The Rat Chronicles

P. S. Gifford

© Copyright 2005 by P. S. Gifford


Part one.

The first encounter

The first clues that something was amiss was a few weeks ago. I was just about to make the beds. I was content. My routine was on schedule. It was destined to be a perfect day. The sun was shining life was good!

Nevertheless, alas, as often is the case when things are going to well, that is the first inkling that things may be about to go wrong.

It was then I heard it; the sound of gushing water. I hurried down stairs dressed in just my shorts and looked in horror and bewilderment as gallons of water surged out from underneath our dishwasher. I raced back up stairs in a fury and grabbed about three dozen towels. I like towels. I strategically placed them about my kitchen. After a few moments I finally succeeded in turning off the valve leading to the dishwasher. I was shaking. There were surely tears in my eyes. I surveyed the damage. The kitchen was completely saturated. I looked to see where else damage might have incurred. On the one side of the kitchen it leads to my dining room, and then on to our formal lounge. On the other side is family room, where we relax, and watch television. The floors are all tiled downstairs, adorned with occasinal rugs. The water had come just a few inches of these rooms. Apparently, calamity had been averted.

Gradually my breathing slowed my blood pressure resumed to only a near fatal level and I began mopping and squeegeeing with wild frantic abandon.

It took me about three hours to get the kitchen back to a satisfactory condition .I then spent the rest of the day washing and folding towels.

I decided I needed to uncover precisely where the leak had originated from. The pipe, which is covered in that steel flexi protecting…Woven around the actual tube for fortification. I was taken aback when I realized what had done the damage as there were teeth marks.

The next day my father in law was due to arrive. He was staying with us as his eldest daughter travels back to West Virginia . He suffers from many health problems. Basically he is house bound as he is restricted by an oxygen machine. He keeps odd hours, in three-hour shifts, sleeping and waking. On the morning after his first night with us I awoke to find him sitting in the shadows at our kitchen table, he informed me that he had spent much of the night there. As I prepared him coffee and buttered toast he gleefully shared with me, what he had seen the night before, using his West Virginian enunciation to best affect…

You’ve got a rat!” he gleefully affirmed “ and a big black bugger an’ all!”

As he watched my eyes getting bigger and bigger, he continued his tale seemingly savoring in every syllable.

Yep-he ran straight passed me, slipping his feet on the floor as he saw me and ran for cover…”

Later that morning the plumber arrived and set about the task in hand. I suppose I should not have told him about the rat just as he was taking the machine apart. The perspiration on his brow seemed to be trickling a little quicker as I repeated the account my father-in-law had just shared with me an hour or so before. I watched as his eyes keenly scrutinized every component of the machine. and the uneasiness in his actions as he repaired our appliance. Within twenty minutes, the dishwasher was repaired. I begrudgingly handed him a hearty check

After he had left, my blood pressure proceeded to drop to a level was a sudden heart attack was less imminent. There was orderliness once more in the Gifford family household. I understood we still had the rat, but I reasoned, surely he would not chew through that hose again. He must have gotten quite a surprise as hundreds of gallons of hot water suddenly surged out at him…

The following morning I woke up actually contented. Everything was more-or-less back to the usual routine. I stayed up late to take in a couple of vintage black and white horror movies from the 40’s. I always enjoy my Friday night horror fests. I must have dropped off about 1:30 with Doctor Cyclops in the background .Into a deep resounding sleep. I shall never forget what happened then, my sleep was suddenly disturbed-with a scream. I swiftly opened my eyes and glanced at the clock. It was a little after six. It took me all my effort to keep those eyelids peeled. However, I heard our eleven-year-old son-in a panic….

The house has flooded!”

I woke up my wife and together we flew down the stairs in a dread. As my bare feet reach the bottom of the stairs, they are greeted with water.

I quickly raced to the kitchen, to turn off the valve again. My body was almost in convulsions as I scanned the damage. Water had flooded the family room, and was about to embark into the dining room. I raced to my study. The carpet was becoming soaked.…

I cannot fully express my emotions at his point; you can probably imagine what I was going through. The next five hours were spent mopping soaking with wild abandon once again. Another irony about the situation was that it had not rained for approaching six months at that time here in California , yet that day heavy rain was forecast.

