I shot out of bed this morning at 3:30 AM and I haven’t been to bed since. This is saying something because I am a deep sleeper. I was woken this morning by a rat who scurried under my futon. The rat was about six inches in length — likely a Norway menace — and its slimy curlicue tail swirled about a foot away from my head. I have heard the rats (there are many of them) scurrying through some of my papers. I have heard them in the walls and it is just as scary as Lovecraft’s story. Where did they come from? They stormed my apartment in one parasitical burst.

I am now in a coffeehouse. The exterminators are coming this afternoon. I have no desire to return to my apartment, although I have been brave and did some work while keeping my legs under my ass. I have tried to do more work, but it has been to no avail. The exterminators tell me that it will take repeat visits to rid the apartment of this infestation, but that the vermin should be exterminated in about two to three weeks. They offer a 90 day warranty, which I find interesting, given that the service involves destroying rather than preserving something.

I did not expect this to happen to me. I am certainly not a heroin addict nor do I welcome squalor. I may be messy, but I am not a total slob. Certainly the apartment has been in worse shape than it is in right now and the rats did not come. I suspect that the rats were attracted by the recent bathroom leak. Sewage is their natural habitat. And there was a hole in my bathroom ceiling for several days. Put it together.

I know there is a hole behind one of my bookshelves, for that is where this morning’s rat came from. Thankfully, it did not give two shits about me, but I let out a considerable squeal and vowed to kill the bastard. Unfortunately, I was unarmed and, even if I had possessed a weapon, I had no wish to catch the bubonic plague. I know there is another hole somewhere in my closet and I have kept that door shut. I hear the rats scratching from behind the heater. Christ, how many of them are there?

I will be staying in a hotel tonight. I have cracked many rat jokes, but there is still something unshakably menacing about the vermin. These damn things copulate several times a year and produce a litter of twenty or more. There are more rats than humans on this planet.* I am operating off of two hours of sleep and am keeping myself awake with Americanos.

I look upon the exterminators as my private mercenaries, my comrades in arms. I know that we will defeat the bastards.

But if it’s quiet around here for a while, you now know why.

* — I have since learned that this is false. Blame my understandable anxieties here.

[UPDATE: The exterminator has arrived, sealed off openings, and laid down traps. Apparently, the mice were coming through openings in the garage, which have now been sealed. The remaining ten to twenty mice will die in the next seven days. There’s a funny story here for a future post. I talked with the guy for a while. But it will have to wait. Needless to say, I now have a deranged respect for exterminators.]


  1. It’s a strange thing to love your exterminator. A few years ago I found ou that we had a family of 13 skunks living in our basement. The only one who understood my despair was James the Skunkman, who set out traps and caught the smelly dears. I grew to look forward to his visits, for he, and only he, could rescue me from my plight. He smelled as bad as the skunks, but he was a savior.

  2. Aack, you poor thing! Esp. after the leak! After the exterminator, get some steel wool to plug all holes a rat might squeeze in. It works. Then, at your leisure, read Robert Sullivan’s “Rats,” which is v. informative.

  3. My sympathies. I was awakened one night by sounds I couldn’t identify, and then saw what in the dark appeared to be a VERY large rat walking through my bedroom. Thanks to “The Critter Gitter” (could I make that up?), my house is now opossum free. And yes, invest in steel wool. Lots of it. Every crevice.

  4. Ever seen the Louisiana exterminator on Dirty Jobs? That’s who I want if I’m ever in need. Dude loves his job, seems to have built a religion around it.

  5. Rats are unspeakably malignant presences, though not malevolent. They make cockroaches seem like ladybugs. I hate them.

  6. Are the holes going to be sealed up?

    As much as I love animals – even rats! – I don’t like the idea of them scampering around my apartment uninvited. *brrr*

    Maybe you could learn to love the rats and have them do your dirty work, like Crispin Glover did in Willard.

  7. My small house is currently under siege by mice or rats. Not sure which – they both scare me so I don’t really want to know. I’ve heard them and have found their poop all over the place. I’m a neat freak and totally afraid of vermin and bugs of any kind so I’m going out of my mind here. I’m in constant fear when I’m at home. The upside is that I’ll be moving soon. If I could afford an exterminator I’d do it. My cheap landlord won’t pay for one. She’s selling the house and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about it. I can’t wait till I find an apartment so I can move the hell out of here.

  8. I’m dealing with a rat problem myself at the moment – so frustrating! I stumbled across your blog and although I know this post is old, it made me feel less alone. So thanks!

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