Last Tuesday the Wildlife Exclusion Specialist came from the exterminator and set about addressing our roof rat scourge. Go back and read up on it if you missed any of the skittering creature sounds and the marital intrigue that naturally resulted. The Wildlife Exclusion Specialist was a very tall, broad man named Mark. Mark looked like he knew a lot about hard work. But still he was only one guy. I had been kind of expecting a small squadron, each with a different job function. Maybe one would be the communications guy, one the brains, and one the grease man, okay this is starting to sound like Ocean's Eleven, I don't know.
But I said, "Are you going to do it all yourself, Mark?"
"Aw Ma'am," he said (I SWEAR), "There really ain't nothin' to it."
Well, okay, but I am paying a lot of money for this service, I want to feel that it's fiendishly complicated, you know? A little too perilous? But Mark wasn't the sales arm of the Wildlife Exclusion biz, he was the doer of the thing. And it actually did look pretty perilous once he had to take that ladder all around the outside of the house.
"How about this wind?" I said.
"It's blowin'," he said.
So Mark sealed up the roof line and then went up in the attic with baited traps. All this took about four hours. Then he came to me with a printed schedule of when the traps would be checked. I said, "Will you be coming back, Mark?" And he said no, that it would be a different person, which was a shame, because I had enjoyed our talks, and he seemed really very capable. But away he went.
That night it seemed like I could hear even more skittering, I supposed because the creatures weren't able to get out for their nightly forage? Matt observed, helpfully, that we had chosen the course of action that closed the rats in with us. It was not a soothing thought. As I sat in the evening, and as I lay down that night, I was half listening for the sound of a trap slamming shut.
I began to consider different nightmare scenarios. One was: the traps quickly became full, the other rats couldn't get out, and so chewed their way down into our living space. I wanted to call Mark or somebody to come check the traps the very next day. But I refrained. I looked at their printed schedule and noted their five to six-day intervals, and I thought, maybe they know what they're doing. So I waited.
I heard a few little skitters for a couple of days. Then it got quiet, then we left for the mountains.
And while we were in the mountains, I considered another doomsday scenario and grew fearful: The rats are up there in the attic, sealed in. Some of their number are dead in the traps. There is no food. The house is quiet, and sensing that its inhabitants have abandoned it, the stronger rats chew their way into our living space and basically live it up all weekend. Sunday night, we walk through the front door with our bags to see them lounging on the sofa, reading the new Vanity Fair and eating the little bags of chips that are only supposed to be for school lunches.
I am not lying when I tell you that I entered my kitchen last night with a slight but real feeling of trepidation. But no gnawed apples in the bowl, no tiny rat cigarette butts anywhere. Also no smell of decomposing rat. Just our calm house. Phew.
And this morning, as per the schedule, a young man came to check the traps. His name was Troy, and he was somewhere earlier on the path to becoming a fully-fledged Wildlife Exclusion Guy like Mark. So he went up in the attic and was there a long time. I posted on facebook about it. I sipped my coffee. I waited for news from the front.
Troy reappeared with a white garbage bag that had something in it. EW! He took it straight out to the truck, then came back and told me that the traps had caught three flying squirrels.
Flying effing squirrels?!?
Where are the horrifying rats? "I was told there'd be rats," I said, or words to that effect. "Well, if they're in there, we'll get 'em," Troy said. Then he told me that one other trap had been tripped, but the critter had gotten the bait and got away. So awesome, there is a super-smart, canny King of Rats up there, waiting for us to exhaust our pitiful tactics so he can launch Phase 2 of his rat plan.
Matt came home tonight and sat down to dinner with me. "So as I understand," he began, "we paid over a thousand dollars to murder three squirrels?"
"Murder seems like a strong word," I replied. "More lentils, dear?" Then I told him how Troy had said to me that squirrels were really just cuter rats but equally pestilential. And then I realized that I couldn't say the word "rat" even one more time. And we enjoyed our supper in silence.
I told you I'd keep you posted and now I sure the heck have.