It took several days to get the house back together again; a collection of floor heaters decorated the downstairs.

The following week found me on my hands and knees-replacing the feed pipe to the dishwasher myself .I discovered during the process a hole from the water pipe into the back wall leading to the garden, in addition to a couple more openings along the cabinetry. I promptly filled them all. I also place giant rattraps under the dishwasher and sticky traps underneath my cabinets.

Over the next few days I checked them all, with no evidence of the rat. I was fairly convinced that my actions prevented him. Yet, deep inside of me there was a growing doubt, that the whole time their were rodents eyes watching me and planning.

Part Two

Halloween morning .

I excitedly awoke on Halloween morning, racing downstairs to start my coffee maker, and get on with the day of fun and festivities that we had planned. I had seen any evidence of the rat for about a week I had assumed at this point that the worst was over, and we could all get back to our normal life and routines.

I heard my wife follow me down the stairs; she would have been in a good mood also. Weekends are our time. I was pouring that wonderful first morning cup of Java when I heard it. Piercing and terrifying. A sound guaranteed to fill any man with complete fear- My wife’s scream. Wiping off the boiling liquid from my arm, I raced to her aid. She stood there shaking, and pointing. I cautiously looked at the cause of her panic. There were three of my sticky traps under the couch. Gingerly applying large rubber gloves, I slowly removed them. You could tell there had been a struggle, as thick patches of rats hair remained on the traps. Yet, there was no sign of the rat himself…

Okay, I realized it was going to be one of “those” mornings. I grabbed my flashlight, poured another cup of coffee; managing to get it in the cup this time, .I took a heart gulp. I was now ready for action. As the rats initially had caused her trouble with the dishwasher, every night I had been carefully placing sticky traps under the edge of our cabinetry. In the corner of the kitchen, to this cavernous little space we have, where the plumbing leads from the outside. There is a four-inch gap between the floor and the top of the cabinets leading to this cavern. I nervously lay down on the cold tiled floor. My wife was hiding around the corner, my son bouncing up and down behind her with excitement that only an eleven-year boy could have in such a situation. I cautiously pointed my flashlight int the hole and screamed. Staring directly back at me were two eyes. Mad eyes. I grasped for whatever courage I could muster, and looked further. A rat about ten inches long, plus a 5-inch tail, was attempting to liberate himself from one of my traps. It appears it was having some success at freeing itself. I must move fast, or else I was going to have one angry free rodent…

I raced to the garage and retrieved a pair of pliers, as despite being able to reach the trap with my fingers. I reasoned that placing my digits so close to a trapped rat’s razor like teeth might not be prudent. I grabbed the edge of the trap, and gently tugged.

Now the problem was that the rodents head was free, and he had managed to place his head under the adjacent dishwasher and was holding on for dear life…. I was scared to pull too tightly in case the rats grip suddenly faded, which would have meant that the rat and trap would have propelled towards my face with remarkable speed. All the while between this tug of war of man and rodent, the rat appeared to be getting more and more unstuck.

This presented a second problem, after I got the rat free from his hold on the dishwasher I had him at the edge of the cavity, which Like I said was about four inches…Now with the rat standing up, he was taller that the entrance….I had to use the pliers to push the rats head into the trap. Not a pleasant activity. I would not recommend it.

Eventually we had success. The rat and trap were in front of me. The rat was hissing at me. I grabbed a box and placed both the trap and rat into it-and chanting something I darned repeat raced outside to our trash bin.

Now here is the trouble about twenty minutes later, I felt brave enough to examine the trashcan-the rat had gone…

Part Three

The return

The following weekend started with the most typical of Saturdays in the Gifford household. After a hearty homemade breakfast, we put the together the list of chores we needed to accomplish for the day. My list contained two chores-But my wife’s list was considerably longer. After much discussion, and much conceding on my part, the daily plan of action was put together and we loaded up into the truck and set off about the days activities. We normally take our beloved dog Tasha along with us on these weekend excursions, yet today, alas, we could not. We needed the space in the bag of the vehicle to pick up a replacement spa cover, as a recent storm had destroyed the old one.

