Flat Rat


My childhood was spent on a farm; quiet, secluded, well away from the city limits. Gophers a common sight, occasionally a skunk , sometimes a deer nibbling on the fruit trees. Coyotes high on the hills punctuated summer evenings with their unmistakeable wails, though I can’t recall ever seeing one. There were frogs, rabbits, and the owl nesting in a crab apple tree – once a bear followed us home from our school bus.

Other than in a pet store I had never seen a rat. There was the story of the Piper of Hamlin, I knew they carried fleas responsible for “the plague” in medieval Europe, I suppose if pressed I would have said they could be found in garbage dumps or slums.

Within a few days of moving to Vancouver I saw my first rat; not at the docks – running along a telephone wire in a swanky part of town. I quickly realized; where there were people and garbage, rats would come. They cared little for demographics – rats were equal opportunity vermin. Discouraging rats is common sense – contain your garbage, don’t leave piles of brush or garden clippings around to encourage nesting, and in my case a dog – one who’s caught a rat or two doesn’t hurt.

Well used to the notion of rats in the city, I thought nothing of leaving the back door open on a hot muggy day. My son, home sick from school lay on my bed as we watched a movie together. I caught sight of the behemoth from the corner of my eye; I swear this rat was the size of a cat. Perhaps momentary hysterics embellished the girth of my intruder. I leapt for the phone, calling my husband at work to report a rat in the bedroom – “what am I supposed to do about it?” he replied. He had a valid point – it was entirely up to me.

The commotion forced rat into a defensive position beneath the morning paper at the side of the bed. Snapping into “rat slayer” mode I ordered my son not to take his eyes off it as I ran out to the garden. Unsure what I was even looking for, all became clear when a cement cinder block was carried back to the bedroom. Screaming like a ninny, I gauged an appropriate distance for my one shot at a fatal blow.

Never in my life have I been so pleased with myself  making that second call to my husband’s office. I assured him the problem was taken care of, and asked only that he clean up the flat rat when he got home.