We've got a pretty big house...two story, three bedrooms downstairs, another bedroom in the garage, attic, kitchen; lots of places to hide if you're under the size of say, a housecat. Three nights ago, we're laying in bed, and we hear the unmistakable pitter-patter of scurrying feet across the roof. I kind of chuckled to myself, picturing some hapless opossum waddling to where Rosie has water out for the birds on the deck, warm fuzzy feelings of helping Mother Nature flickering in the icy tomb of my Heart.
We have a few regulars in the neighborhood. There's a skunk that comes down the fenceline from the creek in back of us on trash night to raid this block's garbage...we smell him every week like clockwork. There's a family of raccoons across the street living in an immense hedge, gorging on catfood and terrorizing Tommy's wife's stupid barf-carpet cats, much to my delight, as they use my rose garden for a toilet. I wasn't worried.
Sometime before sunrise, Rosie got up to procure antacids from the kitchen, and came back. "Honey, we're not alone in here". I dropped my foot out of bed to where the dog lay snoring next to me on the floor to verify her whereabouts. Census complete, I sat up."There's something running around in the walls or something" .
We live in a mild climate, so we generally leave the glass door open upstairs all night, plus there's a dog door in the garage big enough for our Queensland, so a meep in the hallway wouldn't surprise me. I listened intently, and sure enough, I could hear something scrabbling in the dog food out in the kitchen. "meep!", I mumbled, finding my cane for a weapon, "I'll go look".
Flipping on the light, I see nothing, but hear feet making a frantic getaway towards the garage. By the time I get out in the hall, I see no sign of the little meep, so I close the garage door, re-assure my wife, and drop into a dreamless sleep for a couple more hours.
In the morning, we found signs of invasion. Little footprints in the dog bed where it had come in the glass door. Stuff on shelves knocked over. It was if some sort of malignant elves had come to repair our shoes, but had found the beer and forgotten their task, abandoning it to pilferage and minor vandalism. The dog's favorite bone was gone...
"Tonight we'll close the door up here" I said with confidence, "and close off the garage. That'll keep the little dude outside.". I was still under the sad illusion that I was dealing with a possum....
That night, as we were reading upstairs, we heard little feet under the floor, which meant in the garage roof. Running downstairs, we flipped on the garage light. You know how in movies, whenever they show a scene with rats how there's a fake sounding "Squeek, squeek", and you'll say to yourself "What a bunch of meep, rats don't do that unless you strap them down and begin the brain probe" (well, that's my experience, anyway)? Guess what? They sure the meep do! We heard an outright shriek, and it wasn't a raccoon, nor a cute fuzzy opossum.
Rosie's eyes looked as wide and crazed as a horse trapped in a mudpit. "That's in our attic! What'll we do?". We both looked about at the stacks of boxes, the open ended soffits of the unfinished part of the ceiling, the dividing wall between the two parts of the house, punctured through with heat ducting and various pipes. That meeper had free run of the place, and in areas we couldn't follow.
"There's nothing we can do tonight, dear," I told her, lending her no re-assurance whatsoever. "We'll get some bait and a trap tomorrow, and get the sucker then. No need to panic". I am so stupid sometimes.
Later on, once again in bed, we hear feet running about in the attic. Now, however, the meeper knows we are aware of it, and he has abandoned the need for stealth. Like a tiny antelope he galloped across the bedroom. A slight pause, and then we hear him in the kitchen. The suspended ceiling amplified his antics like a speaker diaphragm. I half expected Shirley meeping Temple to join in with a jaunty tune and a tap solo. I grab my cane again, and follow him into the room. Light goes on, and again the meep squeaks in defiance at me.
"meep You, Rat Boy!" I shout, uselessly waving my cane in the air, bringing an uncomfortable parallel image of me in another ten to twenty years yelling at my grandkid's friends for parking on the lawn, "You Gonna Die!". I poked the ceiling, making fierce growling sounds and slamming cabinet doors. I had an uncomfortable vision of John Candy in "Great Outdoors" with a raccoon clutching his head like the face hugger in "Alien" while he staggered backwards out of a window.