As we locked the front door, the look she gave us was a combination of pitiful, yet still slightly hopeful. She scrutinized every syllable I spoke with her ears fully erect , examined every gesture I made for the vaguest of signs that she was going to be accompanying us….I almost gave in to her, I normally do. Yet, today my decision needed to be steadfast. We opened the French doors to the back garden, allowing her a place to safely relieve herself, refreshed her water, refilled her rather large dog food bowl, and climbed into the truck and set off for the day.

It was a good day. Indeed a very good day. The hours were spent by a rather nice lunch and shopping. My wife loves shopping. The hours simply slipped away. There had been an unexpected delay with the delivery truck arriving at the spa place with our spa cover. Which in turn delayed us. At about five o clock as darkness was starting to take over the sunny California day. We finally arrived at the location, as the truck was unloading. Within a few moments, we had managed to squeeze the top into the back of our vehicle. This required a little dexterity on the part of my son, who was now squished between the cover was which was resting precariously balanced on the back of the front seats of our SUV, providing a cramped tent sized cavity. He iggled excitedly as he crawled in. Then we were on our way…Home.

Or at least that is what we had planned. As forty-five minutes later, we had traveled just a few miles along the packed freeway. My patience was starting to fade. There are few things I enjoy less then being trapped in bumper-to-bumper traffic. That is when I had a brain wave. “Let’s have an early dinner,” I triumphantly announced. We were very close to a crab restaurant. As the families favorite treat is crab, they took little convincing. Thirty-five minutes later, at about five forty-five, my mood was in much better condition. I was enjoying a nice bowl of New England clam chowder, and a rather large glass of Pale ale. Yes, today was indeed a good day.

An hour and a half later, our appetites satiated and our temperament refreshed, we once more set off home. By now, it was completely dark. Traffic was much more compliant, and thirty minutes later, we drove up our driveway. We were relaxed. We were happy. We were contented. A lazy night for the Gifford’s ahead, stretched out on our coach, appreciating the movie of the week…

As we came through the side door, Tasha eagerly greeted us. The house was in complete darkness. I proceeded care freely to the kitchen, my son at my heels. Humming happily, we turned on the light…

We only managed to glimpse it for a moment as it dashed for cover, behind my coffee machine on the granite kitchen counter. Yep, the rat was back…. This time it was personal. It was on my bloody counter. Incidentally, the mood was shattered. The “Rat dance” began again amongst the three of us, as a bewildered Tasha looked on. A rather ridiculous routine of hopping from one foot to the next, every couple of seconds, as our hands waved in unison in the air…To accompany our strange dance routine a rhythmic succession of “Eeks” “oohs” and “ahhs” came out of our mouths. Panic was about to set in. Think. I needed a moment to think. My wife was starting to panic. “I don’t see it!” she whimpered…. “Neither do I” came my sons echo, from the safety of standing on a kitchen stool. My wife reacted. She took the kitchen broom and poked in the approximate viciity of where we thought the rat was hiding. In a split flash, from behind the kitchen blinds the rat darted across the counter, through our breakfast nook, and straight under the couch, in the family room. Now please bear in mind this rat is about ten inches in length, sporting an additional five inches of tale. What would you do?

We momentarily considered simply selling the house and moving in with the wife’s sister until we found another, rat free residence. It seemed a logical notion at the time.

Tasha, my German shepherd dog was now hiding in the corner. As I practiced my well-rehearsed breathing exercises, a plan was starting to form in my confused mind.

We are blessed with a second dog… Chester who is a most enthusiastic and highly excitable Airedale terrier mix. Chester resides mostly in the back garden and in a converted garage. Yes, the garage was modified to a rather nice doggy condominium. He lives well. I advised my son to quickly take Tasha and for the both of them to go upstairs to the hopeful safety of the bedroom. I warned him not to come out despite any peculiar sounds or screaming he heard downstairs. To safely stay behind his locked door until I told him otherwise. He solemnly agreed. He hugged me almost as if he was saying goodbye to me for a final time.

It was now time for action. I nervously dragged one section of the couch away leaving just the section where I believed the rat to be cowering. With surprising confidence I boldly asked my wife to open the French doors leading to the back garden. Then it was time for the main event; I marched to the garage to return with Chester .

