There is a rat in the apartment. I discovered him making an escape tonight after investigating some sounds in the kitchen. The rat is small and scampers through a small hole that I found near the stove. Even though the rodent may be tiny and spurious, the simple fact is that he scares the bejesus out of me, as rats seem to do. There’s the disturbing possibility that he could run like the devil in the post-midnight hours and take a bite out of my flesh. Or something worse. I didn’t read H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Rats in the Walls” lightly.
The timing’s about right, given that I end up dealing with a rat perhaps every four or five years. The last time, the rat emerged as I was whipping up my trademark pasta sauce. I was a foolish twenty-six back then. And I immediately freaked out. This time around, there’s slightly more maturity, in that my reaction doesn’t involve jumping onto the closest countertop like some housewife in a Warner Brothers cartoon. So my manhood’s on the line too.
But this sort of thing is to be expected. It’s getting to be the wintertime. Which means the rats are coming in from the cold.
Of course, when humans in the Western world deal with these sorts of things, they, of course, go all out. Certainly in my case, obscenely so. I’m now the proud owner of three boxes of rat poison, several traps, and a barrage of truly masochistic devices that will kill this dreadful beast. I feel like Wile E. Coyote ordering from Acme.
Part of me sees the hypocrisy in demonizing the rat. Part of me would like to be friends with the rat. But because I’m terribly afraid, because I detest its presence and its mentality (which is, primarily, to scavenge upon what it might find, which isn’t much, given that my food’s all packed away), I want the rat dead. I want it out of my life. Go bother some other bachelor. The NIMBY principle was never more strernly (and justifiably!) applied than it is for rats.
So I have declared war. Chances are the rat’s just as frightened of me as I am of him. (He certainly skedaddled fast when I turned the light on.) Granted, if the bookies were to put a spread on this, I’d win by leaps and bounds. I have a bigger brain. I’m larger than the rat. But it moves much faster and the rat’s interests and existence aren’t as complicated as mine. Even so, does the rat have brothers or sisters? Or is it simply vermin prepared to spread a new wave of bubonic? Even if I defeat the rat (as I suspect I will), who’s the real winner in this battle?