"Well, that did it." I proclaimed to Rosie on returning to bed. "He's quaking in his little rat boots, and won't bother us again. We'll poison his tomorrow, and the next time you hear him, he'll be giving off a death rattle". Back to bed. The dog started snoring again, and i drifted off...
Scrnatch....sntchhsntchhhsncthhh....I sat up. The clock glowed redly, clearly stating that three am was too early for human activity. The meep was chewing on a piece of wood. Scrnitch...scnitch..scratchscntchscntch. I got up and tried to locate the sound.
"He's over by the closet" I whispered, "I'll scare him off". Inside my head, I'm thinking that he must be trying to gnaw a way into the closet from the attic. Need to stop that like RIGHT NOW. I took my cane and beat the ceiling, creating a shower of plaster popcorn onto my thinning hair and the still sleeping dog. "Knock that meep off, you rat meep! I'm gonna make you into a mitten!". The noise stopped. The dog broke wind. The room fell into silence. The indescribable stink of an elderly dog filled the small space.
"We are so getting a trap in the morning" I muttered as I lay back down. "I'm gonna get bait, and take little blobs of peanut meeper and roll them into the bait and make little snack treats for the meeper, and throw them all over the attic. We gonna have a party, Rat Boy..."
Eventually I calmed enough to quit trembling. As the adrenaline subsided, I started to drift off. Scritch, scritch, scritch...clock now says 3:07am. I jumped up out of bed and banged the ceiling again. Same show. Rat stops. Dog farts. Silence. Stink.
This happened twice more, seven minutes apart, on the dot. At 3:30, I'm wondering what's going on, because it's been more than seven minutes. It's then I hear a faint rustle of a garment bag from the top of the closet.
"meep, Rosie, he's in the closet! Turn on the lights! Oh, Monkeys!" It's one thing to have him in the attic, another in bed with you. I take my cane in hand and carefully prod the inside of the upper shelf. About a third of the way across, a gray missile jumps out from behind a hat. It scrambles into the lower part of the closet while I scream like a little girl.
Now it's hiding in the far flung and mysterious Warr Drobe, where old clothes go to hibernate until the coming of the Great Diet, a mythological event created by middle-aged women to encourage their daughters to create grandchildren. In amongst the Hidden Forest of Shoes, a fearsome Beastie now lurks, fanged and long of tail. We are both seriously grossed out.
I thrash about with my cane, which by now has stirred an impressive cloud of dust from the back corners. About to give up, I lower my head to inspect what appears to be a shoestring. I poke it with the tip of my cane. Out comes the little monster! He runs across my foot and under our bed. I wildly swing at it, and follow under in time to see it wiggle between the nightstand and the headboard just as I unplug one of the lamps with an errant blow. The dog breaks wind.
"meep this!" My sweet Rosie says with the same lips that I kissed goodnight a few hours earlier. "I'm making coffee."
Hopping (literally) out of bed, she goes out to the kitchen, and calls back "Honey, I still hear one out here...". Well, that's just wonderful. He's got friends. "I can hear him over there by the dog dish."
That made sense to me, as there is food and water for them (and the dog) in the corner of the kitchen. I come out and hear a rustling near the trash cans next to the dog dish. Cautiously I peer in, then deciding them safe, asked Rosie to grab the recycles while I took the garbage out to the big cans. As we came back inside, Rosie saw a tail disappear under the dishwasher. Great, we have more than one. Verified.
We spent the rest of the night upstairs, all the lights on, reading the paper (arrives at 4am, thank dog), and pretending not to be totally freaked out.
That day, our friends at the Victor Rat Trap company supplied us with your basic snap the spine trap. That, warfarin, and chunky peanut meeper became our allies. We made little treats for them to find in the attic. I put peanut meeper on the trap, then placed it under the kitchen sink. We both had the heebie-jeebies.
Morning brought success. The trap had a victim. But the part that show a Rat's true character was that AFTER the first rat was killed in the trap, a second one ate the rest of the bait. The trap is back under the sink, and the war continues....