Doug was cleaning the basement on Sunday when I heard a small thud and a shout. Ah, he's bonked his head again, I said to Boscoe, who sat up at the noise.
Doug often bonks his head in our small house; there are all kinds of places that are too short for him: the turn halfway up the stairs, the side door, the lower half of the basement stairs, and every doorway in the basement.
He came up into the kitchen. He looked unnerved. His head was un-bonked. "I think I just saw a rat," he said.
He had picked up a small, furled rug and shaken it, and out had fallen a pudgy gray animal that took off in one direction while Doug took off in another.
I cannot begin to tell you how upsetting this was.
I have some experience with creatures in the house: We had swarming ants last July for two weeks, and that was bad enough. Years ago, Toby got fleas and we had to have our whole apartment building fumigated. The house I grew up in had cockroaches for a while, which was creepy, and once a starling got trapped in the chimney. And one summer Doug saw mice in the garage, but then we started keeping the grass seed and bird feed in metal containers and they went away.
All of those creatures belong outside, not inside, but if they do come inside once in awhile it doesn't feel, well, unclean and garbagey and pestilence ridden and, oh, like we live in filth and squalor!
Which, I can assure you, we don't.
But having a rat makes you feel as though you do.
I sat in silence for a long, long time after Doug's news, so long that he finally said, "What's wrong?" and it seemed redundant to say We have a rat in the basement! so instead I said, "What could they be eating?" (Apparently, anything. Cardboard. Styrofoam. Shards of wood. Dust. Spiders. All kinds of basementy things.)
I woke up early Tuesday morning with a migraine headache, something I have not had in years. (I blame the rat.) The exterminator called at 9. They could come at 11. I crawled out of bed, puked, pulled on some sweatpants, ignored my hair, and more or less brushed my teeth.
I'm sure that when I opened the door, the exterminators thought, Yep, this lady looks like someone who would live in a house full of rats!
There were three of them, with name badges and navy blue pants and jaunty little baseball caps. I showed them the basement and then I lay down on the living room couch. I could hear them banging around down there--a big thud! The sound of smashed crockery. A sound like that of sheet metal clattering to the ground.
And I could hear them talking. Oh, this doesn't look good!
Look at those droppings!
I'll bet this is how they got in.
Eventually, they came and got me and gave me the grand tour. It wasn't that bad, they said. They found a few droppings, not many. (Doug says maybe those were his droppings, from when he first unfurled the rat.)
They think the rat arrived quite recently, and there might just be the one.
The previous owners had put plywood up on all the basement walls, and cut doors in the plywood to gain access to pipes. It was behind that plywood, the exterminators think, that the rat found a way in, through a crack deep in the foundation.
They opened a plywood door and showed me where to seal the foundation shut.
The previous owners had also installed a free-standing shower in the basement--right over the only drain in the floor. This is not code. This is, frankly, illegal. The existence of the shower makes it impossible for the exterminators to determine if the rat came up through the drain, which apparently is more common than I like to think.
Imagine, taking a shower, and having a rat pop out of the floor! OK, don't. Too disturbing.
The exterminators hid traps and poison all around our basement. (Good thing Boscoe doesn't like going down there; they are baited with peanut butter, his favorite.)
If we go for the one-time-only consultation ($202), we have to check and empty and re-set the traps ourselves. If we go for the one-year-maintenance plan ($700), they will do this for us. (They will also get rid of the swarming ants, should they return in July.)
I was glad when they finally drove away; let me tell you, it does not endear you to the neighbors to have two big white "PEST CONTROL" vans parked in front of your house for most of an afternoon.
In the meantime, I am not entirely sure that I want to do laundry anymore. And this will likely put an end to my exercising with Mr. Darcy. If I gain back those eleven pounds, they will solely be on the head of that damn rat.
And I need to shake the disturbing feeling that we are somehow to blame. That we are unclean. That our house is ground zero for the resurgence of the Bubonic Plague.
But beyond all that, I have a much more immediate problem: How, now, am I going to get access to the basement beer fridge?
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