The funny thing about rats is that they’re like people you don’t really care for. The people you run into constantly that you just don’t want to see. The people you run into constantly who make you ask the world, “Out of the 6.5 billion people on this planet, why do I run into these few undesirables so often?”
My apartment is infested with rats. I’m sort of new at it. It’s my first infestation and I’m not sure what to do, nor do I know how many rats there are, two, maybe six, but from what I hear, it doesn’t really matter. If I have six today, I’ll have 36 tomorrow and 216 the day after that. It all started a couple weeks before Christmas when a local pest control company called me and asked me when they could come inspect my rodent issue. “When” seemed like a curious question as “if” seemed more appropriate.
“Well, I don’t have a rodent issue, but should I,” I asked them.
“The guy who lives underneath you called your landlord because he has a rodent problem, so we’d like to inspect your apartment also.”
“Well, I don’t have any evidence that would lead me to believe me I have an issue, but if you want to come in, then sure.”
So they did, and like me, the rat exterminator concluded there was no problem, but like me, rodent terminators are not fortune tellers. They cannot tell you that while you are out of state, rodents will break into your apartment and shit on your counter.
Shortly after the inspection, I left the state for a week. While I was gone, a cold front moved in and Florida residents – human, rodent and otherwise – sought shelter and warmth. When I came home from my visit, I walked in the door and immediately found two tiny rat turd pellets on my kitchen counter. Later that evening, the pitter patter of little rat feet racing across the ceiling tiles disturbed me as I sat at my desk.
“Aren’t you scared to have rats in your apartment,” someone asked me. “Those things bite and carry disease. And they’re so freaky looking!”
“Well, no, not really. If I can kick it, I shouldn’t be scared of it. But I want them out because I don’t want them eating the food I had to work to buy.” Honestly, it’s a rat. I can pick it up and throw it farther than a football.
Before you think I’m the type of person who lives in a room filled with garbage, old Chinese takeout cartons, fast food bags and drink containers, candy wrappers and sticky pornos layering the floor, I want to stave off any of those misconceptions. I’m a very clean person, cleaner than most people I know. Just ask the few people who have been over, or ask my new furry roommates.
I called my landlord, explained to him the evidence that lay before me, and two days later he brought me rat poison, black trays filled with little blue-green pellets that smelled like stale vomit. After four days, the poison-filled trays remained untouched by the rodents, despite their incessant racing through the walls, scratching against the concrete like tiny, furry prisoners. After those four days, I had to leave again for a week. Knowing for certain now that had these freeloading, crap-wherever-they-want rodents were infesting my apartment, I wasn’t sure what I could expect when I returned home.
I got back to my apartment a week later. I cautiously opened the front door that opens to my kitchen afraid of what mess the rodents would have caused in my absence like teenagers left home alone. Once I could see inside I expected to see a team of rats sitting at my kitchen table smoking cigars and playing cards, looking at me like I was interrupting their game, but when I opened the door and looked around, everything was seemingly at peace, seemingly at rest, seemingly untouched. Sure, the weather had warmed up a bit, but warm enough so the rats would abandon my place of residence to return to wherever they came from? No way, I thought.
I looked around. The food was left uneaten. No holes in the walls, no wood chewed, but when I looked on the stove I found two tiny rat turd pellets. Two more turds like a threat left to let me know, “We are here. This is our apartment now.”
“Get the fuck out,” the rats seemed to say like a rodent-themed Amityville Horror film.
But after that, they left me alone for a week; one whole week with no events save the occasional pitter-patter of disease-ridden rat claws scratching away in the walls.
After that week however, the rats were resurfaced. They got loud. Really loud. I heard rustling, scratching, the quick-paced race of their little feet scurry across the ceiling tiles. I thought I heard a Beastie Boys song and the scream of Macho Man Randy Savage as apparently, one rat picked up another and body slammed it, causing the ceiling tile to shake. Baffled, I stood up and stared at the ceiling, waiting for something to happen, waiting for the rat to lift the ceiling tile up and give me a glimpse into their nightly activity. But nothing happened. I heard them all night but could never see them, scurrying through the walls, hopping, jump-roping, whatever it was they cured boredom with.
At 12:30, I went to bed. I turned off the lights and crawled underneath my covers and then I heard a knock inside my kitchen, then another knock. I had never seen them inside, nor had they tasted the poison pellets not-so-strategically placed for them in each of the three rooms in my apartment, so I thought, this is my opportunity come face to face with these things. I sprung out of bed, grabbed my flashlight and ran into the kitchen. I surveyed the area and found only two tootsie rolls on the floor.
The tootsie rolls came from my mother who mailed them to me months earlier and I found them earlier that day and put them in a bowl my kitchen. This bowl also held bananas, whole wheat bread, blueberry muffins and potatoes.
Why had the rats bypassed all of the other food? They had access to the bananas, the whole wheat bread, the blueberry muffins and potatoes, but all of that was disregarded and abandoned. These were undoubtedly the most polite rats that could have ever infested my apartment.
Just two tootsie rolls? Well, by all means help yourself. Or perhaps these ruthless rats do not like vegetarian food, but have a sweet tooth? Certainly, rats need to incorporate fruits, vegetables and whole wheat into their diet to help nurture and fuel their growing rodent bodies. Plus, as an animal that has been around long enough to almost kill off an entire major city in the seventeenth century and continue to exist without being annihilated and exterminated, they should be smart enough to know they should be stockpiling food for the 36 rats that will be in the walls tomorrow and the 216 that will be in the ceiling the day after that. After all, in a week we’ll be into the thousands. I’m not sure I have that many tootsie rolls. What will they devour after they exhaust my tootsie roll supply?
Days have passed with no signs of their existence aside from scratches in the wall and shit on the floor. To this day, they taunt me each night with sounds that exist as prove of their existence as I await our final showdown.