of the other things we have anxieties about, are harder to banish.

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