I have to say that Chester looked a little surprised at this new set of circumstances. He had never been allowed free run of the house.. Raising his teddy bear looking head he solemnly looked at me with his deep, wise brown eyes. “Go get him!” I enthusiastically prompted and, he did! In a shot. With his head held up high, he raced straight to the couch, starting too excitedly sniff and nose.

After just a mere minute or so, my very agitated wife, Sarah, hollers “The rat went outside!” All at once, whilst still performing the rat dance she slammed the doors shut, with a resounding thud. Chester was encouraged to sniff about the house for a while longer, to make completely sure the rat had been well and truly alone. He sniffed along the counter tops where we had spied him. I swear I could almost hear him thinking. “Yes, he was here.”

An hour later, we finally decided that the coast was clear. We put the house back together again. There was one big difference though, as we sat all clumped unusually tight together on the couch, the far side of the couch. Now we typically watch the television with the lights off, yet on that evening, every downstairs light remained on.

Part four

The end of the story?

All had been quiet again in the Gifford weekend for several days. , however a few days after Chester had chased the rat from out living space jubilantly into the back garden we had a further, erm , incident. It was on a very mundane Monday evening, about five o clock on a lovely October clear day, it was twilight .Chester suddenly expressed that he wanted to be let out; at first, and I thought that he wanted to go “poopy”. Yet, his manner was highly agitated, more so than I have ever seen him in fact.

Therefore, I obediently opened the French doors and watched as he rollicked into the back garden, at quite a remarkable speed. Racing about with an intense frenzy. His nose was to the ground; obviously, he was on the trail of something.

At this point, the commotion had aroused the interest of my wife and son, who now grabbed their bowl of pop corn from the couch walked over to the French doors to see what, could be seen. Apparently deciding this was going to be more entertaining than the CBS news. They were promptly rewarded with the remarkable sight of Chester leaping an amazing seven feet into the vines surrounding the back garden wall. Yes, he was definitely after something. At this point, he was panting profusely, and all the hair on his back was sticking up. Making him appear even larger than his sixty-five pounds.

I quickly reacted by reaching for my flashlight. I shone it at the vines into the near darkness, just in time to witness it. A whole rat family, about five of them. In less than an instant, they were off, panicked rats zooming and zipping with wild abandon all over the garden, like a rat-out-of hell festival. Chester was in gallant pursuit. I watched in awe and total amazement as he managed to catch a smaller one in his teeth.

As all the other rats seemed to have made there great escape, I cautiously ventured out, grasping at my flashlight .This is when I suddenly realized that I was actually barefoot, I momentarily considered several cat sized rats making a beeline for my plump pink toes, in retribution of making them homeless. Yet, I needed to remove that rat.

Chester by now was beyond excited. He was euphorically ecstatic; I swear that it was a grinning mouth that carefully held the wriggling vermin in his teeth. What to do?

I sent my son, who was still watching in the safety of the kitchen, to quickly get a cardboard box and a roll of duct tape from the garage. The rat looked as if he was still very much alive, but obviously petrified. I grabbed Chester by his collar and placed the box in front of him. I was completely unsure how I was going to manage to pry the creature from my beloved dog’s lips. This was not in my daily training regime. Moreover, Chester seemed as if he was rather attached to his prize. However, I gave a gallant attempt. “DROP” I commanded in my best alpha male voice. And he did! Amazingly, enough he actually let the little bugger go, and he promptly dropped right into the box!

Without hesitation, I promptly taped up the box, success! I spent the next couple of minutes coddling the proud hunter Chester with loads of affection and dog treats! He reveled jubilantly in his victory.

So what was I going to do with the rat-in-the-box? It was then I decided the rat’s fate. I put the box gingerly into the back of my car and raced to the park across the street. The park was deserted. I felt the rodent fidgeting nervously inside the box. I strolled over to the middle of the green grass, and gradually removed the duct tape and placed the box onto the ground. As I walked back to the car, I watched as the little fellow courageously made his bed for freedom. I could not help as to smile as I watched him scurry away to the safety of a nearby shrubbery.

Chester now every night goes searching in the garden vines. He has yet to spot another rat. Perhaps they have learned there lesson and set up camp elsewhere. Alternatively, maybe, just maybe they appreciated my kindness, and simply decided to pester another poor unfortunate family. Who can really say? After all, we all reside in a truly remarkable universe.

The end? I do hope so.

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